Mayor accused of “misleading” Londoners over City Hall move

Lib Dem assembly member says Sadiq Khan “overestimated the impact of the move”
By Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

The GLA's new home on the Royal Docks
The GLA’s new home on the Royal Docks

Sadiq Khan has been accused of “misleading” Londoners and wasting public money over the decision to relocate City Hall earlier this year.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) moved from its iconic former home near Tower Bridge to a former exhibition centre on the Royal Docks in east London at the end of March in a bid to save money.

But the relocation came four months later than planned following a series of setbacks, with staff having to work temporarily from London Fire Brigade headquarters on Union Street from December.

The GLA Oversight Committee has on Tuesday published a letter sent to Sadiq Khan following an investigation into the decision-making process behind the move earlier this year.

While the mayor of London had said the move would save an estimated £61 million over five years, the committee found that the true savings were closer to £37 million since the landlord of the former City Hall building had offered a reduced rent that would have saved £24 million over five years.

Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, who was chair of the Oversight Committee during the investigation, said that Sadiq Khan had used a “clearly misleading” figure that “overestimated the impact of the move”.

The letter also questions whether it was “a good use of public money” to spend almost £100,000 on holding meetings at the new City Hall building before work was completed.

Several key meetings attended by the mayor were held at the new City Hall building before the official move-in date, forcing contractors to pause work and make adjustments to the building to allow the meetings to go ahead.

During an evidence-gathering session in March, the committee was told that a member of security staff had been injured after falling through a piece of flooring during one of these meetings.

In the letter, the assembly member said: “An overall theme of the City Hall relocation was the ‘aggressive’ timescale of the project, which appeared unwarranted to us, given the success of the temporary accommodation at Union Street. While no one could have predicted with any certainty the impact of the pandemic, such an unrealistic timescale resulted in unnecessary uncertainty and confusion for staff.

“Now we have taken residence in the new building, we need to get on with the job of holding the mayor to account and all these issues need to be transparently addressed. We look forward to the mayor’s response to our questions and recommendations on the relocation of the home of London’s government.”

A spokesperson for the mayor of London said Sadiq Khan would respond to the committee’s findings “in due course” but doubled down on the savings figure.

The spokesperson said: “The relocation of City Hall is saving £61 million over five years to invest in London’s recovery from the pandemic and protect vital services including policing, the London Fire Brigade and the transport network.

“The new City Hall is already proving to be popular with both staff and Londoners – and a busy and vibrant home for London government.”

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