Sadiq Khan considers moving from City Hall to claw back finances

24 June 2020, 15:23

Sadiq Khan is considering moving the GLA out of City Hall
Sadiq Khan is considering moving the GLA out of City Hall. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Sadiq Khan is considering moving the Greater London Authority from City Hall in an effort to save £55 million over the next five years.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said the central London building cost £11.1 million a year in rent paid to Kuwaiti-owned landlord St Martins, and other charges.

He has set out plans to move to The Crystal building in the Royal Docks in east London, which is already owned by the GLA.

Mr Khan has previously said the GLA is facing a post-coronavirus financial hole of up to £493 million, which he has said he would prefer to spend on services than "above-average rent".

The move would also allow staff to work from home more often.

The Norman Foster-designed City Hall was constructed at a cost of £43 million and opened in 2002.

Its unusual shape and construction led to it being dubbed the "glass testicle" by former mayor Ken Livingstone and the "glass gonad" by Boris Johnson.

The lease for the City Hall building was granted in 2001 for 25 years, but allows for a break in the contract after 20 years, in December 2021 - the first and only chance the GLA has to consider leaving.

Mr Khan is facing a £493 million financial hole left by coronavirus
Mr Khan is facing a £493 million financial hole left by coronavirus. Picture: PA

The mayor believes the current rent is above market value, with the figure set to rise to £12.6 million after December 2021.

GLA already owns The Crystal and it has an "outstanding" rating for environmental sustainability, meaning lower running costs.

Mr 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.

"That's why I'm consulting on plans for the GLA to leave the current City Hall building next year and relocate to The Crystal at the Royal Docks in Newham.

"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, and to view it as an opportunity to ensure Londoners were getting the best value for money.

"In the current financial context, and with the looming black hole in London's public finances, it would be negligent not to do so.

"Leaving our current home would save £55 million over five years, which would help us to protect and invest in the things that matter most to Londoners, as well as supporting the regeneration of the Royal Docks.

"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."

Notice to activate the break option has to be given this year and a decision is needed by September so there is time to plan and carry out the move.

Mr Khan has launched a formal six-week consultation on the proposal with the London Assembly, unions and officials.

The capital faces an estimated £493 million shortfall in its finances caused by the coronavirus crisis hammering business rates and council tax income.