‘Wretched’: City Hall Docklands move slammed as ‘shambolic disgrace’ by senior assembly member

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is set to move from its current Tower Bridge location to The Crystal, a site in the Royal Docks owned by the authority.
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City Hall’s planned move to the Royal Docklands has been blasted as “wretched” and “ridiculous” by one of the top London assembly members.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) is set to move from its current Tower Bridge location to The Crystal, a site in the Royal Docks owned by the authority.

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Plans will see the mayor and the London Assembly based there, which will be rechristened City Hall, and are expected to save £61m over five years.

At a meeting of the budget committee at the current City Hall yesterday (Tuesday, November 23), Conservative chairman Susan Hall hit out at the figures the projected savings are based on.

She asked: “Do the relocation saving figures include the reduced rent offered to the GLA by City Hall’s current landlord?”

Mary Harpley, GLA chief officer, confirmed they were based on the site’s current rent and the proposed reduction “got nowhere near the costs we can achieve at the Royal Docks”.

Susan Hall. Photo: London AssemblySusan Hall. Photo: London Assembly
Susan Hall. Photo: London Assembly
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While David Bellamy, the GLA chief of staff, said that it was “the right basis for comparison”.

In response, Ms Hall said: “I’m sorry I don’t accept that. If we were offered significantly less it should have gone into the figures.

“When people are looking at this ridiculous move it’s best that they know what we could have been paying if we had stayed here with a reduced amount of rent being paid.”

The London-wide assembly member also criticised GLA staff for preventing assembly members using their offices and for switching off the heating.

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She said: "From what I can gather, we have meetings here next week but we can’t use our offices.

“We would all like to know when this wretched Crystal will be ready for us to move in properly and use our offices.

“We’ll move on because we’re all freezing to death because clearly no money is spent on heating this place.”

Mary Harpley. Photo: London AssemblyMary Harpley. Photo: London Assembly
Mary Harpley. Photo: London Assembly

She asked Ms Harpley to provide assembly members with a timetable by the end of the day, which the chief officer said she would “do her best” to supply.

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Ms Hall added: “The things this mayor is doing to stop us doing our work on scrutiny is a disgrace. It’s shambolic and I think this should have been worked out far better.”

Ms Harpley told the committee the impact on the budget of the relocation was saving £9.7m in 2022-23, based on reductions in rent, rates, utilities, cleaning and other contracts.

Ms Hall also criticised hiring efforts and said: “The recruitment in this building has been dire.

“I hope it improves as it’s been atrocious.”

On recruitment, Ms Harpley said there were no further HR cuts planned and added: “The extent to which we need to recruit will become clear in the next four to six months.”

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The mayor’s spokesperson said: “The GLA is on track to move to its new home in the Royal Docks by Christmas, saving taxpayers £61m over five years.

“The programme for preparing the Crystal building has been incredibly tight from the beginning of the project, but good progress is being made.

“Although there is still work to do, the GLA looks forward to moving into the building as planned in December.”

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