PARLIAMENT bosses have all but torpedoed Boris Johnson’s bid for Big Ben to bong for Brexit by refusing to accept any public cash to pay it.
A furious row has exploded between Commons officials and No10 after the PM called for Brits to crowdfund the £500,000 needed for the symbolic chime.
Boris backed Leavers’ calls to reconnect the famous clock’s bells to mark the historic moment, at 11pm on January 31, amid major renovations to it.
But taxpayers money has been ruled out to meet the bid’s spiralling bill.
In a bitter behind the scenes dispute that has raged for two days, senior officials insisted there is “no legal basis” for them to accept any public donations.
Payment for any works to Parliament can only come from government coffers where they can be fully scrutinised, they insisted.
The defiance enraged No10. A senior Government source dubbed the senior Parliament officials’ attitudes as “absolutely mind-boggling”.
Commons authorities last night confirmed to The Sun that crowdfunding Big Ben to bong is “an unprecedented approach” that flies in the face of its current rules.
A House of Commons spokesperson said: “There has been a suggestion that the cost of striking the Bell could be covered by donations made by the public. This would be an unprecedented approach.
“The House of Commons has well established means of voting through the expenditure required to allow it to function, and to preserve its constitutional position in relation to Government.
WON'T BACK DOWN
“Any novel form of funding would need to be consistent with principles of propriety and proper oversight of public expenditure.”
The slap down came as Brexit campaign groups joined forces to launch a fundraising campaign last night to raise the cash needed.
The Eurosceptic group StandUp4Brexit set up a crowdfunding page at GoFundMe.com to coordinate the donations.
Leading Eurosceptic Tory MP Mark Francois, who helped set up the campaign, insisted they would not be defeated by the officials, dubbing them “bureaucratic refuseniks”.
The fundraising drive is backed by Brexit Party boss Nigel Farage and Leave Means Leave. If the target is met, any additional cash will be donated to the forces charity, Help for Heroes.
Mr Francois told The Sun: “There is already considerable scepticism among MPs about the £500,000 cost which many feel has been deliberately exaggerated.
“In any event, if the British public raise half a million pounds in the next few days and these bureaucratic refuseniks still fail to comply, then I hope the Government will pass a formal motion ordering them to do so.”
Despite the setback, Downing Street last night insisted the moment of Brexit will be properly celebrated.
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The PM’s spokesman said: “What we’re doing is working on a package of ways to mark the 31st and we’re looking to announce them altogether.”
“We will set out our plans on what the PM will do in the near future.”
- To contribute to the fund, go to www.gofundme.com/f/bigbenbongforbrexit