Almost three years ago I asked London & Partners how much it’d spent sponsoring a hospitality industry awards ceremony, its response was to effectively to tell me to ‘eff off’.
Secure in its exemption from scrutiny, the organisation has become so arrogant that last week it even refused to co-operate with a London Assembly investigation into high pay within the City Hall group.
Confronted with news of this lack of co-operation, Boris claimed to be unaware that such information wasn’t already routinely put in the public domain.
Assuming that’s true, it’s another good example of Boris’s lack of follow-through.
Last year he was asked to use his position as London & Partners’ majority funder to extract transparency commitments in return for signing off this year’s cheque.
Instead of doing so he said how L&P met his transparency commitments was solely a matter for its board.
For Boris to be so surprised at last week’s news suggests he never subsequently bothered to ask the board, chaired by his deputy mayor for business, how it was living up to his promises of running a transparent administration.
Had he done so, he’d have presumably gotten the same stonewalling response the L&P press office eventually gave me:
“London & Partners is a company limited by guarantee and files an annual return with Companies House as required by law. As a private company we are under no legal obligation to detail all expenses and salaries.”
But while the organisation sought to hide behind the fact that “Our chief executive and chief operating officer give annual public evidence to the London Assembly and report to the Mayor on how we spend our grant on a quarterly basis,” we now know that such evidence will only be on matters they’re prepared to discuss in public.
And top manager salaries isn’t one of them.
Had Boris bothered to take action or follow up his answer to AMs he’d have been spared embarrassment last week and would find it easier to assure sceptics that there’s nothing untoward about L&P’s involvement in the ABP Royal Albert Docks deal.
When taxpayers provide almost 70% of any organisation’s funding they’re entitled to know how their money is being spent and what end benefits they’re getting for their investment.
And bodies which refuse to provide this basic information have only themselves to blame when people become suspicious that public money is being poorly spent or wasted on ‘fat cat’ managers.
If London & Partners has nothing to hide, if managers aren’t being over paid or richly rewarded against weak performance criteria, if money isn’t being wasted on expensive sponsorship slots already rejected by commercial organisations, or misspent on first class flights for ‘fact finding’ jollies, then it has no reason to continue holding scrutineers at bay.
It should volunteer to open its books, routinely publish senior staff salaries, expenses, gifts & hospitality detail and answer requests for information from Assembly Members, the media and London taxpayers.
If it won’t do so voluntarily then Boris needs to order it to in return signing the £11m cheque it needs to keep the doors open.
Otherwise it’s a certain bet that the next Mayor will.