Extra £3.3m needed, but delaying building of Leighton Buzzard care home would only increase costs further

Executive recommend increasing budget and appointment of preferred contractor

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 12:11 pm

Approval of a £3.3m extra spend on a 63-bedroom care home project in Leighton Buzzard is a step nearer, after a recent increase in the cost of building materials.

The construction work for the premises on the former police station and magistrates court site in Hockliffe Road was valued around £10.5m initially.

Central Bedfordshire Council is replacing Westlands Residential Home in Duncombe Drive as part of a review of its care home offering.

The local authority's executive was being asked to approve an extra £3.3m being allocated to the cost of providing the new facility locally.

More capital is required to support the delivery of the care home which was approved in December 2019, according to Conservative Arlesey councillor David Shelvey.

"The care home is much needed by the council as part of an ambitious plan to not just modernise, but ensure there's sufficient care provision for council funded spaces," he explained.

"We're aware that not many private providers wish to take residents at the council agreed rates.

Image of the planned care home. Photo: Concertus Design & Property Consultants

"The sum for building costs doesn't form part of a £20m package of additional funding also approved today."

Planning permission for the premises was granted in January, he told the executive.

"Five tenders were received," he said. "One contractor was clearly ahead of the others and we're ready to appoint that bidder.

"A budget of £10.5m was approved by the council in February 2020, plus a further £722,000 allocated 12 months later to ensure the home was as sustainable as possible.

"The construction costs were estimated around £10m. The bids were considerably above that ranging from £13.3m to £14.7m.

"We could stop or pause the project. But we know there's a need for the home and any delays are only likely to increase the cost further.

"We need to increase the capital budget for this project by £3.3m and add it to the capital programme."

Members of the council's corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee had backed this further spending package last week.

Conservative Ampthill councillor Paul Duckett, who chairs that committee, said: "The build costs have gone through the roof, and the report indicates the harsh present reality of material costs.

"Part of the debate focused on how the council approaches tenders, and there was a general desire to understand more about how the process works.

"The committee was satisfied with the continuation of the project with the extra funding, given its essential nature and the realities of building material costs these days."

CBC's executive unanimously approved recommending to full council to allocate an extra £3.3m towards the project and to appoint the preferred contractor.

This money would be added to the capital programme in the years 2021 to 2023 for the development.