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Race against time to build Conwy’s ‘flagship’ children’s assessment centre

A council is in a race against time to build a “flagship” children’s assessment centre for kids with complex needs or risk losing more than £2.5m in grant funding.

Bwthyn y Ddol is being built on the Meadow Lodge site in Colwyn Bay, next to Eirias Park, to give respite and assessment for vulnerable children from Conwy and Denbighshire local authority areas.

Work on the site officially started on June but within three weeks the principal contractor WRW Construction Ltd announced it was going into administration.

It has left the project, which is being led by Conwy county council but includes Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Denbighshire council, more than a month behind schedule.

Cash for the £2,687,524 development is coming from Welsh Government’s Integrated Care Fund (ICF) grant scheme.

Minutes from a behind-closed-doors meeting of Conwy county council’s cabinet last week explained the grant cash needs to be spent by March next year as part of the agreement.

Even more pressing was the fact all groundworks need to be completed by the end of November this year or the March deadline cannot be met anyway.

Councillors agreed to depart from their contract management procedure rules to avoid another lengthy tendering process and invite the three unsuccessful companies to tender again for the work.

The minutes revealed: “A pre-termination letter was issued to the appointed contractor on 21 July 2021 and no response was received within the required
timescale, with a formal termination letter then issued on 27 July 2021.

“The preferred option was Option 1; to engage with the three organisations, which were evaluated as part of the original procurement process via a new mini competition, with a view to procuring a single principal contractor for all of the works.

“This would ensure competitive tendering, but also expedite the procurement

“It was noted the tendering process was not without risk in terms of ensuring strict timescales could be met and possible increase of costs.”

Councillors were assured “any significant cost rise may result in the contract not being awarded”.

They also heard “no anomalies had been identified” by Conwy county council’s audit team with any of the checks made on WRW Ltd prior to awarding the contract.

Denbighshire and Betsi Cadwaladr health board has been included in discussions and welsh Government are aware of the current situation.

The multi-disciplinary unit will house vulnerable children needing assessment and stop kids with complex needs being sent hundreds of miles away for care, far from their support networks.

It will be able to assess four children at a time with complex needs, for up to 12 weeks, under a team of two social workers, two family support workers, a psychologist and team manager who is also an occupational therapist.

The average placement for a Conwy child in 2019-20 cost £180,000 but using the centre will help reduce the annual outlay both it and Denbighshire councils.

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