London development body accused of wasting millions of pounds
AN ECONOMIC development body in London has been accused of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on “pet projects”, including £4,000 on an experiment to question “neoliberal economic dogma”.
London Economic Action Partner- ship (LEAP) spent £44m of public money in 2017-18, aiming to “identify strategic actions to support and lead economic growth and job creation in the capital”. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, is the chairman of the group. It receives money from a variety of public funds, including City Hall’s budget, central government and the EU. It gave £4,000 to fund the Brixton Pound Cafe, a café where there are no set prices and customers pay what they like. Its website describes it as a “utopian experiment” to question “neoliberal economic dogma”.
Funding of £200,000 went to a “beach summer event”, with no breakdown of how exactly this money was spent. LEAP also spent £5,858 on flights to China, £80,000 on another beach project and £1,900 on photographs of its team.
The body has been criticised for a lack of transparency in how money going to projects is spent. Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for mayor in 2020, said: “Londoners will be shocked by these findings. We need more bobbies on the beat, not pointless pet projects.”
LEAP is one of many Local Economic Partnerships, organisations that were established after the financial crisis in 2008 to provide resources for redevelopment. They are intended to bring together private and public organisations to support local economic growth.
John O’connell, chief executive of think tank the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said the scheme should be wound up and a “serious investigation” take place into the spending. “It is completely ludicrous that in modern Britain there is an opaque slush fund of taxpayers’ cash that is being doled out to arbitrary projects in the capital,” he said.
“There is no explanation of the funding decisions made by this slush fund and no evidence of the board seeking anything like value for money. What’s worse, the rationale behind these funding decisions are entirely unknown, and taxpayers don’t know who is deciding where tens of millions of pounds goes.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “This is a ludicrous political attack on LEAP which is a partnership between businesses, councils and the Mayor that supports economic growth and small businesses across London and was recently given a clean bill of health by government officials.
“The Mayor makes no apologies whatsoever for doing everything possible to support small businesses to grow and create new jobs.”