Tomorrow, the city council's Cabinet will be recommended to hand over £800,000 to an unsuccessful bidder for the Hengrove 'Healthplex' PFI project.
They don't have to cough up, of course. According to officers, they've done nothing to make such a payment necessary. In fact the contractor that has come cap-in-hand (or rather wig-in-hand) to the council has neither the right nor the entitlement to the cash.
Yes, it's a proposed out-of-court settlement of a dispute over the bid for the contract to build and operate the planned Leisure Centre/ Pool. The report to Cabinet (pdf) gives all the background, but the essential part seems to be this:
DC Leisure Management (DCLM) are threatening to sue the city council. They say that the bidding process for this lucrative contract (ok, they didn't actually say lucrative) wasn't followed. The consortium that got the contract (Bristol Active Ltd) was allowed to change one of its members during the bid, and its proposals for a ten-lane swimming pool were accepted whilst DCLM's similar proposals were not.
The council's own legal advice is that DCLM haven't got much of a case - if any. But what they have got is the ability to delay the whole project through legal action - unless an out-of-court settlement can be reached. So it looks like a transfer of £800,000 pounds is going to find its way into DCLM's account instead of any of the much needed services that our council is supposed to be providing.
Of course, the council could go ahead and say we'll fight this. So what if the Healthplex is delayed? Other flagship Hengrove projects are already behind schedule; the Hospital, originally intended to open about now, has just been put back a couple of years and the Computershare HQ is also delayed.
A delay to the opening of the new pool might even be welcomed in some quarters too - especially among users of the Jubilee and Bishopsworth pools, due to be shut down as soon as the Healthplex opens.
And maybe £800,000 would help kickstart the long-promised provision of a library to serve Hengrove and Whitchurch....