Thursday, 26 January 2012

Willesden plans to be scrutinised on February 1st

 The Willesden Library Regeneration Project is to be examined by the Call-in and Overview Scrutiny Committee of Brent Council  at the request of the Lib Dems. The  meeting is on Wednesday February 1st (7.30pm Committee Room 1, Brent Town Hall).

The public can address the Committee for a few minutes on the item to be debated: 
Contact: Toby Howes, Senior Democratic Services Officer  020 8937 1307, Email:

The call-in queries the delegation of decision making to the developer, the lack of detail in the proposals, interim arrangements while the development takes place and the consultation process:

Willesden Green Redevelopment Project

The reasons for the call in are:-

1.     Delegation of authorisation of detailed design (recommendation 2.4 in the report): it is appropriate that a decision of this significance is signed off by members, especially if the consultation process or other pressures result in a need to reconsider elements of the scheme or choose between options.

2.     Interim service delivery strategy (recommendation 2.5)

(a)    Lack of clarity over important aspects of the alternative provision including the size of the premises at Grange Road and details of other premises in the Willesden Green area being explored.

(b)    Lack of serious consideration of the use of available closed libraries to aid the delivery of services as evidenced by the perfunctory nature of paragraph 6.29 in the report.

(c)    It is incorrect to state that the provision of transport services to aid access to alternative study space is outside the council’s powers (para. 9.23). The council has a number of potentially relevant powers including the power of well-being.

3.     Lack of clarity in the papers provided to members at the Executive meeting about the design and functions of the proposed new building including:

(a)    No information (even in broad terms) about how the available floorspace will be split between the different uses and the projected income from the proposed commercial uses.

(b)    No information about the architectural and design approach to the development or the planning considerations and risks (other the risk of local objections set out on page 54) that the design has to take into account.

(c)    Lack of clear explanation about how the zero net capital cost will be achieved.

(d)    Inadequate consideration of the risk of construction costs being greater than anticipated and the extent to which the additional costs might fall on the council if they are not the responsibility of the contractor; and inadequate assurance about financial control of the project subsequent to detailed design development and prior to practical completion.

4.     Defects in the decision making process including lack of information provided to members about the revenue consequences of the recommended decision (section 7 asserts that all future revenue costs will be contained with existing budget allocations for the management of the WGLC but there are no figures to support this. Additionally there is no mention of the revenue implications of the non-cultural centre functions such as office space and contact centre).

5.     Lack of access to Background Papers despite requests in good time

6.     Consultation strategy (recommendation 2.7)

(a)    The agreed consultation strategy does not include any objectives nor does it specify what scope there is for the current design to be altered in response to the consultation. It is therefore unclear to what extent this is a genuine consultation strategy and to what extent it is simply a public engagement strategy designed to provide reassurance and promote the project to stakeholders.

(b)    There is no mention in the report, recommendation or consultation strategy of reporting back the outcome of the consultation to members (Executive or Scrutiny) to enable consideration of the views expressed.

Suggested action for the Call In Overview and Scrutiny Committee to take:-

·         Consider the revenue implications of the decision to assure value for money and the other issues raised above.

Recommend that:-

·         The decision about the detailed design and costs be taken by the Executive and not delegated;

·         The interim service delivery strategy be revised to provide more library floorspace and more accessibility to the museum collection than the present proposals deliver, possibly including use of currently closed library premises to avoid the need to pay rent;

·         Objectives be set for the consultation strategy; the process for considering and responding to consultation feedback be clarified and publicised to stakeholders in due course; a resident / stakeholder liaison group be created as part of the consultation strategy.

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