Livingstone: London needs greater autonomy over major projects

Livingstone says the Mayor should be able to build large scale projects without Government approval. Image: MayorWatch

Future Mayors of London should be able to proceed with large-scale projects such as Crossrail without needing Parliamentary approval, Ken Livingstone said today.

The former Mayor made the remarks during an appearance in front of the London Funding Commission, set up by successor Boris Johnson to explore how the capital might gain a greater share of revenue generated within it.

The Commission is chaired by Professor Tony Travers of the London School Economics and includes representatives from a number of political parties, business and the public sector.

Livingstone told today’s evidence session that the two years needed to gain Parliamentary consent for the cross-London rail project was a “ridiculous” waste of time that had only delayed the benefits for Londoners.

He also predicted that tax revenue and fares generated by the scheme would exceed expectations and suggested gaining greater ability to borrow money to fund major projects was more important than controlling day to day revenue streams.

The meeting heard from a number of other witnesses including Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and Sir Michael Lyons, author of the Lyons Inquiry into public finance.

Both pointed to the supplementary rate levied on business properties to fund Crossrail as one way the capital could gain the freedom to fund projects without money from national Government.

Ahead of today’s meeting, Mayor Johnson said: “London’s taxpayers pour billions into the nation’s coffers and cannot simply be a cash cow for the country without a greater say in how this cash is used.

“I am grateful to Tony Travers, the independent volunteers on the panel, and all the witnesses who will take part, for their contributions to this crucial debate.”

Prof Travers added: “London pays over £200 billion a year in taxes. The London Finance Commission is exploring the possibility that greater control over these resources could be held locally. It will consider options for how this might be done in order to deliver faster growth, and therefore more jobs and a better quality of life.”

The Commission will hold a further evidence session before publishing a report in Spring 2013.