Lancaster woman demands answers over £5k bill

Denise Sutcliffe
Denise Sutcliffe

A Lancaster resident wants answers from the city council after repeated questions about a controversial pebbledashing job last year have been met with silence.

Denise Sutcliffe, who owns her two-bedroom former council flat at Sandfield House, Hala, had a £5,000 bill for pebbledashing work slashed by £2,000 after residents and councillors kicked up a fuss about the costs and value for money of the work.

The work was carried out by Longridge-based building contractors HT Forrest on behalf of the city council as part of an ongoing £8million council housing programme of works across the city.

Initially, Forrest quoted £441,000 for the work on 60 properties – 56 flats and four shops – on the Hala Estate, an average of £7,350 per property.

Following a revision of the work a tender was submitted and agreed for £341,820, or £5,697 per property.

Lancaster City Council said the final cost of the job was approximately £302,000, or £5,033 per property.

Most of the properties are council owned and therefore paid for by the taxpayer.

However, those that had bought the properties were liable to pay their share of the cost.

An internal audit report into the contract revealed a number of issues including an initial lack of confidence and communication, misunderstandings between the two parties and lines of accountability that needed to be enforced.

Miss Sutcliffe said: “Mark Davies (head of Environmental Services at Lancaster City Council) is still not providing me with any information about why he cut the cost by £2,000 to the penny.

“In his letter of January 12 he said the initial £5,000 was said to represent good value for money but reducing the bill in this way represented a big climbdown.

“Even that 40 per cent reduction didn’t give me confidence, and I’ve repeatedly written to him about the council’s bench marking exercises and the requirement to get three quotes.

“Mark Davies has not shown me any proof and not given me the reason why the council chopped off £2,000.

“I’ve taken legal advice and I’m not paying it until I get the answer.”

Mark Davies said he wouldn’t comment on an individual case but added: “The city council can confirm, however, that the charges to leaseholders accurately reflect the final overall costs of the works and have been suitably apportioned.”