Wednesday saw the agreement of 2011/12 budgets both at City Hall and Havering Council.
Greater London Authority
Boris presented his final budget to a full meeting of the assembly. He had noted our concerns about plans to spend £6 million on the 101 single telephone number for public services in London. He assured us that he would be reviewing the project. Having received this assurance, the Conservative Group withdrew that part of its amendment.
Political groups presented amendments that remained largely unchanged from two weeks earlier, with the exception of the Greens who wanted to spend £4 million on the Year of Walking. None of the amendments attracted enough votes to clear the necessary two thirds hurdle required for their adoption.
John Biggs lost his temper with the mayor, calling him a 'lazy liar' and a lot more before the chair proposed a vote to exclude him from debate - which was passed. Biggs is often casually rude but it seems to arise from thoughtlessness and I don't take offence. There is however something about Boris that gets under his skin and sometimes he really loses it. This was one of those occasions and it was the first time in its history that the assembly voted to silence one of its own members - not a very welcome precedent, particularly as the session was going out live on BBC Parliament.
With no amendments, the mayor's budget was approved by default, giving Londoners another year's council tax freeze, the third in a row - contrasting with Livingstone's 154% increase over his term of office.
London Borough of Havering
With riots and the police called to some council meetings, we were on the edge of our seats in the evening. However there were no protests and the meeting was very civilised.
Over the years Havering has become accustomed to being short changed by central government, so the council is used to introducing efficiencies and sharing services to save costs. The difficult budget was masterfully constructed by Cllr Roger Ramsey and his team of finance officers, working with the unions who therefore did not find it necessary to wave placards outside the meeting.
The Labour opposition didn't propose any alterations to the budget, although a couple of them did dedicate their speeches to polishing Gordon Brown's reputation, after young Conservative councillors made references to the dreadful economic legacy he had left.
The Official Residents' Association councillors proposed introducing free parking in their wards and paying for it by cutting special responsibility allowances and consultancy fees. This is pretty much what they do every year.
The Independent Resident's Association Group (yes, it really is like Monty Python's Life Of Brian) proposed spending £5,000 on a legal challenge to force more grant from the government, but this was disallowed by the Mayor because they had failed to identify where the money was coming from and £5k won't get you a cup of tea at the High Court these days.
With little else on the table the opposition groups congregated around the free parking amendment which fell to the overwhelming Tory majority. However there was some consolation for them in the Leader's announcement that several committees would be scrapped along with the chair's allowances (my own Partnerships Scrutiny Committee included). The Deputy Mayor would also have his allowance ceased, although he would still fulfil his duties.
The administration budget was approved, freezing the council tax at £1,505 for a Band D property.