MP’s outrage over art gallery costs

THE design company behind Colchester’s new art gallery – which is more than �8 million over budget and nearly four years late – is to be paid an extra �375,000 of public money.

Colchester MP Bob Russell has called it an “outrage” and is asking Firstsite designer Rafael Vinoly Architects to pay back the cash to the town’s taxpayers.

“Some may feel that failure is being rewarded,” said Mr Russell. “With Colchester Borough Council facing huge spending cuts, it is an outrage that the public purse has to give the architect what could be viewed as a bonus simply because the cost has soared.”

The Firstsite gallery in the town’s Cultural Quarter, off the High Street, was originally budgeted at �16.5m with Rafael Vinoly Architects due to get 7.2% which works out at �1,191,149.

However, the contract was renegotiated after costs spiralled upwards and the company now stands to make 6.26% of the final �25m budget which is �1,566,468.

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Mr Russell said it was “a smaller percentage, but in cash terms a considerable additional sum”.

Cllr Paul Smith, who is responsible for the project on Colchester Borough Council, said it was “absolutely not” a bonus.

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“The project is about three years behind schedule and the architects have had to be on site for a lot longer than anticipated,” he said. “Unfortunately this wasn’t negotiated on a fixed-price contract.

“We are very confident that Firstsite will be open to the public in September next year.”

The MP is calling for RVA to give the money back to the town so it can be used to purchase the Sergeants’ Mess at the former Cavalry Barracks off Abbey Field which is an historic building close to the site of Britain’s only Roman Chariot Racing Circus.

Mr Russell said he thought it would be a “goodwill gesture’’ on the part of RVA if the firm stuck to its original fee and handed back the extra �375,000 which he suggested could be used to acquire the Sergeants’ Mess for the benefit of the town.

A spokesman for Rafael Vinoly Architects said: “RVA defers to the Colchester Council in regard to this matter. We have no additional comment.”

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