MAINTENANCE costs for the Scottish Parliament building are set to soar next year – and Holyrood bosses have warned things can only get worse.
The parliament’s budget for 2012-13 shows £685,000 has been earmarked for building maintenance, compared with just £75,000 in the current year.
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur, on behalf of the parliament’s cross-party corporate body, told Holyrood’s finance committee that this year’s low expenditure on the building reflected different priorities due to the Scottish Parliament elections, when the focus was on providing support for new MSPs.
He said a fairer comparison was last year’s maintenance budget of around £400,000.
However, Mr McArthur warned: “It’s also probably worth bearing in mind that as the parliament ages, we’re likely to see a general upward trend in that budget, just reflecting the kind of wear and tear of the building.”
The Holyrood building was opened in October 2004 at a final cost of £414 million following repeated delays and price increases.
Critics warned even before it was completed that the unique design and complex structure of the building would mean big bills for repairs and maintenance.
Mr McArthur told the finance committee there might be a temptation, because of the economic situation, to put off spending on the building “but there is a real risk all you do is increase the outlay in subsequent years”.
And parliament chief executive Paul Grice assured the committee that no unnecessary work would be carried out.
He said: “If something doesn’t need done, we won’t do it.”
The parliament has also halved its contingency budget from £2.5m to £1.25m.
SNP MSP John Mason asked: “Are you sure that’s OK, given the surprises we have had with this building?”
Mr McArthur said the corporate body believed the contingency figure was appropriate.
Capital expenditure is budgeted to rise from £1.5m for 2012-13 to £2.3m for the following year.
Mr McArthur said there was no committed expenditure for these years but the increase allowed “a degree of flexibility”.
Potential projects that could fall under this budget heading included IT refreshes and the proposed security screening extension at the front of the parliament.
Today, Lothians Conservative MSP David McLetchie said the soaring maintenance costs could be traced all the way back to the initial design and construction of the building.
He said: “It was clear from the start the parliament was a very high maintenance, high-cost building and these figures are a reflection of that.
“The costs are an intrinsic part of the design and materials that were used. Once again we’re paying for decisions made at the very outset.
“But there is little choice but to do the work – we can’t have the building falling down.”