City Hall will begin to reopen at the end of this month as Covid-19 restrictions ease across the country. A small number of staff will come back to the Mayor’s Tower Bridge base from Thursday July 30 – but the building will stay shut to the public. It...
City Hall will begin to reopen at the end of this month as Covid-19 restrictions ease across the country.
A small number of staff will come back to the Mayor’s Tower Bridge base from Thursday July 30 – but the building will stay shut to the public.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas.
Guidance to avoid public transport has been scrapped with immediate effect, and from Saturday August 1 employers will be encouraged to bring staff back to offices if it is safe to do so.
During coronavirus lockdown the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and City Hall staff have been working from home.
Meetings of the London Assembly, Transport for London (TfL) board and others have be held virtually via Microsoft Teams.
City Hall will initially welcome back just 200 of more than 1,000 employees to ensure two metre social distancing can be maintained – but capacity will be reviewed at the end of August.
Staff who are struggling to work from home – because of cramped conditions, loneliness, or because they work closely in a team – will be the first back.
But responding to the Prime Minister’s back to work push, Mr Khan said many Londoners will feel uncertain about what is safe because of “mixed messages” from the Government.
“It is important that we get our country and economy moving again, but this can only happen if people continue to follow the guidance and the virus is kept under control,” he said.
“My message to Londoners is: only return to workplaces if it is safe to do so, on foot or by bike if at all possible, and avoid public transport at peak times if you can’t.
“Rather than passing the buck to employers, the Government must get a grip on the virus so people have the confidence to go out and about and to return to their workplaces when it is safe to do so.”
The Mayor said the virus has “fundamentally changed” the way the Greater London Authority (GLA) works.
“We are nowhere near able to allow everyone back into City Hall and home working is going to continue for the majority of staff,” he said.
The London Assembly has scheduled online meetings until the end of August, with the chairman present in the Chamber, and other members and guests video-calling from home.
But chairman Navin Shah said that socially-distanced meetings at City Hall could resume as early as September.
“Hopefully all being well we’ll be having face-to-face meetings here at City Hall with most of the Assembly members and [the Mayor] present in the chamber here,” he told Mayor’s Question Time.
The meeting was dogged with technical problems: members were forced to pause the meeting when the video link to Mr Khan dropped.
Proceedings ground to a halt for around twenty minutes while technicians worked to fix the problem – despite the fact that the Mayor was dialling in from his office just six floors above the Assembly chamber.
A spokesperson for the Assembly said no concrete plans are in place for a return to in-person meetings – and could not confirm if committees will be open to the public when they do resume.