Competition watchdog set for move across London

By Mark Kleinman, City editor
Britain's competition watchdog will next week announce the relocation of its headquarters amid suggestions that parliament's proposed refurbishment is having a wider impact on the government's central London property estate.
Sky News has learnt that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has finalised a deal to take a long-term lease at 25 Cabot Square, a Canary Wharf building owned by Hines, a US property company.
Part of the CMA's new home, where most of its 650 staff will be based from autumn 2019, is rented by Morgan Stanley‎, the Wall Street bank which sold it to Hines four years ago.The relocation from its current HQ in Holborn, central London, will come five years after the CMA was formed from the merger of the Competition Commission (CC) and the Office of Fair Trading.Its move will also follow changes to the watchdog's leadership, including the recent appointment of Lord Tyrie, the former Conservative MP, as its new chairman.Lord Tyrie is said to have been picked by Business Secretary Greg Clark to spearhead a sharper focus for the CMA on making markets work more effectively for consumers.Inquiries by the regulator into the energy and banking industries, in particular, have prompted calls for tougher action from MPs, with details of a price cap for the residential gas and electricity market now being finalised.Andrea Coscelli, the CMA's chief executive, took the helm last year from Alex Chisholm, who is now the permanent secretary of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.The CMA's remit will expand after Britain leaves the European Union as it takes on responsibility for competition-related merger inquiries which would otherwise have been ruled on in Brussels.
That may ‎require additional staff to be recruited during the coming years, compounding the need for a new HQ, according to insiders.Among the other likely market investigations the CMA will undertake is a probe into the provision of audit services which is dominated by the big four of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.A person close to the CMA said the move from its current base had been highlighted in its most recent annual report, and said it was likely to save taxpayers "several million pounds" in rent each year.The body's move to Canary Wharf comes as another of Britain's most important private sector regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority, completes its relocation from the east London district to Stratford.A source close to the CMA denied its move was being forced on it by the need for MPs to have alternative Central London accommodation when the Palace of Westminster is modernised, but a number of Whitehall insiders‎ insisted on Friday that this was one of the "underlying factors".MPs voted earlier this year to back a €3.5bn refurbishment of the home of both houses of parliament, which could necessitate a wholesale evacuation for a decade or more.
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In a statement issued to Sky News on Friday, a CMA spokesperson said:‎ "Like all Government departments, we are looking at ways to save money for UK taxpayers by keeping the rent on our buildings low."Our move to east London will secure very significant cost savings alongside enabling us to expand in preparation for the UK's exit from the European Union."
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