THE body managing Spalding’s Red Lion Quarter had run out of money before the troubled centre had even opened its doors to begin trading.
The shock finding was unearthed by a task group of six councillors who produced a damning interim report into failings over the planning and running of the centre that until now had reportedly cost £6.5million to develop.
But the task group, chaired by Coun Bryan Alcock, says: “Evidence suggests that the capital spend, including land acquisition costs, was in excess of £7.5million.”
The bulk of the original £6.5million development costs came from other partners – East Midlands Development Agency (£3million), Boston College (£2million) and Lincolnshire County Council (£1million) – with South Holland District Council putting in just £500,000.
The task group unveiled figures showing the district council’s actual overall spend was well in excess of £1million, including sums laid out as early as 2002 for a feasibility study and the £100,000+ bail-out as the centre’s Community Interest Company sank last autumn.
South Holland’s cabinet on Tuesday agreed to ask next week’s full council to sanction Red Lion Quarter’s sale to Boston College, but there was a hint from Coun Roger Gambba-Jones that the undisclosed price will disappoint the public.
Coun Gambba-Jones said it must be made clear there were so many caveats on the use of the building that it could not be released on to the market as a piece of commercial real estate.
He said: “My initial reaction when I heard what it (the sale price) might be was disappointment.”
Council deputy leader Nick Worth, who helped negotiate the sale, has given an assurance that Red Lion Quarter will no longer be a burden to the taxpayer.
A final report from the task group on Red Lion Quarter is expected to be ready next month or in June.
The interim report has a string of recommendations for the council to adopt and highlights poor project management and lack of communication as well as blunders by the Community Interest Company that led to it effectively spending all its cash before the centre opened.
Council leader Gary Porter said: “We need these recommendations in place now so the corporate learning happens prior to any more major projects.”