Earlier this month London Mayor Sadiq Khan approved a review of the cost effectiveness and return on investment generated by London & Partners, the secretive, taxpayer funded company set up by Boris Johnson to promote the capital.
For much of its existence London & Partners has been dependent on City Hall funding – the organisation currently sucks in more than £10m of public funds and even at its most optimistic only expects to generate half of its income from commercial sources.
In some years taxpayers have accounted for 80% of London & Partners’ spending power – some of which it used to sponsor London-based awards shows, an activity which did squat-all to raise London’s international profile or attract a single tourist or business visitor but did help provide highly paid hospitality executives with a nice night out.
Despite needing taxpayer help to cover its bills, the company has repeatedly resisted calls to explain how it spends the public’s cash, including refusing to answer London Assembly questions on senior pay.
The firm sits in a luxury office in the More London development with wholly separate management structures, soaking up cash with which it then duplicates the marketing activity already carried out by airlines, hotel groups and visitor attractions.
It also spends time and effort duplicating information which is already easily found elsewhere – for example on how to register companies and intellectual property in the UK.
Is there really any company considering a move into the UK which doesn’t already know “private healthcare is one of the most common benefits and one of the most valued by employees”?
Or which needs to be told the benefits of using a recruitment agency? Or which doesn’t know a telephone and web access are pretty important things for a business to have?
Sadiq’s very welcome review will look at whether L&P is wasting money by duplicating other agencies’ efforts and whether much value is really being generated by its activities.
It’s hard to see how sensible consideration of those questions won’t result in some major changes in L&Ps work.
A permanent, dedicated team isn’t needed to compile lists of events in the capital, a separate office isn’t needed to house people who buy in marketing and advertising services, responsibility for attracting conferences and students to London really rests with owners of conference centres and the marketing teams of Higher Education establishments, not London taxpayers.
Those who believe in value for money and accountability should join me in hoping the review concludes it’s time to close the organisation and move a core team into City Hall to work alongside the existing marketing team where the Mayor has real oversight of the output and officials don’t feel able to block Assembly scrutiny of their work.