Council mistakenly claims £95m extra relief road costs after ‘typo’ in report

Councilors mistakenly voted to back £95m for a relief road after a mistake was made in a report.

Shropshire Council voted in favor of the North West Relief Road report on Thursday, but the cost of the bypass was mistakenly estimated to more than double the actual estimate of £87m to £182m.

In an email seen by the BBC, finance director James Walton admitted to Greens leader Julian Dean that he was “confused” after the £182m cost was reported at the council meeting, adding: “This series should had been deleted. i lost and i apologize.

“Early drafts of the spreadsheets apparently included data on some items that were considered for inclusion in the report.”

However, the vote did not commit the council to take out the loan, with Mr Walton saying in a statement The independent that the report was merely to outline “estimates in relation to [the road]instead of a bid for more funding.

He said the typo was the result of “officer error” and would be amended.

Despite the council not being linked to the extra £95m, the council faced backlash over the mistake not being picked before the vote.

Lib Dem councilor and transport campaigner Rob Wilson told the BBC: “Today in the council the Conservatives proposed a £95m loan to cover an unspecified funding gap. I asked why £95m would be needed for an £87m road and I was given no answer.'

“We are being asked to find an extra £95m without any information,” Labor leader Julia Buckley told the broadcaster.

Although not mentioned in the report itself, the road was included in a list of projects attached to a report for a mid-term review of a capital investment programme.

Initial funding for the scheme in 2019 included £54m of funding from the Department for Transport, £4.2m from the Local Enterprise Partnership and the remainder from Shropshire Council's capital budget.

Shropshire Council has already spent £24 million on preparatory work ahead of planning permission being granted, with a decision expected in the coming months.

A statement from Mr Waltson said: “As a result of officer error, [the report] contained an error in estimating increased costs and proposing additional funding for the NWRR. That number should have been removed, as it was a holdover from working papers where finance officials had incorporated an extremely rough estimate based on high levels of inflation, assumptions about contingencies and delays.

“This was actually a ‘hold' number, often used by finance officials when modeling potential costs or budget projections, and was not derived from consultation or input from the project team or operational officials involved in the proposed NWRR.

“To remedy this, we are asked to amend the uniform number and re-circulate Appendices B and C to all council members to clarify the situation. We are also committed to bringing full clarification to the full council in December as necessary.”