Boris Johnson appeared before the London Assembly today to answer questions about his final budget before May’s election.
The £14.6 billion budget sets out spending plans for the Greater London Authority and its functional bodies – Transport for London, the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority and the new Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
The Mayor has already appeared before Members of the Budget and Performance Committee and will present his final budget to Assembly Members on 9th February.
Reading a statement published simultaneously on his re-election website, the Mayor launched into a pre-emptive defence of his administration, insisting he had directed “scarce” resources where they were needed.
Despite previous concerns by the Assembly over the level of borrowing incurred by his administration, Johnson insisted he would not “burden future generations in debt”.
The bad tempered question session saw the Mayor and Labour Assembly Members rehearse a number of key election themes.
Johnson attacking Labour’s promise of a fares cut as “a swindle” and insisted the choice facing whoever was mayor was between lower fares and cutting investment, he also accused Labour AMs of being “fare dodgers”.
The Mayor insisted any extra sums collected by Transport for London were attributable to “inflation” and have been spent already.
He also accused Labour of “stuffing the gullet” of their “cronies” after being questioned about a pay increase for appointees to TfL.
Asked by Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon why conductors on the new Bus for London would not be responsible for checking fares and validating Oyster cards, he accused her of being “facetious”.
Pidgeon had based her question on a TfL leaflet which states: “Conductors will be on hand to supervise the safe operation of the rear platform. They will also help those with impaired mobility and provide journey information. The conductor will not collect fares, check passes or validate Oyster cards.”
At one stage Chair Jennette Arnold threatened to adjourn the meeting if tempers were not calmed.
On the issue of police numbers, the Mayor insisted there would be “around 1,000 more fully warranted police officers on London’s streets at the end of this term than I inherited” despite apparently telling LBC radio this week that office numbers had fallen.
Labour and Green Party AMs say the Mayor is cutting the Met’s civilian staff, leading to more officers fulfilling back office roles, a claim Johnson disputed at the today’s meeting.
Questioned by Green Party AM Darren Johnson, the Mayor conceded he was unlikely to meet his target for retrofitting targets but insisted there was still scope to make progress.
He also faced calls from Tory AM and Fire Authority Chair Brian Coleman to make clear he did not see the Authority as “a cash cow” after raiding its reserves to provide £30m of additional funding to the Met.
Following questions to the Mayor, AMs passed a motion which accusing him of “proposing a budget which fails to address key London priorities including policing, affordable public transport, jobs, housing and environmental problems.”
John Biggs AM, who proposed the motion, said; “The Mayor has failed to set out a credible vision to steer London to a fair and prosperous future at a time when many Londoners are under severe financial pressure.
Darren Johnson AM, who seconded the motion, said: “The Mayor’s budget delivers unaffordable fares, environmental inaction and puts public safety at risk. We want to see his budget focus on the real priorities of Londoners, clean air, safer neighbourhoods and reasonably priced transport.”
The motion was agreed by 13 votes for to 11 against
Assembly Members will vote on the Mayor’s budget when it returns before them in February.
The final budget can only be amended by a two-thirds majority of AMs. With 11 Conservative members on the 25-strong Assembly, Mayor Johnson is guaranteed his budget will pass unamended.
This year’s overall budget will remain in place regardless of the outcome of May’s election, however a new Mayor would be free to end existing schemes and allocate spending to their own policies and initiatives.