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ANGER AS BATH PULLS PLUG ON SPA PROJECT

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Mowlem accused of propaganda war...
Mowlem accused of propaganda war

By Mark Smulian

A furious war of words has broken out between a council and a leading builder over the troubled restoration of Bath's historic thermal spa complex.

In a startling exchange, Bath & North East Somerset Council has accused Mowlem of damaging its standing among local residents by waging a 'propaganda war' against it.

Mowlem has retaliated by describing the council as 'uncooperative, unprofessional and underhand'.

The project, which began in 1997, has been plagued by disputes, chiefly over peeling paint and leaks in the steam room. Costs have spiralled from£11m to£35m, and the bulk of this could fall on the council.

Each side has accused the other of breach of contract. The council claimed Mowlem ignored instructions, while the construction company said the council resorted to 'a devious scheme' to remove it.

The council said it had told Mowlem to leave the site.

Malcolm Hanney (Con), executive member for resources, said the council had released extensive documentation on the dispute because of damage to its reputation since 'Mowlem has run a PR campaign against the council'.

Mr Hanney added: 'The major problems are the peeling paint and the floor leak.'

mark.smulian@emap.com

War of words

'We feel the council has conducted itself in an unco-operative, unprofessional and underhand manner'

Mowlem

'Mowlem sought to use a propaganda war against the authority'

Bath & North East Somerset Council

Comment - when alien cultures unite

Councils' partnerships invariably start with a handshake for the cameras but they can end, in extreme cases, with an exchange of invective like that over Bath Spa.

As the Society of Information Technology Management report on partnerships has made clear, relations between councils and the private sector offer many benefits but are strewn with pitfalls. These arise not because one side is trying to rip the other off - though that can happen - but because their cultures are so alien to each other.

The problem is not just that the sectors are different, but that government propaganda in favour of partnerships has been so relentless, under both parties. This has meant poorly conceived partnerships have been agreed even where no partnership would have been preferable.

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