LONDON — A major work program to restore Britain’s Parliament is under threat, with MPs urged to consider an alternative approach of “fix and mend”.
Long-standing plans for a massive renovation of the Palace of Westminster have been hit by a series of setbacks and delays in the five years since MPs approved proposals to temporarily vacate the building while essential work was carried out .
Much of this iconic palace dates back to the 19th century – although some parts are considerably older – but it hasn’t been properly renovated since before World War II. The National Audit Office and other expert bodies warn of increasing risks from fires and falling masonry.
The project has remained in limbo for the past three years, with MPs divided over two main options: a “full decant” of MPs in temporary accommodation while the work is carried out, or some form of “continued presence” in the parliamentary debate.
The estimated cost of full decantation has risen from £4 billion, when MPs first voted, to around £11 billion – a price many MPs say is unjustifiable amid a cost crisis of life. Estimates of the cost of renovating while remaining in place are even higher and would take much longer.
MPs were expected to choose between the two options before Christmas, but POLITICO recently learned that this would be brought back to a debate in the House of Commons to “take note” of the options.
That debate is not expected to take place this year and may not happen until after the next election, which is not expected until May at the earliest, according to three people with knowledge of a meeting Tuesday of the board charged with to supervise the restoration.
The board also discussed the introduction of a third option known as “enhanced maintenance”, described by a parliamentary official as “essentially an ongoing repair and repair program”.
This would effectively end the restoration and renovation program in its current form, a project which was intended to be “the largest and most complex renovation of a heritage building ever undertaken in the UK”, as announced on the website Program Internet.
A lawmaker who sits on the restoration board, who was granted anonymity to discuss private meetings, defended the downgrading, saying: “It makes sense to take on other projects that can be done over the next two years and financed within current budgets. »
Alexandra Meakin, senior lecturer in political science at the University of Leeds, said the scaled-down proposal was “deeply concerning”, noting that “each week of delay costs millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and increases the risk important for the safety of thousands of employees and staff.” visitors to Parliament.
A spokesperson for the UK Parliament said: “The Palace of Westminster requires significant restoration work to continue serving as the seat of our democracy for generations to come. This highly complex project to invest in one of the most recognized buildings in the world will support employment across the UK and improve public access to Parliament.
The spokesperson confirmed that the proposals to be presented to MPs were being updated and would be published in the new year.