Mayor skirts big questions on NYE

The Mayor of London’s office has skirted big questions over the financing of the 2014 New Year’s Eve fireworks display after a Freedom of Information request into the matter bore little fruit.

Plans were announced late in September to ticket the event to control crowds after an estimated 500,000 people turned up to watch last year. Tickets have gone on sale at £10 each and will be sold to 100,000 people, bringing in a significant amount of cash for an event that until now has been free. But the Greater London Authority dodged key questions on the use of the lucrative revenue stream, dismissing them on the grounds that the information could be used by competitors in the tender process to gain an advantage in any negotiations.

Outraged at Boris Johnson’s announcement to ticket New Year’s Eve celebrations in London TLE decided to find out a little more on how the money generated from the event would be used. The response to the FoI request was:

New Year’s Eve ticketing is being introduced to help manage crowd numbers, which have increased dramatically in the last few years, with the aim of ensuring the event will continue to be safe and enjoyable in the longer term. All of the ticketing revenue (after VAT) will be spent on implementing the Ticketing System including the Ticketing agency process (booking processes, management and administration including printing and posting of tickets),  additional hoarding and fencing, additional road closures, additional stewards, additional toilets, additional signage, onsite ticket booth collection, onsite scanning operation and enhanced marketing and communications campaign. The ticketing revenue will only cover the implementation of ticketing. All other costs for staging the event will be met by the GLA and sponsorship as in 2013.

The response suggests that the Mayor proposes to spend somewhere in the region of £1 million on implementing a ticketing system as well as a row of ‘additionals’ that all seems a rather perverse use of funds given that the numbers of people in attendance is being cut by 80 per cent! What’s more, why does the Mayor feel the need to communicate and market an event that will clearly be oversubscribed?

This is a classic example of Johnson missing the big picture as well as being blinded by money. The New Year’s Eve celebrations are a way of giving something back to the residents of London. It’s about civic pride and showcasing London on a national and global stage. It’s about promoting a tourism industry that thrives around the New Year and Christmas, the fireworks usually forming the backbone of trips to the capital over this period.

If safety is such a big concern then ticket the event for free, there are plenty of other revenue streams to be explored beyond charging 100,000 people a tenner, sponsorship being just one. If you must charge for tickets then at least do it properly with the necessary safety precautions around touting. The website had two tickets for sale at £612.68 each which equates to £1,409.15 with booking fees. It goes to show how a celebratory event can turn ugly overnight when we lose all sense of what it’s about in order to make a quick buck.

The big questions Boris will have to face at some point is why an event that was free for 500,000 people is now costing 100,000 people money. What’s more, if the charges are indeed specifically related to ticketing, is that £1 million squandered? The GLA says it is holding information back because of competition reasons. We would ascertain that £1 million for implementing a ticketing system doesn’t seem too competitive at all.

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