Global Asbestos Awareness Week – Swansea Council still hoping for money back from surveyors after £4m bill

Wales Online have reported,

Council chiefs in Swansea have said they are still in discussions with the company which surveyed the Oceana building before large amounts of asbestos were found, sending costs spiralling upwards.

The Post understands this could potentially lead to the authority receiving some money from Santia, which spent six weeks surveying The Kingsway site prior to submitting a report.

“This is a complex case, so we’re still considering our options,” said a council spokesman.

At a meeting last November, the council’s property development manager Huw Mowbray said the survey had only identified 10 per cent of the asbestos that was subsequently discovered in the council-owned building, adding that the survey did not contain caveats to suggest more asbestos might be present.

Demolition costs subsequently soared from £1.18 million to £4.1 million, including fees.

These costs had been leaked to the press the previous month, causing a headache for the administration, which was concerned that the airing of the confidential report could restrict the council’s contractor options.

Council leader Rob Stewart told a cabinet meeting that an investigation would take place to try to identify who leaked the report as it was, he said, a breach of the council’s code of conduct.

The Post asked what the upshot was of this investigation. A council spokesman said: “We are not aware how this confidential report got into the public domain.”

The Oceana matter has been looked at by the council’s scrutiny programme committee in the past few weeks, but time is limited before May’s local Government elections.

Committee chairwoman Mary Jones, who had been very keen for the committee to look into the case, told the Post that a working group would normally be set up. But she said in this instance a meeting was held behind closed doors, due to the commercially-sensitive nature of the discussions.

“It was a very good meeting,” she said. “We are a cross-party committee, and asked some very searching questions.”

Mrs Jones said a letter outlining the committee’s views would be sent to Mr Stewart. “We will expect a response,” she said.

The Welsh Government is funding the original demolition cost, but the £2.9 million shortfall is due to be funded by council borrowing.

The administration had planned to move its Civic Centre staff to new offices at the Oceana site, but it now wants to create a “digital district” there for high-tech companies. This should lever in funding from the £1.3 billion City Deal signed off by Theresa May last week.

Civic Centre staff , meanwhile, are set to move to a new base opposite the Grand Theatre.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting when Mr Stewart ordered the leak investigation, Councillor Jennifer Raynor said the administration had “very strong legal and moral duty” to deal responsibly with the asbestos situation.

“It would be entirely incorrect to walk away from this building, putting people at further risk,” she said.

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