Huge consultancy costs to date on CHORD scheme

Under Freedom of Information legislation, For Argyll asked Argyll and Bute Council the following questions on the costs to date of contracted consultancies and of primary works on the CHORD project.

This is the regeneration project funding for each of Argyll’s five major town whose names form the acronym for the overall scheme: Campbeltown, Helensburgh, Oban, Rothesay and Dunoon – a project that has proceeded at a snail’s pace, undergoing various changes of direction, attended by controversy and poor management.

We have just been sent answers to our questions from the Council FoI team and are publishing them immediately as received.

We note that the total spent to date on consultancy fees, at £1,869,623, is a whacking 39%% of the total spent on primary project works; and an equally whacking 28% of the total spent on the project to date  – £6, 666,599, on consultancy and primary works.

CHORD project costs to date

Q) What was the total paid to consultants for work on the initial ‘competition’ phases ?
A) The total paid to consultants for work on the initial competition phase was £335,024

Q) What is the total paid to date – including what remains due in this financial year -  to consultants for work on any aspect of the CHORD project?
A) Total paid to date to consultants is £1,869,623

Q) How much has been taken from council reserves to fund the competition phase and the CHORD project?
A) Neither the initial phase or the CHORD Programme were funded from council reserves – any unspent budget from the revenue funding was carried forward at the end of each year

Q) How much  – beyond consultation – has been spent to date on elements of the 5 CHORD projects?
A)Total CHORD Project spend on the 5 CHORD towns  excluding consultancy costs provided in Q2,is £4,796,976

Q) How does this total break down between the 5 towns?
A)  Campbeltown                        £3,795,704
Helensburgh                                £   807,554
Oban                                              £   32,198
Rothesay                                       £   84,533
Dunoon                                         £   76,987
Total                                              £ 4,796,976

Q) How much debt has been actioned to cover the cost of CHORD commitments?
A) Debt Taken to Date £4.704m

Q)What is the cost of servicing the current debt burden on CHORD projects?
A) Debt servicing cost £384k per annum.

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32 Responses to Huge consultancy costs to date on CHORD scheme

  1. Campbeltown £3.8m on consultants – is that correct?
    Dick Walsh is more incompetent than Mike Russell – nobody thought anybody could be more useless than Mike Russell.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 9

      • That particular cost breakdown list [from the total given above it] is for the various spends on actual project works.
        A question here relates to the Campbeltown all-weather sports pitch.
        THis was not part of the Campbeltown CHORD project but money was vired from the townl;s CHORD budget to pay for the AWP.
        The question now is whether the council is trying to make the Campbeltown CHORD project look better than it is by including the vired AWP spend as if it were a completed CHORD initiative.
        The positive side of this is that the AWP was badly needed in Campbeltown and has done a lot of good there in many ways.
        CHORD money is also being vired to the Town Hall project – a signature and joyful Campbeltown building.
        Neither, though, were any part of the Campbeltown CHORD ‘vision’.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  2. Argyll & Bute Council’s use of consultants is a disgrace, but it is just one rotten cornerstone of the prevalent culture of avoiding responsibility for anything and everything that a council should be responsible for.

    The entire shower of shills are an abomination on the face of local politics. I am an advocate of more devolution of power, not less, but I cannot help feeling that there is a case here for winding the whole sorry shooting match up and imposing direct rule from Holyrood until such time as a proper set of councillors can be elected.

    Newsroom, as part of your next FoI request you could perhaps ask if the council are fully aware that they are a laughing stock throughout the region they purport to represent.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  3. Wasn’t all the CHORD projects going to cost over £30m. That is at least £12m on consultants and £2.5m a year in debt service. How many staff will Dick Walsh have to sack to pay for that?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

  4. I share the views expressed on the consultants but they are only taking the money that the Directors of various services have offered them on a plate.
    Our elected councillors will have given the green light for the consultants to be brought in so they must surely explain the reasons.
    The 2 top men for so called Economic Development have jumped ship after years of zero progress which didn,t seem to matter to our councillors so its been a great earner if you were a consultancy business.
    It is still a lovely gravy train as the consultants being paid to count taxis proves.
    A lovely half a million plus on the Oban development road to date which also seems to be okay according to our councillors.
    It does make you wonder if for all these years nothing was being delivered by Chord what were our Economic directors and the rest of there department actually doing.
    Cheers Neil.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

  5. I concur with the sentiments expressed above. I am in fact furious. I hope this informmation will be made more widely available in Cowal so that people can assess Dick Walsh’s competence as council leader. He should resign now.

    One major question I have to ask –

    What was the £77,000 supposedly already spent on Dunoon CHORD actually spent on? I can think of nothing being done related to the CHORD proposals.

    I wonder if this was “within the remit” of Audit Scotland?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  6. Sorry newsroom just an add on to your figures if you can clarify please.
    The breakdown of the figures leaves the spend on Oban at £32,198. My FOI reply from the council on the 17th of April this year gave Aecom receiving £68,094,39 for Traffic Management for the Oban Chord project.
    Part of that consultancy work has now been taken on by the council roads team at an additional cost of £30,000 plus out of the Amenity budget.
    Hope the figures help.
    Cheers Neil.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

    • The £32k+ for Oban is not about consultancy but refers to what has already been spent to date on the Oban project itself.
      We have also published earlier that AECOM were given a subsequent consultancy contract of around £600k from CHORD – but at that time, a few years ago, understood that contract to relate to other CHORD projects as well as Oban’s.
      This means that, of the around £1.9 million spend so far on consultants fees for CHORD, AECOM have had, in total, a very large portion of it.
      It means that, for Oban, which is your interest – the amount spent on consultancy fees in the years that this initiative has been running, far outweighs the money spent on the Oban CHORD initiative itself.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  7. Given the amount of work undertaken on Helensburgh Seafront to date I would have expected the spend amount to be higher than that quoted above.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  8. Just had a reply on my FOI on the Taxi consultancy.
    £10,986 to count the taxis which the council already issue the licences for.
    It is nearing xmas and as much as the spirit of goodwill should be offered to one all I am afraid that the curtain should be brought down on this pantomime in Kilmory as enough is enough.
    Cheers Neil.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

    • Do the two sets of numbers tally or is there some discrepency between the numbers operating (licensed)and those that the consultants came up with?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  9. DunoonLad & Patsy – You may well both be right.

    Thinking about it a bit more I seem to remember that the grubbing out of the perfectly adequate if boring shrubs in the Castle Gardens was a part of the Dunoon CHORD project.

    It still seems little benefit for what is a lot of money to most hard up tax payers.

    Another thing that comes to mind is of reports a few years ago of ABC having a slush fund of £48,000,000 in the bank, being accumulated reserves. In fact, did the SNP Goverment not borrow £5.6,000,000 from ABC for some purpose I have forgotten.

    Why are ABC borrowing money for CHORD if this money is in the bank?

    If it isn’t in the bank, what happened to it?

    Has the £5.6 million been payed back?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

    • The removal of shrubs money came out of the Town Regeneration Fund, not CHORD, however even this is suspect since that money was to be spent on projects in the council designated Dunoon Town Centre only. The councils own plans however show the town centre starting from Queens Hall building line then northwards, therefore shrubber/garden area was OUTWITH the area. The Council stated they had permission from Gov to do this, but Gov representative at a seminar denied that ANY town had been allowed to change the GOVs conditions on this grant.
      The Town Centre regeneration fund also put in the new seating area next to the Burgh Hall, and now less than 3 years later the council may have to move this area because their lease for it runs out within next 2 years.
      A waste of money, just as CHORD is proving to be.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • Talk of ‘removable shrubs money’ makes me wonder whether errant councillors could be reclassified as shrubs, and replanted to a suitably remote shrubbery (for example to help screen the peasants from the view of sensitive Jura golfers)

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  10. I am sure councillors Robb and Breslin will be able to shed some light on this very expensive saga.
    Councillor Robb stepped down from his Chord board just lately if my memory is correct so his insight would be valuable.
    As for my earlier comments about the directors and the officers involved in this shambles why were they not challenged by our councillors on why we have had so little return for our money since Dick pulled this scheme out of a hat.
    To service this debt according to the FOI will cost just over £2.5 million per year so along with the salaries that have been paid to our Economic Development department in the last few years since all this started out it certainly doesn’t need a genius to work out we have been well and truly taken for mugs.
    Cheers Neil.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 7

    • Neil, What are we going to do about it? Our hands are clean!

      The Oban Chord Project should be deemed a white elephant and the abused use of consultants should be investigated by an independent body and not covered up by the executive of Sally Loudon. She has forfeited any right to govern our finances. She is shambolic, verging on Hooky.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

    • What Robb and Breslin in cahoots? Next you will say McCuish is linking up over this. Isn’t the truth that certain councillors smelled the coffee and bailed out before the diarrhoea hit the fan.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  11. Certainly agree Larry but Sally is trying her best to get out but there have been no takers yet.
    The councillors are obviously happy with her performance so we are stuck with her till she gets another job as for copycat,s comments on the councillors whether they leave the Chord boards or not they are still culpable unless they resign as a councillor.
    The most striking aspect for me was the resignations of the two top people who have been running the Chord show for the last few years.It will be interesting to hear from the new Economic Director when they take up the post.
    As for what the public can do Larry our hands are tied sadly the councillors have failed and left us to pay of debt for this farce from money that is badly needed to improve services and save jobs across Argyll.
    We voted them in so we have to take the consequences sadly.
    As I said in an earlier post it will be interesting to hear from the councillors who post on here under there own name so we have there side to the story and we can make a complete judgement.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  12. As the council will be taking on responsibility for on street parking across Argyll next year they will be obviously employing wardens which is good news for anyone looking for a job.
    My hackles were somewhat raised when I heard that the council put an internal vacancy position up for grabs for a supervisor for car parking why do we need another layer of management surely the existing management can handle the cash along with the existing admin staff.
    We already have a car park supervisor although I am not quite sure what his remit covers as there is only one car park warden in Oban. Does he cover the whole of Argyll?
    These positions are to be self funding so we will have to wait a while to get the crack but lack of money or waste of money doesn’t,t seem to matter with this council the game goes on.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  13. With the Argyll Array now gone with the wind will the council.s plans for the Lorn Arc TIF have to be adjusted.
    With around £4 million due to be invested at Barcaldine over the next few years to tap into potential for operational and maintenance work for the renewables industry have they other job sources available.
    The council has been in talks with the industry so it would be beneficial to us all to hear what they plan for the money.
    The Dunbeg corridor will also tap in to over £5 million from the TIF money so will the business money come in to pay back the loan? With the new building at the lab lying empty does that look likely?
    The TIF and Chord debt are a major financial commitment for Argyll taxpayers I would hope our councillors are on the ball and are looking at the changing national picture.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1


    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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