We know that 90% of public sector projects overspend their budgets (see here). So it's no surprise that the Newbury by-pass and the M11 extension should have done so too.
But according to today's gleeful BBC report, this time the reason was not public sector incompetence, but the splendid public spirited actions of our noble eco-warriors:
"Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the campaign against the M11 extension contributed to a 100% increase in costs. The Newbury bypass - the scene of Britain's most notorious road protest - was 50% over budget."
Unfortunately they don't report the backing evidence, so here are a few facts on the Newbury costs:
- Construction costs- Costain contract £73.5m; delivered within budget
- Security costs- £23.7m, including £19.5m for security guards, and £3.3m for security fencing
- Additional police costs- believed to be a further £2.5m
Looks like the BBC and their protestors have a point: all that tunnelling and tree camping did inflate costs massively.
And of course we taxpayers had to pick up the tab. And suffer the knock-on effects of right on New Labour abandoning all new roadbuilding for the next 7 years.
When I pointed out all this to Major Frobisher he started spluttering again. Kneading his chest, he asked why the devil we should have to pay all that extra dosh simply to accomodate the tiresome antics of a bunch of hippy social security scroungers? Surely the way to deal with them would have been to arrest them, bang them up for the duration, and take away any future rights to state benefits.
It was then I mentioned that the senior policeman in charge of the security operation at Newbury was none other than our old friend Sir Ian Blair (then Assistant Chief Constable of Thames Valley police). The Major turned a shade of puce I'd only previously seen in Photoshop and emitted a low growling noise. I tried to calm him, but he retrieved his shotgun from under the bed and drove off in his 1954 Land Rover.
Frankly, I'm concerned.