Big Ben WILL bong for New Year

Big Ben WILL bong for New Year: Famous bell which has been mostly silent since 2017 while restoration work is carried out is set to ring in 2021

  • The capital’s famous bell has been largely silent since 2017 due to repair works
  • Bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes. last rang on November 11 to mark Armistice Day
  • Boris Johnson urged public to stay away from Westminster on New Year’s Eve 

Big Ben will be reconnected so that it can ring in the new year, the House of Commons authorities have said.

The famous bell has been largely silent since 2017 due to repairs on the clock and Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower which houses it, only being reconnected for significant occasions.

The bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes, last rang on November 11 to mark Armistice Day.

Members of the public have been urged to stay away from Westminster on New Year’s Eve due to coronavirus restrictions.

It comes after plans for the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks usually held at the London Eye were cancelled by the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan in September. 

The House of Commons has confirmed Big Ben will ring in the New Year. Pictured: Elizabeth Tower, housing the Big Ben bell, is seen clad in scaffolding, over Houses of Parliament, in 2017

On Wednesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘no one should be gathering in large groups to see in the new year’.

The announcement will be welcome news for Brexiteers who, earlier this year, raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to have Big Ben ring to mark the UK’s legal departure from the EU.

Supporters had hoped the bell would ring at 11pm on January 31 this year but the House of Commons estimated the cost of bringing the bell back into commission would be £500,000.

And the government effectively washed its hands of the proposal, instead focusing on a light show at Downing Street and an address to the nation by Mr Johnson. 

The campaign, led by Stand Up 4 Brexit, raised £272,000 which was eventually donated to charity when the project was deemed no longer feasible.

News will be welcomed by Brexiteers as it coincides with the end of the Brexit transition period after a failed campaign to have Big Ben ring in the UK’s legal exit from the EU last January

Now, as Big Ben is set to ring in the new year, it will also mark the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. 

The bell will be tested in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve to ensure it can produce its 12 bongs when the clock strikes midnight.

In September, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed the annual firework display for New Year’s Eve would be cancelled this year because of Covid-19. 

The Mayor of London confirmed the display, which typically takes place near the London Eye, will not go ahead as ‘we can’t afford’ to have large numbers of people congregating amid the pandemic.

New Year’s Eve typically sees around 100,000 people gather near the South Bank in London to watch a dazzling fireworks display across the River Thames.

The display, which was watched by more than 11 million people across the UK on television in 2018, had a total budget of £2.3million that year.

Conservation works on Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower began in 2017 and are due to be completed in 2021 but the project has been plagued with setbacks and spiralling costs.

The most recent crisis came in February this year when repair workers discovered what they described as extensive Second World War bomb damage, pollution and asbestos in the Elizabeth Tower.

The body led by the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said that the tower was in worse condition than realised when the last estimate of £61.1million was made two years ago – more than double the original cost of £29million.

The full scale of the conservation, which is on track for completion in late 2021, was only revealed once the project team was able to begin intrusive surveys for the first time on the 177-year-old structure, the Commission said.

The problems meant the House of Commons Commission, who are behind the project, requested an additional £18.6 million bringing the already extended repair bill to £80 million.

It also emerged that Big Ben’s timekeepers abandoned attempts to repair its clock because they lacked the expertise to repair its mechanism and a ‘specialist clock expert’ was needed.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was criticised earlier this year when he announced the new year’s eve firework display was cancelled due to Covid-19 as ‘we can’t afford’ to have large numbers of people congregating amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Pictured: The 2020 celebration

This has now had to be sent off-site, adding almost £2million to the bill.

Other overruns include an extra £2million on scaffolding, £5million to clean up hazardous materials such as asbestos and £1million in changes to the original specifications by the House of Commons Commission itself. Contractor fees have also risen by £2million.

The commission stressed that work on the tower and its bell will still be completed by the end of next year.

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