Thursday 19 November 2020 4:18 pm

Exclusive: Sadiq Khan's PR budget soars by 33 per cent in four years

Sadiq Khan has increased City Hall spending on public relations by 33 per cent over the course of his term in office, according to newly released figures.

Numbers released by City Hall through a freedom of information request show the mayor spent £977,912 on press office costs for 2019/20, compared to £732,537 in 2015/16.

Read more: Sadiq Khan forced to cut budget by £38m after Covid leaves black hole

Spending on the mayor’s office as a whole has also skyrocketed in this period, increasing 60 per cent from £3.8m in 2015/16 to £6m in 2019/20.

In the mayor’s newly released 2021 budget, there will be savings of £136,000 on his office costs.

City Hall Conservatives have often criticised the mayor for being more concerned with his media image than on policy, a claim Khan has denied on multiple occasions.

London Assembly member and leader of the City Hall Tories Susan Hall said Khan’s spending on press officers was “extortionate”.

“It beggars belief that the mayor plans to cut London’s policing and fire budgets by £130m, but is protecting his office which costs Londoners millions more than Boris Johnson’s did,” she said.

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“Ever since he was elected, Sadiq Khan has consistently and shamelessly prioritised wasting money on perks, PR and bureaucracy.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said Khan “made no apologies for engaging with the media in order to keep Londoners informed”.

“This has never been more important that during the current pandemic, during which the mayor has worked closely with the media to advise Londoners of crucial public health information that has helped to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives,” they said.

The mayor has said he needs to cut almost £500m from City Hall’s budget this year, after the pandemic crippled revenues.

He has also had to secure billions of pounds of funding for Transport for London (TfL), after passenger numbers plummeted.

Tony Travers, professor of local government at the London School of Economics, said there were much better and easier ways for the mayor to save money than to sack press officers.

Read more: Rishi Sunak ‘pushing’ for cut in UK’s aid budget in spending review

“It’s a relatively large percentage increase, but the amount itself is actually quite modest in the scheme of things,” he said.

“The government spent £77m on one advertising campaign to prepare people for Brexit for example.

“If you were looking of ways to find efficiencies, there are other ways to get much bigger savings.”