‘Why did council give Morgan Sindall the Britannia Leisure Centre contract?’ ask campaigners

The Britannia Leisure Centre

The Britannia Leisure Centre - Credit: Archant

The contract to re-build Britannia Leisure Centre has been handed to Morgan Sindall – despite the firm being accused in a council report of overcharging for work in a previous contract worth £810,000.

The Britannia Leisure Centre

The Britannia Leisure Centre - Credit: Archant

Campaigners against the new development bordering Hoxton Park were horrified to discover the fact after spotting a worker wearing a Morgan Sindall vest in Shoreditch Park.

The council has defended its decision, stating that Morgan Sindall Construction and Infrastructure which has been awarded this contract is a different company within the Morgan Sindall Group.

"The decision was taken after a full, public and competitive tender process," said Hackney mayor Phil Glanville. "It is an experienced company with an excellent track record of building first-class public buildings, and we are confident it will deliver a state-of-the-art new leisure centre for local people."

But campaigner Pat Turnbull is not convinced.

She said: "Why has the council chosen a builder that has already failed in work it was contracted to do?

"The quibble about which arm of Morgan Sindall is doing the work does not change the fact that it is the same firm. Did they get the contract by the same 'aggressive pricing'?

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"We already have a leisure centre for local people - Britannia Leisure Centre - which, according to the council at the planning committee, could have been fully refurbished for half the cost of building this one."

Last month the Gazette reported that "aggressive pricing", excessive claims for works and "dishonourable culture" were alleged to be "common" practice in a council report into Hackney's £246m housing contracts.

Problems with electrical specialist Morgan Sindall that came to light two years ago were also described in the document. It was supposed to be doing jobs the council couldn't do itself in-house - but only completed 24pc of the 1,452 repairs it should have done in 18 months.

Many jobs had to be redone because of low quality, and the firm was found to have double charged for some of the work.

But Hackney housing chief Cllr Clayeon McKenzie downplayed the findings, telling us: "The report is based on information gathered during non-formal interviews with council officers two years ago, and includes ways of working that have been superseded by new and improved methods and scrutiny.

"It should also be noted that contractors were not given the opportunity to respond to or challenge any of the allegations or findings.

"Nevertheless, the council acknowledges that there can be significant challenges in managing complex contracts. Therefore, we are undertaking a major review of old contracts to inform a new procurement strategy.

"As part of this, our procurement team has been given dedicated resources to help with construction contracts, and in future external expertise will be sought where specialist advice is needed.

"Officers are also looking at a wide range of contract types and terms to ensure the new contracts build on lessons learned.

"We are also identifying opportunities for the council's in-house repairs and maintenance team to carry out work instead of using external companies.

"We have some very successful partnering contracts, where good value is achieved and where contractors work hard to deliver other social value through their contracts."

- Note: This article was corrected on May 14, 2019, to amend wording that incorrectly suggested Morgan Sindall had been "found guilty" of overpricing for shoddy works, and to add in the statement from Cllr McKenzie. In fact, these were simply allegations made by council officers in a report presented to the council earlier this year. The Gazette apologises for any confusion caused.