Money experts back council’s Civic Halls refurbishment

Financial experts have backed City of Wolverhampton Council’s management of the Civic Halls refurbishment project.

A ‘value for money’ report by independent auditors found there was no risk of ‘significant weakness’ in the council’s management of the project.

The much-loved entertainment venue, now known as The Halls Wolverhampton, will reopen its doors in June following a complete overhaul.

The refurbishment project began in 2015 and faced a number of challenges out of the council’s control resulting in delays and rising costs, including the collapse of the original contractor, the Covid-19 pandemic and the discovery of historic and heritage issues.

As part of its Annual Report, Grant Thornton carried out additional Value for Money work, focusing on the Civic Halls refurbishment project between 2018 and the handover to the new operator in late 2022.

The report was taken to Monday’s (Jan 23) Audit and Risk Committee meeting and recognises the challenges faced, stating that the council clearly demonstrated it had:

 

  • strong governance arrangements in place for the refurbishment works
  • robust processes in place for options appraisals and procurement
  • made significant strides in addressing previous issues raised

 

Grant Thornton’s report concludes that “…we do not consider there to be any significant weakness in the council’s arrangements associated with the delivery of this project.”

Chair of the Council’s Audit and Risk Committee, Councillor Craig Collingswood said: “It’s very pleasing to see that independent auditors have given the council a clean bill of health in this report, finding no significant weaknesses in the management of the Civic Halls refurbishment project.

“As public money is involved, it’s imperative that there are checks and challenges in place to ensure that the residents of the city can be independently assured that value for money is achieved. I’m pleased that our committee, along with the work of the auditors, is able to clearly demonstrate that this has indeed been achieved. I’m sure this will be reassuring to those who called for the report.”

The Halls Wolverhampton have now been handed over to world renowned operators AEG Presents. Once open it is expected to attract 300,000 visitors a year to the city and bring £10 million annually to the local economy.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “The findings of the report are testament to the hard work of everyone involved with the project, ensuring once again the city has a world class entertainment venue that will attract people to the city and reinvigorate our nightlife.”

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