Sadiq Khan accused of ‘misleading’ public over City Hall relocation savings

·2 min read
The GLA moved to a former exhibition centre on the Royal Docks in east London at the end of March   (Handout)
The GLA moved to a former exhibition centre on the Royal Docks in east London at the end of March (Handout)

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

The Greater London Authority (GLA) moved from Southwark to a former exhibition centre on the Royal Docks in east London in March this year - four months later than originally planned – in a bid to save cash.

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

The Mayor of London had said the relocation would save an estimated £61 million over five years - but the committee found the true savings were closer to £37m since the landlord of the former City Hall building had offered a reduced rent that would have saved £24 million over the same period.

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

In the letter, Ms Pidgeon 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 Mr Khan 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, Ms Pidgeon 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.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said that Mr 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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