West Midlands Police has revealed that its budget to build two new custody “superblocks” has jumped by £4 million because of a more buoyant construction market.
The force had earmarked £30.6 million for two huge 60-cell blocks, which are due to be built in Bromford Lane, Oldbury, and Holford Drive, Perry Barr.
The plans have been costed, land has been bought, and fixed price contracts are being used on the schemes which are due to be completed by the end of next year.
But a financial monitoring report, discussed at this week’s Strategic Police and Crime Board, has warned that an overspend has been discovered and the risk of further cost increases have not been totally removed.
The board was told that costs had increased to £34.6 million because of the inflationary increases in the cost of building work compared with when the plans were drawn up.
Mike Williams, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s chief finance officer, said: “The costs of building the two new custody blocks is forecast to be higher than the allocated budget.
“The reason for the increase in costs is predominantly due to inflationary increases in the cost of building resulting from a more buoyant market than when the original cost estimates were undertaken.
“The two blocks are significant infrastructure investments that will support service improvements, provide further revenue budget savings into the medium term and release older inefficient cell blocks.
“The risk of further cost increases has been reduced significantly, but not totally removed.”
Mr Williams said a revenue under spend, already achieved this year by the force, would be moved to the capital reserve budget to cover the extra costs.
The force currently has 12 fully operational custody suites providing 232 cells.
Last year the Crime Commissioner Bob Jones announced that Birmingham’s historic Steelhouse Lane police station and custody cells would be closed as part of a savings programme linked to the construction of the new superblocks.
The landmark Grade Two listed building, which was once described as being like a ‘mini prison’, is being sold off along with ones in Queens Road, Aston, and Belgrave Middleway, in Edgbaston.
Officers from those two axed stations could be moved into local shopping centres within two years.
And Central Birmingham police station is being re-located to Lloyd House police headquarters.
Bob Jones spoke last year of his “extreme disappointment” at a six per cent Home Office funding cut.
He said the reduction, for 2015-16, “means a further £27 million cut to West Midlands Police, in addition to the £126 million we’ve lost already”.
Mr Jones added: “This could take the total cut to about £153 million – or over a fifth of the budget – in just five years.”