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Cost of Portcullis House repairs go through the roof

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Nearly £500,000 has been set aside to tackle persistent problems with the glass atrium at the Hopkins-designed Portcullis House

Vast sums of public money have been allocated to find a permanent solution to glass panes which keep cracking over the main space within the 14-year-old building next to the Palace of Westminster in London.

Forming part of the Parliament Estate, Portcullis House was opened in 2001 at a cost of £235million but has suffered from ongoing problems with the glazing over its centrepiece atrium.

Figures revealed by The Times show that MPs have spent £200,000 on a year-long ‘feasibility study’ to find a permanent fix for the faulty glazing on the atrium, which has seen a number of glass panels smash and fall into the floor.

In 2005 a specialist crane was needed to replace four glass panels – at a cost of £100,000, with a further £34,000 spent replacing panels since 2009.

The total spending so far approved comes to £488,000, with more funds expected to implement a long-term solution.

According to The Times, an error in the original glazing contract meant the taxpayer will bear the financial burden of replacing the glass panes.

Taxpayer’s Alliance campaign director Andy Silvester said: ‘Portcullis House increasingly looks like a black hole for hard-pressed taxpayers’ cash. At a time when we’re trying to find savings everywhere else across government, spending a quarter of a million on a “feasibility study” seems like a waste of money, especially on top of the cash already frittered on forestry and fig trees in the building.

‘The Parliamentary Estate employs an army of maintenance officials and engineers and it shouldn’t require extra administration or bureaucracy to work out a permanent solution. Politicians talk a lot about fixing the roof when it comes to the economy, but when it comes to taxpayers’ cash it needs to be done as cheaply as possible.’

A Commons spokesperson said: ‘In order to identify and mitigate the risk of future damage to the Portcullis House roof, a professional specialist team is currently undertaking a detailed examination of all glazed units, analysing the data collected during a 12 month survey, and will determine the nature and potential costs of any remedial measures that may be required.

‘As we are always committed to achieving value for money for the taxpayer, the investigation will also identify the most cost-effective means to maintain the roof in future. Any implementation of remedial work will follow the normal ‘business case’ process.’

There has been a number of attempts to solve the problem – only for them to be abandoned due to cost issues. In 2008 a glazing consultant made recommendations to solves the problem, however the roof was not deemed to be a hazard, so no action was taken.

Since then a number of panels have shattered, with a glass panel found hanging from the frame and glass shards falling to the floor in one incident last year.

A special ‘anti-shatter film’ has been installed on the underside of each panel to stop pieces of glass falling to the floor and a wind-detection system has also been installed to monitor wind speeds within the quadrangle above.

In 2012 MPs were criticised for renting fig trees to populate the atrium at a cost of nearly £400,000.

A spokesperson for Hopkins said it could not comment on issues regarding Portcullis House as the practice was bound by a confidentiality agreement.

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