Page last updated at 04:21 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 05:21 UK

Shelved asylum centre cost 29m

Protester outside the then proposed site for asylum centre
Locals protested about the proposal

The Home Office has been criticised by a group of MPs for spending 29m on an asylum accommodation centre which was never even built.

Over 6m was paid to consultants for work on the proposed site at Bicester, in Oxfordshire, a report has revealed.

A termination fee of almost 8m was also paid to the contractor when the scheme was cancelled.

It said there had been a "startling absence of common sense" in the Home Office's preparation for the project.

The report said a pair of consultants were paid more than 1.1m between them for less than three years' work.

Project cancelled

The Commons' all-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reviewed an auditor's report on the scheme which was launched by former home secretary David Blunkett in 2001.

Over a five year period, the total amount spent on wages was 1,864,300.

That included 614,300 paid to a financial advisor and 497,900 to a procurement advisor, hired from an agency because the Home Office did not have suitable workers in-house.

The National Audit Office revealed last November the total amount spent on the project to build 10 accommodation centres was 33.7m, 29m of which went on Bicester.

The Home Office project embodied lack of foresight, poor business planning and a startling absence of common sense
PAC chairman Edward Leigh

The project was cancelled and the Home Office had to pay contractor Global Solutions Limited nearly 8m in termination fees, on top of 7.6m it had already received for design work.

PAC chairman Edward Leigh said: "The Home Office project embodied lack of foresight, poor business planning and a startling absence of common sense.

"No development has taken place on the site, which is lying semi-derelict, and the taxpayer has lost some 29 million."

Mr Leigh said the Home Office had "inexplicably" taken no account of the fact a proposal to build an asylum centre would provoke opposition in the local community.

He added: "The serious risk of planning delay was never recognised and so never managed."

The Home Office plans to build an immigration detention centre on the Bicester site, but it will not be open until 2012 at the earliest and will require planning permission.

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