New venue cost soars to �18.5m

COUNCIL bosses were last night accused of wasting taxpayers’ money after it emerged the cost of a concert hall project had soared by a further �1.5million.

Critics have rounded on St Edmundsbury Borough Council for its handling of the public venue project in Bury St Edmunds – the cost of which has risen from just under �11m five years ago to the current figure of �18.5m.

The �18.5m figure is an increase of �1.5m over the previous budget and the rising costs come as central Government and councils across the country are being forced to make difficult financial choices.

The council hit back, saying while the overspend was “frustrating” the end product would be a prestigious heirloom for Bury.

Independent council member David Nettleton accused the authority of losing control of the budget on the public venue – named the Apex – and said the council was putting too much effort into non-essential projects and not enough into frontline services.

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“The council seems to have its priorities wrong. They are branching into showbusiness when it is not something the council has to do. They’ve got themselves in a mess and are coming back for more money.

“Back in 2005 we were told it would cost �10.8m – compared with a budgeted cost of �10m– I said it would one day reach �18m and everybody said I was wrong. Well, here we are.”

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Sara Mildmay-White, deputy council leader, said she and her colleagues took on board criticism about the overspend, adding: “It is incredibly frustrating and is the result of a combination of factors.

“On the positive side we are getting a building that will see us through for 350 years and the design is exactly what we wanted.

“I think local people have a lot to thank the council for – we are building this for our grandchildren. I think the vision is absolutely right,” she said.

The 500-seat, 750-standing capacity Apex concert hall is due to open later this year.

It has been described as “a state-of-the-art live music venue” which will showcase all types of music.

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