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Palace of Westminster briefs contractors on next restoration project

Victoria Tower, at the House of Lords end of the Palace of Westminster [Image: House of Lords]

An online event next week will brief suppliers on the scope of the stonework repairs required, ahead of tenders being called for the £170m project.

Sir Robert McAlpine and its specialist suppliers last year completed a five-year programme of works on the Elizabeth Tower otherwise known as the Big Ben clocktower. The scaffold alone, consisting of 24,000 elements, took more than a year to construct.

A spokesman for the House of Lords said that the repairs to the Victoria Tower, which is at the Lords end of the complex (west side), were being managed as “a completely separate programme of work” to the Elizabeth Tower, at the Commons end of the palace (east side).

Asked whether it would not have been better use of public money to simply engage the contractor and supply chain that had just proved itself on the Elizabeth Tower, the spokesman insisted that a full competitive tendering process was the most cost effective way to find “the best value contractor who is best placed to deliver this programme”.

He added: “It would be inappropriate and against UK procurement law to award a contract of this nature to a supplier without undertaking a full competitive tendering process.”

It is only 30 years ago since the Victoria Tower was last repaired but the masonry is again crumbling.

Mitigation measures are in place to protect from falling masonry, including a protective safety deck at the base of the tower.

Stonework repairs necessitate full scaffolding of the tower; while it is up, the opportunity will be taken to carry out conservation works to the window glazing, cast iron roof, rainwater drainage system and flagpole.

This work is being delivered separately from the wider Restoration & Renewal of Parliament programme, which is stuck in stasis because MPs and peers cannot agree whether to move out for a few years and get the job done or stay put and have builders work among them for decades to come.

Palace authorities decided that repairs to the Victoria Tower could not wait until the wider works start, especially given that there is no sign yet of agreement being reached.

Potential suppliers are invited to an online industry event, to be held at 10am on Friday 24th March 2023. This is expected to provide an overview of the project, details of the procurement and contracting strategy, and administrative details for participation in the procurement process.  The deadline to register for the event is 5pm on Wednesday 22nd March.

For further information, see:  (Project name: BCE1119 Victoria Tower Fabric Safety Project).

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