Sadiq Khan has increased spending on the mayor of London’s press operation by 26 per cent since being elected, according to newly released figures.
The mayor’s office spent £920,967.95 on communications officers in 2018-19, after his predecesor Boris Johnson spent £732,537.42 in 2015-16.
Khan’s office hired new communications staff in that period, while also giving pay rises to some of its leading figures.
The figures, which were released after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, come alongside substantially increased spending on other City Hall staff.
Figures released last year showed that Khan had increased mayoral office spending by 58 per cent since being election.
While Johnson’s budget in his final year was £3.8m, Khan has budgeted for £6m in 2019-20.
A spokesperson for Khan defended the increase in communications and office spending as necessary.
“It is unfair to compare the current Mayor’s Office budget with that of his predecessor because the previous Mayor was reducing the scope of his administration during his last year at City Hall,” they said.
“Since he was elected, the Mayor has received additional powers across a range of areas including housing, skills and healthcare.”
The increases in spending play into a larger narrative from his opponents that Khan is more concerned about PR than policy.
Independent mayoral candidate Rory Stewart recently told a London Chamber of Commerce event that Khan was more interested in picking fights with Donald Trump for publicity than tackling local London issues.
Conservative London Assembly Member Susan Hall told City A.M. the latest figures “beggar belief”.
“Ever since he was elected, Sadiq Khan has consistently and shamelessly prioritised wasting money on PR and bureaucracy, while entirely failing to get to grips with the biggest challenges facing our city,” she said.
“In the final weeks of Khan’s mayoralty, it isn’t too late for him to change course.”
Khan will be attempting to win a second term in the London’s mayoral election in May.
The former Labour MP is heavily favoured to win the contest, with a recent poll putting the mayor more than 20 points ahead of his nearest challenger – Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey.
The YouGov/Queen Mary University poll put Khan on 45 per cent, Bailey on 23 per cent, Stewart on 13 per cent, Liberal Democrat Siobhan Benita on eight per cent and Green co-leader Sian Berry on seven per cent.