Here’s the full version of my story from today’s paper:
Ken Livingstone’s City Hall paid at least £6,500 of public money to a woman who secretly bore his child, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
Mr Livingstone also gave Jan Woolf prestigious free exhibition space at City Hall for a show of her husband’s photographs, curated by her. The then mayor made a vital planning decision in favour of an organisation she worked for, against fierce objections from local residents. He lent another of Ms Woolf’s clients valuable space at City Hall free of charge for a “networking reception.” He kept the true nature of his relationship with Ms Woolf secret at the time and only revealed it last year, three years after he left the mayoralty.
Ms Woolf has played and continues to play a key role in Mr Livingstone’s finances, raising more than £300,000 for his mayoral campaigns, including his current bid to be re-elected mayor next month.
Ms Woolf, a cultural activist, is the mother of Mr Livingstone’s 20-year-old son Liam. As Mr Livingstone revealed in his autobiography last year, he fathered the boy in November 1992 as a favour to Ms Woolf, who wanted a child but was separated from her husband. Mr Livingstone also disclosed that he had earlier fathered two daughters for another friend, Philippa Need, in the same way. Mr Livingstone was in a relationship with a third woman at the time and has never lived with any of the children, though he has seen them regularly and supported them financially.
Though he now claims that his children with Ms Woolf and Ms Need “weren’t secret,” Mr Livingstone denied and refused to admit their existence before and during his mayoralty. In July 1999, when Liam was six years old, he threatened to “issue a writ for malicious libel” against anyone claiming that he had a secret son. Mr Livingstone did not identify Ms Woolf as Liam’s mother until October 2011.
Documents seen by The Sunday Telegraph show that in 2007 Mr Livingstone’s office paid £9,200 to commission a new play marking the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery. The play, Become a Man, was produced by Ms Woolf. £6,737 of the funding was paid directly to her personal company, Rootball Productions. The play was the first ever to be performed at City Hall.
Ms Woolf was also given prestigious free exhibition space at City Hall to curate a photographic exhibition, Rebels and Trouble Makers, in November of the same year. For the exhibition, she commissioned a number of new pictures from her own husband, Geoff. The GLA said last night that it could not say how much the exhibition cost it or whether the photos were paid for by taxpayers.
Ms Woolf was also commissioned by Mr Livingstone’s GLA to produce an anti-Iraq war festival, London Says Not In Our Name, held at City Hall on 23 February 2003. Performers included the poet Harold Pinter, the actress Harriet Walter and the comedians Alexei Sayle and Jeremy Hardy. The GLA said last night that it could not locate records on the cost of the event or who was paid for it.
In 2004, Ms Woolf took a job as a fundraiser for the Caspari Foundation, a charity promoting educational therapy. The same year, the foundation was granted free use of the top-floor reception room at City Hall for a fundraising and networking event.
In 2007, Ms Woolf moved to work for the Stockwell Park Community Trust, which ran a housing estate of that name in south London. The same year, Mr Livingstone – who was the final planning authority for London, with the power to reject any scheme – was asked to decide on a massive planning application by the trust for 550 new homes by building on open space and erecting taller buildings, including an 11-storey tower block.
The Brixton Society and many local residents strongly objected to the proposals, saying they would destroy gardens, block daylight and “over-densify” the neighbourhood. However, Mr Livingstone approved the scheme.
The following year, Ms Woolf organised an “Art Bid 4 Ken” auction to raise funds for Mr Livingstone’s unsuccessful 2008 re-election campaign. The event, which included an artwork donated by Banksy, raised £230,000 for Mr Livingstone, by far his single biggest donation of the campaign, though some of the money had to be paid back after Banksy refused to waive his anonymity as Electoral Commission rules require.
Last month, Ms Woolf ran a similar event for Mr Livingstone’s 2012 campaign. However, it only raised £15,000. She also organised an “Art Bid 4 Ken” event in 2004, raising £55,000. Ms Woolf now lives a few streets away from Mr Livingstone in Cricklewood, north-west London with Liam, who is a student at Leeds Metropolitan University.
City Hall’s code of conduct requires the mayor to disclose whenever he makes a decision “which affects a matter in which he has a personal interest.” A personal interest includes any decision which involves “a member of your family or any person with whom you have a close association.” Mr Livingstone’s register of interest entries for the eight years of his mayoralty make no mention of Rootball or his relationship with Ms Woolf.
Mr Livingstone has a controversial track record in employing members of his family. He hired his partner, Emma Beal, with whom he has fathered two further children, as his City Hall personal assistant on a taxpayer-funded salary of £96,000 a year. She left when Boris Johnson won the mayoralty but the GLA was forced to pay her a substantial settlement.
Mr Livingstone married Ms Beal in 2009 and now uses her as part of his controversial tax-avoidance schemes which have saved him at least £50,000 in tax. Mr Livingstone has his income paid to a personal company in which he and Ms Beal are the sole shareholders, allowing him to pay corporation tax at 20 per cent instead of income tax at up to 50 per cent. He can also split any money he takes out of the company 50-50 with her, even though it was earned entirely by him, benefiting from her personal allowances and her status as a lower-rate taxpayer. He has also paid Ms Beal a salary from company funds, claiming it as a tax-deductible expense.
Ms Woolf said last night that some of the money she received for the play had gone to its writer and she had “no idea” whether anyone at the GLA was aware of her relationship with the mayor when she was chosen for the contract. She said she had not received any payment from the GLA for the photographic exhibition or the Iraq War event, and had not discussed the Stockwell Park planning application with Mr Livingstone.
Mr Livingstone declined to comment.
PS: Ken is also in hot water for his lavish mayoral expenses in today’s Mail on Sunday. Apparently, he charged taxpayers, among other things, £260 for a pair of shoes.