London’s bulbous glass City Hall building may no longer be home to London’s government as Sadiq Khan announces plans to leave the space-age structure next year to help fill a £493 million shortfall in the capital’s finances.
The shiny Foster and Partners office building, which sits next to the Thames and Tower Bridge, has been the HQ for the Mayor and the Greater London Authority (GLA) since 2002. However, Khan says leaving the building could save the GLA £55 million over the next five years.
The Mayor revealed that without government intervention into London’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, the GLA could suffer ‘an unprecedented financial emergency’ with The Met Police, London Fire Brigade, Transport for London (TfL) and the GLA expecting a combined budget deficit of £493m in the next two years.
At the moment, the City Hall building costs the GLA £11.1m a year in rent to private landlords Kuwaiti-owned St Martin’s. The rent is set to rise to £12.6m a year in December 2021, which the Mayor believes is above market value.
The lease for the building was originally granted in 2001 for 25 years, but it allows for a break in the contract after 20 years, in December 2021.
Last week, Khan also said he would take a 10 percent pay cut to bolster the cost-cutting measures.
Khan said: ‘My first priority will always be to protect funding for frontline services, including public transport, the Met Police and the London Fire Brigade.
‘In normal times, it would be standard practice for any Mayor to consider utilising the lease break clause on the City Hall building that becomes possible this year [...] In the current financial context, and with the looming black hole in London’s public finances, it would be negligent not to do so.’
The Crystal in Royal Docks – another bombastic waterside structure, which is already owned by the GLA – has been proposed as a new site for City Hall.
Khan said: ‘The Crystal is a highly sustainable building on the site of London’s most ambitious regeneration project, where the GLA and Newham Council are working together to create a new commercial district and visitor destination with thousands of new homes and jobs.’
A formal six-week consultation on the move has already begun, so it may not be long until all eyes are on Newham.
In other news, MPs are pushing for a four-day working week.