Published October 30, 2012
LONDON – It's not in Scotland. And it's missing a front yard. But anyone who has read a Sherlock Holmes novel can tell you that Scotland Yard equals London police.
Perhaps no longer.
London's police force may move from its headquarters, known as New Scotland Yard, as it faces making budget cuts of more than 500 million pounds ($800 million).
Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey told the mayor's office Tuesday that it plans to save 6.5 million pounds ($10.5 million) per year by moving to a smaller building.
The police headquarters, and its iconic revolving "New Scotland Yard" sign, have been on London's Victoria Street since 1967. Planned staffing cuts will make the massive central London building an expensive luxury.
Though London's mayor has the final decision, agreement on the issue between the city's policing board and the Metropolitan Police makes the move highly likely.
But that doesn't mean that the HQ of this London institution would vanish without being missed. The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, John Tully, said the sale was like losing the Crown Jewels.
"It's very regrettable that it's come to this," he said, quickly suggesting that Mayor Boris Johnson, whose office is in a glass and steel building on the River Thames, should reconsider cost-cutting demands.
"The mayor needs to look at his own office," Tully said. "He sits in a brand new building on the South Bank. Why doesn't he sell that to save money?"
Tully complained the move was an insult — particularly to staff members who have been told "they've got to do more and be better and smarter."
Other things being considered to save money are co-locating police with fire service and local authorities and — gasp — they could even end up being based at supermarkets or post offices. Such a thing would really cause havoc for television journalists, who frequently stand in front of the revolving sign to do their stand ups.
"We won't keep older buildings any longer than we need to — some buildings are getting old and the cost of keeping and maintaining them is considerable," the police said in a statement. "Our plans relate to all areas of the estate, including all HQ buildings and potentially moving New Scotland Yard from its current location."
Still, the police have moved before — several times — from Whitehall Place to Great Scotland Yard in 1875, to the Norman Shaw building in 1890, and to New Scotland Yard in 1967.
Great Scotland Yard, a street elsewhere in London, contained the entrance to police offices in the 19th century — and even when the force moved locations, the name stuck.
But it's not like the "for sale" sign has been pasted to the front door just yet.
"New Scotland Yard costs millions of pounds a year to run and we would need to invest about 50 million (pounds) over the next few years to make it fit for longer term operational use," the police said. "However, no final decisions have been made."