Can he fix it? Yes, he can ...

Fans of the Wickham Rd wall saga will be thrilled to hear that BC can bring glad tidings. As we all know, the wall comes under the auspices of Lewisham Council's housing PFI consortium. Surveyor Bill Chambers from consortium member Equipe, which is carrying out the works, has kindly answered a few of BC's questions about the project ...


Q. Obviously the initial problem with the wall was that it had partially collapsed; however the work now being undertaken seems to be considerably more significant than a simple re-build (laying foundations, etc). What was the thinking behind this?

A. It is a simple rebuild; the foundations are to ensure that the wall does not subside as before.


Q. What exactly do the current works involve, and how long are they expected to take? Do you have a planned completion date?

A. Normally for a simply rebuild no planning permission is required but for this one we were required to submit plans. This has been done and we now have permission to continue, and work will restart week commencing 27th July 2009. Work will be continuous to completion approximately 4 weeks if there are no unforeseen circumstances.


Q. What care is being taken to ensure the materials used are in keeping with the nature of the conservation area?

A. The conservation area planning officer has approve the materials being used and will be making regular visits to site.


Q. As a result of the works, the garden inside the wall has become bare earth. What condition will this area be left in once the works are complete?

A. The area will be levelled and seeded. The resulting grass will be maintained by Pinnacle grounds maintenance [part of the PFI consortium] provided that no fences are erected by residents.


Q. It has taken more than a year for this re-build to begin; can you explain or comment on why it has taken so long?

A. It was a simple matter of the funding of the project. Once this was in place work was started.


BC is thrilled to hear that the project should be finished by the end of August - the fact that it has taken around 18 months to sort out can clearly be firmly attributed to the vagaries of PFI contracting (on which BC has a fairly clear opinion, or at least this part of BC does ...). But PFI aside, this is good news at last.

32 comments:

Tressillian James said...

Thanks for getting this response Kate. However the ansers don't ring true. I don't understand why it has taken a year to find funding? This isn't a new council project. The PFI have won the contract for maintenance of the houses for 20 years plus. They received huge amounts of money up front.

I think what we are really hearing here is that they never intended to have to maintain to conservation area standards - as we see in thyrwit road where wooden fences have been erected.

Brockley Kate said...

I think what has occurred, James, is that situations such as the wall weren't covered in the original PFI contract and therefore had to be negotiated separately.
I would suggest that this involved the council stumping up some extra cash, as that is how it usually works in PFI.

Brockley Kate said...

I should add however that my above comments are purely speculation based on reading between the lines of what both the council and Bill have said, and also my wider knowledge of PFI.

Tressillian James said...

It should have been covered - as the literature we received when they were awarded the contract is that they were aware of the complexities of maintenance in the conservation area. They are also responsible for all the council owned areas of the property - including walls.

I think the true problem here (but this is me reading between the lines) is that the property doesn't have any leaseholders in it (ie.a ll tenants) to bill the costs back to at the end of the job.

max said...

A. The area will be levelled and seeded. The resulting grass will be maintained by Pinnacle grounds maintenance [part of the PFI consortium]...
...provided that no fences are erected by residents.


Residents you've been warned! No fences!
Unless you want to keep them out purposely and apparently quite lawfully and trasform it into an orchard through a clever action of guerilla gardening and fencing.

Anonymous said...

Funding ? surely the Lewisham councils builders get a weekly wage,Why couldn't they do It

patrick1971 said...

You can bet that there will be some legalese definition of "maintenance" which means that a wall falling down isn't standard maintenance, but an "unforeseen event" or something of that nature, and so extra money can be extorted under PFI. And everyone who has to look at the eyesore for A WHOLE YEAR can go hang.

Anonymous said...

I bet It cost at least 5 times more.by getting a contractor to do It

Sue said...

I think you probably mean Bob Chambers from Pinnacle, don't you Nick?

Kate is right about the contract -although the PFI contract was a vast tome, there were lots of things left out due to oversight/in order to get the things signed that are having to be sorted out/negotiated in at a later stage. PFI contracts can be very inflexible.

Lewisham Council has precious little in-house builders these days - it's all contracted out. It took in excess of a year of nagging for us to finally get the Brockley cemetery wall repaired (corner of Brockley Rd/Ivy Road) - first no budget, then lots of confusion over whether or not planning permission was required, then it was decided to appoint a consultant to project manage it, put it out to tender, supervise the work etc! It does seem rather a long-winded (and expensive) process.

Tressilliana said...

They've made a lovely job of the cemetery wall but I agree, why on earth should it take so long to get these projects off the ground?

pallid face of bureaucracy said...

Because the employees of the Council are hampered by bureaucracy and the need to apportion resources fairly perhaps?

Oh, and middle managers who wouldn't have a job unless it was for the above.

Brockley Kate said...

Sue - it was me who posted the article, not Nick.
And the chap I've been dealing with is definitely Bill Chambers from Equipe.

Anonymous said...

Dear kate...

Headhunter said...

It seems ridiculous that councils across the land have farmed out all these projects to contractors and private companies, everything from parks maintanence to looking after the tennis courts to repair of council property. It really doesn't seem that using private contractors is more efficient or cost effective than the council employing its own parks, gardens and maintanence people as they used to.

Brockley Nick said...

But HH, then the builders would become public sector employees, and you're always telling us how useless people in the public sector are.

patrick1971 said...

Well, it's the pendulum swinging again, isn't it? Mrs Thatcher forced councils to contract stuff out in the 1980s because it was all appallingly managed, a union hotbed, cost loads and was extremely inefficient.

We now see that contracting out has also managed to deliver extreme inefficiency and bureaucracy, high costs and poor management, but with private companies rorting the system rather than a hotbed of obstructive union "activism".

Take your pick, which do you think is better?

Headhunter said...

True Nick, but if councils are unable to negotiate a decent deal for themselves, leaving PFI contracts wide open to interpretation and opening themselves up to drains on revenue like this, then perhaps it's better to bring it back in house. Possibly the lesser of 2 evils...

Headhunter said...

It's a tough choice. On balance perhaps it is best to utilise private sector experience in this. Rather than councils buying in and storing complex and expensive machinery for repairs and maintanence and employing vast workforces it makes sense for the private sector to take part, it just seems that PFI and other contracts have been appalingly negotiated and managed. As Sue says

"there were lots of things left out due to oversight/in order to get the things signed that are having to be sorted out/negotiated in at a later stage"

Why were the contracts rushed through? Something which ties taxpayers money up for 20+ years in long term contractual obligations should have scrutinised, scrutinised and scrutinised again, ot rushed through to get a signature on the line.

Brockley Kate said...

In my experience it is uniformly the case that the private sector is far better than local authorities at negotiating these contracts. That being, after all, their raison d'etre. Necessarily, individual local authorities lack the commissioning and contracting experience which national and international private sector firms enjoy. They are therefore always starting from a position of being the underdog. Or perhaps one should say the sitting duck. PFI is, in my opinion, like shooting fish in a barrel for contractors. The main downside for them is the huge tendering costs, given that the process takes years and lacks standardisation. That creates a significant barrier to entry which ensures the private side of the market remains reasonably uncompetitive.

Headhunter said...

It just seems that they should have hired better solicitors. If you're going to outsource huge areas of council responsibility then why not outsource the legal work involved as well and hire someone who actually knows what they're doing? Sounds like these contracts were negotiated by the councils themselves and who would expect councils to have heavy hitting lawyers in house, able to take on large private sector legal teams?

Tressillian James said...

I'd offr that those working for the council have no real incentive to get the best deals - and usually don't. Those working for private companies are usually tied into incentive schemes that link the profitability of the company to their end pay packet. I would say that those who organised the PFI were much more concerned with getting rid of the headache of housing rather than the deal they were signing up to. Residents, taxpayers, and leaseholders were the last thigns on their mind.

In fact the tenants and leaseholders were 'consulted' on whether they wanted to go into a PFI - the answer came back a resounding 'no' - but it went ahead anyway.

Brockley Kate said...

Oh, there are firms of lawyers which specialise in advising local authorities on PFI. Also consultants, accountants, etc. Doesn't change the fact that you're a local authority though. The dynamic between councillors, council staff and their advisers is completely different to that of private sector PFI consortia members.

Brockley Kate said...

That was @HH, by the way ...

Tressilliana said...

When Lewisham was preparing its big PFI scheme to replace/refurbish a dozen or so schools, it employed consultants. From what I could make out (I was a school governor at the time) this was standard practice. Additionally everything was subject to scrutiny from the Dept of Education, which was probably also using consultants. This of course accounts for the enormous cost of PFI compared with conventional public sector capital funding.

It was hardly a quick process. The scheme was first discussed in the summer of 98 and the first re-built schools were completed last year, I think.

Headhunter said...

They pay through the nose for all these consultants yet they still manage to cock some of it up!

max said...

Bricklayers on site today.
http://bit.ly/2eQIoP

Headhunter's sattelite dish said...

I'm not sure I like the look of those bricks. Why weren't we consulted?

max said...

If on a regular basis you take care to pour over it either tea or weak lemonade drink it will soon blend in.

Anonymous said...

Whatever Max!
Headhunter, tell us about your bike again!!

The Cat Man said...

No, Hugh - tell us about your thighs again pls!

Tamsin said...

At least it's Flemish Bonding.

Brockley Kate said...

I love the bricks! They're a nice shade and will blend well with the area I think.

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