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Tories attack Welsh Assembly as Rogers costs spiral out of control

A war of words has broken out over a hike in the cost of the Richard Rogers Partnership's (RRP) new National Assembly for Wales building in Cardiff.

Welsh Tories have attacked both the architect and their devolved government clients after it emerged that the cost of the project (pictured above) had jumped to nearly £60 million.

Critics of the scheme have slammed the rise, pointing to the original £10 million price tag put on the construction in 1998 and the more recent estimate of £40 million, which was ring-fenced when RRP was reappointed last year (AJ 26.6.03).

The assembly's Conservative group leader, Nick Bourne, told the AJ that 'the people of Wales are increasingly infuriated with the way that this project has been handled'.

'People are extremely angry about this, ' he said. 'We keep being told that the costs are not going to go up any further than they have already, but then we get more and more added on to the price.

'It is a national disgrace that taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for this overpriced palace for politicians. You have to question the value of completing this project. People are often saying that because we have not made quite the same mess of this as the Scots did, it's OK, ' Bourne added.

'Well, clearly that is nonsense'.

The project has been something of a disaster for RRP, which was thrown off the scheme in 2001 by Welsh finance minister Edwina Hart following a row over fees. But the practice was surprisingly reappointed in mid-2003 to work for contractor Taylor Woodrow.

However, a Welsh government spokeswoman denied that anything had gone seriously wrong on the scheme.

'We have always openly said that some costs, such as fitting out the building and VAT, lie outside our contract with Taylor Woodrow and assembly members are aware of this, ' she said.

'This is a landmark building for the future of Wales and, considering its expected 100-year lifespan, the total cost represents good value for money, ' she added.

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