Council clocks up £43,000 repair bill

Shame-faced: The council clock
The council clock

Council chiefs spent over £43,000 last year on trying to tell the public what time it is.

The clock on top of County Hall on Penrhyn Road has been confusing observers for years with its wildly inaccurate timekeeping and may yet continue its reign of error.

Alex Hidell, a resident of nearby Grove Crescent, said it was ludicrous the council could not keep a clock in working order.

“I gave up hope of it ever working properly again on 6 May 2014,” he said.

“I looked up and the clockface said it was ten o’clock, but it was actually around half past two and a minute or so later I heard the clock strike seven.”

The clock is normally serviced on a yearly basis and this costs Surrey County Council £180.

But its misbehaviour led to an expensive overhaul in 2016. When they began to investigate the problem in spring 2016, council officers discovered that the tower’s interior stairs needed fixing because they were rotten and could collapse.

The council decided to fix the stairs, mend the clock, and repaint the clock face all at the same time, which meant taking the clock mechanism down from the tower and sending it for repair.

A Freedom of Information request made by the Kingston Courier revealed that the total cost of all this activity came to £43,751.31.

But the problems did not end there. At the end of the repairs, the County Council was warned by engineers that the mechanism might still go wrong in future.

Sure enough, in September, the clock started to chime during the night, at a time when the chimes are deactivated to prevent disturbance to nearby residents.

The council said: “The sub-contractor was recalled to put this right and this has taken several weeks to correct.

“The brushes were renewed and the subcontractor is due to return to put the clock to the correct time.

“The decision to refurbish the clock was an internal discussion and then incorporated into the annual schedule of maintenance works.”

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