Politicians blast cost of Bradford projects with no start date

POLITICIANS and civic leaders in Bradford have condemned the high levels of public money spent on consultants for city centre regeneration schemes, most of which have failed to get off the ground or remain incomplete.

Video special report: The millions spent on schemes left unstarted in Bradford's regeneration game

Three of the city's MPs questioned why 10.6m has been handed to external consultants, including more than 2m on projects being delivered by the private sector which have no start dates in sight.

The spending, revealed by the Yorkshire Post today, was carried out by Bradford Centre Regeneration (BCR) over six years.

The firm was disbanded last year having delivered on just two of the six schemes which it identified as key catalysts to Bradford's growth in its annual accounts in 2007-08.

The Liberal Democrat Bradford East MP, David Ward, said the urban regeneration company had been "an abysmal failure" and he criticised the council for failing to hold the organisation to account.

He said: "If the council had retained control of regeneration then all this spending would have been in council meeting papers – as it is, we are left scratching around wondering where the money has gone."

Bradford's latest regeneration leader, Coun David Green, who took over last year when Labour won control of the council from the Tories, said: "There was a situation where basically people thought that just by making announcements and unveiling artists' impressions that they were getting the job done – and that really was just the easy part.

"There was a political ambivalence to delivery.

"I do not have a problem paying for consultants to carry out work on part of a team when there is some sort of economic benefit.

"Bradford Centre Regeneration was a clear failure on behalf of the council over the past few years to do its part of the bargain and that was to be the delivery arm to support the creation of jobs and create a more vibrant city centre."

However, his predecessor Adrian Naylor, the Tory spokesman for economic development, maintained that progress had been made in recent years despite the recession.

He said: "Regeneration is a long-term project. Bradford Centre Regeneration was not brought in to deliver a five-year plan, it takes longer than that. You have to take a strategic view. Progress has been made on the Westfield Shopping Centre. The council spent money preparing the site and Westfield were on site.

"They have invested 90m on the sub-structure and as I understand it, it will take another 250m for them to complete it, but the plans were affected by the global recession.

"The developer has to make a commercial decision but the funding from the public went on facilitating planning applications and preparing the site for work."

He also highlighted a new hotel and office development in the city centre as a success.

The council provided a loan to allow the Southgate development, which now houses Provident Financial offices and a Jurys Inn hotel, to go ahead.

Local MPs from all the main political parties have questioned what the 10.6m has provided.

The Labour MP for Bradford South, Gerry Sutcliffe, said: "A lot of us have been concerned about spending on consultants. The council will argue that the regeneration has produced the Provident and Jury's Inn buildings, but there has been nothing on the Westfield site and we have not seen that much major regeneration work which is worrying."

The Tory MP for Shipley, Phillip Davies, added: "To me that seems an extremely high amount to spend on consultants.

"I cannot begin to imagine the kind of improvements that could have been made with that amount of money, and to be perfectly honest there has not been a great deal to show for it."

Bradford Civic Society chairman Alan Hall said: "I would be very interested to know what that money has been spent on. Consultants don't amount to anything if there is no delivery at the end of the day."

527,000 spent on masterplan

MORE than 500,000 of taxpayers' cash was spent on a masterplan commissioned by Bradford Centre Regeneration to drive the city's development.

Figures given to the Yorkshire Post show 527,000 was spent on Will Alsop's vision for Bradford – including an exhibition of his work.

The masterplan divided the city into four separate neighbourhoods - the Channel, the Bowl, the Valley and the Market.

His designs for the Bowl area included creating a lake in the centre of Bradford which has inspired plans for a city park with a pool, which is now being built next to Centenary Square.