Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

[Pounds Sterling]351m Bill as Labour 'Feathers Its Own Nests'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

[Pounds Sterling]351m Bill as Labour 'Feathers Its Own Nests'

Article excerpt

Byline: JO REVILL

THERE HAS been a staggering increase in the amount spent decorating and fitting out Government offices since Labour came to power.

Latest figures show that [pound]351 million - enough to build 15 new secondary schools in London - has been spent in the last five years.

It emerged that: _the sum earmarked for refurbishing Whitehall departments has doubled over the past four years _the biggest spender is Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine, whose department has forked out [pound]95million since May 1997.

_spending at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has increased tenfold _costs have rocketed by more than [pound]10million at the Department for Work and Pensions _Clare Short's Department for International Development has also had a tenfold increase.

David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers said: "This is a scandalous waste at a time when there isno guarantee that the Chancellor can produce the money we need for the education service."

Mike Stone, of the Patients' Association, said: "Questions have to be asked as to why ministers can find money for offices when there are casualty departments which are so dilapidated and shabby."

John Edmonds, head of the GMB union which has fought plans to bring private sector cash into public projects, said: "Taxpayers don't expect to see their money spent on new carpets and wallpaper for ministers; they expect to see more doctors, nurses and teachers."

The Government has said that it is only carrying out essential modernisation work, and that they have inherited a stock of particularly old civil service buildings, which in some cases are listed, and cost a great deal to repair.

Some of the money is going into refurbishing not only departments close to Westminster but also courtrooms across England and Wales, as well as new Jobcentres. …

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