London’s bulbous glass City Hall building may no longer be the home of London’s government as Sadiq Khan announces plans to leave next year’s space-age structure to help fill a £493 million deficit in capital finances.
Since 2002, the shiny office building of Foster and Partners, which sits next to the Thames and Tower Bridge, has been the headquarters for the Mayor and the Greater London Authority (GLA). But Khan says that leaving the building will save the GLA £55 m over the next five years.
The Mayor announced the London’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, without government interference. 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 initially 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 per cent pay cut to bolster the cost-cutting measures.
Khan said: ‘My 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 suggested 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.