A row that has been rumbling on for months erupted at
Warwick town council on Wednesday when a building firm was severely criticised.
Sitting amidst the splendour of the Old Court House in Jury Street, which dates back to 1725, councillors complained about the length of time it has taken to restore the building, which should have been finished last May.
While they accepted some delays had been inevitable in the listed property - especially during the installation of a lift - town clerk Derek Maudlin complained: “Since last September the builders, Bennie Historic Conservation, have not met a single deadline.
“They have had insufficient workmen on site throughout the whole job and our own architect is now saying he is not prepared to authorise the payments Bennie is seeking.
“I don’t believe the managing director of this company can be aware of how badly her workers have done the job - in my view this is a very poor organisation.”
Bennie’s bill has risen to £930,000 to complete the final details of the restoration and the firm had asked for another 15 weeks to finish the job.
Town councillors had budgeted for the work and received a £365,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
But last year they still had to borrow extra money from the district council towards what was by then an £800,000 bill. The plan was always to recoup some of the cost by opening up the ballroom and assembly rooms for weddings and other functions.
The Court House already houses the Tourist Information Centre and the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum in the basement.
Bennie has a good reputation for other work and the row over the bill may well have to be taken to arbitration. While it continues the town council cannot make a further application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Yesterday (Thursday) a spokeswoman for Bennie, based in Northamptonshire, said it was not company policy to comment on disputes.