Naive (and over ambitious)

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SENIOR officers involved in the project to create a new pool in Kirkcaldy have admitted being “naive” and “over ambitious” during a grilling at the hands of the Council’s standards and audit committee.

Steve Grimmond, executive director of housing and communities, headed the panel of officers as councillors interrogated them on the access problems which have put the £15m project a year behind schedule and cost the Council £1m.

Last week the Press exclusively revealed an internal audit by the Council assessed that officers did not attach enough importance to legal access held by businesses served by or whose properties adjoin the Tolbooth Street Car Park, earmarked as the site for the new pool.

Officers were also criticised for a lack of documented evidence on the project.

The committee agreed a proposal from Councillor Ross Vettraino, who said that “fundamental errors” had been made, that the report be returned to the housing and communities committee.

Cllr Neil Crooks, chairman of the committee, added that things had gone “drastically wrong”.

Mr Grimmond told the committee that all of the programme board’s decisions were based on the professional judgement of officers on the best way to resolve the access issues.

Risks assessed

He added: “They were never identified as a significant risk in 2009, only in 2010, and by that time our officers were trying to resolve them.

“In hindsight insubstantial significance was afforded to the servitude rights.”

Ken Gourlay, head of asset and facilities management added: “If there’s any kind of failure involved, the team over optimistically thought they could negotiate the servitude rights in the period required.

“The optimism that existed has been proven to be over optimistic in this case.”

Alan Paul, corporate asset manager, said officers had been overconfident that individual settlements for access rights could be reached within the planned time scale.

He added: “The team was dealing with an evolving situation, and with the benefit of hindsight it could now be regarded as naive to think that we had addressed all these concerns, but that was the view of the team at the time.

‘‘What was found was rather than less resistance there was increased resistance.”

Last week Mr Grimmond told the press that the recommendations of the report were already being acted on.