London police HQ Scotland Yard set to be sold in cost-cutting move

Cost-cutting plans will see London police move to smaller base - but take iconic sign with them

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 4:35am

Scotland Yard has fallen victim to the economic slump and plans to sell off its famous office tower with the iconic revolving sign outside.

The well-known landmark has been seen in countless cutaway movie shots and tourist photo albums.

But London's crimefighters are now hoping to move into new digs in a smaller building around the corner to save money.

Times are tough in Britain, which is undergoing its most brutal spending cuts in a generation. And the capital's famous bobbies have not been spared.

The Yard - also known as the Met, short for Metropolitan Police Service - is trying to slash US$800 million from its budget over the next 2-1/2 years.

That has meant looking at selling the family silver, or in this case, some of the force's large property holdings - stations, operation centres and the like.

The current headquarters, which the Yard has occupied since 1967, costs nearly US$18 million a year to maintain and is in need of a US$80 million upgrade, making it an "expensive luxury," Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey said. He acknowledged the iconic value of the site, but said policing came first.

"The people of London want to see officers out on the streets. They don't want to see us in office buildings," Mackey told the BBC.

"This is about looking at how we can be more imaginative and how we can save money in the process." Moving house would be part of a larger proposed overhaul that would see the Met unload some of its conventional, often outmoded police stations in favour of substations, or "public access points", in shopping centres and supermarkets.

Police officials are eager to keep the number of officers steady at about 32,000. The relocation, which requires approval from city officials, would probably take about two years.

The force has had to pack up and move several times in the past. In the late 19th century, its headquarters had an entrance off of a London street called Great Scotland Yard, which gave the force its famous nickname.

Moving from its present site would mark the first time that the Metropolitan Police Service would be changing location to downsize, not expand.

Announcement of the proposal comes less than a week after revelations that another famous London landmark, the Admiralty Arch at the foot of Trafalgar Square, is being leased to developers to be turned into a private hotel.

The lease is also part of the government's drive to save money. Traditionalists will have one consolation if Scotland Yard moves - its famous sign, which revolves 14,000 times each day, will apparently go with it.