By Ned Simons - 19th November 2010
Plans to cut the cost of Parliament by over £20m by 2015 include reducing staff costs, selling property and charging for tours of Big Ben.
The proposals have been drawn up by the House of Commons management board and circulated to MPs and parliamentary staff this week requesting their feedback.
Over half of the savings (£12.3m) will kick in during the next financial year with £3.7m more in 2012/13 and £3.8m in 2013/14.
Commons authorities are committed to reducing costs by at least 17 per cent in real terms by 2014/15 in line with reductions being made across the wider public sector.
No final decisions have yet been taken, but the House of Commons Commission will be asked to agree a cost reduction plan at a meeting on December 13.
The proposal calls for reduced spending across all of the Palace of Westminster's departments and several of the proposed measures are likely to be highly controversial, especially among some staff who may lose their jobs or see their hours reduced.
One the biggest money spinners listed is a plan to dispose of the 14 Tothill Street property in order to deliver savings of £2.4m
Commons authorities have already renegotiated their contract with the Metropolitan Police, leading to savings of £540,000 in 2011/12, with greater savings expected in the following years. Other savings in security are likely to be made.
The huge amount of printed matieral produced by the Commons has been earmerked for cuts, and it is estimated £865,000 could be saved by halting the daily production of the hard copy of the Question Book which lists the questions MPs plan to ask ministers in the Commons chamber.
Significant savings are identified by reducing some of Parliament’s outreach activities such as cancelling the New Voters' Guide to save £600,000.
As well as cutting services the Board hopes to increase revenue by charging for services which were previously free such as car parking on the estate.
And charging for tours of Big Ben's clock tower from 2012 is expected to raise £82,000.
Commons authorities also hope to increase revenue by £400,000 a year through selling more souvenirs and merchandise via an online shop and on the high street.
Included in the cuts plans are recommendations on how to make savings by shutting or restricting the opening hours of some of Parliament's cafes, restaurants and bars.
It is estimated that shutting Moncreiff's, the press gallery's bar and restaurant, would save £155,000. And converting it into a canteen for catering and retail staff would save £44,000.
It also recommends restricting the menus of the Members' Dining Room and Tea Room used by MPs while several other catering outlets are earmarked to be closed or have their opening hours restricted, including a proposal that one cafe be replaced with vending machines.
The suggestions will be submitted to the Commons administration committee which is currently conducting an inquiry into catering services on the parliamentary estate.
While not confirmed, the management board says the savings will allow the Commons to operate "more effectively and efficiently" while maintaining "high standards of service in the dynamic context of the new House".