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MPs Slam Parliament’s Slow Rebuilding Programme Progress – As Executives Receive Hundreds of Thousands in Bonuses

The Public Accounts Committee delivers a stinging rebuke to the Delivery Authority, tasked with the rebuilding scheme

The Palace of Westminster September 2023 Photo: Ambrosiniv/Alamy

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The executives running Parliament’s rebuilding programme have been accused of a “staggering” failure to answer questions on the slow progress of the scheme – while raising eyebrows after receiving bonuses of hundreds of thousands of pounds between them.

According to a letter by the chair of the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, RAAC – reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete – which has led to school closures has been found in 17 areas on the parliamentary estate: 13 in the Palace of Westminster, and four in outside buildings.

The letter questions why David Goldstone, chief executive of the Delivery Authority, in charge of the rebuilding programme, received a £168,000 “discretionary performance award” on top of a £10,500 pay rise – taking his pay to £478,500 from £300,000 between 2022 and 2023.

Six other executives also received bonuses between £45,000 and £86,000 a year.

Hillier points out that it has been six years since Parliament voted to rebuild the premises and that progress has been slow. Mr Goldstone’s bonus therefore “surprised us given the slow pace of the programme”.

The earliest MPs will receive detailed proposals and costing for the rebuilding of Parliament is now set to be 2025, after slippages in the schemes.

“The prospect of works beginning in earnest remains a distant one and considering the amount of time already devoted to considering the options, it is staggering that so many questions remain unanswered,” Hillier says in the letter.

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The committee expressed serious concerns that the Delivery Authority may choose what is known as the ‘continued presence’ option – whereby rebuilding takes place while Parliament is still in session and open to the public.

“The ‘continued presence’ option brings with it the risk of even higher costs, taking far longer and being a far greater danger to security, health and safety,” the letter states.

“You said that there are ‘very significant concerns and risks’ associated with the continued presence, not least that halfway through such an approach the disruption experienced could be such that you decide that a full decant is required after all, adding further cost, time and risk.”

The letter also reveals that the Delivery Authority is planning to spend another £1.2 million just to develop this option before it can publish its plan.

Initial maintenance on the parliamentary estate is now down to £1.45 million a week from £2 million – but the authorities have changed the parameters of the reporting so it only includes the Palace of Westminster and excludes other buildings on the estate.

So far, the letter reveals, the authorities are only investigating the extent of RAAC and will not have a full picture as to whether the concrete needs replacing until next year. But Hillier said staff don’t seem to be informed of what is happening.

“We were concerned that the Delivery Authority and client team are not communicating sufficiently with those who work in the Palace about what work is planned or taking place, and what has been found,” the letter states.

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The Delivery Authority has previously defended the bonuses of the top executives in charge of the programme saying that “the Palace of Westminster needs extensive restoration work to continue serving as the home of our democracy for future generations and we are making good progress working with Parliament to agree a shortlist of options for the work as well as carrying out extensive building investigations”.

It has added: “This is a highly complex project and all elements of pay for the Delivery Authority experts needed to plan and carry out the restoration work are benchmarked and broadly comparable to other major construction programmes.”

It has been asked to reply to the Public Accounts Committee to answer all its questions.

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