Agenda item

Project Management - Expansion of the Longspee Special School at the BLC Review

To consider matters of project management in relation to the Expansion of the Longspee Special School at the Bournemouth Learning Centre.

The report on the Expansion of the Longspee Special School at the Bournemouth Learning Centre which was taken to the Cabinet meeting in April is included with this agenda to aid consideration of this issue.

Portfolio Holder invited to attend for this item: Cllr N Greene, Portfolio Holder for Covid Resilience, Public Health and Education.


Chairman outlined the reasons why the report, a copy of which had been circulated to Board members and a copy of which appears as Appendix A to these minutes in Covid Resilience, Public Health and Education outlined the key issues related to the Expansion of Longspee and addressed some of the issues for the O&S Board requesting that this item be added to its agenda. There were a number of issues raised in the ensuing discussion including:


·     There was now a Children’s Services Capital Programme Board in place which had a clear line of site for projects

·     A Councillor commented that costs overall were increasing in the term of 25% for contractor fees and supplies and asked whether that had been factored into the budget. It was noted that this was included within the paper which went to Cabinet in April and costs were currently running as expected.

·     A Board member commented that it was great that this was moving forward so quickly and that there were some excellent outcomes to the project.

·     The Chairman advised that he felt that this would be a great asset to the Council and had delivered in terms of value for money. However, he raised concerns that the effect of the issues with project management of this project was that the Chief Executive had to take a decision on this in a fairly short space of time.

·     A question was raised as to why the appropriate project management procedures were not in place and how the expenditure was monitored throughout the project. The Portfolio Holder assured the Board that the budget outline in the April Cabinet paper was correct and considerable work had gone into ensuring that this was a robust decision.

·     A Board member asked about the confidence in project management that when estimates were provided, they were realistic. It was noted that the original estimate included a 15 percent contingency for Covid related issues.

·     In response to whether the formal funding agreement had now been agreed it was confirmed that this had not yet been signed-off but was with Lawyers for the Council and the Academy for the final decision which concerned the length of the lease in place. In a normal process the funding agreement would not be taking place at this stage

·     A Ward Councillor advised that he only became aware of the scheme progress once it was well advanced after being advised by the previous Portfolio Holder. There was a concern raised as to how the condition of the building could not have been known to the Council or so uniformed on the work which was required. However, he confirmed that he was pleased that the work was now in place and of a high specification.

·     The Ward Councillor asked about the provision of the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) and the work on fencing. The Chairman advised that a planning application for the MUGA had only just been put in. The Chairman had also received assurance on the specifications and competitive tendering process for the fencing. It was noted that there were specifications for a special school which may not always be necessary in a mainstream school. Although the school was due to open in September there was not an expectation that absolutely everything would be finalised by this point and there had been some significant pre-submission discussions with the planning department.

·     There was a concern raised that there was no signed funding agreement for this project and a Councillor outlined a similar situation had occurred with Christchurch Town Council and in this instance workmen have walked away from the site following advise from the legal department. In response to this the Chairman advised that he would write to the S151 officer in relation to this issue to ascertain what processes should be in place and specific information on the project in question.

·     The Chairman raised concerns that planning consent for the fencing had a condition to retain planting, but may not this may now not be possible with the planning consent required for the MUGA. The Board was advised that it was not uncommon to move ahead with elements which would allow the school to open rather than wait for issues which may be more contentious.

·     The Vice-Chair commented that everyone was supportive of the scheme and it was exactly the sort of scheme which should be undertaken. A question was raised as to how robust project management was within Children’s Services and the wider Council. The Portfolio Holder responded that the new structure had a great deal more transparency than there was in the past. There was several different layers supporting this including the Chair of the Schools Forum and Member involvement. A paper was due to come to Cabinet on capital investment in schools which would provide an opportunity for questions to be asked and answered. There was now a clear understanding of the capital available in one place. There was a requirement for good information on needs in terms of what provision was likely to require.

·     There was a question as to whether there was a project management blueprint for how the Council worked on capital projects.  The Chairman advised that he would take forward discussions with the Vice-Chair to feed into a broader look at project management in general.

·     The Chairman advised that the report mentioned initial funding of £500k for the project and refers to two phases which were not referred to in the previous paper. It was felt that this was not appropriate as it gave a misleading impression.

·     The Chairman of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee advised that he had visited the site when children were already in place and spoke of his regret that process had hidden a good news story and if the budget had gone through as required initially it would still have been supported as a good project.


The Chairman thanked everyone for attending and providing answers to the Board’s questions and reiterated that it was recognised that this was a good project for the children.


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