London’s Mayor and Assembly Members spent over £115,000 on travel and other business expenses last year (1st April 2006 to 30th March 2007) according to figures due to be presented to Greater London Authority’s Audit Panel on July 17th.
The largest amounts were incurred by Mayor Ken Livingstone (total: £35,501.30) and his deputy Nicky Gavron (total: £22,731.93), the Mayor’s expenditure includes over £23,000 on foreign travel.
London Assembly Chair Brian Coleman spent the third largest amount at £11,974.22 including just over £10,300 on taxis. The Assembly Member with the lowest expenses is One London’s Peter Hulme Cross who spent just £77.13 on taxi fares.
All three holders of the GLA’s top posts and Assembly Members use taxis instead of a dedicated car service to travel between meetings and engagements on behalf of the body. The Mayor and all AMs also have the right to claim an annual six zone travelcard which, by law, is a taxable benefit.
Mr Hulme Cross is one of three AMs not to claim a free travelcard, the others are One London Leader Damian Hockney and Liberal Democrat Baroness Hamwee, Mr Livingstone also doesn’t claim the concession.
According to the report “the Government’s Car and Despatch Agency accounts for 2005/06 show that the average direct cost of running the ministerial car scheme was £57,749 per vehicle” – meaning that the costs incurred by the Mayor and whole 25 strong Assembly are equal to the cost of transporting just two Government ministers.
Despite this Mayor Ken Livingstone used Friday’s publication of the figures to launch a fierce attack on Mr Coleman branding his taxi costs “an example of extravagance for no purpose”.
In February a row broke out between the Mayor and London Assembly over plans to overhaul rules which regulate taxi incurred by the Assembly Chair and Deputy Chair whilst on official engagements.
At the time the Mayor claimed the proposals would create a “chauffeur service”, a charge he repeated on Friday when he accused Mr Coleman of “swanning around London in a chauffeur-driven car” and suggested he “should try cutting down on the receptions, lunches and dinners and set an example to Londoners by using buses, the tube, or even walking occasionally.”
However when on official business the Chair and Deputy Chair carry their badges of office with them which are valued at approximately £25,000 and cannot be carried on buses or the tube for insurance purposes.
The Chair and Deputy Chair’s badges of office are on loan to the Assembly from the Corporation of London who had held them in the London Metropolitan Archive following the demise of the GLC.
The badges were commissioned by the GLC General Purposes Committee in October 1965 from the silversmithing department of Sir John Cass College.
The design is an adaptation of the badge of office of the chairman of the London County Council (the DC’s badge is a smaller replica similarly adapted).
The badge of office of the chairman of the LCC was presented to the LCC in 1927.