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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

New Assembly building, chapter two

I was in Cardiff Bay today so I thought I would check up on progress on the new Assembly Chamber. This is scheduled for completion at the end of 2005 with a formal opening around St. David's Day 2006. As you can see from the photograph the circle of the new Chamber is quite distinctive, whilst other rooms are starting to take shape.

I was listening to the "People's Assembly" programme on Radio Wales a few weeks ago when there was a discussion about this building. The £40 million or so that it is costing has been spent many times over by opponents of the project, who believe that they can solve all of Wales' problems with the money. However, it struck me that the good people of Usk, where the programme was being recorded, were very sceptical about the figures that they were offered as the cost ofthe Chamber. I am not surprised at this after the debacle of cost overruns on the Scottish Parliament Building and Portcullis House in Westminster. Nor must we forget the farce around the original costing of this building, with a number of wildly diverse figures being offered by different Ministers between 1999 and 2003, before the final contract was signed.

However, love it or loath it the fact is that this building is being built on a fixed price contract. There is therefore real certainty about what the final cost will be. This is exactly the method used to build the Millennium Stadium and the Wales Millennium Centre (the 'Mollusc' outside my office). Just to underline this I asked a question of the Finance Minister a few months ago seeking the expenditure profile on the project. She confirmed that " the projected construction cost expenditure profile for the new Assembly building is as follows:

2003-04 £10 million
2004-05 £28 million
2005-06 £1 million

5 per cent retention following defect period £2 million

TOTAL £41 million

This excludes value-added tax, art, client-supplied fixtures, fittings, furniture, ICT equipment, professional fees and further value engineering opportunities." So now we know or do we?
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