“Stand by for Pickles Plaza,” whispers my man in Whitehall, who says plans are in hand to turn over the ground floor of Eland House in Victoria to retailers. “When Labour was in residence, ministers would head off to fancy restaurants like Boisdale or the Wolseley with the government credit card. The emphasis now is on paying our way.”
I am told that Pickles Plaza is the idea of Giles Kenningham, his special adviser, a former producer of ITN’s Lunchtime News. Pickles has let it be known that he favours value-for-money outlets such as Costcutter rather than designer shops. The lease was signed during Lord Prescott’s period as the minister.
Last year, Francis Salway, the chief executive of Land Securities, which developed the 17-year-old building, made a speech in which he spoke about how the Labour government had been “publicly and nobly committed to reducing costs”.
He said: “Against that backdrop, we thought it made an enormous amount of sense to accept a price of £676 a square foot capital value, which is well above our assessment of current vacant possession value.”