Mayor’s plans to move City Hall criticised

July 23, 2020/ by Matt Smith

Tony Arbour, the Member of the London Assembly representing South West London, has criticised the Mayor of London’s plans to move City Hall to east London.

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is planning to move the Greater London Authority out of its City Hall premises in central London in order to save £55 million, as the Authority’s finances have taken a hit in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. He has suggested The Crystal, on Royal Victoria Dock, as a suitable venue.

Speaking to The Chiswick Calendar, Mr Arbour said:

“It’s clear that we need to cut costs, so I support his move to cut costs and of course the pandemic has demonstrated that we’re not going to need as many offices as we’ve had before, so it was quite right for him to look for somewhere else”.

“However this is probably the wrong place, the home of the Assembly really should be in central London and the new location is some six miles away from the centre of London and quite difficult to get at particularly for people like us in south-west London, it will be very, very difficult to get to the building.

“I have suggested that the obvious thing to do is that we should be looking at County Hall.”

Images above: London Assembly member representing south-west London – Tony Arbour, the chamber inside County Hall

‘The home of London government’

The Greater London Council occupied County Hall from 1965 until 1986 when it was dissolved permanently after the introduction of the Local Government Act of 1985. The Greater London Authority was created in its place in 2000.

“County Hall is where we used to be when we was the GLC [Greater London Council], and that of course is in an appropriate place for London’s government. Indeed, if you walk around the outside of it you can see a huge blue plaque saying ‘This is the home of London government’”.

“All the old facilities are listed and still there. So the chamber at County Hall is there more or less exactly as we left it 30 years ago” Mr Arbour said.

“Currently it’s used as a theatre but of course no theatres are open. The general point I’m making is that the Assembly ought to be in central London, it ought to be at Westminster but only if the maths works, the sums have got to add up”.

“County Hall is in fact a very expensive building but given the fact that most of the businesses there are not generating any income – I doubt many people are going to the aquarium and I doubt very many people are staying at The Marriot – it may be that we would be able to get a very good deal on those parts of County Hall”.

“It’s good for him to think of ways of saving money but it has been presented to us pretty much as a done deal, suggesting that there are no alternatives to The Crystal”.

“And it really is quite a long way out, If you’re going from Chiswick you’d have to go to Waterloo then then go on the Jubilee maybe to North Greenwich, then you’d need to have to go on the Cable car… it’s quite a palaver”.

Image above: blue plaque outside of County Hall, the chamber inside County Hall

Security risk

The Evening Standard reported that Greater London Authority staff are worried that moving City Hall outside the heavily-policed zones of central London might make it an easier target for terrorist attacks.

On this issue Mr Arbour said:

“It’s possible, but not sure that the Mayor is an obvious target for the terrorists really.”

‘Budget shortfall of up to £493 million’

The City Hall building has housed the mayor’s office since 2002 when Ken Livingstone was the incumbent mayor. It is based on the south side of the Thames river, near Tower Bridge.

Mr Khan said that the Greater London Authority group – which is made up of the Met police, TfL and the London Fire Brigade – faces a budget shortfall of up to £493m over the next two years if an intervention is not made.

The Mayor began a six week staff consultation on 24 June and said that he would rather focus on the economic recovery of London rather than paying ‘above market rent’ in central London.

Image above: Sadiq Khan outside of City Hall, The Crystal in east London – the proposed new site for for City Hall’s operations.

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