Sadiq Khan and Tory councillor clash over 'pathetic' £1.5m NYE firework display

5 January 2021, 11:55 | Updated: 5 January 2021, 11:58

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Sadiq Khan clashed with a Tory councillor in a heated exchange at a budget meeting over the £1.5 million cost of London's New Year's Eve firework display and light show.

Conservative Cllr Tony Devenish took aim at the mayor during a London Assembly budget and performance committee meeting on Tuesday, calling the extravaganza "pathetic".

"I'm wondering why you thought it was a good idea to spend £1.5 million on New Year's Eve on a pathetic firework party?" he asked Mr Khan.

Last Thursday, the night sky above the Thames was illuminated with a pyrotechnic and light display as the clock struck midnight, which included tributes to the NHS and notable figures from the year of the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to the councillor in a heated exchange, the London mayor accused Mr Devenish of "embarrassing flip-flopping" over the value of firework shows after having previously branded the cancellation a "hammer blow".

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Sadiq Khan has been criticised for the New Year firework display in London
Sadiq Khan has been criticised for the New Year firework display in London. Picture: PA

"I'm surprised by that question because the same member said it was a 'hammer blow' when I announce the public fireworks were going to be cancelled," Mr Khan said, "he's gone from it being a 'hammer blow' back then when I announced I was cancelling them to now saying it's a waste of money.

"I wish he'd make up his mind what it is.

"He also, as I recall, when he was speaking to my chief of staff at a hearing reminded them, and I quote, 'about the significant value that fireworks have in promoting London globally'.

"Which is it? This flip-flop is embarrassing Tony."

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The mayor (top-left) clashed with Cllr Devenish (top-right) during the committee meeting
The mayor (top-left) clashed with Cllr Devenish (top-right) during the committee meeting. Picture: London Assembly

Cllr Devenish replied: "Well, Mr Mayor you know far more about flip-flopping than me.

Citing a letter sent to the committee about how the capital should be maximising resources during the lockdown, he added: "Is it maximising resources by spending £1.5 million on saying 'You're on mute' as a fireworks symbol.

"It's pathetic."

Amid the New Year display were several light projections filling the sky over the O2 Arena, one of which showed the NHS logo in a heart while a child's voice said: "Thank you NHS heroes".

An image was also projected of the familiar figure of one of the heroes of 2020, Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised £33 million by walking in his backyard.

There was also a humorous nod to one of the peculiarities of the past year - working from home - with a mute symbol backed by a voiceover saying "You're on mute" - referenced by Cllr Devenish.

As coloured lights shone at various points up the Thames, leading to more fireworks above Wembley Stadium, the Black Lives Matter movement was also recognised, before a closing call via the voice of Sir David Attenborough for all people to work in 2021 to help our "fragile" planet.

Later, Mr Khan said he was "proud that the eyes of the world" saw London's show which "reflected on the defining moments of this year, paid tribute to our NHS heroes and the way that Londoners continue to stand together, and showed why our city is the greatest in the world".