ISG college job delayed due to ‘labour supply’ issues

ISG failed to deliver a £21.6m college in West Sussex before the start of term due to labour-supply issues, a council meeting has heard.

The contractor was set to deliver the 100-pupil-capacity Woodlands Meed College building, for students with special educational needs, in time for the start of the new academic year earlier this month, but missed its deadline.

Included in the school’s facilities are a hydrotherapy swimming pool, all-weather pitches, a sports hall, large classrooms, outside play areas, a gym and an amphitheatre.

At a West Sussex County Council committee meeting last week, a council director alluded to the contract containing liquidated-damages clauses, but said he could not be specific about them in public.

The meeting heard that the project had a target date of 25 August and a contingency of a week later, but it is still not finished.

Andrew Edwards, the local authority’s director of property and assets, said: “In the week we were advised they weren’t going to hit the 31st, essentially performance fell off a cliff. The targets they should have been hitting that week weren’t hit.

“The issue that was behind this is one is well documented in the construction industry [namely] supply chain issues, which means availability of both labour and materials. In this instance, I believe it was an issue with labour. ISG had [then] flooded the site with labour [to get the programme back on track] but there comes a point where you have labour falling over each other and stuff [not] in sequence.”

Jacquie Russell, the council’s cabinet member for learning, whose LinkedIn profile states that she is a former director of a construction project-management company and is now a part-time property developer, said she was told on 2 August that the job would be finished by 25 August.

“I asked the contractor outright: do you think you are going to be ready in three weeks? And he looked at me quite categorically and said, ‘Yes we will, but if not, there will be a caveat.’

“I know what a building site can look like one week to the next – it can look like a bomb’s hit it one week and can be completely clear the next,” she said, commenting on the difficulty of judging the reliability of such an assurance.

No new date has been announced for the completion of the project, as Russell said the council needed to “stress test” ISG’s latest estimate before revealing it.

Russell added: “I do feel that the response from the contractor with respect to enabling us to firm up the new date has been inordinately slow, and I feel very sorry that it’s exacerbating the situation and the frustrations of the parents and the staff at Woodlands Meed.”

ISG was appointed to the job through the Southern Construction Framework. Construction began in November 2021.

The contractor has been approached for comment.

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