The London Mayor and London Assembly could move to a new headquarters in east London next year in order to save money for investment in transport, policing and other services for which the Mayor has responsibility.
A consultation is to open on the Greater London Authority, which comprises the Mayor and Assembly, moving out of the City Hall building close to Tower Bridge it has been based at since 2002 and into The Crystal, currently functioning as an under-occupied events venue and “innovation hub” in the Royal Docks government enterprise zone in Newham.
Sadiq Khan’s office says the move would save the GLA Group of organisations, which includes Transport for London and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), £55 million over five years and therefore “help the Mayor both to protect front-line services as much as possible from cuts and to invest in jobs, skills provision and other initiatives to aid the economic recovery from Covid-19”.
The GLA Group faces an overall budget gap of “up to £493 million” over the next two years, according to a calculation released by the Mayor last week, when he also committed to taking a 10 per cent pay cut and freezing the pay of all “mayoral appointments in his senior team”.
The potential move to The Crystal is possible due to a “break clause” in the 25-year lease for the Norman Foster-designed City Hall building, which comes into effect next December, 20 years into the current contract. A decision about the move will have to be made by September in order to leave enough time to complete it. The Crystal was built for manufacturing multinational Siemens in 2012, but the company moved out last year, leaving the building almost empty.
City Hall is rented from More London, a company bought in 2013 by the Kuwaiti-owned St Martins Property Group, for a figure the Mayor contends is now above the market rate. The total cost of occupying the building, combining rent, service charges and business rates, is put at £11.1 million a year, a figure the Mayor’s office says would rise to £12.6 million after Christmas 2021.
Mayor Khan says the break clause provides “an opportunity to ensure Londoners are getting the best value for money” and that it would be “negligent” not to take it in view of “the looming black hole in London’s public finances”.
He also argues that moving to The Crystal, which has been owned by the GLA through its Land and Property subsidiary company since October 2016, would be cheaper to run due to its having higher “sustainable” environmental qualities and would also stimulate the ongoing regeneration of the Royal Docks area, emulating the beneficial effects the GLA’s move from its initial temporary premises in Westminster to its current Southwark waterfront location following its establishment in 2000.
Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz expressed delight that the GLA could move to her borough, echoing the Khan’s claim that its arrival would help stimulate local housing, business and visitor economy growth. “I’m looking forward to welcoming the Mayor, Assembly Members and the City Hall team to this magnificent location, which is a neighbourhood rich in history, thriving with ambition, and with a long-standing diverse community who will welcome them warmly,” she said.
The move has also been welcomed by Jeremy Rees, chief executive of the Royal Docks-based ExCel exhibition centre, and by Bek Seeley, managing director development for property giant Lendlease, whose projects include the regeneration of Silvertown Quays. Seeley said it “demonstrates real confidence in the revival of the Royal Docks”.
Photograph: The Crystal.
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