London mayor criticised by assembly members for hiring City economist on a 30-hour week for £127,200 salary
Boris Johnson has appointed leading City economist Gerard Lyons as his chief economic adviser – to the consternation of critics who point out this brings to seven the number of advisers serving the London mayor on a six-figure salary.
Lyons stepped down as Standard Chartered’s chief economist and group head of global Research this month and will take up his city hall post on 2 January, working just under a 30-hour week for a salary of £127,200.
Lyons will provide “strategic advice and intelligence on the economic outlook for London and the wider UK, as well as Europe, the emerging economies, and the United States, in an effort to ensure the right policies are in place to support the capital’s businesses and maintain its economic strength and global competitiveness now and in the future,” said Johnson’s office.
It added: “As part of this role, he will be available to offer strategic advice to the mayor, the deputy mayor for business and enterprise, and the business and economic teams as they seek to deliver on the mayor’s jobs and growth priorities and drive forward apprenticeships and skills programmes.”
The Conservative mayor said: “Gerard has decades of experience analysing the economic outlook at all levels and is renowned for his forecasting to major institutions in the City and on the international stage.
“It is increasingly evident that if London’s businesses are to stay ahead of the game and compete in the global market, we need the best strategies and policies informed by the very best overarching economic advice. I believe that Gerard will bring that expertise to my excellent team at city hall.”
But opposition groups on the London assembly questioned the need for Lyons’ expertise considering the staff already at his disposal.
The Labour group on the assembly accused Johnson of being out of touch with ordinary Londoners, pointing to the levels of remuneration awarded to advisers at a time when the government is urging public sector pay restraint and commuters are braced for transport fare rises in January.
Len Duvall, leader of the Labour group, said: “It’s truly staggering that Boris has appointed yet another person on an astronomical salary. Paying someone £127,200 a year to work part time demonstrates how out of touch he is with the life of ordinary Londoners.”
Johnson is entitled to make up to 12 appointments as mayor. Lyons joins his team, which includes seven deputy mayors – four of whom earn above £127,000 – a salary bracket also enjoyed by his director of communications. Sir Edward Lister, Johnson’s chief of staff, earns £139,000, and Johnson himself earns £143,911 – more than the £142,000 salary earned by the prime minister, David Cameron.
Duvall said: “What makes this worse is that Boris already has a deputy mayor for business, and has London & Partners whose job it is to attract overseas trade and investment. We need to know what Mr Lyons will doing for this huge sum of money, why he needs to be paid so much and what process the mayor went through to appoint him. At a time when the mayor is hitting Londoners with another inflation-busting fare rise, with plans to do the same for another decade, it is astonishing that he can find £127,000 a year to fund yet another appointment.”
Jenny Jones, a Green party assembly member, said Johnson should focus on helping small businesses and other sectors of the economy that are struggling.
“The mayor needs to spend less time rewarding his friends in the banks, and more time helping struggling small businesses,” she said.
“He already has several groups of economics and business advisers, there is no need to hire yet another part-time adviser on a six figure salary.”
Lyons is currently chair of TheCityUK’s Independent Economists Group, and has been vice-chairman of the 48 Group Club – focused on strengthening China-UK relations – since 2009. He has also attended meetings of the panel of economic advisers to the mayor of London, and has written widely on domestic and international economic issues.
Lyons said of his appointment: “It is a great honour to have been asked by the mayor to advise him on economic issues and to help contribute to the continued success of London as it positions itself in the changing global economy.”