Town hall move on track - but increased cost is unknown
Alastair Lockhart, LDRS
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Tower Hamlets Council is set to move to a massive new town hall, but won’t say how much refurbishment costs have risen by.
The authority is expected to move into a new town hall in Whitechapel on the site of the old Royal London Hospital later this year.
The 18th century building is currently being refurbished to create a modern venue for the council and the public. The project is expected to cost hundreds of millions of pounds, but the council has not yet said how much it will cost the taxpayer in total.
The Grade-II listed building was built in 1757 as the original Royal London Hospital. However, despite a number of requests about its cost – including from the Local Democracy Reporting Service – Tower Hamlets Council has not yet disclosed the sum.
In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the council said it was still speaking to a contractor and that it could not give the total cost of the new town hall because it was “commercially sensitive”.
Yasmin Ali, the town hall’s project director, said in the response that £123.35 million had been set aside for the project’s budget, with £109.5 million spent on a contract for the development.
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “The works cost of the new Town Hall has been at £114.5m since 2019.
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"We expect it to increase due to factors including the rise in costs of building materials, the impact of Covid and the complexities of bringing back into community use a grade II listed building from the 18th century.
"We are currently in commercial negotiations with the developer about it, hence the final cost has yet to be determined."
The spokesperson added: "The latest calculations on running cost show that it will save the public purse around £1m a year compared to the council’s current arrangement which includes £5m a year rental of the civic centre in East India. The project is on track to be completed later this year, with staff expected to move in at the end of 2022.”
The council also claimed it had been upfront about costs throughout the project.