Major Fife capital building projects could come in £18m over budget, councillors warned
Fife’s major capital building projects could end up costing almost £18 million over budget, councillors heard on Thursday.
Supply chain problems and the spiralling price of construction materials have caused huge uncertainty over the timing and costs of initiatives contained in Fife Council’s 10-year capital investment plan, with the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and Brexit to blame for the situation.
Throw inflation and the impact of rising fuel bills into the mix, and the local authority is facing a major financial headache and the prospect of some flagship schemes being subject to delays.
A total of 20 projects in the plan are worth £5 million or more, but members of the region’s policy and co-ordination committee learned on Thursday that the total projected price tag for those is £730.929m against a £713.054m budget - leaving an estimated overspend of £17.875m.
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The biggest gap relates to the new Dunfermline Learning Campus which is now expected to cost around £122m and is currently £11.1m over budget, although the council’s design team are considering ways to “manage down” the potential overspend.
However, other important works such as replacement care homes in Cupar and Anstruther and new community hubs in Templehall in Kirkcaldy and Abbeyview in Dunfermline are among the schemes which could come in far higher than the current budget available.
Council co-leader David Ross expressed concern about the situation and said he feared the estimates were “not going to be the end of it”.
“It’s a very uncertain time,” he admitted.
Fellow co-leader Councillor David Alexander also pointed out that supply issues have knocked back the completion date of the Levenmouth rail link by around three months, with the route due to open in March 2024 instead of December 2023.
And he added: “That just shows that what’s happening to us as a council is happening everywhere.”
Additional budget has already been agreed for the Cupar home of £1.279m due to additional construction cost increases, taking the total cost of that project to nearly £7.9m, and the Anstruther replacement care home is likely to be around the same price tag due to its similar size and design specification.
Templehall Community Hub was anticipated to cost £9m but that estimate has now risen to nearly £12.4m, although councillors heard that the initiative is still in its initial stages.
Feasibility studies are underway for site options and designs, while external funding bids to the Levelling Up Fund and Regeneration Capital Fund are being prepared to bring the project within budget.
In relation to the Abbeyview Community Hub though, councillors were forced to agree plans to reallocate £1m from the Communities and Neighbourhoods capital plan cycle towards the project after hearing its estimated cost had gone up from £6.5m to £7.5m.
The new hub will bring together services currently delivered from the former Abbeyview Local Office, Abbeyview Community Centre and the Tryst Centre, with the hike in costs put down to the volatility in the construction industry and the community requirements for the specification of the facility.