The Bank of England has been hugely busy during the coronavirus pandemic, pulling the levers of monetary policy in a desperate effort to support the economy.
But it has also been working hard closer to home. It has spent at least £117,000 on making its historic Threadneedle Street headquarters as safe as possible during Covid – including forking out for 14,000 masks and spending £14,000 on hand sanitiser.
The figures, which were gained by City A.M. through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, give an impression of the costs faced by institutions and private firms as they welcome a small percentage of their staff back to the office.
Workers are gradually returning to the City and other London business hubs. The number of Tube journeys was 15 per cent higher on Monday than on the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday last week. Nonetheless, numbers remain well below pre-Covid levels.
Many private firms with big offices are likely to have spent considerably more than the BoE. Private equity giant Blackstone said it would pay for its employees around the world to commute by taxi, for example.
The Bank of England’s biggest outlay was £56,800 spent on “altering facilities” between March and June. That included buying thermal imaging cameras to scan people’s temperatures at entrances, and screens for catering facilities.
It also spent £18,100 on the sort of signage that has become commonplace during the pandemic. The Bank has put in place circulation routes and separate entry and exit points, among other measures.
In an effort to protect its staff, the Bank snapped up 14,000 masks in the March to June period, which it said cost £16,600.
The BoE also spent £14,300 on hand sanitiser between February and June. And it spent £8,300 on cleaning products and £2,600 on extra cleaning staff. It is likely to have splashed out more on Covid changes since then.
Bank of England: Changes ‘appropriate given risks’
“The Bank takes the wellbeing of its staff very seriously and has implemented these changes in order to protect the welfare of colleagues who are working from our buildings,” the BoE said in response to the FOI.
“It always considers value for money and feels the steps taken are appropriate given the risks posed by Covid-19.”
Along with many other City employers, the Bank’s headquarters are far from running at full capacity.
Last month, governor Andrew Bailey said there were a “few hundred” people back at Threadneedle Street. The central bank employs around 4,500 people, according to figures from 2018.
The government has urged people to return to the office. But a recent spike in coronavirus cases could well put people off doing so.
Catherine McGuinness, head of policy at the City of London Corporation, on Tuesday said she was “very concerned” about how working from home was hitting the Square Mile’s economy.