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Khan’s ‘night czar’ gets 40 per cent pay hike

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Much was made of Amy Lamé’s appointment as London’s first ‘night czar’ back in November 2016. The then newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan trumpeted that she would be a ‘much-needed ambassador for the city after dark… a fantastic hire who will give a big boost to our city’s flourishing nightlife’ with a ‘proven track-record of helping save venues’. But fast forward six years and such rhetoric seems somewhat hollow now.

Estimates vary as to how many London venues have closed in recent years, with Printworks among those sites set to shut in 2023. One count claims 58 venues shut during the pandemic – or 25 per cent of the capital’s nightclubs. Khan’s own City Hall points to data which suggests that the number of venues operating as nightclubs in the capital dropped by 22 per cent between 2019 and 2021, the fewest since the mid-nineties. The pandemic was unavoidable and disastrous for nightclubs in major urban areas across the globe. But London punters appear to be far from impressed by Lamé’s performance in office: a petition was launched in July 2020 calling for her to quit.

A week after that petition began, in August 2020, Lamé gave an interview to the Observer in which she claimed that ‘I will be judged by the work that I do.’ That same piece featured ‘unanimous’ criticism from ‘more than a dozen club owners, promoters and nightlife workers’ who believed that she had ‘achieved little in the post.’ Indeed, only 27 of Lamé’s much-vaunted ‘night surgeries’ are listed on her online page as being held between December 2016 and May 2022: an average of one every two and a half months.

Her supporters in City Hall suggest she has helped stem the fall in the number of grassroots music and LGBTQI+ venues, launching the Women’s Night Safety Charter and a £500,000 programme to create new Night Time Enterprise Zones. But she has not avoided controversy too. After Khan appointed her to the role, Lamé was ordered to delete a number of offensive tweets about the Conservative party, which included celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher. She was also criticised for pocketing £1,000 from a drag event she helped to host in Walthamstow and faced questions over her own tax arrangements too.

Given this mixed record, after six years in post, you would think Lamé’s job might be on the line. Not a bit of it, judging by her remuneration package. For Mr S has today discovered that the ‘night czar’ quietly received a pay increase of 40 per cent more than the £83,169 widely-quoted in recent media reports. She is now in receipt of a salary of £116,925, thanks to two pay bumps in seven months: the first in September 2021 and the second in April 2022 as part of the Greater London Authority’s annual salary increment.

Neil Garratt, the Conservative economy spokesman for the GLA questioned Lamé’s ‘extravagant’ pay rise. He told Mr S that ‘instead of a blank cheque this post needs a fresh start, starting with whether we really need it at all.’ A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: 

The Night Czar’s job description was independently reviewed to better reflect the responsibilities of the role, as part of a restructure of the Mayor’s Office following the 2021 election. The post was then graded using the GLA’s usual independent process, from a grade 13 to 15.

Lamé said more than two years ago that she will be judged on the work she does. At what point will the verdict come in? Still, what can you expect at Sadiq Khan’s City Hall? Labour MP Chris Bryant may be spearheading calls in Westminster for ministerial registers to be overhauled but just down the road his party colleague Mayor Khan hadn’t added to his own register of gifts for six months. It was only after Mr S pointed this out today that the register was quietly updated, with Khan now detailing a further £6,898 in travel and accommodation.

So much for transparent government…

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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The dwindling case for living in London

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The recent debate around ‘levelling up’ may be missing something. I would argue that there is another way to consider geographical inequality – and, by this alternative measure, a levelling has been under way for more than 20 years.

I’ve spent three decades working in advertising, so it’s unsurprising that I tend to view economic life through the lens of consumption. By contrast, mainstream economists tend to view disparities through the medium of earnings or wealth. To me, measures of wealth should include not only the quantity of money you have but the breadth of worthwhile options available in choosing how to spend it.

Let’s put it another way. If you live in a boring village, and suddenly a great pub or café opens on the high street, then by my measure you have become richer; by the economist’s measure you have not.

Things that would once have been available in London decades before the provinces now appear everywhereat once 

There was undoubtedly a time when you were richer in London in two ways. You had more money, but you also had a far more exciting range of ways to spend it. Now not so much.

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London is a great city but, in terms of consumption quality, it has not improved markedly in the past 20 years. Over the same period, many smaller cities and even towns have advanced rapidly, significantly narrowing the gap. The kind of things that would once have been available in the capital decades before making it to the provinces – like sushi – now appear everywhere at once. Consider Turkish barbers, who seem to have taken over the country in only five years. (I can remember a time when it was enough just to get a haircut without having burning methylated spirits flicked in my ears. Back then I just didn’t know any better.)

This levelling is especially true of anything in the digital world: Amazon gadgets, Netflix films, Asos fashions and PlayStation games hit Aberystwyth the same day they hit Islington. But it also applies to the physical environment, as anyone over 50 can attest. I went to Manchester and Sheffield for the first time in 1989. Compared with London, they were then, let’s be honest, utterly rubbish. Now, when I visit those same cities, I experience mild ‘northern envy’. There are interesting places open everywhere. Northerners have better cars, because they have more money left over after paying for housing. And they are much better-looking, because they can nip home to get changed before going out.

Relatively speaking, London has improved far less dramatically than these provincial cities have. (New York, many aficionados argue, has got worse.) OK, the Tube is better than it used to be. Uber is a handy addition. But some things are awful – the last pleasure of driving in London ended when they put speed cameras on the Westway. Accommodation costs for the young wipe out any salary gains.

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By my measure, high property prices won’t just hit Londoners once – they’ll hit them twice. Not only do high rents wipe out what you earn, they also put at risk London’s once unassailable advantage as a great place to spend what money you have left. Creative businesses of any kind require space at a price which allows them to take risks. For a time, London found this space by moving its heartland from west to east. But suppose the people supporting what Douglas McWilliams calls ‘the flat white economy’ flee altogether? In my own experience, Kent suddenly seems weirdly full of fascinating restaurants founded by London exiles. If more of these people leave, the case for staying weakens further.

Londoners always say things like ‘Yes but there’s the theatre’. Let’s face it though – even Shakespeare left London for Stratford in his mid-forties. As he no doubt found, the theatre is all very well, but it’s nothing like being able to park outside your house.

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Gentrification is not a sin

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Gentrification is not a sin – UnHerd

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