Sadiq Khan Confirms Plans To Move London’s Government From City Hall In A Bid To Save Money

Alex Landon Alex Landon - Editor

City Hall

Moving City Hall could lead to savings of up to £61 million.

Life as we once knew it is in the rearview mirror, and everyone is making changes to adapt to a post-lockdown world. Back in June, news emerged that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was planning a pretty drastic one: abandoning London’s Thames-side City Hall and moving the seat of London government east, to a new site on the edge of the city’s Royal Docks. That site, a conference centre called The Crystal, would then become London’s new City Hall. Today, Khan has confirmed these plans, and will now begin the process of moving to the East End by the end of 2021.

The move has been mooted for two reasons, the first of which is that City Hall is far too small to accommodate all staff of the Greater London Authority (GLA) which runs the city. Built in 2002 – and memorably described by one tour guide, on a youthful visit of mine to the capital, as “Darth Vader’s helmet” – the now-iconic building had run out of space for GLA employees by 2005, according to the Evening Standard. Not that The Crystal is big step down, style-wise, mind you…

The second reason is simple: cold, hard cash. Khan has previously stated that the GLA is facing a budget shortfall of almost £500 million as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and with rent on a centrally-located, riverside office building now looking more like an extravagance than a necessity, the move would make plenty of fiscal sense. It’s estimated that over a five-year period, GLA could save £61 million pounds by abandoning the current building (a projection up £6 million from the original costing) – money which could then be spent on the city’s recovery and frontline services.

Helpfully for the eastward move of the GLA, The Crystal already belongs to them, having been vacated by Siemens last year. It’s positioned on the edge of the Royal Docks, across the water from London City Airport and the ExCeL Centre (which had seen use as London’s NHS Nightingale), and has transport links on the DLR and Emirates Air Line. Relocating City Hall here would give further weight to a redevelopment of the Royal Docks neighbourhood, which also includes plans for new housing, a third financial district to rival the City of London and Canary Wharf, and a quadrupling in size of London City Airport. Ch-ch-changes indeed…

Also published on Medium.

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