The National Audit Office has released a report criticising a £27m overspend on the Eastenders’ set improvements at Elstree.

The BBC’s E20 programme, to replace and enlarge the external EastEnders set and improve infrastructure at BBC Elstree Centre, is now forecast to cost £27 million more, and take an additional two and a half years to complete, compared to its plans in October 2015.

In its report, the National Audit Office said that the BBC will “not be able to deliver value for money on the E20 programme in the way that it envisaged in 2015.”

The report said that some of the reasons for the delays and cost increases “could have been addressed earlier by the BBC” and that the BBC underestimated the “complexity, cost and risks of its approach.” The NAO also said there was “insufficient construction project management expertise to identify critical design issues” and that the team behind the improvements and the Eastenders production team were not “sufficiently integrated, leading to ineffective design development and change processes.”

The NAO did say that the BBC also faced issues such as higher than expected inflation in the construction sector, as well as asbestos and obstructions in the ground which to some extent were unforeseen by the programme team, partly due to poor site records but that “inflation has had a greater impact than it would have done had the programme completed without any delays.”

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on E20 in the way that it originally envisaged. It is surprising that some of the reasons for this were built in from the beginning. Despite recent project management improvements, E20 is late and over budget against its 2015 plans. We believe that the planned benefits are still broadly achievable, but given the high-risk nature of E20 it will need close scrutiny until it is finished.”

Staff Reporter

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