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Taxpayers hit by £1million bill after building delays to Swiss Cottage schools

PUBLISHED: 13:00 07 March 2013

New UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

New UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Camden taxpayers have footed a £1million bill following a four-month delay to the completion of two new Swiss Cottage schools by a private construction firm.

Cllr Theo Blackwell wants BAM to repay £1million to the council.Cllr Theo Blackwell wants BAM to repay £1million to the council.

The council’s finance chief, Cllr Theo Blackwell, revealed the cost – which was caused by delays to the construction of UCL Academy and Swiss Cottage School and Development & Research Centre by building firm BAM – in budget papers at full council on Monday.

He vowed to recoup every penny of the £1million the council has been forced to spend on re-locating pupils who were unable to move into the new schools from the start of this academic year.

“BAM was supposed to open two schools in September 2012 and [this was not completed] until January 2013 – that’s quite a serious failure,” said Cllr Blackwell.

“We are still in negotiations with them but we have footed the bill for providing schools during this time.

“The Camden schools budget has put in £1million to pay for this – £1million could easily be spent on repairing current schools.”

He also issued a clear warning to BAM about the prospect of future contracts in light of the debt.

“They do other projects with us,” said Cllr Blackwell. “They are building a new Netley Primary School at the moment – no doubt they will want projects with us in the future because we have a £330million building programme, so it’s up to them really.”

A spokesman for BAM was unaware of the £1million figure quoted in Cllr Blackwell’s report to full council until the Ham&High contacted the company.

He said: “BAM has been extremely helpful under the circumstances and we have not sought to leave Camden Council disadvantaged.

“The delays were a result of things none of us could have prevented or foreseen, we all had to deal with that and we have been publicly very apologetic about it. With the best will in the world, delays do happen.”

Both schools had their September openings delayed by BAM when a sub-contractor, electrical company Airedale Electrical, went into administration in July.

The council was forced to temporarily house pupils from the new special school in various sites, including Talacre Community Sports Centre, in Kentish Town, and the Pirate Castle, in Camden Town.

The £24million Swiss Cottage School and Development & Research Centre, in Adelaide Road, eventually opened on October 25.

Kay Bedford, the special school’s principal, pointed out that BAM is still yet to complete some sections of the school.

“We would like BAM to pay up and move on to getting all the outstanding issues that exist resolved,” she said. “They are still working on the heating system and we are still waiting for the cafe to be built on the top floor.”

The state-of-the-art new UCL Academy, also in Adelaide Road, did not open until January 14 this year.

A UCL Academy spokesman said: “Taking any proceedings is a matter for the council, not UCL Academy.

“While we are delighted with the completed building, the delay made life very difficult for the school in the first few weeks.”

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