Sadiq Khan has confirmed to London Assembly Members that the traditional South Bank fireworks display marking the start of the New Year will not be taking place this year.
The Mayor said at today’s Mayor’s Question Time session that City Hall budget cuts agreed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with safety concerns, have meant the cancellation of the annual spectacular, which has been staged beside the Thames since 1999.
In August, £1.25 million originally allocated for this year’s event were axed as part of a £20.1 million savings package for 2020/21, Khan said, though plans were still being made for an alternative event.
“We have not finalised what we will do instead of the fireworks,” Khan told AMs, adding: “It is important for London’s reputation to do something.”
The fireworks have increasingly become a showcase for London “nationally and internationally”, according to City Hall reports, as well as bringing significant business to the capital.
The event became ticket-only under Boris Johnson in 2014, following concerns about managing increasing congestion and estimates of up to 500,000 people crowding the river banks between Blackfriars Bridge and Lambeth Bridge.
Since then, some 10,000 tickets have been sold each year for entry to viewing areas between the bridges at an unchanged rate of £10, raising some £1.05 million annually towards the cost of the event, including £2.3 million in 2019.
Londoners made up 23% of ticket holders last year, with 43% coming from the rest of the UK and overseas visitors from more than 110 countries making up 28% spending more than £12 million between them.
The event has increasingly become part of New Year celebrations around the world, with more than 12 million watching the event on BBC1 and millions more watching online and seeing the fireworks in montages of city displays broadcast globally.
The fireworks have also contributed to a positive image for the capital, encouraging tourists, students and workers, according to City Hall research. In a 2018 post-event survey, 61% agreed that the event put London in a positive light, with 79% of respondents being first-time attendees and 58% saying they would visit London again.
A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “We are currently working up plans to ensure that we usher in the New Year in London in a spectacular but safe way. An announcement will be made in due course.”
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