Big questions for Boris in light of fireworks ticketing fiasco

Despite prior warnings about ticket touting, little was done to stop widespread abuse.

Despite prior warnings about ticket touting, little was done to stop widespread abuse

London Mayor Boris Johnson faces questions over his handling of the sell-off of the New Year’s Eve fireworks after it emerged that touts were selling tickets to the previously free event for as much as £500.

The decision to charge for tickets to the NYE fireworks display was made by Boris and was supported by the opposition London Labour Group, as well as by Transport For London, the emergency services and local authorities.

The large numbers of people attending the event had made the status quo “untenable”, according to the Mayor, and 100,000 tickets were recently released at a cost of £10 each to the public.

However despite prior warnings about the risk of ticket touting, little was done to stop widespread abuse and within hours of the tickets being released to the public they were available on resale sites for as much as £500.

Despite around half a million people attending last year’s event and just 100,000 tickets going on sale this year, the Mayor’s office appears to have done little to stop the black market cashing in on the event.

It’s also emerged that a London start-up company offered to host the New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations for free, with tickets allocated via random electronic ballots, only to be rebuffed by the Mayor’s office.

The fireworks themselves are being run by Kimbolton Fireworks Ltd, a family company run by Conservative MP Mark Lancaster’s father and which the Milton Keynes North MP and Treasury whip is a registered shareholder of. Lancaster was previously director of the company before entering Parliament in 2005.

Boris has pledged that of the £1m raised through ticketing “every penny of the £10 administration fee will be used to pay for the ticketing itself, and the extra infrastructure the decision to ticket will bring”, however as yet he has not specified exactly who will manage the ‘extra infrastructure’.

Speaking to Left Foot Forward, London Assembly Labour Group economy spokesperson Fiona Twycross AM said that while there were good public safety reasons behind the introduction of ticketing, Boris’s “failure to put in place safeguards to prevent touting has led to tickets being gobbled up by those set on making a profit out of this fantastic event”.

“What nobody wants to see are ticket touts making a killing and big companies taking home monster profits from this publically funded celebration,” she said.

She also added: “By rejecting offers to run the ticketing for free, Boris Johnson appears to be more focused on handing over vast amounts of taxpayer cash to big companies than he is on securing solutions which mean everyone is able to enjoy the New Year’s Eve fireworks without cost.”

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