Should the mayor of London move City Hall to the Royal Docks?
Joanne McCartney, statutory deputy mayor of London, says YES.
The catastrophic economic consequences of Covid-19 have already hit London’s economy hard. Unemployment is rising. Millions are furloughed. Tax revenues have fallen.
London councils face a budget shortfall of £1.3bn this year. Transport for London’s fares income has fallen by more than 90 per cent. The Greater London Authority Group faces a shortfall of £500m over the next two years — leaving no choice other than significant cuts to police, fire and transport services. And rather than acting to invest in our economic recovery and local services, the government is allowing a new era of austerity to take hold.
Against this backdrop, the mayor must consider every option to protect frontline services. That’s why he is personally committed to taking a 10 per cent pay cut, and why he is considering leaving the current City Hall building to save money.
Relocating to the Royal Docks would save £55m over five years, which can be invested in jobs, services and skills provision.
The mayor makes no apologies for prioritising economic recovery and public services over bricks and mortar.
John Oxley, a Conservative commentator and former candidate for Newham Council, says NO.
City Halls should be about more than function and efficiency. They should be knitted into the civic fabric. Think of the Palazzo Vecchio, a marker on the Florentine skyline, or the Hôtel de Ville which has been an active part of Paris’ tumultuous history.
These are not simply offices and chambers, but icons of their city.
The Greater London Authority’s “Glass Gonad” may lack the same history or beauty, but its location speaks to an important narrative. On the banks of the river, across from the history of the Tower and the promise of the City, the thread of London’s greatness runs right through it. It is at the centre of the city, both geographically and psychologically.
Moving the whole show down the length of the DLR would make the city’s government less visible, and by that less relevant and accountable.
Symbolism matters, and while Newham is a fantastic borough, the seat of Greater London’s government should not be separated from its heart.
Main image credit: Getty