The Lincoln Central Car Park is at the centre of a heated debate following the announcement of a £150,000 repair bill for its lifts. City of Lincoln Council officers insist these repairs are crucial, yet there's no safety concern at present.
This hefty sum has sparked a fiery response from opposition councillors. Conservatives Thomas Dyer and David Clarkson are not just raising eyebrows over the cost; they're probing the quality of the original work. Their scrutiny extends to an additional £11,000 earmarked for deep cleaning, questioning the council's spending decisions.
This controversy has turned the council meeting into a battleground, with questions flying about the justification of these expenses. It's a classic tale of public spending under the microscope, where every penny counts and every decision is dissected.
Simon Walters, Directorate for Communities and Environment, said: "Members have been aware for some time that the two busiest lifts, which share the door leading out to Sincil Street, have had a few issues over the last couple of years. We know it's frustrating for customers. We know that they are inactive a lot of the time.
"We are definitely not replacing the lifts. There are certain bits of equipment that are not performing as they should. So this provision allows us to replace those pieces of equipment."
He said consultants had carried out investigations and identified parts related to the control mechanisms ensuring lift safety, which, when errors occurred, would suddenly shut the lift off.
"Those parts aren't working as they should," he said.
However, he added, "There's nothing unsafe about the lifts. They were absolutely fine, but sometimes they just suddenly switch off, and that's why they stopped working."
On Tuesday, payment machines were broken and customers were redirected to the other side of the car park. | Image: Daniel Jaines
However, councillors continued to question the building quality of the car park, which has only been open for six years.
Councillor Dyer said, "This is £150k for two lifts, but there are two more. What’s to say those two aren’t going to need the same amount?"
Councillors were somewhat reassured by Jaclyn Gibson, Financial Planning Manager, that the council still had to go out to procurement for the work, adding, "We’re hoping it will come down to significantly less."
Councillor David Clarkson said, "The first two floors of the car park were brought into use on November 17, 2017. That’s six years. I am shocked that we’re setting aside £150k for repairs to lifts that haven’t been in full use for six years. Lifts in all manner of structures, including multi-storey car parks, are standard operating equipment.
"I accept that we would allocate more than the estimated cost just in case, but I come back to the central point. This building was brought into use, the first half of it, six years ago tomorrow. To have such expensive repairs after six years is... incredible."
Councillors asked if the build was adequate in the first place.
Councillors discussed the spend on Thursday night. | Image: Daniel Jaines
Mr Walters told members, "Central Car Park has been exceptionally popular. It’s been far more successful than we envisaged in the original business case."
However, he refused to detail contractual relationships with the original company at this time, with Labour Councillor Gary Hewson acknowledging there may be discussions around compensation in the future.
He also noted that the council had made money from the car park.
"The council has had to be more businesslike and entrepreneurial. Central Car Park is generating income for the council, so one thing we can't do is deter people from using it. We're not sure yet how much it's going to cost, but... we can't let the car park continue like this."
Councillor Clarkson concluded, "The council taxpayer would want to know why, after less than six years, these lifts require this repair. It's concerning that a six-year-old car park's specification is now in question."
Reporters understand that opposition members have submitted a motion to the City of Lincoln Council calling for a full detailed review of the car park, focused on resolving any issues plaguing it.