Millions they just couldn’t spend in Falkirk

The money's waiting to be used to improve the town
The money's waiting to be used to improve the town
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Millions of pounds is waiting to be spent on capital projects across Falkirk, councillors have been told.

Dozens of projects have been hindered by a catalogue of delays, from a bat infestation to technical, legal and tendering problems.

During the last financial year, Falkirk Council had intended to spend £48 million on various projects including creating older people’s accommodation and improving roads and buildings.

And, while some of the work was carried out, over £13 million remains unspent, with some projects still unfinished and others not even begun.

Now councillors have been told that officers are doing their best to try to bring some of the projects planned for next year forward in order to reduce the overspend and deliver projects.

During last week’s Executive meeting, finance chief Bryan Smail said: “It’s important to remember that this is a three-year rolling programme and there is often a need to shuffle the pack.”

Projects had been planned in high-profile service areas such as education, roads and transport, corporate and neighbourhood and sports and leisure.

In education, over £4 million of the planned £7 million was spent on various projects including the extension of Antonine Primary School, general upgrades, kitchen refurbishments and ICT provision.

However, £2.3 million is still sitting in the pot.

This includes over £800,000 for work at California Primary School which was delayed because of a request from the parent council to hold off on works until the summer to avoid disrupting the children and pending agreement on the site for a new war memorial.

However, council leader Craig Martin said he wanted to reassure residents that the money would not be lost and that projects were going to be completed.

He said: “There are many reasons why the money has not been spent and they are outwith the control of the council.

“But these projects will remain on the capital programme and the money will be used to complete them.

“There are many projects that have been completed over the course of the year, but sometimes it takes longer to bring some projects to fruition.

“With education for example, a lot of the work has to be done during the school holidays, and often there can be a delay with tendering.

“It is nothing to do with mismanagement or projects being held back.

“But we have told officers to bring forward as many projects as they can to reduce this underspend.”

The figures are not a surprise.

In January, finance officers warned councillors that they could be looking at an underspend of £8.9 million.

However that figure swelled by over £4 million in the following months.

And, after taking a look ahead at projects for this financial year, officials have said there is already going to be a heavy underspend of at least £9 million.

However capital investment in housing looks a bit more promising.

Expenditure for 2013/14 was very close to budget, this time with an overspend of £1 million.

A total of £48 million was spent in the last financial year to deliver a range of improvements to the council’s housing stock.