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Islington Tribune - by TOM FOOT
Published: 28 August 2009

Councillor to investigate claim repairs ‘not worth the money’

THE Town Hall is to investigate the true cost of refurbishing the historic Finsbury Health Centre after NHS Islington claimed it was too expensive to repair.
Labour councillor Martin Klute is stepping up an investigation into the decision by health chiefs to abandon the Grade I-listed building and offer it for sale on the private property market.
The celebrated architectural gem in Pine Street faces being converted into flats.
But Cllr Klute, chairman of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Review Committee, has pledged to use council funds to see if it really is too expensive to bring up to scratch – and whether a sale to developers can be ­avoided.
He was appointed to investigate the decision to close Berthold Lubetkin’s iconic health centre and build a replacement in Holloway after former Health Secretary Alan Johnson intervened in the process earlier this year by ordering health bosses to reconsider their plans.
Cllr Klute, an architect, is concerned that the firm that provided the cost of refurbishing the building, Morgan Ashurst, is the same one that would be hired by the centre’s owners, NHS Islington, to build the replacement.
Cllr Klute said: “The cost of a getting an independent quote would be a few thousand maybe. There are funding pots available for this kind of thing that we can access. I think there should be an independent estimate. NHS Islington say there was one – but there clearly wasn’t.”
The Morgan Ashurst quote was used by the board of NHS Islington in January to back up their claim that refurbishment was not “worth the money”.
The replacement would be built and owned by NHS Islington’s private Local Improvement Finance Trust (Lift) partner, Camden and Islington Community Solutions Ltd (CICS), which is part-owned by the parent company of Morgan Ashurst, the construction firm Morgan Sindall. According to its website, CICS is the “trading arm” of Morgan Sindall.
When Lubetkin’s Finsbury Health Centre opened in 1938 it was described by the mayor as the “pride of the borough”.
Under Department of Health rules, buildings are transferred to the Lift partner, which then rents the site back to the health authority.
A spokeswoman for NHS Islington said: “Our Lift partner provided costs for refurbishing Finsbury Health Centre and NHS Islington had these costs independently verified by Davis Langdon Global Construction Ltd. This independent verification of our Lift partner’s costs concluded that they were reasonable given how complex refurbishing Finsbury Health Centre would be.”
A spokesman for Morgan Ashurst said: “Refurbishments of Grade I-listed buildings like Finsbury Health Centre are highly specialist and complex projects which carry a significant element of uncertainty and risk. For this reason Camden and Islington Community Solutions (CICS), to which we are supply chain partners, commissioned an independent expert, Davis Langdon – a leading specialist in this field – to cost the project. It was these figures – independently calculated by Davis Langdon – that were provided to Islington PCT along with our own cost estimate.”
The next meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee is on September 24.

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