Shelter Hall overruns

In light of the collapse of nationwide contract Carillon, it is prudent to examine how the costs of construction can overrun to the point where they cost more than forecasted.

Why is it that in the construction world, everything seems to cost more and take longer? Building contractors have had years of experience at cost estimation, yet the oft-quoted excuse is the lack of supply or staff, or some other excuse which presumably could not have been anticipated. You would think that with many years of experience in the construction industry, companies could at least factor this costs in foresight so that the cost quoted at the start is accurate over the course of projects.

All this highlights a problem within the construction industry. The quotations offered to councillors who approve such projects are deliberately low to secure approval, yet once approval has been obtained they balloon to their true size, or even an estimate, which cannot be gone back on because the contracts have been signed, or the structure is already have in place. But could you imagine if you ordered spaghetti from a restaurant, that you would have to wait longer for your food, and on top of that the restaurant tells you that the spaghetti is in shortage and therefore you would have to pay more and wait longer for the same bowl? Why do we accept this in construction?

The work to rebuild Shelter Hall in West Street is now forecast to cost twice as much and twice as long. Shouldn’t it be the case that contractors who don’t adhere to their own estimates of time and cost should bear the brunt of the extra cost themselves? The problem is that after subsidies to cover the extra rising costs from the original cost of ten million pounds, there is still a two million pound shortfall to fund the project that must come from the city coffers, or Brighton residents will end up with a half-finished mound of eyesore.

It is almost as if we build projects with the expectation that they will overrun, and we sign them off with blank cheques of money and time. We need a revamp on the construction system; contractors need to provide final cost estimates and timeframes when submitting for tender, and any shortfall should be met by them, as it impacts on the town’s infrastructure. We cannot have projects overrunning, doubling in cost, with the extra monies going to line the pockets of directors. It is a sad unethical abuse of the system.