A PROBE into the problems surrounding the spiralling costs and delays to a flagship Powys County Council project will be discussed by councillors on Friday, October 8.

The council’s  internal auditors, Swap, looked at reasons why Y Gaer in Brecon, was delivered late and £5 million over budget.

The report concentrates on the process of governance and financial control to find out if it was effective.

It identifies 11 areas for improvement.

Swap says that the a “key weakness” it was not looked at carefully enough at when the idea was first mooted nearly 20 years ago.

The report said that the council knew what it wanted to do “but was unclear at times” how to do it.

Swap said: “Despite the consultants and agency staff employed, at a very early stage in the project, the council did not have the experience and knowledge to take on a project of this scale and complexity.

“The complexity of roles, responsibilities and the interrelationship between senior management, project managers, contractors and sub-contractors became an issue over the lifetime of the project, compounded by a lack of continuity with key members of staff.

“Many of the increased costs associated with the project came to light once the contract had been let and it is notable that many of these costs can be directly linked with early issues concerning the design and scoping.

“There were always financial pressures with the project, but underfunding was also evident suggesting an optimism bias, in that the budget did not adequately reflect the likelihood of unforeseen costs.

“A small risk contingency was set aside, but this was not adequate to reflect the cost uncertainty of the construction contract.

“The scale, duration, nature and technical complexity of the project was a challenge to the council.”

Responding to the Swap report findings, the council’s head of housing and community development, Nina Davies said “Combining new build with the refurbishment of a listed building was ambitious.

“The service has no current plans to take on another project of this scale, however, and is keen to learn the lessons from the project.

“We take on board the comments around project management, and over recent years has invested in training officers in formal project and programme management.

“Y Gaer was challenging for all involved, however, the result has been a facility that Powys can be proud of.”

Mrs Davies adds that the housing service is also in “final negotiations”, to bring in NPTC (Neath Port Talbot Group of Colleges) to occupy part of the building which would see a Y Gaer open for seven days a week with a cafe.

In December 2019, Brecon’s new cultural hub and library, Y Gaer, which is Welsh for Fortress, finally opened.

It is the redevelopment of the Grade II* listed Shire Hall and construction of a new modern library at the former Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery which saw the project costs rise, from £9million to £14million.