A political row has erupted after it emerged that the Mayor of London has paid Southwark Cathedral £4,000 towards the cost of opposing a lapdancing club in Tooley Street.
The licencing application was contested – unsuccessfully – by London Bridge Hospital and Southwark Cathedral, who engaged legal representation and ran up a bill of £16,000.
The sub-committee is bound to consider applications on legal criteria alone, and is unable to take into account moral objections or wider council policy on the sorts of businesses suitable for the area.
The committee imposed a number of condititions on the licence for the club, which is due to open later this year.
Riverside ward councillors – including council leader Nick Stanton – have made it clear that they do not welcome the club, but complain that their hands are tied by the Licencing Act 2003.
In his monthly report to the London Assembly, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone reveals that he has approved a contribution of £4,000 from the GLA's professional witness reserve towards the cost of the Cathedral's opposition.
The Mayor's advisor on women's issues, Anni Marjoram, made a witness statement at the hearing, which – according to the Mayor – dealt with "the potential impact on female employees at City Hall, women's safety in London and safeguarding children."
Mr Livingstone says that he considers the cost "appropriate, in view of the saving made by [the GLA] not making a full objection" in its own right.
Opposition Assembly members have criticised the expenditure: "Ken Livingstone loves grandstanding at taxpayers' expense and this is just the latest example," says Angie Bray, Conservative spokesman on culture, sport and tourism. "If he is really so concerned about what might offend women then why was he so happy to invite to City Hall as his guest speaker, the Islamic cleric, Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, who condones wife-beating (providing the husband doesn't damage the face!)?"
But some Assembly members share the Mayor's objections to The Rembrandt Club. Val Shawcross, Labour member for Southwark and Lambeth, told us: "I don't feel that this area is the right location for this kind of sleazy entertainment. Local residents already have to face the neighbourhood becoming much busier and noisier because of the successful regeneration of the London Bridge area and I don't feel that adding this kind of club would improve their quality of life."
She added: "There is quite a focus on family tourism in the area, with the Unicorn children's theatre on Tooley street, the London Dungeon and HMS Belfast nearby. I don't think that these child focussed businesses would sit comfortably alongside a lap dancing establishment. One fear I have is that sex based industries tend to cluster together, if a lap dancing club comes here then other, even less respectable, activity could start coming into the
The Rembrandt Club has already become a political football, with Labour literature attacking the Lib Dems for allowing the club, and local Lib Dems blaming the Labour Government for its reform of the licencing laws.
The dispute between Southwark Cathedral and the Rembrandt Club follows the Cathedral's strenuous opposition to the Wicked fetish club in the vaults below the approach to London Bridge.