Boris: London’s overseas offices could be closed
London’s new Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, has threatened to close the capital’s overseas offices in an effort to cut costs.
The offices, created by Johnson’s predecessor Ken Livingstone in Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing, Shangai, Brussels, Caracas and Moscow to promote London as an international business and tourism centre, cost close to £1.5 million to run every year.
The Caracas office is almost certain to close given Mr Johnson’s animosity to Livingstone’s warm relationship with president Hugo Chavez, the controversial socialist leader of Venezuela.
Earlier this week Mr Johnson scrapped a deal between Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and London in which 20 per cent of London buses’ fuel bill was cut in exchange for transport and infrastructure advice.
Mr Johnson said: “We have started the process of considering which of the Greater London authority’s international offices perform a useful strategic function and deliver value for money.
“We will look at the Brussels office and its role in pre-empting potentially harmful European legislation.
“We will consider the role of the Indian and Chinese offices in encouraging inward investment and business opportunities for London. We will also look at which functions could be performed by the UK’s foreign embassies.”
He also mentioned handing over the offices’ functions to UK foreign embassies.
The latest move is part of Mr Johnson’s campaign to reduce costs at City Hall.
So far he has scrapped Mr Livingstone’s newspaper, The Londoner, which was equated by many Tory assembly members to Russia’s infamous Communist party paper the Iskra.
The number of staff being sent to the Beijing Olympics will also be cut down to those who are “absolutely crucial”.