The repair bill for restoring one of Aberdeen’s most historic buildings has nearly trebled.
Essential repair and refurbishment works are being carried out on the Town House clock tower and roof.
The work was originally due to cost £1.2million, but once work began on the A-listed building last year, rotting wood was discovered – sparking a dispute between Aberdeen City Council and the contractor.
And last night, it emerged – just a month after the council refused to reveal the revised cost of the work due to commercial sensitivity rules – that the bill has soared to around £3.5million.
Finance bosses insisted the council had no other choice but to agree to the costs, and that the work – which could be finished by September – would “protect the heritage” of the Granite City for decades to come.
However, opposition politicians rounded on the administration and questioned if finance convener Willie Young was “fit for the job”.
Contractors yesterday blamed the escalating bill on the unanticipated spread of rot throughout the 150-year-old structure.
Site manager Iain Esslemont, of John Fulton Plumbers, said: “I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the sheer level of rot on the spire itself.”
It comes just weeks after it was revealed the new south of the city academy was likely to be £14million over budget.
And last month it emerged the Third Don Crossing would cost £3million more than originally anticipated.
Last night Aberdeen South MP and former council leader Callum McCaig said there were “serious questions” to be answered by the administration.
He said: “When a project is nearly three times over budget you have to ask some serious questions of what kind of oversight there was on that.
“We have also had reports recently on the new school being over budget and on major overruns on the Third Don Crossing.
“If I was leader of the council, I’d be asking what my finance convener has been doing, and why these costs are spiralling on his watch.
“If this was the only project that had run hugely over budget with the cost being picked up by the taxpayer then there would be questions, but this is the third project – you have to ask yourself whether Willie Young is fit for the job.”
The authority’s SNP group leader, Stephen Flynn, said the whole project had been shrouded in “unnecessary secrecy” and that residents would be “rightly shocked” by the new bill.
But Mr Young dismissed the comments, and stressed the finance committee had originally been presented with an initial revised cost of £4.2million in September, so the final bill is less than anticipated.
He said: “The whole roof was knackered, for want of a better word, so we were faced with either doing a botched job, or carrying out the proper work which would last for years to come.
“What this will mean is that we should not be hit with these kind of costs again.
“And let’s not forget why we are here in the first place – because a part of the roof fell off and nearly hit a passer-by.
“This work will protect the heritage of Aberdeen for years to come. It would be neglectful for us to allow water to continue to seep in through the roof and damage the inside of the building.”
He also blamed the former SNP administration for allowing the 19th century building to fall into such disrepair.
The Bridge of Don councillor said: “Callum McCaig was in power between 2007 and 2011 and he neglected the Town House, and because of this he cost the taxpayers £3.5million.
“So if he would like to send the city a cheque, we would gladly accept it.”