Promises that left city adrift

BRADFORD has long been held up as an example of how drastically wrong the regeneration boom could go and the giant crater at the heart of the city is an embarrassing reminder of broken promises.

The Westfield site is one of four major projects that, despite millions being spent, have yet to get off the ground and now Bradford Council faces more embarrassment as the eye-watering sums paid to consultants during the regeneration revolution are revealed.

Ratepayers will be furious to learn that, with so little to show for their efforts, more than 10m was spent.

The level of spending is staggering – after a masterplan was put together, costing taxpayers more than half a million pounds, six key projects were identified. To date, building work has been carried out on two.

The Westfield Shopping Centre was due to finish in 2008 but after scores of properties and buildings were demolished to clear the way in 2005 – a process which cost the taxpayer 4.3m – the council then spent 473,941 on consultants. To date, work on the site is suspended and it has been turned into an "urban garden", closed to the public at the moment due to flooding.

The sums of money are brought sharply into perspective in the present economic climate. The council may have to axe 2,000 jobs as it battles to save nearly 70m over the next two years.

Many have accused the authority of being too ambitious but it would be unfair to criticise a council for ambition, and certainly they were not alone in getting their fingers burnt by a recession few saw coming.

But clearly ambition must be tempered with realism, and questions must be answered as to why the costs could escalate so rapidly before a brick was even laid. If just one of the four projects had been completed, it could now be helping the economic recovery.

Coun David Green, Bradford's new regeneration chief, is right to lambast his predecessors but blaming the past is not going to improve the future. This is not the time for navel gazing. Investment is scarce, the very least Bradford's ratepayers deserve is for the warring factions in the city to come together, hammer out a plan and get to work delivering something residents can be proud of.