Tony Blair builds new £60m 'empire' at heart of Whitehall

Tony Blair is building himself a Prime Minister's department in the heart of Whitehall. Blair is consolidating his empire in newly-refurbished listed buildings running from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street.

The £60m project, codenamed New Accommodation Project Whitehall, will bring all of new Labour's spin doctors and recently formed "cross-cutting" units within walking distance of each other in a vastly expanded Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office claims the project is just a reorganisation of its staff, but Dennis Kavanagh, author of The Powers Behind The Prime Minister, is in no doubt what the move signals.

Mr Kavanagh said: "Mr Blair is creating a Prime Minister's department without calling it such because that would look too imperialistic."

Senior civil service sources confirm that Mr Kavanagh's analysis is accurate and the building work is the brain child of Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, who has been ordered by Blair to reconstitute the Cabinet Office as a "tool" of Downing Street.

Mr Kavanagh said: "Sir Richard was told to find a way to build the Cabinet Office around the Prime Minister in order to support his policies, priorities and overall strategy."

He added that the Cabinet Office was an extension of Downing Street in all but name. "Consolidating the Cabinet Office will effectively consolidate Blair's power," he said.

Since Labour was elected, Blair - with the help of Sir Richard - has dramatically expanded Downing Street by beefing up the policy, political and communications units, as well as adding several cross-departmental prime ministerial units to the Cabinet Office.

Blair has also dramatically increased the Foreign Affairs secretariat attached to the Cabinet Office and put his former flat-mate Lord Falconer in charge of the entire operation.

One side effect of the project will be that several listed buildings will be renovated. The buildings, which will all be linked, include Grade 1 listed Ripley House and Admiralty Arch, Grade 2 listed Old Admiralty House, Kirkland House - once owned by Glyn Mills Bank - and the Holl building.

The work is currently going through a consultation process with Westminster Council and English Heritage. However, secret renovation work on Admiralty Arch has already begun to provide hi-tech offices for senior civil servants and ministers. The move will also allow room for the "Prime Minister's" units to expand within 70 Whitehall which is connected directly to Downing Street. The whole complex will not be completed until 2002 but Downing Street sources claim the project is essential if Labour is to fulfil its pledge of providing "joined-up government".

Andrew Lansley, shadow Cabinet Office minister, said it was evident that the department had been annexed by Downing Street.

Lansley said: "The Cabinet Office's historic role is to serve the Government's cabinet committees. Civil servants now complain to me that they feel the Cabinet Office has become Labour territory."

He added: "It is clear that Blair diminished the collective nature of the Cabinet in order to operate a chief executive-style decision making process. That means he needs a Government HQ, and it looks like the Cabinet office is it."

A Cabinet Office spokesman denied the de facto creation of a prime minister's department. He said: "This is just a consolidation and recognition that the Cabinet Office has grown since 1997, needs more space and would be more efficient if it was all on one site."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk