UK

Government buys £12m luxury New York apartment for diplomat

A promotional image of one interior inside the 50 United Nations Plaza Image copyright City Realty

The UK government has spent $15.9m (£12m) on a luxury New York apartment for a British diplomat to live in while he negotiates trade deals with the US.

It will house the UK trade commissioner for North America and consul general in New York, Antony Phillipson.

Boasting panoramic views, the seven-bedroom flat occupies the entire 38th-floor of 50 United Nations Plaza, said the Guardian, which first reported it.

The Foreign Office said it had "secured the best possible deal".

The apartment "will help promote the UK in the commercial capital of our largest export market for years to come", it said.

A floor plan of the 5,893 sq ft apartment shows a library, six bathrooms and a powder room.

Two of the five bedrooms in the apartment are currently designated "staff bedrooms" on the floor plan, but the UK Foreign Office said only the consul general and his immediate family will live there.

Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the 44-storey building is close to the UN headquarters in Manhattan and is described as the "ultimate global address".

'Generous space'

On the website of architects Foster and Partners, the high-rise is described as a "luxury residential tower occupying a prestigious location".

Every apartment features floor to ceiling bay windows and "generous space for entertaining", the firm says.

"Adding a touch of elegance to every detail, the powder room walls are fitted with glazed silk panels in a choice of either bold primary or natural colours," it adds.

A spa in the basement has a large exercise pool for residents, according to the website.

The penthouse was bought by "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs" on 15 March, according to New York City records.

'Austerity isn't for everybody'

In a statement, the Foreign Office, said that the residence "will also be used to support his work to help British businesses as Her Majesty's trade commissioner for North America."

It said it was in the process of selling the consul general's current residence.

"At least someone is going to do OK out of Brexit," Labour MP Gareth Thomas tweeted, in response to the purchase.

Stewart Maxwell, a special adviser to Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon on business and the economy, tweeted: "UK Tory government make clear that austerity isn't for everybody".

Chloe Westley, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, which lobbies for lower taxes and greater government efficiency, said: "What's often forgotten is that these luxuries come at the expense of hard pressed families, who want the money that they give to the government to go primarily towards public services."

She added that taxpayers would hope diplomats "earn their keep by creating opportunities for British businesses and consumers".

In 2015, the New Zealand government was criticised over reports it spent $8m (£6.05m) on a "lavish" 18th-floor apartment in the 50 United Nations Plaza for the country's UN ambassador Gerard van Bohemen to live in.

Meanwhile, Qatar reportedly spent $45m (£34m) on four apartments in the high-rise in the same year. The building was also home to Nikki Haley while she served as the US ambassador to the UN.

More on this story