Boris Johnson’s council tax cut proposals a ‘meaningless gimmick’

14:00 04 January 2013

Boris Johnson has announced his budget proposals. File picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Boris Johnson has announced his budget proposals. File picture: Ian West/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

London’s key public services face sizable spending cuts next year as the Mayor proposes to cut his share of council tax for the second consecutive year.

The Metropolitan Police and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority will face a squeeze on their expenditure, as outlined in Boris Johnson’s draft budget for 2013/14.

The Greater London Authority’s share of council tax would be reduced by 1.2 per cent - the equivalent of a £3.72p annual cut for the owner of an average Band D property in the capital - should his proposals be approved.

But it comes in the same week many London commuters were hit by above inflation 4.2 per cent fare rises in the cost of using Transport for London services.

Labour and Liberal Democrat London Assembly members rounded on the proposals, describing them as an insult.

Labour’s London Assembly Budget spokesman John Biggs said: “Rather than being a cheerleader for government cuts, the Mayor needs to stand up for Londoners and be counted.

“Since May 2010 the Met has lost 2,208 police officers and 30 fire stations have been identified for possible closure.

“Wages for the majority of workers are barely rising. It is scandalous that Boris has not used his power to curb fare rises, but at the same time is claiming credit for saving households seven pence a week.

His Lib Dem counterpart Stephen Knight said: “The Mayor is shamelessly trying to grab a headline for an utterly trivial seven pence a week cut in council tax on the very same day that Londoners have seen their transport fares rise by more than £1 a week.

“Instead of such meaningless gimmicks, the Mayor should focus his energies on keeping London’s fire and police stations open and keeping transport fares down.

Mr Johnson said: “Against a difficult economic background my planned budget will cut council tax while making significant strides in growing our economy, fighting crime and improving transport.

“Next year the government will carry out its spending review and I will continue to champion the capital to ensure we get the funding necessary to support the economy and quality of life in this great city.”

Below, we take a summarised look at where the Mayor’s £16.5billion budget will be allocated - and the cost cutting required.

POLICING

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is proposing savings in existing services of almost £167million and efficiencies of £137.9m in 2013-14 by cutting staff numbers, closing and selling off police stations and co-locating front counters in supermarkets and coffee shops.

MOPAC will also have a year-on-year net reduction in government grants of £148.4m in 2013-14, although this partly reflects the end of resources provided during the London 2012 Games.

It has budgeted for 31,209 police officers by the end of the 2013/14 financial year, with this rising to 31,933 in 2015 but falling back to 31,957 in 2016.

But the amount of money MOPAC will receive in 2013/14 is down by £313m when compared to last year, mainly down to cuts in specific grant funding and general funding provided to police officers in England and Wales.

FIRE SERVICE

The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority will have to make savings of £5.9milllion, mainly through closing buildings and reducing cover, and efficiencies of £8m, from “cost avoidance, reductions in the establishment and procurement activity.

The authority is facing further reductions in funding from central government grants - around £10million in 2013/14 but it has been allocated £23.3m of council tax support by the Mayor in his draft budget.

Overall, the authority will see a £12m reduction in its budget under the proposals to £448 in the 2013/14 financial year.

TRANSPORT

Annual above-inflation fare increases kicked in at the start of the year. Transport for London has budgeted for an increase of £174 million in fixed income, fares and charges as a result.

The organisation says that inflation-only increases would hamper planned improvements to the Tube network, Crossrail and safety upgrades to the roads and cycling facilities, as outlined last month in its 10-year business plan.

TfL will have to make savings of £134million in 2013/14 but is planning £350m worth of investment in the service.

TfL’s council tax requirement for 2013-14 is £6m. It will receive a total of £802.8m from the Mayor through business rates, £1.1bn from the Greater London Authority and £48m from the government. In addition, it will receive almost £1.1bn in government grant to support its

non-Crossrail capital programme.

GREATER LONDON AUTHORITY

The authority, a strategic London-wide body with responsibility for economic and social development in the capital. It is budgeted to spend £364million in 2013/14.

Its spending targets for this year include delivering 55,000 affordable homes by the end of 2015, investing £231million in the funds aimed at improving areas in the capital, opening 10 academies, continuing to rebuild the Royal Docks, and creating 250,000 opportunities for apprentices.

The consultation period ends on January 23.

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