Parliament is set to splash out out nearly £800,000 on an eight-year contract for watering plants and pruning trees – even though MPs are due to move out in five years.
The authorities at Westminster have issued a tender for looking after the grounds on the estate, including mowing patches of grass and clipping hedges.
According to the documents, seen by MailOnline, the contract is worth an estimated £640,000 plus VAT and will run from January until 2028.
However, critics have pointed out that MPs and peers are meant to be vacating the premises in 2025 for a multi-billion pound restoration project.
The TaxPayer’s Alliance said spending around £100,000 a year on plants and shrubs while workmen were tearing up the estate was ‘absurd’ and could only be ‘for the benefit of the mice’.
The maintenance of trees and plants at Westminster has proved controversial in the past – with looking after 12 fig trees in Portcullis House (pictured) costing around £20,000 a year
‘Having the taxpayer pay for pruning while parliament is empty is patently absurd,’ TPA political director James Roberts said.
‘Parliamentary pen pushers will be having the plants watered and grass cut just for the benefit of the mice.
‘Officials need to cut back on these costs and chop dead wood like this out of parliamentary budgets.’
It is understood the tender has been issued for longer than MPs will be staying at Parliament as there will still be ‘ongoing landscaping requirements’ on the estate.
The maintenance of the grounds at Westminster has proved controversial in the past.
In 2014 the authorities were forced to defend the practice of removing leaves by hand from trees, rather than allowing them to fall naturally in the Autumn.
Officials said ‘pleaching’ lime trees saved time as otherwise the leaves would have to be raked up, and also improved the shape of the trees.
Notoriously, looking after the 12 fig trees in Portcullis House – the building attached to the Palace where many committee hearings take place – has cost around £20,000 a year.
Last year it emerged there had been an additional £10,000 spend straightening the trees – intended to provide shade and sound proofing to eateries and coffee shops – amid fears they were about to uproot.
The latest contract replaces one that is expiring, and includes maintenance of the fig trees, as well as ‘soft landscaping work across the Parliamentary Estate’.
Critics have pointed out that MPs and peers are meant to be vacating Parliament (pictured) in 2025 for a multi-billion pound restoration project
The authorities apparently spent £614,000 plus VAT with the previously contractor over seven years.
The final tender value will depend on ‘current market conditions through the duration of the new contract’.
A Parliamentary spokeswoman said: ‘The figure represents value for money by the re-letting of the contract to ensure we have the best price for the required work across the Parliamentary Estate and to our specifications.
‘The figure takes on board the ongoing works of the Northern Estates Programme and Restoration and Renewal.’
Under the schedule for the huge R&R project, MPs, peers and staff are due to move out in 2025.
A temporary Commons chamber is being installed in nearby Richmond House, while Lords are expected to take up residence in the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.