Matt Stadlen is Leading Britain's Conversation
11 November 2014, 10:23
Boris Johnson was labelled the Grinch of Christmas by an angry LBC listener over his plans to charge for the New Year's Eve fireworks.
The Mayor of London had announced that anyone wanting to see the traditional December 31st pyrotechnics would have to pay £10.
Previously there has been no charge, which has allowed hundreds of thousands to gather on the bridges, pavements and roads around Westminster to watch the spectacular display. But this year, for the first time, people will have to pay £10 to watch in the main central London areas, and there will only be 100,000 tickets available.
Gillian from Belsize Park made clear her displeasure at this move: “Why on earth are you charging for fireworks for New Year’s Eve? How are you going to cordon the sky off? This isn’t the British way.”
Mr Johnson confirmed there would be a charge of £10 this year. Nick Ferrari asked the mayor; how had this figure been arrived at?
“The charge, I’m afraid, is almost entirely absorbed by the cost of putting in the constraints.
"We simply have to do something... the crowds at the fireworks have grown to enormous sizes in the last few years. I think we had about half a million people last year."
Mr Johnson went on, saying that he didn’t understand why Gillian was so furious as she would have a great view of them from Primrose Hill, in north London.
“No, no, no, no! That’s not the attitude, Boris. Come on. This is not the British way.
“There are people out of work, that pay their taxes, that enjoy coming for a free night out... people want to come, they want to party. They’ve had a hard year. There are people like me, in their 50s, out of work and looking for things, and need a freebie.”
Mr Johnson defended the move to charge, against Gillian’s impassioned criticism, explaining that this was a decision informed by the advice of others.
“I’ve been advised by the police, by the ambulance service, by the fire brigades, that unless we did something, we were at serious risk of having crushes.
But even this didn’t quell Gillian’s anger. She suggested that people could simply be guided to other areas in centre of the city, so that there weren’t too many concentrated in one area. She also highlighted how prohibitively expensive this charge would be for many families.
Mr Johnson showed some sympathy for Gillian’s argument, but ultimately stuck by the decision to charge.
“I have to accept the criticism. But that [charging] is the most effective way at constraining numbers. We want a smaller crowd in the centre, because there’s a very real risk of people being crushed.”