Budget spirals out of control on roundabout

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A roundabout and road improvement scheme that cost a whopping £18 million has plunged the council into a financial spin – and prompted a rap on the knuckles for overspending.

The prestigious Kingston roundabout was officially opened last week by government transport minister Andrew Jones.

But behind the scenes of the VIP ceremony there was a mass of red faces and political criticism, the Citizen can reveal.

A special report highlighting a catalogue of costly blunders is already on its way to the council’s audit committee for scrutiny.

It identifies an overspend of £1.6 million due to delays, poor planning and “lack of clarity”.

And it describes how the extra outlay had to be snatched back from the council’s tightly-stretched budget, causing other important schemes to be scrapped.

The report states: “The cost over-run has been funded by cancelling other key capital projects, which has a reputational issue for the authority.”

It reveals there serious problems with co-ordinating utility companies and a six month before a project leader was appointed.

The scheme involved building a new roundabout and dualling a section of the A421. It was partly funded through an £8m grant from the government’s Pinch Point Fund, designed to remove bottlenecks on highways.

The council was under Conservative leadership when the grant was secured, and this week the Labour administration accused the Tories of “rushing the work through” to win political gain during the 2014 elections.

Some councillors have likened the overspend to previous fiascos at Wolverton Station and Secklow Gate Bridge.

Rob Middleton, Cabinet member for Resources, said: “I was shocked by this huge £1.6m overspend on such a key scheme.

“While MK Council should always be ready to ensure we take advantage of funding when it becomes available, we have real concerns over the way this contract was awarded back in 2014 .

“Was the scheme ready or was it pushed forward for political gain at the risk of taxpayers’ money? We need clear answers so we don’t make the same mistakes again, and that is why we have asked Audit Committee to look into this as quickly as possible.”