Lewisham council spends £300,000 on consultant for Catford regeneration plans

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

Lewisham council has been accused of “frivolous” spending after paying double what it originally planned to for a consultant.  

Following a public question at full council from Cheryl McLeod, of campaign group Catford Against Social Cleansing, it emerged last week that Lewisham has paid Studio Egret West “in the region” of £300,000 for work on the Catford town centre regeneration plans.  

SEW, an architecture and urban design consultant company, was contracted by the council in 2018 and is still working on the plans. 

A Freedom of Information request from Ms McLeod revealed that Lewisham originally capped what it would pay SEW at £150,000 for a 10-month contract. 

She said: “This is frivolous spending by Lewisham council.  

Cheryl McLeod, of campaign group Catford Against Social Cleansing

“I’m sure this was not the cheapest bid for this work. Why was this particular contract tendered, if the council knew it would exceed the recommended amount?” 

Lewisham council spokesperson said the cost increase was down to a need for consultation, having to align with a feasibility study of the South Circular, and Covid-19.  

She said: “SEW were appointed in July 2018 via an NEC3 Consultancy Services Contract following an Open Tender process.  

“The estimate for the cost of the work to be undertaken was £150,000. The work was started in August 2018, initially timetabled to complete in spring 2019. 

“As the design stage of the scheme progressed, a series of circumstances required the design team to significantly alter their original programme, the primary one being the need for extensive workshops and briefings to ensure full engagement.  

“This required the timetable to be adjusted. At the same time, the project activity also had to be aligned with a separate design feasibility study for the A205 road.  

“The scope of the project therefore grew, resulting in an extended timetable for completing key deliverables and alignment with work on the A205. 

“As a result, SEW had to undertake further essential work requiring an extension to their original remit, this incurred further costs in the sum of: £88,884.42.  

“The programme was then paused but resumed in October 2019 via a formal extension to the contract via a deed of variation following an approval under Single Tender Action. 

“This further work was proposed to run until February 2020 at a further cost of £69,788.56. 

“However the impact of Covid-19 upon normal meetings and approval processes as well as managing consultation with the pandemic restrictions has delayed the programme still further.  

“The team are still engaged under the existing contract and cost and will remain so until any changes to the draft framework document are made, following completion of the non-statutory consultation process that the council are currently undertaking.” 

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