London's New Year fireworks display was almost cancelled when a major sponsor pulled out with just six weeks to go, prompting the Mayor of London to switch contractors and increase public spending on the event by more than a third.
A document published by City Hall this week show that the total public funding for the event jumped from £1.45 million to £2 million after the unnamed event management firm told the Greater London Authority in mid-November that the main commercial sponsor – worth £500,000 – had pulled out and that the organiser was unwilling to shoulder the extra financial risk.
The mayoral decision document, which was signed by Boris Johnson on 22 November last year but only published on Monday this week, notes that the GLA faced two options: cancel the fireworks display or agree to throw more public money at the event.
The Mayor authorised the release of the extra cash to enable the fireworks display at the London Eye – which marked the end of London's year of Olympic and Diamond Jubilee festivities – to go ahead.
The change to the budget arrangements meant that City Hall was forced to seek new proposals from the two original bidders for the fireworks display contract with just six weeks to go until the event was due to take place.
Although the two bidders are not named in the City Hall document, it is clear that the contract was switched at the eleventh hour to Jack Morton Worldwide, the organisers of eight previous New Year fireworks displays at the London Eye, who had been unsuccessful in the original tendering exercise for the 2012/13 display.
The contractual wrangling explains why City Hall didn't go public on plans for the display until 6 December, whereas in previous years details of the New Year's Eve event have been released in mid-November.