Mayor's comms spend 'beggars belief'

Boris Johnson
Image caption Mr Johnson's project will focus on "drivers and perception qualitative research"

The Mayor of London is being criticised for spending £160,000 to find out why many people do not know what he does.

Boris Johnson wants to launch a research project to increase the "perception that the mayor listens to the views of London".

Opponents say the spend "beggars belief" and claim it is designed to promote the mayor's national political ambitions.

But City Hall insists it is a justifiable investment.

The mayor's team insist the spend is required to ensure Mr Johnson is supported by "world class marketing and communications".

According to a paper submitted to the mayor's investment board, the research is needed to drive "awareness, knowledge and therefore satisfaction with the mayor".

It says an annual survey of Londoners' views in 2011 suggested 20% felt informed about the work of the mayor and the Greater London Authority.

That compares to 37% in 2007, the last year of Ken Livingstone's mayoralty.

'Completely egotistical'

The bid says the project will consist of "drivers and perception qualitative research", " panel omnibus research", " user experience research" and an "advertising diagnostics review".

In short, one of the central aims will be exploring how the GLA website can be improved.

But opposition parties say it is a waste of money.

The leader of the Labour group on the London assembly, Len Duvall, said: "At a time of austerity and deep cuts to our police and fire services, I am stunned that he is spending £160,000 on surveys to find out what Londoners think about him.

"What planet is he on if he thinks this is a priority? It is completely egotistical.

"Does this have anything to do with him going for a national seat in London?"

Mr Duvall added: "For this money he could fund three police officers - I know which one my local residents would prefer."

Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said: "The Mayor of London already has a large press office and Transport for London devote huge resources to promoting him as well.

"It beggars belief that anyone seriously thinks additional public money should be spent on promoting the Mayor or defending his policies."

Image caption The GLA website was revamped a few months ago

"This appears to have more to do with the Mayor's wider national ambitions than what is proper for London taxpayers."

The GLA website was re-vamped a few months ago - and in the run up to the Olympics thousands of pounds were spent on creating another website, Mayor of London Presents.

That promotes the mayor by publicising events in the capital with which he is involved.

The mayor criticised and scrapped his predecessor Ken Livingstone's free monthly newspaper The Londoner, which reported on the work of the mayoralty and the GLA.

'Direct to Londoners'

City Hall argues there has been "limited" spending in the past on reviewing the GLA's marketing and communications functions.

The £160,000 is to be taken from budgets used to foster better community relations and stage "people's question times", events where the mayor is questioned in public by Londoners about his policies.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: "Over the last decade, there have been huge developments in the way that people obtain information, particularly with the explosion of social media.

"The GLA is undergoing a strategic review which will inform how City Hall communicates directly to Londoners to drive awareness and increase engagement to policies.

"This will ensure as many people as possible are informed about the issues that affect them and that the Mayor can be held fully to account."

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