Tax-payer funded ‘bribes’ are being offered to encourage organisations to move into a £14m fire control centre which has never been used.
The centre is one of four built under Labour’s aborted Fire Control Project, which cost taxpayers £5,000 a day. Nine were built in total to house new ‘regionalised’ emergency call centres – but the IT systems failed and the project spiralled out of control.
Government efforts to sub-let the Wakefield one on the Paragon Business Village, to emergency services or other public bodies in Yorkshire have failed, and it is now on the open market.
Speaking at a meeting of the Commons public accounts committee, Sir Bob Kerslake, Whitehall’s most senior civil servant, said: “They are high-cost, high-spec buildings. They are going to take some shifting.”
The meeting heard how five of the centres have been rented out with the help of subsidies of up to £1.2m to encourage tenants in.
Mr Kerslake warned the Government would probably never recover the full rent it is paying out, as a result of being locked into long term PFI contracts.
He said: “On the ones that we have done, we have already had to put in some funding in order to make them work – rent-free periods and so on – and we will have to look at each one on its merits and see what offers we get.
“We will do the best deal that we can on the buildings – but I want to say that we are reconciled to the fact that, in my view, it is inconceivable that we will fully recover the rental costs on these.”
Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge described the payments as “bribes” and added: “This was a really pretty awful project; indeed, it is probably one of the worst examples of waste we have seen as a committee.”