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Council may have withheld more than £20 million from Copr Bay contractor

26 Sep 2023 3 minute read
The unfinished multi-storey car park at Swansea’s Copr Bay scheme. Photo by Richard Youle

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

Swansea Council may have withheld more than £20 million from the contractor behind the Copr Bay development, according to a report.

The authority has not disclosed any figures in public since the contractor, Buckingham Group, ceased trading last month and then went into administration.

A cabinet report about council projects said there were Copr Bay underspends of £13.4 million in 2021-22 and £7.2 million in 2022-23 – a total of £20.6 million. But it’s not clear if any of this money was paid to Buckingham Group during the current financial year prior to its financial problems.

The project had a £135 million price tag and involved the construction of Swansea Arena, which opened in spring 2022, the adjacent coastal park, the car park underneath and a pedestrian bridge across Oystermouth Road.

Key component

The other key component – linked by the bridge – was 33 flats, a multi-storey car park and ground-floor commercial units. Defective steel paintwork identified at the multi-storey car park hasn’t been fully rectified, and there are still snagging issues and some unfinished work to resolve.

The council has previously stated that it has made significant provisions to protect taxpayers’ money but, with a replacement contract to agree and commercial sensitivity around the Buckingham Group administration, it has been reluctant to comment further.

Asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service if the £13.4 million and £7.2 million sums had been withheld in full, and whether some of the money may be sought by Buckingham Group administrators, a council spokesman said: “We have acted quickly to protect the council’s position, and financial arrangements we have in place mean we don’t anticipate these works leading to extra costs for the council or the taxpayer.

“We can’t say any more at this stage given discussions with the administrator and an alternative contractor are ongoing.”

He added: “We hope to make an announcement shortly about a replacement contractor so that unfinished elements of the Copr Bay scheme are completed as soon as possible.”

The construction of the 3,500-capacity arena and coastal park coincided with the Covid pandemic, causing a major headache for all concerned, but the arena opened on time to the relief of those involved. Comedian John Bishop the first big-name act, around 105,000 event tickets were sold in the first year, while overall footfall numbers were around 220,000. It can hold different events at the same time. Venue director Lisa Mart, of Ambassador Theatre Group, said earlier this year that it was like seven venues in one.

Buckingham Group said last month that it intended to appoint an administrator after sustaining up “deep losses and interim cash deficits” on three major stadium and arena contracts and a large earthworks contract. Construction company Kier Group saved some of many expected job losses with a deal to buy the firm’s rail business.

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