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Khan accused of ‘running scared’ after People’s Question Time moved online

The twice-yearly meeting gives Londoners a chance to quiz the mayor but safety fears have led to the event being streamed on the web instead, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan at Mayor's Question Time
Sadiq Khan at Mayor’s Question Time

An event where Londoners are given the chance to directly quiz Sadiq Khan has been moved online due to fears for the mayor and others’ safety.

City Hall has announced that the next People’s Question Time session – which was expected to be hosted on 29th February in Richmond – will instead be conducted virtually.

The London Assembly’s Tory group accused the mayor of “running scared of scrutiny”.

The sessions are required by law to be held twice every year. The last session in November had to be moved from its planned location in Westminster to City Hall, in the Royal Docks – due to similar security concerns. The Labour mayor, along with 16 assembly members, fielded questions from a rowdy audience, separated by a protective glass screen.

A City Hall spokesperson said: “People’s Question Time is a key opportunity for Londoners to engage directly with the mayor and London Assembly members to discuss the issues they care about in a safe environment.

“Unacceptable behaviour at the last PQT meeting disrupted the event and put the safety of all those attending and staffing the event at risk.

“The decision has therefore been taken to host February’s PQT online, allowing the event to go ahead safely so that Londoners can pose their questions to the mayor and assembly members.”

At the last event, in Westminster, anti-Ulez protesters frequently disrupted proceedings, with chants of “Get Khan out”. Many audience members complained angrily that the mayor failed to answer their questions and one man was forcibly removed from the building after the meeting ended.

The Met Police said at the time that a 50-year-old man was given a penalty notice for disorder, which carries a penalty of up to £80, after he stuck an offensive sticker on a glass window “causing harassment, alarm and distress” as he left City Hall. He was escorted from the building by police.

Commenting on the decision to hold the next session online, City Hall Conservatives’ leader Neil Garratt said: “Sadiq Khan is running scared of scrutiny. Twice in January he announced policies straight after London Assembly meetings because he knew his half-baked plans would not stand up to our questioning.

“Now he’s dodging Londoners’ questions as well, banning the people from People’s Question Time so he can hide online. Every other Mayor has attended People’s Question Time in person. Sadiq Khan is afraid to face Londoners and he’s afraid to face scrutiny.”

It is not the first time that People’s Question Time sessions have been held online – as they were conducted virtually three times, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A review is to be held in the early summer, where proposals for how to manage future sessions are expected be agreed by the mayor in consultation with the assembly.