Sadiq Khan Has Spent Millions On Cultural Festivals, Despite Knife Crime Crisis

16 July 2019, 08:24 | Updated: 16 July 2019, 11:32

LBC has discovered that the Mayor of London has spent millions of pounds on cultural festivals across London since he took over at City Hall.

Sadiq Khan has insisted he cannot deal with the scourge of violent crime without the help of the new Prime Minister due to budget cuts for the Met Police.

But a Freedom of Information request found that City Hall spent tens of thousands on a Bicycle Ballet show that "explores the role cycling had in female liberation".

Sadiq Khan's team spent £30,000 on bicycle ballet
Sadiq Khan's team spent £30,000 on bicycle ballet. Picture: City Hall / PA

That cash, his critics claim, could be better spent fighting the knife crime epidemic in London.

In the last two and a half years of the Conservative Mayor's time in City Hall, he spent £3.9 million of tax-payers' cash on festivals. Research by the Conservative Group at City Hall found that Sadiq Khan on the other hand has spent £11.65 million since he became Mayor, nearly three times what former-Mayor Boris Johnson spent.

The current mayor has just spent £30,000 so that Chingford's May Day Fayre could host Bicycle Ballet. It is basically ballet dancers pirouetting with bicycles.

The video below gives an example of the use of "bicycle ballet".

Bicycle Ballet - the dance of cycling

Michelle McPhillips, whose son JJ was stabbed in 2017 in Islington, said the money could be better spent. She told LBC: “Cultural festivals are not going to save lives. That’s what we need. We need our children’s lives saved.

“What we need to do is maybe do a theatre show is actually what happens when someone is stabbed and they bleed out in front of you, like I had to do when I watch my son being opened up in front of me and people massaging his heart.

“I was lucky mother because I got to speak to my son before he died.”

Tory London Assembly member Suzanne Hall told LBC the mayor needs to review where he is spending tax-payers' cash to see where he can make savings so that more money can be handed to the police.

She said: "When we look at money being wasted on splash parties - £300,000 this year. Last year, it was a beach party for £400,000. Then there was £30,000 for bicycle ballet to explore the role of cycling in female liberation.

"Oh for God's sake, it's getting ridiculous.

"He needs to look at every penny to see where he can make savings to put into more police officers. It's taxpayers' money, not his money or City Hall's money."

The Mayor's office does not dispute the Bicycle Ballet figure, but insists it gave a much larger sum of money to Waltham Forest Borough Council as part of its cultural programme to spend on what it wanted.

But when it comes to total festival spending, the nub of Mr Khan's argument is that when you average out the spend on an annual basis, then he and Mr Johnson ave spent similar amounts on festivals in London.

A statement from the Mayor said: Statement from Mayor: "These figures do not give an accurate reflection of the amount of money invested in these schemes each year due to the way they have calculated the figures.

"The Mayor invests an average of £2.58million a year in these creative industry programmes, similar to the amount invested by his predecessor. Last year our funding returned £524 million in sales, exports and inward investment.

"Tackling violent crime will always be Sadiq's highest priority in the face of huge Government cuts to police and youth services. He has invested record amounts in the Met, including funding the Violent Crime Taskforce, and tackling the underlying causes of crime through the new Violence Reduction Unit, which is investing in youth workers, supporting vulnerable parents and young people and supporting work to reduce school exclusions. He's also established a £45 million Young Londoners Fund and yesterday announced funding for 43 projects that will provide positive opportunities for 3,500 young people at risk of getting involved in crime.

"The Mayor's cultural programmes form a crucial part of this work - creating constructive activities for young Londoners away from crime, providing access to training and jobs for disadvantaged young Londoners, and promoting growth and investment in the creative industries which generate £52 billion a year for our city."