A scandalous waste of money by Liverpool Council

This was the proposal for the redevelopment of the Beechley/Harthill area of Calderstones Park. When the decision was taken not to sell the land to Redrow why didn’t the Council look at the renovation of Calder Kids instead of a slow and costly move to another site?

The council rightly tells us that it is short of money. When you and I are short of money we stop spending if we can; we watch every penny like a hawk; and make every penny count for the most import things in our lives.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case with the City Council and the way it has behaved in regard to Calder Kids is an example of this.

The Calder Kids site in Harthill Road was originally part of the ill-fated proposal to sell land to the Council’s favourite developer Redrow Homes. It was going to be relocated; Beechley Riding for the Disabled was to move to Clarke Gardens and the miniature railway was to be moved into the Park. The Council then did its sums and realised that the costs of the three sets of removals would be more than they would get for the land and then the Council lost a Judicial Review which meant that the land could not be developed.

After the Council had made the first decision not to proceed it still decided to proceed with the moving of Calder Kids because they were persuaded that the building that was being used was in poor condition and needed renovation. This is perfectly true. However, a professional building contractor who knows the site well and has a long involvement with the needs of disabled children has told us that the site could be brought up to an excellent standard for approximately £100,000.

For 6 months I have tried to get information from the Council about how much this was all costing and what we are getting for our money. As you can see from the answers below:

  • The £100,000 to renovate the site has become approximately £250,000 (and rising) to renovate a former school
  • Premises that were rent free will now be premises that cost £40,000 per year.
  • A total of £137,442.06 (up to mid-December) had been paid to this organisation to provide absolutely no services to the disabled young people of Liverpool when at minimum the staff could have been deployed to provide services at other facilities for disabled children such as with the RDA or in specialist schools.
  • No firm outputs have been given to the organisation to enable us to check the value for money against the grant that they are or will receive.
  • The Harthill Road building will be market tested when it should be given to either the miniature railway or the Riding for the Disabled association both of which need extra space.

No one is saying that we do not need the facility and that an adventure playground for the disabled is not a good idea. What we question is the decision-making process which has allowed such a waste of resources and effort to take place.

What we also want is the council to discuss the future use of the building with both the Railway and Riding association. The RDA in particular has a number of suggestions as to how the premises could be used for projects for the disabled children that they already provide such an excellent service for.

These are the questions that I have asked the Council and these are the exact replies that I received after many months of digging.

  1. How much we have paid this organisation since they moved out of their Harthill Road base?

Calder Kids moved out of Harthill in July 2018. Since then the organisation has received £137,442.06 of youth grant.

2. How have their staff have been deployed to assist disabled children whilst they have been unable to operate?

The staff have been unable to work with disabled young people due to not having a base to work from. They have been undertaking and updating their training and skills e.g NVQ in Leadership and Management, First Aid, Safeguarding etc.  Dependent on the completion date of the capital works, Calder kids can support the Council’s short breaks service for disabled children, potentially utilising local children centres as a delivery base.

3. How much will the capital works to this building actually cost?

The cost for the replacement heating and mechanical ventilation is £233,549. There has also been replacement lighting in order to increase the building energy efficiency.  I will provide a more comprehensive figure in relation to the works as soon as possible.

4.    What annual grant will be paid to this organisation and are we supplying the whole of their budget?

Calder Kids currently receives an annual youth and play grant of £98,172.90. This is not the whole of their income, I believe they have other income sources.

5.    What outputs and outcomes have we negotiated with the organisation?

  • Reduction in NEET
  • Build well-being and resilience
  • Improve mental and emotional health
  • Improve physical health
  • Engage young people in positive activities

6.    What we are doing with their former building in Harthill Road?

The building will be marketed via expressions of interest.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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