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London’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks is the largest annual display in Europe. It is enjoyed by over 100,000 spectators, watched by over 11 million people on television across the UK and is beamed out to tens of millions across the world, promoting London on the world stage. The total budget for the 2018 fireworks was £2.3 million. This is the same as 2017 and in line with the budget spend in previous years and by the previous Mayor [Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP]. The cost of the pyrotechnics in the fireworks event is the same as any spent by the previous Mayor. On top of the £2.3 million budget, £800,000 was raised from ticket sales, which was spent on infrastructure for the event.
There is no doubt that the fireworks display helps to attract millions of visitors to London every New Year’s Eve, provide an income for our businesses, tourist attractions and hotels. The statistics are still being analysed for the 2018 fireworks, but in 2017 over £10 million was spent by ticketholders alone, and that does not even factor in those who came to the event without a ticket.
This year, to help promote the city and reassure Londoners, businesses, tourists and investors that London remains open to them, the theme for the fireworks was “London is Open”. The message has never been more important, particularly for the over 1 million EU Londoners who have made this city their home and who are feeling particularly vulnerable as we approach Brexit. The fireworks display, which included a soundtrack featuring European artists, showed the world that London is proud to be a global European city and sent a clear message that this city is going to continue being open-minded, diverse and outward-looking. This is not the first time we have themed the fireworks to convey Londoners’ values of diversity and inclusion. In 2017, the fireworks were themed around women’s equality, to kick off our “Behind Every Great City” campaign. This featured a women-only soundtrack and a projection of the Venus symbol on the Shell building.
I am surprised how sensitive the Assembly Member is in relation to these very important issues. I am surprised the Assembly Member is against us showing the world we are internationally-minded, outward-looking, pluralistic. I am surprised any Member of an Assembly in London could be against making Londoners who are EU citizens feel welcome and included. We are Europeans; we are part of Europe. We are going to stay being part of Europe and we are still a member of the EU. I am not sure what has offended the Assembly Member so much.
It is not just me, Mr Mayor. It is those of us that voted Brexit. I repeat, on an evening when everybody should have been brought together - and that is your job as Mayor of this wonderful city - you should not have chosen something that was so divisive. I am just asking whether you did not realise it would be divisive. You spend your entire life being surprised at what I think and say and do, but I am surprised if you did not genuinely realise that this would be divisive. Did you not realise it would be divisive, Mr Mayor?
I absolutely realised this would bring London together and would make Londoners who are EU citizens feeling vulnerable feel welcome in our great city. I absolutely realise the world is watching our city at a time when, because they read the press, they may feel when they see our Prime Minister that we are somehow going to become inward-looking, but we really need to make sure that they know we are not insular. I cannot think of a better way to reassure those around the world that London will carry on being an internationalist, pluralistic European city than by the fireworks display, which I thought was fantastic.
Mr Mayor, would you not agree that your complete obsession with Brexit means that you are taking your eye off the ball? You are looking at crime levels - or we are - that are going through the roof. Everywhere is dangerous now in London. That is your responsibility. Brexit is not. If you look at the hole in the finances of TfL, it is an absolute disgrace. That is your responsibility. Brexit is not. When are you going to stop obsessing about Brexit and deal with what you are responsible for? From this side, all we ever see is you go on and on about Brexit. Can we please try to concentrate on what you are responsible for?
Chairman, you have allowed that question in order, so I am sure you will allow me to respond to it. My answer will be in order as well, because the question on the fireworks display has now gone into crime and transport, so it must be in order if you have allowed it.
Let me respond to the two points made. The two points made were my focus in relation in crime and my focus in relation to transport. Let me first deal with the issue of crime. Since I became Mayor, we have gone from having just one Dedicated Ward Officer (DWO) in wards to having two DWOs in a ward, plus a Community Support Officer. I have lobbied the Government to reverse the cuts they made over the first eight years of this decade, when they cut £835 million from our budget; they are making further cuts of £235 million from our budget. The previous Mayor [Boris Johnson] failed to raise council tax to fill the massive hole left by this cut. I have increased in my first three years the council tax to help manage the decline of police officer numbers caused by central Government’s cuts, in my first year raising council tax to, roughly speaking, £20 million to help support the police; in my second year, raising council tax to £110 million to help support the police, plus business rates ‑‑
Let me deal with the issue. The assertion was and the question was, “Why are you not more focused on crime?” I am explaining and giving examples of how I am focused on crime. Let me carry on. Also we have managed to not just invest in policing to make sure we do not fall off a cliff-edge, but also investing in young Londoners too with the Young Londoners Fund.
In relation to transport, because of my focus on transport - unlike the previous Mayor [Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP], who managed in eight years to increase our fares by more than 42% - I froze TfL fares for the first three years of me being Mayor. In the last year, when the previous Mayor was running TfL as Chairman of the Board, if you exclude the operating grant, TfL’s deficit was £1.5 million. We have managed to reduce that by more than half, at the same time as making sure we have unlimited bus Hopper, used by more than 270 million; we have managed to bring in the Night Tube, which the previous Mayor had given up on; the night Overground, which the previous Mayor gave up on; extending step-free access ‑‑
At the end of the day, Mr Mayor, you may sit there and tell us what you have done, but the results prove that you do not know what you are doing, because crime is up and there is still a black hole in TfL’s budget. You can sit there for hours saying what you have done, but how ineffective are you going to be? Just look at the crime rates, just look at TfL’s budget. I have finished, thank you, Chairman.