Questions over how new Meadowbank will be paid for
COUNCILLORS are being asked to award the contract for construction of the new Meadowbank sports centre while major question marks remain over how the Â£45 million project will be paid for.
The plan is to gain £20m-£24m from the sale of the remainder of the Meadowbank site and an estimated £3m from development of the “Pitz” leisure site in Portobello to help fund the new centre.
But a report to the council’s finance committee on Thursday warns the figures must be “treated with caution” because public consultations are under way on both these sites and the council might end up getting less cash than projected.
As a precaution it is proposed the committee agrees that £7m of unallocated capital funding should not be spent on anything else until there is “greater certainty” over the sums the council can expect from the sell-offs.
But Conservative councillor John McLellan said the report did not give enough information to allow a final decision.
“A lot of questions need to be asked about the future robustness of the plan,” he said.
“It may be these questions are answered at the committee, but as it stands I don’t believe councillors have enough information to give a definite go-ahead.
“If that means a delay until the next committee, so be it.”
Cllr McLellan said one key issue was to establish the minimum development of the Meadowbank site necessary to make the proposed financial model work.
He said the situation with the Pitz site at Westbank Street also needed more explanation.
“The council must be more robust about how it’s getting the money and how it’s going to be paid for. At the moment it’s all nods and hints.”
And he called for more information on the preferred contractor, Graham Construction Ltd, and the other bidders.
He said: “The level of detail provided to make a decision on the tender is minimal. At the very least there should be information on a B agenda [a private session] on the qualitative assessment that has been made, who were the other contenders, what other projects have they worked on and their track record.”
Save Meadowbank campaigners claimed the report to committee was “inaccurate” as it referred to 300 new homes for the site when the council had promised the consultation was starting with a “clean slate”. Spokeswoman Heather Peacock said: “We call upon the council’s finance committee to challenge this report and realise they are being misled by officials into agreeing something that will result in a funding deficit of up to £24 million.”
Green Gavin Corbett said: “My priority will be to make sure that whatever is agreed for Meadowbank can actually be delivered.”
Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said SportScotland had agreed in principle a £5m grant for the project, and warned: “Any delay is likely to be seen negatively by clubs who have used Meadowbank due to the impact the closure is having on their members.”