The Leyland fire engine which proudly stands as the town’s newest gateway feature wasn’t just a cheap gimmick, it has emerged.
The cost of constructing the showcase glass box and installing the engine into its current position at the Leyland Hotel on Leyland Way, actually cost almost £60,000, the Guardian has discovered.
A chunk of that cash was put towards the project at the last minute after an unforeseen problem occurred just before the grand opening in August.
Taxpayers had to fund the £12,000 shortfall.
Leyland town centre councillor, and member of the Labour party, Derek Forrest, explained: “It seems that someone thought the best way to get the fire engine into the glass case was to push her in backwards, up the ramp, using a HGV.
“The problem was that it meant both vehicles were on the ramp at one point, and the ramp started to buckle, so they had to pull her out.
“They decided to fill the ramp underneath with cement, which cost an extra £12,000.
“Is it really appropriate to spend that kind of money on a gateway feature these days?”
The fire engine itself, known locally as ‘Norma’, was donated to the council by Leyland businessman Martin Ainscough, but the council had to foot the bill for the design and construction of the box, and the installation of the feature.
The budget for production and installation of the gateway feature totalled £47,500, which came from an EU initiative to provide finance for projects improving the public realm.
But the additional costs of £12,000 were transferred from the council’s budget - and taxpayers’ money – although no other council services were affected. This is because the cash came from under-spend and income earned in other parts of the Community Works programme.
Leader of the Labour opposition group Coun Matthew Tomlinson, said: “When I was chair of the Leyland My Neighbourhood Forum, we were initially told it was going to cost in the region of £20,000, and that has obviously escalated to nearly £60,000.
“We love Norma; she’s great. But if we were told she was going to cost us three times as much as originally thought, we might not have ended up with her at all.
“I think if the people of Leyland were told at the beginning how much this was going to cost them, and that Norma wasn’t such a free gift to the town after all, they would have been a bit sceptical about the whole thing.”
South Ribble Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, leisure and healthy communities, Coun Phil Smith, said: “With these sorts of projects there is always an element of risk.
“This project is totally bespoke to us and had never been done before.
“The unique nature of this feature meant that our initial estimates were just that, as there’s always the potential for unforeseen issues to arise.
“During construction it became apparent that the ramp needed to get the fire engine into the case, required reinforcing.
“The installation and opening were still completed on time, as much of the work had already been done.
“The additional costs were recovered from under-spends and extra income earned by South Ribble Council during the year.”