BBC blasted after splurging £87MILLION of taxpayer cash on new EastEnders set just few hundred yards from old one

The UK’s spending watchdog blamed the BBC’s ‘over-optimistic initial cost estimates’

THE BBC has been blasted after splurging £87MILLION of taxpayer cash on a new set just a few hundred yards from the old one.

The project to rebuild the EastEnders set is expected to go over budget by a staggering £27 million, sparking fury over licence fee payers’ value for money.

The BBC is working on building a new EastEnders set in Elstree on the other side of the studio complex to the current one

In a damning report, auditors said the E20 project to rebuild the 1984 set could not provide “value for money”.

Reconstruction of the soap’s set is part of wider improvement works at BBC Elstree set to cost the public broadcaster £86 million in total, with completion now two and a half years late.

The National Audit Office blamed “over-optimistic initial estimates of costs”, inflation, and delays on health and safety grounds such as dealing with asbestos.

The report said: “As the (EastEnders) Front Lot construction only started in October 2018 and the Back Lot is at an early design stage, it is not yet possible to conclude on the value for money of the latest programme plan.”

E20 has been beset by problems, leading to a massive budget increase on the project, which was supposed to save the corporation almost £500,000 a year and allow filming in high definition.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Commons Public Accounts committee, slammed the spending.

Costs of the new project (pictured) at the studios in Hertfordshire have spiralled and it is £27million over the original budget

She said: “It is concerning that the BBC has been unable to keep to budget and time on this project again, given my committee had already heard about the need to revise its scope in 2016.”

The original set of EastEnders was intended to be used for two years, but has been in use for 34.

It has led to problems with health and safety, continual investment in refurbishments, and the inability to shoot in high-definition due to the decaying set.

The NAO report found that the BBC had “inadequate expertise” in construction projects, the EastEnders production team was not properly involved in the work on the set, and there was an 11-month wait to secure a construction contract.

The report concluded: “The BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on the E20 programme in the way that it envisaged in 2015.

“Disappointingly, some of the reasons for this were built into E20 at the outset and could have been addressed earlier.”