A red-alert has been issued by Wales’ largest council over the poor state of some of its public buildings.
Over 20 Cardiff council-owned properties from schools to libraries are in urgent need of investment according to a new report.
The report also claims just 5% of its buildings are in a good condition.
A towering maintenance backlog of £84m to bring its offices, public toilets and changing rooms up to scratch faced councillors yesterday at an executive meeting.
The survey was ordered by the council of its property estate which contains over 500 buildings and thought to be worth around £1.5 billion.
It lists buildings in a traffic-light system describing whether they are red, needing urgent work, amber, with some work needed, or green, where they are currently safe.
Opposition politicians last night rounded on the council’s leadership, saying they had taken their “eye off the ball”.
Labour group leader Heather Joyce said: “The council should never have allowed this huge backlog to occur, once again the Lib Dem-Plaid run council has taken its eye off the ball and the cost of dealing with this backlog is now likely to be far higher than if buildings had been properly maintained in the first place.”
Figures in the Corporate Asset Management Plan show how the council is under-spending on maintenance to its own buildings.
In 2009/10 it was spending £28 per square metre, compared to £120 per square metre which was needed.
Peter Cox, chair of Cardiff Civic Society, said the council needed to think carefully about the benefits of maintaining its buildings.
He said: “If you take the example of Llandaff changing rooms, I don’t think anyone would object to it being knocked down and a new well-designed building going in its place.
“A city like Cardiff has lots of historic buildings and we should stop seeing maintenance as a cost and treat it as an investment.”
Mr Cox said city leaders needed to show leadership in making decisions to improve the standard of Cardiff’s buildings.
The council had planned to support its maintenance programme by selling off unwanted buildings, such as the Registry Office and the former Castlefields Centre.
But, the report shows how it is struggling to hits its target of £2.64m from capital receipts this year – with only the Registry Office being sold to the University Health Board for £730,000.
Officers in the report say: “The market remains relatively depressed with little prospect of any sustained improvement in the short term and no more than cautious lending from the banks. Unless prospective bidders already have their own funds it is likely bids will continue to be difficult to secure. In addition, bids are generally well below previous years, reflecting the cautious and risk averse climate generated by financial markets.”
The vast majority of the council’s repair bill is for its schools, with £65m needed to bring the education facilities up to scratch.
And the report shows how 57% (or £48m) of the total maintenance work is classed as urgent or essential.
Executive member for finance and service delivery, Mark Stephens, said the council was committed to dealing with the backlog.
He said: “Although the figure might seem worrying when you factor in the amount due as part of the schools reorganisation and the 21st Century Schools programme this brings the total down dramatically.”
Coun Stephens said the council was reviewing its property portfolio and needed to modernise.
He said: “When you see what we’ve done in places like Plasnewydd, with the Penylan library, gym and community centre we’ve combined many things into one.
“This not only makes a better service but also reduces the costs of maintenance.”
List of buildings on red-alert and their current situation
Marland House, City Centre – lease ends in 2012, needs to be “urgently resolved” and linked in with changes to the bus station and the new Huggard Centre
Rover Way Travellers’ site – needs action in the next two to three years, and more land smay need to be acquired involving “significant acquisition costs”
Canton Library – £200,000 has been put towards a revamp
Roath Library – future currently being considered as part of a libraries review, needs £158,000 of upgrades
Pentyrch Primary – currently out to tender for a developer
Pen-y-Bryn Primary – status currently unknown
Rumney/Llanrymumney schools (ones involved in Rumney Rec) – awaiting outcome of High Court legal battle
Wedal Road Household Waste Recycling Centre – insufficient for long-term use, and significant financial implications if new build or relocated
Former Kingsway Public Conveniences – closed down in March 2010 but ongoing security costs
Llandaff Fields & Pontcanna changing rooms – needs over £350,000 worth of upgrades
4x public convenience including Caedelyn Park, Llandaff Fields, Cefn Onn North and Victoria Park – subject to vandalism and overall need £19,000 of maintenance
3x bowling pavillions including Howard Gardens, Maindy and Pentwyn – poor condition, £250,000+ to bring up to standard
Highfields Centre – has “significant potential” for being sold off, aiming to be sold in 2012
163 Newport Rd, Centre for the Deaf – potential sale
Walker House – currently vacant and could be considered for a residential home for children with complex needs but significant capital bid required
Trowbridge Centre, Greenway Road offices – unsuitable base for social work teams, could be sold off
Penhill offices – unsuitable base for youth offending teams, could be sold off
What do you think about the figures? Should the council put more money into maintenance? What should happen to the red-alert buildings? Let us know your views in the comments below