Notting Hill Carnival Safety

MQT on 2017-08-10
Session date: 
August 10, 2017
Question By: 
Tony Devenish
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


As a result of the conclusions from your review into crowd safety of the Notting Hill Carnival, what are you doing to improve the safety of our Carnival?


Answer for Notting Hill Carnival Safety

Answer for Notting Hill Carnival Safety

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chair.  Notting Hill Carnival is one of the most important events on London’s cultural calendar.  This year’s event takes on an added importance and poignancy for the community following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.  Of course, it is the Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust that organises the Carnival, not City Hall, but we have a shared ambition to ensure it takes place successfully and safely.


Following specific concerns raised after the 2016 Carnival about levels of crowding and the potential risks to attendees, the Notting Hill Strategic Partners Group commissioned an independent report by Movement Strategies into crowd dynamics at the Carnival to understand crowding risks and what could be done to ensure a safer future Carnival.  The Strategic Partners Group - consisting of London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), the GLA, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (K&C), Westminster City Council, the MPS, TfL, the London Ambulance Service and the Arts Council - have collectively endorsed the recommendations of the crowding report and are now working together to implement them for this year’s event.


Headline changes agreed by the organisers include: a reduction in the number of sound systems, fewer and smaller vehicles on the Carnival route and an earlier start and finish time for the procession.  I have also allocated £290,000 to support stewarding at the Carnival and, for the first time, the London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust has appointed an event management company to manage this year’s event.


I have discussed the Carnival with the MPS Commissioner.  We should make no mistake: as one of the biggest street parties in Europe, the Carnival weekend makes for one of the most challenging days in the policing calendar.  The MPS continues to review the policing plan to ensure public safety.  MPS activity in the lead-up to and during the Carnival will take into account lessons learned from the recent appalling terror attacks in London and overseas.  For reasons you will understand, Chair, I am unable to go into detail here on counterterror activity but I understand the Police and Crime Committee has been given a separate briefing on this.


I recently received representations from the Minister for London, Greg Hands, asking me to consider relocating the Carnival away from Grenfell Tower.  It is my belief that Notting Hill Carnival should stay where it is.  The Carnival was born out of the African-Caribbean immigrant community in North Kensington and Notting Hill in the 1950s.  It remains incredibly important to this community and I have no intention of moving it elsewhere.


Tony Devenish AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Will you be attending the Carnival yourself this year?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes.


Tony Devenish AM:  Great.  I look forward to seeing you there.  In terms of training the 1,400 stewards the GLA are paying for, can you tell me a little bit about the training that has been taking place, please?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Stewarding was used last year as well, as you will be aware.  It is the trust that appoints the stewards and so it is a decision for them to take about which stewards they appoint.  I am sure they have looked into the training of the various stewarding companies and so it is a question really for the trust rather than me.


Tony Devenish AM:  Can I ask that you take that up?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Are there concerns?


Tony Devenish AM:  It was mentioned at an open meeting this week at the Royal Borough that there was not that much training time built in for the stewards and all the people.  Officers of all the disciplines were a bit concerned about that.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am happy to.  Are there particular concerns around ‑‑


Tony Devenish AM:  Just lack of training for any new stewards, basically.  Will they have enough time for the budget, basically?  That was the concern.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, can I go away and look into that and then write back?  Obviously, Tony is the representative of the area and so it is important that he is reassured.  Can I write back to you on that?


Tony Devenish AM:  Thank you.  Who is ultimately legally responsible for the Carnival, please?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is really important that we work collegially with the various stakeholders.  It is organised, as I said, by the London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust.  They organise the Carnival.  What I do not want is an issue of buck-passing.  We want to work closely with them, as do the police, as do the GLA, as do the two boroughs, the London Ambulance Service, the Arts Council and stuff.  It is a team effort but, obviously, it is not us who organises it.  It is the Carnival Enterprises Trust.


Tony Devenish AM:  Yes, I totally agree with that and I have always been impressed by how everybody works together, but it was quite clear at the meeting this week - as it has been clear every year - that it is not always quite clear where the dividing lines are between the MPS, the two local authorities, the Ambulance Service, TfL, etc.  Officers have drawn these huge charts and it is rather complicated.


You mentioned the Minister’s points, which you rightly made your point on and you are entitled to your views, sir, but in terms of the other point that Mr Hands [Greg Hands MP, Minister for London] made about one person or one organisation - namely potentially you - being responsible for the whole Carnival so that there is direct clear accountability.  That is the point the Minister was making.  He was not trying to make a party-political point.  He was just trying to say, whether the Mayor is you or the previous Mayor, Mr Johnson, or a future Mayor, accountability should be clear.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sure, but you will be aware that the last thing anybody should be doing is taking over community events, whether it is Pride in London or whether it is other events that take place in London.  Nobody is suggesting, for example, I take over football matches.  The Carnival has a rich history of being organised by the local community.


The point I think you are getting to is that the Carnival is the victim of its success.  It has just got bigger and bigger and so they need assistance.  I agree with you that it is not a party-political point that Greg was making in relation to that, but it is not appropriate for somebody from outside the community to take over the Carnival.  What it is appropriate to do is for us to help those who organise the carnival for it to be safe and successful.  That is the offer we have made and the resources we have given to carnival organisers is more than given before.


However, it is a big policing operation.  It is a big source of concern.  Criminals go to the Carnival.  The Carnival does not create criminals and we have to recognise that.  It is a big event.  Too many people go.  It is not surprising that opportunist criminals want to go to the Carnival.  Also, we have to recognise, because it is so successful, there are crowding concerns that the police have.  What we do not want is - God forbid - a Hillsborough type of situation, or terrorists thinking it is an opportunity for them to cause damage.  We have to provide professional advice for obvious reasons.


Tony Devenish AM:  You are reassured the Carnival will be safe for the community this year, particularly on the crowd-crushing element that the report was focused on, please?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am seeing the Commissioner again today and that is one of the issues I will be discussing with her.  We keep things under review.  There is a gold group that has been set up.


The organisers have taken on board the specialist report prepared by the experts after last year.  The Police and Crime Committee has discussed some of the issues and concerns around counterterror.  You will be aware last year’s Carnival took place after Nice and so the organisers were very responsible about making changes, which we appreciate.  Further changes are taking place this year for safety reasons and we will keep it under review.


The evidence I have so far is that I am assured about safety.  I am reassured about safety.  Obviously, it is a number of weeks until the Carnival.  We will keep it under review.  You will also be aware, as I alluded to in my answer, the organisers have been very sensible about making some other changes this year from previous years and that is to be welcomed.


Tony Devenish AM:  Thank you very much.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Thanks to Assembly Member Devenish for bringing this question and, Mayor, thank you for reminding us of the history associated with the Carnival.  It started in 1958 with Caribbeans reclaiming the streets in the face of the terror that they were experiencing then and of course the Mother of Carnival, Claudia Jones.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Absolutely right.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Thank you for that and I hope everybody has an enjoyable, safe and happy Carnival, jumping up and wining as they do.  I will not be there, sadly.