Boris Johnson cuts public access to City Hall
Public access to City Hall at weekends and on weekday evenings has been axed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson as part of a cost-cutting drive.
We reported in March that the Mayor was considering the abolition of the ten annual open weekends which allowed Londoners and tourists to visit the riverside City Hall and enjoy the views of Tower Bridge and the Square Mile from the top-floor balcony.
Since the start of the new financial year public access to the home of London's government has been curtailed.
Until last month the lower ramp and cafe at City Hall could be visited on weekdays from 8am to 8pm. Now the doors are open on weekdays between 8.30am and 6.30pm (5.30pm on Fridays).
Last year the Greater London Authority spent £44,000 on weekend public access to City Hall, with each of the 10 open weekends attracting an average of 850 people.
"The Mayor is committed to providing better value for the London taxpayer," said a GLA spokesman.
"The numbers coming into City Hall after 5.30pm and at weekends did not justify the extra costs, including additional security, and monies saved can be redirected to strategic services.
"City Hall will be part of the Open House programme this September and when a specific event takes place after 5.30pm staff will available to accommodate the needs of the public."
The cutbacks mean that the Open House London weekend will be the only regularly scheduled opportunity for the public to visit London's Living Room on the top floor and to use the striking spiral ramp above the London Assembly chamber in the Norman Foster-designed building.
Mr Johnson, who this week marked the first anniversary of his election to the mayoralty, said: "I have put openness and accountability at the heart of my mayoralty because I passionately believe that London taxpayers have a right to know where their money is being spent and how decisions are taken over crucial issues like policing, the economy and transport.
"We have made a great deal of progress in opening up the workings of City Hall to the public over the last 12 months. Whether it is publishing the details of every payment over £1000 made by the GLA online or putting the details of all my Deputy Mayor and advisers' job descriptions and register of interests online, a huge amount of information has been put into the public domain that in the past was hidden away."
But UNISON, which represents many City Hall workers, is unimpressed by the Johnson regime.
"A year on Boris Johnson is boasting about efficiency savings, when what he really means is cutbacks to the staff who helped make it happen," says Linda Perks, UNISON's London regional secretary.
"None of the directors earning over £127,000 have been hit. It is disgusting that the mayor is featherbedding senior bureaucrats' jobs when the employees who do the real work are being sacked.
"There will be at least three new assistant directors, costing more than £350,000. That money could have saved a large number of lower grade staff.
"Leo Boland, the chief executive Boris bought in to do the dirty work, already earns more than the Prime Minister and Boris, on a salary of £205,000, which is a huge rise on last year."