BASILDON Council paid more than £1million to a construction company for a new cinema complex before the firm collapsed.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the council made four payments to Simons Construction Ltd this year, totalling £1,178,549, before it went into administration in October.

The council awarded a £25million contract to the firm in March to build a new ten-screen cinema and six restaurants on East Square in the town centre.

The demolition of the site, which was being carried out by Squibb Group under sub-contract from Simons, was temporarily halted at the end of October, but has since resumed, with a spring 2021 opening date still hopeful, according to the council.

However a replacement firm is yet to be appointed.

The almost £1.2million that had already been paid to Simons funded the site set up, management, and part of the demolition of Freedom House and East Walk, utility disconnections and “team costs”.

The council claims Simons has not been paid any money for work it had not completed by the time the firm went into administration on October 29.

A spokesman for Basildon Council said: “All payments made to Simons Construction Limited were for work undertaken before they fell into administration. No payments have been made since.”

A spokesman for FRP Advisory, administrators for Simons, said: “Nathan Jones and John Lowe, of FRP Advisory, were appointed were appointed as joint administrators for Simons Construction Ltd on October 29.

“Since their appointment, the joint administrators have been conducting an orderly wind down of the business and, where possible, seeking to transfer across any remaining live contracts to alternative contractors with minimal disruption.

“This work is ongoing and an update will be provided to all creditors in due course.”

Luke Mackenzie, councillor for Pitsea, said: “I welcome news that the council has not lost money in this instance.

“I look forward to the successful completion of the cinema and wider development in the town centre.”

The redevelopment, which also includes public realm improvements to the square, is hoped to make the area a beacon for leisure and evening entertainment.

The council has stated the building work should be completed in autumn 2020.