And finally… MP suggests crowdfunding to pay for £7.1bn Palace of Westminster renovation

Crowdfunding should be among the methods considered to fund the renovation of the Palace of Westminster, MPs have heard.

The Herald has reported that a report by independent consultants suggested taxpayers face a bill of up to £7.1 billion to stop Parliament falling down unless MPs and peers agree to move out while the work takes place.

An independent report released last year revealed that major restoration of the Houses of Parliament without moving MPs and peers out would cost £5.7 billion and take 32 years.

If MP and peers were moved out for six years, the cost would drop to £3.5bn.

The £3.5bn option would include some new features, such as a lift up the Elizabeth Tower, which with its famous clock and bell is popularly known as Big Ben, a media centre for TV interviews and “increased breakout, formal and informal meeting areas” for those who work in the Palace of Westminster.

For a slightly higher spend of an estimated £3.9bn, the full move-out of MPs and peers would also enable a new visitor centre, including exhibition, education and conference facilities.

The Independent Options Appraisal report also has two halfway-house options, which would see a partial vacation of Parliament – with the Commons going first, followed by the Lords.

That would cover a total time period of between nine and 14 years, but would most likely last 11 years.

Under that proposal, basic repairs – such as improving fire safety, removing asbestos and restoring damaged stonework – would cost an estimated £3.9bn.

A higher-spec version of the partial move-out, with some of the same extras as a full move-out, would cost an estimated £4.4bn.

The highest conceivable cost, the report said, would be £7.1bn. This assumes maximum risk and inflation levels and applies to the most expensive of the options put forward.

Labour’s Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) suggested exploring a range of funding ideas and warned against a “careless” private finance initiative (PFI).

Mr Sheerman, addressing Liberal Democrat Tom Brake who represents the House of Commons Commission, said: “Can I urge you to look seriously at the way in which this reconstruction work is going to be funded, to look at public subscription, a form of crowdfunding?

“And could I warn you please, don’t go into a careless PFI like the one in Halifax where a hospital that cost £70 million has already meant £770 million has been paid back.”

Mr Brake replied: “I hope that everyone in this place has learnt the lessons of PFI and again it’s not for me to work out what the financial arrangements are going to be.

“But I think clearly PFI may well be one of the more expensive options and I hope the Treasury will look at something that is more straightforward in terms of funding these improvements.”

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