Parliament spends £80,000 of taxpayers’ cash removing trees and replacing them with tables and chairs
- Keeping the trees from falling over cost taxpayers £500,000 over two decades
Parliament spent £80,000 removing decorative trees from Portcullis House and replacing them with tables and chairs, the Mail can reveal.
After a two-decade battle to stop the 12 weeping figs from falling over – at a cost of more than £500,000 to the taxpayer over their lives, they were taken down in the summer.
But now it can be revealed that House of Commons authorities spent £67,790 removing the trees – which had become root bound – and a further £11,961 to replace them with tables and chairs.
MPs branded the spending ‘a waste of taxpayers’ money’ and said it left the Portcullis House atrium looking like ‘the waiting area at Stansted airport’.
One told the Mail the trees ‘were part of the original design’ of the building and are sorely missed.
After a two-decade battle to stop the 12 weeping figs (pictured) from falling over – at a cost of more than £500,000 to the taxpayer over their lives, they were taken down last summer
But now it can be revealed that House of Commons authorities spent £67,790 removing the trees – which had become root bound – and a further £11,961 to replace them with tables and chairs
‘It now looks like the waiting area at Stansted airport. It’s not such an inviting place for Members to meet visitors. It’s soulless and uninviting.’
But another senior MP said the trees were an ‘excessive luxury’ that should ‘never have been installed in the first place’.
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They said that while the immediate term costs of removing the trees seemed ‘ludicrous’, it would ‘at least bring to an end the saga of the expensive trees’.
A House of Commons spokesman said: ‘After more than 20 years since they were first planted in Portcullis House, the fig trees outgrew the available space and were no longer viable after becoming root bound.
‘With value for money a key consideration and to further reduce costs associated with ongoing maintenance, the trees were removed.
‘The costs for removal were met from existing budgets, and had to be undertaken by specialists owing to their size and unique location.
‘Various programmes of work are being undertaken to enable the space to be used in a more flexible way – including the provision of new furniture.’
Portcullis House, which contains MPs’ offices and committee rooms, was opened in 2001. The fig trees were imported from Florida and installed to provide shade to prevent the atrium from becoming too hot on sunny days.
An MP once said the trees were ‘a metaphor for politics: rootless and most people don’t give a fig’.
Parliament initially rented the trees for a staggering annual cost of £32,500, but a decade ago they were given to the Commons authorities who spent around £18,500 a year for their upkeep. The costs included the maintenance of trough planters nearby.
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