As the London Assembly votes to approve the Mayor’s draft 2011/12 budget, Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson sets out the aims of an amended budget proposed by his party.
At a time of huge government spending cuts affecting London wide and borough services, the Green Group amendment had three principal objectives:
to protect low income and vulnerable Londoners;
to guarantee continuous funding to tackle climate change and London’s other serious environmental problems;
to protect neighbourhood and borough level policing.
The Mayor’s budget relies on a steep rise in public transport fares, well above inflation, at a time when many Londoners are already facing real pay cuts or the prospect of losing their job. A typical working family would pay around £160 extra a year in fares.
We would have brought down the fare increase to the inflation level, and instead raise the congestion charge to £16 and reintroduce the Western Extension. Our budget included other measures to protect the most vulnerable such as guaranteed funding for pan London homelessness projects which are currently at risk of funding cuts.
The Green amendment would have also addressed London’s most serious immediate environmental problem affecting the health of thousands: air pollution. Our budget would have funded a Very Low Emission Zone in central London to exclude all polluting vehicles.
Changes to congestion charge would also improve London’s air quality by cutting overall traffic levels. Substantial funding for the London Cycle Network will have helped cut traffic and air pollution in outer London. And the reinstatement of the funding for the expansion of the Green Grid of linked open spaces would have delivered lengthy off road walking and cycling routes as well as putting in place a structure to defend London against flood risk.
The Green budget would have provided extra funding to enable London to make up for lost time in insulating its homes, a vital measure to tackle climate change.
We consider that the Mayor’s budget gives too much weight to the international marketing of London and too little to investment in physical projects which will make London a cleaner and healthier city for the long term. So our amendment reduced the budget for international promotion. We would also have cut the outdated single telephone number (saving £6.1m) and will look for further savings (through sharing services) in the media, marketing and external relations budgets of City Hall, TfL, the Police and Fire Service.
We agree with the Mayor that the Fire Service’s huge reserves should be put to work, and will go further than he has done with this.
Londoners want the police to focus on delivering safe communities, not on excessive surveillance aimed at deterring legitimate dissent.
Therefore, we proposed reducing police budgets for the Territorial Support Group and for surveillance, and increase the budget to support neighbourhood and borough level policing, as well as that for policing our roads where far too many Londoners continue to be killed or maimed.
Further savings could have been made in the large police overtime bill, since the police budget continues to provide over £100m for officer overtime and nearly £30m for staff overtime.