Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Budget Latest

This morning Boris gave evidence to the budget committee in a follow up from last weeks excellent session. Like Simon Milton he began by pointing out that for once, under the new government, London had received a better settlement than many other parts of the country. Against a background of cross the board reductions London had shouldered a 16% cut whereas the national average was 17%. The Mayor also expected further announcements in the coming days which would herald more money from government.

As usual, I pressed him to freeze the council tax precept not just this year, but in 2012/13 as well, leaving a 0% increase over his full term of office. Like Simon Milton, Boris refused to be drawn but he did point out that the freeze so far equated overall to a 6% cut, a welcome contrast to his predecessor who raised the precept by 153% during his term of office!

The Banks

As demonstrated on the last thread, whilst irrelevant to the detailed budget process, The Banks are very important to The Left, who try to use them as cover for their own fiscal irresponsibility. Len Duval suggested the Boris was wrong to defend bankers who could have been taxed more to fund London's budget. Leaving aside the very real possibility that London wouldn't even have seen a lot of the money, Boris emphasised the importance of the financial sector to the capital. Until an alternative source of employment and revenue is created, he is keen to protect what we do have.


Boris is particularly proud that tough lobbying has secured all the money needed for Crossrail, the Tube upgrades, and to protect concessionary fares including the vital 24hr Freedom Pass. The fare increases are unpopular but he reminded us that fares had risen by more than inflation under the previous Mayor too. He stated that the fares package would eliminate the black hole left in TfL's budget by Livingstone's decision to delay his fares package until after the election. The abolition of the zone 2-6 travelcard had been controversial but only 6,000 journeys - of a total 3.5 million - were made using these cards and in most cases Oyster pay as you go would provide a cost effective alternative.

I asked if upgrades to the main line stations in Havering and Redbridge were included in the Crossrail budget. Making the stations safer and more accessible is essential, but Boris pointed out that Network Rail were funding this part of the project. It is to be hoped that they won't be penny pinching here.

And John Biggs revealed that, despite living close to the centre of town, he hadn't ridden a bike in years. What a missed opportunity - we could all have been riding 'Biggs Bikes'...


The Mayor was pleased that crime continued to fall, despite the recession, and particularly on public transport. He was committed to driving down crime even further and to increasing police visibility on the beat. The recruitment freeze has led to a fall in police numbers but even so, Boris was confident that there would still be between 32 and 33 thousand fully warranted officers in the force in 2012 - more than the number he inherited from Ken. Again, some further announcements - he referred to them as 'sleek rabbits out of hats' - would be made during the budget process, and he intended also to protect PCSO numbers.

Asked about police overtime, the Mayor stated that the unpredictability of demonstrations and other disorder made it difficult to commit to a lower figure. Darren Johnson reported that only 7% of overtime was incurred policing public order situations, so there should be other ways it can be controlled. Boris promised to investigate further. I told the Mayor that abstraction of police officers from outer London to cover these events should be done as sparingly as possible.

Next Stages

The budget - and associated sleek rabbits - will now go on to be debated by the Assembly in February. A two thirds majority is needed to amend the proposals so changes will need to command cross party support. The next budget committee meeting takes place on 3rd March.


Mrs Angry said...

In the self appointed capacity of spokesperson for 'The Left' here, I feel I must point out that bankers are not uniquely important to the capital. Many jobs are of incalculable value to us: firefighters, for example - is Boris going to worry about their alternative source of employment and revenue if, as rumour has it, they are all sacked and forced to compete for a greatly reduced number of posts? Is Boris keen to protect our emergency services, and ensure that we can provide the highest standard of cover for Londoners? Or is it only the over privileged and irresponsible gamblers in the city who qualify for his sympathy?

In regard to your comments about police numbers, may I point out that I know that here in Barnet police officers are already being abstracted from their usual work on a regular basis, and not for demonstrations but for ordinary duties. This practice is obviously going to have an detrimental impact on crime management in the outer boroughs.

I rather think we Londoners are a little too sophisticated to be easily impressed by sleek rabbits, smoke and mirrors, Mr Evans ... but if Boris is Paul Daniels, does that make you the lovely Debbie McGee?(This comment is now highly unlikely to be published, I do realise!)

Redbridge resident said...

If Biggs doesn't ride a bike then what are we predatory motorists to use for target practice?

Roger Evans said...

Mrs A, I always had a soft spot for lovely Debbie, so I will take the comparison as the compliment it was no doubt intended to be...

Of course emergency services are vital and they need protecting - they also need modernising, and the dispute over shift patterns currently coming to a head has been rumbling on since Livingstone's days in 2005. On many occasions Labour members have actually voted in favour of the changes at LFEPA but they take care to keep quiet about it.

As for banking, we do need some profitable sectors to pay for the public services that London needs. I don't see any alternatives being offered by people from The Left when they sneer at financial services.

It isn't as if all the other cities are shunning the bankers, quite the opposite in fact. They would love to take a slice of our banking sector. Zurich may not be much fun at the weekend but with the tax your average banker saves by working there he can afford to fly first class to London if he wants to see Chicago, go to a concert at the O2 or watch Mayor's Question Time.

Mrs Angry said...

Izzy wizzy, let's get busy: oh, no - hold on, that was Sooty, wasn't it?
I can't actually speak for 'The Left', whatever that may be, other than anyone with half a brain who objects to the breakneck speed with which we are hurtling to social and economic oblivion. I certainly do not sneer at financial services: as a matter of fact my own father was, ssh, not only a lifelong Tory, but spent his entire working life in the City, working his way from office boy to director of a large company at a time when such a position was otherwise exclusively held by public schoolboys with the right connections. I know that he would have been incensed by the irresponsible behaviour of much of the banking sector, and their self indulgent practice of putting self reward before the best interests of the economy.

Why must we reward the chief executives of subsidised banks with obscene amounts of money in bonuses? What is the moral difference between accepting public subsidy in benefits as a single parent or a greedy banking executive? It's only a matter of scale, isn't it? Why is it that ordinary, hardworking citizens are being asked to buy into to the Big Society/Pledge Bank nonsense and work for nothing to contribute to the community, yet the bankers who squander billions of our money in speculative ventures are not obliged to show any commitment to the wellbeing of our nation?

As for bankers in Zurich with money to waste on first class tickets to Chicago, but pining for the O2 and a sight of Boris Johnson: serves them right for choosing to live in Switzerland, the dullest country in Europe,and whose prosperity and generous tax system was founded on an historical policy of politely avoiding moral or ethical questions of the origin of any investments.