Parliament tower refurb delayed after tender blunder

Work to repair parliament’s tallest structure, the Victoria Tower, faces a year’s delay due to a botched procurement process, Construction News can reveal.

Last May, parliamentary authorities launched a tender for a £95m job to repair the tower’s crumbling masonry, windows, cast-iron roof, rainwater drainage and flagpole.

However, bidders for the job have been instructed that the process will have to restart after concerns were raised over wording contained in documents related to the procurement process, CN has learnt.

A UK parliament spokesperson said: “Preparatory work is scheduled to begin this summer, and a delay relating to the procurement process means main work is now expected to start in 2025.”

The contract was originally supposed to have been awarded by the end of 2023, with repairs getting underway this year and completion set for 2030.

However, after the scrapping of the initial procurement, which is understood to have been communicated to bidders earlier this year, a new tender will be issued later this year.

One source told CN the process needs to be re-run as “issues with the procurement process need to be ironed out to ensure the process operated fairly”.

Another source with knowledge of the process said the client had became worried that it could be vulnerable to legal action from losing bidders if the process was not restarted.

This source said that firms in the running under the initial tender were furious after spending considerable time and resource on their bids.

Speaking to CN, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair Meg Hillier MP said: “This is something that should have been caught earlier. We have seen stop and start and poor procurement quite a lot [on the overall restoration of parliament].

“It beggars belief that we keep having cost overruns and delays. Every delay is just adding more costs. It’s been a comedy of errors.”

The 160-year-old Victoria Tower’s stonework is deteriorating, with parliamentary authorities concerned about the risks of falling masonry on those working in and visiting the Palace of Westminster.

They warned in 2022 that exposure to cold weather and storm conditions were weakening the 99 metre-tall tower before launching early engagement on the procurement in 2022.

The Victoria Tower repairs will see the entire tower covered in scaffolding and a crash deck removed.

Last year’s contract notice said the job would be delivered under a single-stage contract.

The job sits outside the wider parliamentary Restoration and Renewal programme, which has itself been hit by repeated delays.

In 2022, MPs scrapped previously agreed plans for the Houses of Parliament’s refurbishment and are yet to commit to a new programme to fix the crumbling building.

The PAC warned last year that there was a real and increasing risk that parliament will be destroyed by a “catastrophic incident” before restoration work has begun.

Speaking this week, the parliamentary spokesperson said: “Ahead of work starting, a range of measures remain in place to ensure the safety of visitors and people who work in parliament.”

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