Mayor Johnson chaired his first Olympic Board meeting today and announced cuts to the GLA programme for the Beijing Olympics. See Standard story here. He aims to save Â£1.2 million out of the Â£4.6 million budget for the so-called London House at the Beijing Olympics. Most of this Â£4.6 million is of little value to Londoners but you need to be careful not to just destroy ventures like this for the sake of it. If much of the money is already committed it is destructive to just chop it. It looks like a practical decision to cut the cost of the London House without just scrapping it outright.
No doubt Gordon Ramsay’s 18 cooks, note not Ramsay himself, will be disappointed not to be going to Beijing. I guess cooking in Beijing in August would be a pretty hot and sticky business so maybe not such a loss.
It is hard to work out where to draw the line. The TfL magic bus to Beijing which was cancelled last month was going to cost Â£450,000. It was cancelled but Â£150,000 had already been spent and was thus wasted. The trip would have looked somewhat inappropriate in the face of the Chinese earthquake. The Â£300K saving looks worthwhile and sensible. On balance another good decision. But, if Â£350,000 had been committed you might have kept it and perhaps changed the route to avoid earthquake areas.
The best way to save money is not to make these grandiose commitments in the first place. It is easy to make gestures when you are spending other people’s money. Much better that this money is spent closer to home on events that real Londoners can enjoy. Even better if some or all of it is left in our own pockets for our own pleasure.