Labour have joined the growing number of calls for London’s official tourism and promotions agency to be opened up to public scrutiny.
Mayor Boris Johnson set up London & Partners in 2011 to promote the capital and its employment and education opportunities abroad.
Despite being majority funded by taxpayers and existing solely to further the Mayor’s policies, the organisation was set up as a private limited company rather than as a City Hall department.
That decision means it’s exempt from Freedom of Information laws making it impossible to scrutinise how City Hall’s £11m annual grant is spent.
Last week the Mayor claimed to have “no idea” London & Partners had adopted such an uncooperative and secretive stance despite previously refusing requests from Green and Liberal Democrat Assembly Members to force the organisation to open its books.
Today Labour AM Fiona Twycross added her support for calls greater transparency.
In a letter to the Mayor, Dr Twycross says she’s “become concerned about the lack of scrutiny processes that exist for examining the grant to L&P and how this taxpayers’ money is then spent.”
She adds that recent media questions about L&P’s involvement in a £1bn deal to redevelop the Royal Albert Docks, “serve to highlight how important it is that the Assembly is given greater opportunities to scrutinise the company’s operations.”
“As things stand, the Assembly does not receive a business plan from London and Partners either prior, or during the course of, its examinations of the Mayor’s overall budget (including the L&P grant).
“This is despite the fact that, to take 2013-14 as an example, the GLA grant constituted 69% of L&P’s operating budget.
“Assembly Members do have the opportunity to raise questions at Budget and Performance Committee and during the meetings of the full Assembly.
“However, without prior sight of a business plan or any guidance from them as to how they intend to spend the grant, the scrutiny process can only ever be limited.”
Echoing calls from Green party AM Darren Johnson, Dr Twycross says the Mayor should use his position as L&P’s majority funder to extract commitments to disclose information and co-operate with Assembly Members.
She also calls on the Mayor to secure an undertaking that a list of gifts and hospitality received by senior managers, and their salaries, will be routinely published.
Publishing her letter to Mr Johnson, Assembly Member Twycross said: “The Mayor’s inward investment arm London and Partners must come out of the shadows if the public are to have faith in the big development deals they bring to London.
“Whilst inward investment is obviously vital to London’s economic future, it has to be done in an appropriate and transparent way.
“The perception of shady deals will only be countered by real steps to open up London and Partners to legitimate scrutiny, that is what I am asking the Mayor to do.
“Without real openness, questions will endure about the overly opaque way London and Partners spends public money.”