Bradford Council is currently building a new city park, funded largely from the sale of Leeds-Bradford Airport, which was until recently jointly owned by both Leeds and Bradford Councils. It's not just going to be a place for recreation though. No, it's going to be 'all singing and all dancing' including a mirror pool containing 100 fountains. The estimated bill for this venture was £24.4 million.
You will not be surprised to hear that not only is building work behind schedule, but the costs have also risen. According to Andrew Mallinson, chairman of Bradford Council’s regeneration and economy overview and scrutiny committee, the overspend could be as much as £4 million, and we know from experience that these overspends can and do increase further. Of course, all of this is happening when the council is trying to rein-in its spending.
I'm not saying creating a new park is a bad idea. We all like green spaces to spend time with our families, or to eat our lunch on a pleasant summer's day, but why turn this into a grandiose project, with all the expense involved? It's as if we have gone back to the nineteenth century when large towns and cities used to compete with each other as to who could build the grandest town hall.
Many councillors are naturally demanding answers. Who signed off this overspend is one of them. If you have read some of my posts to do with Bradford Council you will not be surprised that answers are not forthcoming. In a way that optimises this council, the leader, Cllr Ian Greenwood, had this to say to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus:
"Discussions about any issues surrounding the cost of construction are still commercially confidential and it would be inappropriate for anyone on any side to comment further at this time.”
With the building of the park almost complete, and taxpayers facing an additional bill of at least £4 million, how can it be commercially confidential? In other words, Cllr Greenwood is refusing to comment, and hopes to kick the issue into the long grass. Just as he dodges the issue of over £500K of our money being spent on trade union activities, whilst campaigners fight to save their local libraries.
As previously reported, the secretary of our West Yorkshire branch has been in a battle with Bradford Council over a Freedom of Information Request. I have also had problems accessing information which may be embarrassing to the council. This £4 million potential overspend may be embarrassing too, but it does not give the council an excuse to bury information which should be in the public domain. If something has gone wrong with the building of the new city park, we have a right to some answers. Hiding behind the guise of commercial sensitivity is an insult to the intelligence of Bradford taxpayers.