Delays to £227,000 tourist signs project in Milton Keynes could make the council "look stupid" - claim

A £227,000 project to install totem-pole signs to help visitors find their way around Milton Keynes city centre has been on hold since 2016 because the council is still figuring out how to look after them.

Cradles for 13 totem pole signs have been in place at key points around the city centre since 2016 but a meeting yesterday (Wednesday) heard that the council has lost its way.

Milton Keynes from the air

Milton Keynes from the air

“The concern is that this looks stupid,” said Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) at the scrutiny management committee. “You’ve got to find a way forward and quickly.

“It looks ridiculous to me not to install them. This surely has to be sorted one way or another. This one looks crackers to me.”

Earlier in the discussion, Cllr Brackenbury asked Sarah Gonsalves, Milton Keynes Council’s director of policy, insight and communications: “If I’m reading it correctly it’s saying you’ve ordered the units, you’ve got them, but you’re not putting them up because there isn’t any agreement over who is going to maintain them. Is that really the situation we are in?”

She replied: “Yes.”

Cllr Brackenbury had asked whether it was a case of a project being “misconceived” or that a department was “kicking off” about not wanting to take on the costs.

Sarah Gonsalves said it was “just a lack of understanding of what that is. It is ongoing.

“My understanding is it’s the former, that the maintenance costs weren’t considered at the time. We did have a brief discussion about this at corporate leadership team, so it is noted. I think it’s quite a small amount.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a material impact but those costs haven’t been assessed, so that’s what’s delaying the progression. It’s an unknown known but it was about the ongoing costs.”

Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said he believed the signs were needed to replace ones which were “the really silly ones”, that pointed to parts of the city centre that “no longer existed.”

The committee, which receives reports at its meetings identifying a range of issues, agreed to refer the issue to Cllr Emily Darlington (Lab, Bletchley East) for her to sort it out. She is the cabinet member for public realm, and holds the political reins of power.

Background papers said once the issue is sorted out, the council intends to start a consultation on putting signs up in the city’s underpasses. If there is any money left in the budget.

The council wants to encourage more people to walk and cycle in the city centre.