Sadiq Khan’s plan to move the Greater London Authority (GLA) out of City Hall and relocate much of it to the Crystal building at the Royal Docks was quickly met with stiff, cross-party opposition from the London Assembly. And in a letter to the Mayor last month, Assembly chair Navin Shah set out the Assembly’s “formal objection” to his wishes.
Shah maintained that the proposals, which the Mayor said in June would save the GLA Group of organisations as a whole £55 million over five years, “do not have a sound financial basis” and would be “detrimental to the standing of the Greater London Authority.” He also told Khan he “should not create fundamental, potentially irrevocable division” between the mayoralty and the Assembly, both of which are part of the GLA, by proceeding with any relocation against the Assembly’s wishes.
To do so “on that basis, and in the face of reasoned objection from one of the two constituent bodies comprising the Authority, which has its own democratic mandate and a legitimate interest in this matter, would be wrong,” Shah wrote. He urged the Mayor to “re-think your proposals, by working more effectively with the Assembly” and “engaging positively” with alternative options for making savings.
No reply has yet been received from the Mayor, who confirmed his intention to go ahead with the move a few days after Shah’s letter, dated 19 August, was written. In the letter, Shah said the Assembly “urges” Khan to “immediately start negotiations” with landlord the St Martin’s Property Group to allow a six-month extension to a “break clause” in the current contract, due to come into effect in December, allowing more time for “full, open consideration of any new proposals that the landlord has put forward” for a future lease arrangement.
Shah also asked the Mayor to present “a proper, more comprehensive options analysis” this month, taking in the possibility of staying in the current, bespoke City Hall building by Tower Bridge on different terms, making other use of the Crystal building – which the GLA owns and is largely unused at present – such as by selling it, renting it commercially or moving appropriate parts of the GLA’s machinery there to be in closer proximity to a major regeneration zone.
Eight pages of “alternative options” were appended to the letter, making the case that alternatives to moving have not been properly considered, that there had been a “failure to negotiate with the current City Hall landlord” and a “lack of information” provided to Assembly Members, as well questioning the financial savings claim and arguing that the value of being in “an accessible Zone 1 location” has not been recognised.
Practical issues raised include the further dispersal of GLA Group personnel, who could be spread across three different sites: The Crystal in Newham and the Palestra building and Union Street premises where the London Fire Brigade HQ is based, both in Southwark. It could be that more GLA staff will be based in the two Southwark buildings than at the Crystal, with home-working expected to remain part of their longer-term future.
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