Wolverhampton criticised over city centre regeneration

A Wolverhampton businesswoman was caused 'unnecessary uncertainty' as a result of delays to the city council's purchase of her properties for its city centre regeneration project, according to a report published yesterday by watchdog the Local Government Ombudsman.

Wolverhampton town centre
Wolverhampton town centre
The purchase of three properties owned by the unnamed woman is necessary if Wolverhampton City Council’s city centre regeneration plans are to proceed.

However, despite the woman having been in contact with the council since 2004 about the future of the properties, there is still no timetable in place for their purchase.

She complained to the ombudsman that the council’s mishandling of the project had caused her uncertainty over the future and that she has incurred unnecessary costs.

Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin agreed that there were serious failures in Wolverhampton City Council’s handling of the centre project and that the council failed to adequately project manage the purchase of the properties.

According to the report, the council failed to put in place a timetable for the purchase of the properties and that, in any event, it had insufficient funding in place to cover the cost.

Martin said: "It is unacceptable that the council should embark on a process of negotiation with the complainant for purchase of properties for over four years, when it was never in a position to complete a purchase even if a price had been agreed at the outset."

The ombudsman also criticises the council for "a remarkable lack of candour" in its communications with the complainant and found that it unfairly sought to blame all delays in this case on her own actions and those of the local regeneration agency.

Wolverhampton City Council chief executive Simon Warren said: "The council fully accepts the findings and the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman.
"We recognise that taking so long to find an agreement has been frustrating for all parties involved. Having learned the lessons of the past, we have secured a way forward and I expect this to be resolved very soon."

A full copy of the Local Government Ombudsman report can be found here.

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