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RMJM chief's 'extended leave' prompts concern

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Rumours surrounding Brian Stewart's future as head of RMJM have intensified after it emerged that the practice's under-fire boss has gone on 'extended leave'.

It is believed the Edinburghbased firm's chief executive could become a casualty of the Scottish Parliament fiasco, which has already cost taxpayers nearly £440 million.

There is also widespread speculation that RMJM is losing employees at an alarming rate, with one report claiming that 16 members of staff have recently handed in their notice.

A source close to the controversial Parliament project said: 'There are a lot of empty desks at RMJM. They really have taken a hit.' The latest rumours come after the practice announced in March that it had made a 'oneoff' loss of £1.3 million in 2004.

A spokeswoman for RMJM denied there had been a mass exodus from the practice, but refused to comment on Stewart's position.

She said: 'It is completely false that 16 people have handed in their notice. Perhaps that amount have done so over the past two years, but there is no mention of timescale in recent reports.' She added: 'I can confirm that Brian is on extended leave, but that is all I can say on the matter.

And there will be no announcements in the near future.' Whatever the current situation, the fallout from Lord Fraser's report to the Scottish Parliament on the Holyrood project has not been kind to the practice.

Speaking about the cooperation between RMJM and the EMBT team led by Benedetta Tagliabue in Barcelona, Fraser wrote: 'In short, the joint relationship was a misnomer.

In reality, the picture discloses two teams separated by geography and working in quite different ways.

'The consequence was that the performance of the architects fell well below what could reasonably have been expected.' It was also claimed that a lack of a coherent leadership resulted in 'non-existent' morale among the more junior architects.

Meanwhile, even though the building has now been occupied for more than six months, design problems continue to emerge.

Last week politicians complained about a plague of pigeons nesting in air vents, causing droppings and feathers to land on their desks.

Officials have now commissioned a survey into the problems and are considering measures to deter the birds, such as fencing. It is understood that some windows have already been sealed shut.

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