As London prepares to see in 2009 with a free fireworks display at the London Eye on the South Bank, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has raised the prospect that future New Year events could be ticketed.
The Mayor was asked by Lib Dem London Assembly member Mike Tuffrey whether the New Year's Eve fireworks display will remain free of charge and unticketed throughout the current mayoral term.
"I acknowledge that the New Year's Eve event generates a significant amount of tourism revenue for London, both over the New Year weekend and through the worldwide media coverage of the midnight fireworks, which promotes London around the world," replied Boris Johnson. "A survey conducted last year indicated that 68 per cent of visitors to the fireworks were from outside of Greater London.
"The planning, management and financing of the event remains a challenge, due to the large numbers of people wishing to attend the fireworks and the limited capacity of the viewing areas. Only 40 per cent of the event budget is spent on the actual fireworks and lighting displays, the remainder is spent on crowd management and health and safety.
"Officers from my Events for London team, the Boroughs of Westminster and Lambeth, the Metropolitan Police, TfL and other agencies are considering a number of options, which may include ticketing, all of which will ensure the sustainability of future New Year's Eve celebrations in the capital."
In November Mr Johnson's deputy Sir Simon Milton was asked about his biggest failure in seeking budget savings at City Hall. He repllied: "I've been surprised that it has not been possible to reduce the budget for the fireworks Display on New Year's Eve, which is an extremely expensive outing, something like £1.6 million." Sir Simon told the London Assembly's budget committee that he believed that better value could be obtained in future.
A possible ticket scheme could be borrowed from Edinburgh's world-famous Hogmanay celebrations where revellers are charged £10 to attend the popular street party.
Designated viewing areas are along Victoria Embankment, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge and Parliament Square. On the South Bank the only viewing area is in Belvedere Road and Chicheley Street. Access to the viewing areas is unticketed (this year, at least) but access is controlled to prevent overcrowding.
"Hundreds of thousands of people used to travel to central London when there was nothing for them to see or do," says Superintendent Brian Pearce.
"Now with such a world-class fireworks display being staged the centre of town is more popular than ever before.
"Sadly, not everyone sets out just for a fun night out. There are those criminals who will use the cover of crowds to commit crime, so help yourself by keeping a close eye on all your belongings."
• South Bank residents can contact the fireworks organisers' liason team on email@example.com or 020 8735 2382.