THE House of Commons' public accounts committee this week criticised the government for its handling of the procurement of the £311m Home Office headquarters and called for better planning of PFI deals.
The committee said the Home Office had underestimated the number of staff that the building would have to accommodate. It had expected head office staff to fall by 250 between 1998 and 2003, but instead numbers rose by 1700.

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, a member of the committee, blamed the department for increasing its staff from 3200 to almost 5000.

He said: "Although forecasting future staffing requirements can be difficult, the sheer scope of this miscalculation suggests much better planning is badly needed."

He said that because PFI deals fixed the terms of a contract, the government needed to exercise more discipline when planning accommodation.

The committee also questioned whether the government had obtained value for money over the contract. It said that an agreement that the Home Office had reached over any refinancing of the project was not obviously a good deal.

The Home Office signed the 29-year contract with developer Anne's Gate Property in March 2002.

The building is designed to hold 3450 staff and is being built on the site of the former Department of the Environment building in Marsham Street.

The Home Office is due to move in to the building in January next year.