£1 million to keep Secklow Gate Bridge closed

Xplain celebrate the re-opening of the bridge in June 2012
Xplain celebrate the re-opening of the bridge in June 2012

It cost Milton Keynes Council more than £1 million to keep Secklow Gate Bridge closed for 18 months following a fire.

The full costings of the closure have finally been revealed, with the total coming in at £1.079m.

However, the council can only claim £780,000 of that through their insurers, meaning they’ll lose almost £300,000 as a result.

A fire in January 2010 in the market closed off the bridge to traffic passing over it. Repairs were estimated to cost around £300,000 but work was delayed when rumours of a planning application to demolish the bridge reached the council.

Chief Executive David Hill publicly apologised for the hold-up in completing the repairs after he discovered it was costing £36,000 per month to keep it closed. With scaffolding, propping hire and installation of the props, it cost the council nearly £500,000.

The bridge was finally re-opened in June 2011.

Linda Inoki, leader of Xplain, which held several protests and fought to get the figures revealed, said the council ‘bent over backwards’ to accommodate the rumoured planning application when it should have been repairing the bridge.

“If senior figures at Milton Keynes Council had done their duty, and reopened the major four-lane highway serving Central Milton Keynes in good time, all the costs would have been covered via the insurance claim.

“But they were so keen to go along with the expansion plans of thecentre:mk that they bent over backwards to hold off repairs.

“Meanwhile the city struggled beneath their eyes, with endless detours, congestion, and trade in the market plummeting.”

In an email leaked to this newspaper, assistant director audit & risk management at Milton Keynes Council, Duncan Wilkinson, said: “We submitted the claim to the relevant insurer and we took external advice from our own insurer. Their advice was a minimum settlement of £650k and an upper estimate of £780k.

“The initial offer was £440k and we settled the claim at £725k assessing the probability of a higher settlement figure if we took formal action compared to the costs and delays incurred in doing so, and the probability of whether such costs would be recovered.

“We accepted the settlement figure on condition that payment was made within 14 days ensuring that we secure the cash flow benefits that would otherwise be lost if we continued to dispute the claim.

“The council already made provision within its budgets for a loss of £355k based upon external advice and our own appraisal of the evidence supporting the claim.

“Therefore no further financial loss arises from the settlement of the claim.”