‘They’ve wasted ten years:’ Westminster revamp cost could balloon over £5.6bn as PM mulls York move

A lockdown too late? Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

The Prime Minister has said that the House of Commons and Lords could decamp to the city of York in England after a warning that the costs of the revamping the Palace of Westminster could balloon over £5.6bn.

The National Audit Office advised those in charge of the restoration to learn lessons from HS2 and Crossrail about publicly stating cost estimates that were too low.

MPs will hold a general debate today on the refurbishment. Rhondda MP Chris Bryant said that the “constant indecision” was “utterly irresponsible”.

“They’ve already wasted ten years and millions of pounds without so much as mixing a bucket of cement. Now the government wants to send the whole project back to square one.

“It is bound to increase the cost to the taxpayer and the risk of a fire or other catastrophic failure in one of the best-loved buildings in the world.”

Writing for The Times Red Box today, Andrea Leadsom, the former Commons leader, asks them to back the original plan. She says: “If we don’t move out, all the evidence points to a disaster that will force us out.”

 

‘Options’

Parliament has already spent more than £369m on the maintenance of the Palace of Westminster since 2016 and there is an increasing backlog of repairs estimated at over £1bn.

All the fire, heating, drainage, mechanical and electrical systems need replacing while steam pipes run alongside electrical cables, and the sewage ejector system installed in 1888 is still in use today.

In his latest letter on the subject, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson casts doubt on the renovation project that was agreed in 2018 and would entail MPs moving out in the coming five years.

Mr Johnson wrote the letter, addressed to Sarah Johnson and David Goldstone, chief executives of the restoration and renewal programme. In it he welcomes the review and says that it should examine “the full range of options”. He adds: “Cost should be kept to a minimum (ie no ‘gold plating’). We should also move as quickly as possible.”

He says that the case for both Houses staying put should be kept on the table but if a decant is required “possible locations within London, including Richmond House, the QEII Centre and City Hall” should be examined.

He adds: “However, the review should also consider a possible location outside London. The government is considering establishing a government hub in York and it would therefore make sense to consider this as a potential location.”

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