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Published: 21 June 2007

Millions of Pounds wasted as paving is re-laid six times

MILLIONS of pounds have been chucked away by the Town Hall on a botched construction project that saw paving slabs re-laid six times in less than two years.
Housing chiefs have been forced into a grovelling apology after a catalogue of errors to hit work on the Whittington Estate in Highgate was revealed on Monday night.
Fuming tenants demanded an audience at a full council meeting and turned up with complaints that scaffolding had been left wrapped around their homes for almost two years – in some cases with no indication of when it will ever be taken down.
Families had initially been told the poles would be up for no more than 14 weeks.
Their testimony came as a serious blow to Camden’s celebrated Raising The Standard repairs programme which is supposed to be finding ways of improving crumbling council estates on a limited budget.
With money scarce in the housing account due to the ongoing row between the Town Hall and the government over funding for council housing, the last thing officials needed was a botch-up of this magnitude.
The project has spiralled way over budget and tax-payers will have to foot a bill of at least £6 million for a scheme that should have cost closer to half that figure.
Tenants’ leader Peter Kapos told Monday’s meeting: “The works being conducted are almost universally to a lower standard than before. Standards have been lowered not raised. Patios have been taken up and relaid as many as six times. Residents on one street were told they would be scaffolded for 14 weeks – the scaffolding was taken down 14 months later with the works incomplete and not signed off. Another street advised that it would be scaffolded for 14 weeks is still scaffolded 19 months later.”
He did not mince his words as the council meeting fell silent to hear the long list of problems that have run for over two years.
Mr Kapos said “Camden had been consistent in its display of poor judgment,” unnecessarily blowing public money again and again on defective work.
He added: “It undeniably expresses a significant and inexcusable misuse of public money. The origin of all the problems affecting this project lies in Camden’s absolute lack of competent management.”
Camden should have signed off the job in April but the revamp of the estate is nowhere near finished.
In a frank admission of the council’s failure – one of the worst examples in the borough in recent years – Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Naylor said: “I can’t wave a magic wand. We obviously have to learn from this. All I can do is apologise.”
His public apology came as Camden took contractor Sprunt off the job and recruited a new one.
Cllr Naylor said that he could not talk about the fine detail of the negotiations with Sprunt, who have work lined up on a string of other estates in Camden after claiming £20 million of contracts.
The company declined to comment when the New Journal contacted it.
As the council and Sprunt argue about who is to blame, tenants on the estate say they just want the nightmare to end.
Michelle West, who lives in Stoneleigh Terrace, part of the estate, has had scaffolding attached to her home for 15 months.
She said: “It’s shoddy. It’s like we’re second class citizens because we live on a council estate.”
Cllr Naylor said: “I had hoped we were making progress. It is quite ridiculous that scaffolding has been up for so long and went up in the first half of last year.
“I agree that it is ridiculous that paving stones have been laid and relaid and we still don’t have things sorted out.”

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