A City Hall event in which Sadiq Khan and Martin Lewis offered advice to Londoners on the cost of living crisis has been criticised for costing too much.
Conservatives on the London Assembly said the event’s £12,621 price tag was evidence of the Labour mayor spending taxpayers’ money “to promote himself” in a “publicity stunt”.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said Mr Khan “makes no apology for doing everything he can to support Londoners” with rising bills and costs – and pointed out that the event was watched by thousands of people.
The amount of money spent on the event, which was held on February 2, was revealed via a written question to the mayor sent by Emma Best, the Tories’ deputy leader at City Hall.
The answer from Mr Khan’s team revealed that Mr Lewis – the money saving expert famed for his advice website – was not paid for his participation at the event, and instead “donated his time to support Londoners”.
It said the bulk of the cost “was for the stage and technical production, costing £9,517.24, and the remainder covering accessibility (BSL/palantypist) (£2,262), security (£153.84) and catering (£688.36)”.
The event memorably included an intervention from Mr Lewis on Mr Khan’s plan to expand the Ultra low emission zone (Ulez), with the money saving expert telling the mayor: “The timing is pretty tough, to do it this year, amidst a cost of living crisis.”
Shortly afterwards, audience member Angie Donnelly heckled Mr Khan, saying people “won’t be able to deal with the stress” of the daily £12.50 charge faced by non-compliant vehicles. According to Transport for London, those vehicles are around one in ten seen driving in outer London.
In dramatic scenes, Ms Donnelly shouted that the mayor is a “con man”, as she was escorted out by security.
Commenting on the event’s costs, Ms Best said: “Sadiq Khan’s publicity stunt with Martin Lewis went spectacularly wrong, when he was challenged on the cost of living impact of his Ulez expansion plans by the audience and by Martin Lewis himself.
“Now we find out that taxpayers have paid over £12,000 for the event. Instead of helping Londoners with the cost of living, Sadiq Khan would rather spend taxpayers’ money attempting to promote himself as always.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Khan said in response: “The mayor makes no apology for doing everything he can to support Londoners with the cost of living crisis, including ensuring they receive help on how to manage their bills and costs.
“This event provided expert advice to hundreds of people in person with thousands more watching online, and stalls at the event promoted Sadiq’s wider support for Londoners struggling with the soaring cost of living, including partnerships with Citizens Advice, the Energy Saving Trust, Thrive London and Debt Free Advice.”