Mayor’s budget – mean not green

In the first of our Mayor’s budget articles Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson claims Boris Johnson created the financial blackhole he’s asking London’s passengers to plug

With the economy in trouble it is natural to expect the Greater London Authority to tighten its belt and limit spending.  What London does not expect is a budget with no provision to safeguard the capital from the global recession. Savings need to be made, but not to health, housing, equalities, the environment and social inclusion.

Boris Johnson has cancelled the Green Homes Service, a scheme that could provide valuable jobs for Londoners in these precarious times. A project moreover, which, with its commitment to insulation and renewable energy would help to drive down our household fuel bills.

The Mayor has also cut the funding to the London Cycle Network Plus by £10 million. The completion of the scheme would not only save people money by encouraging them to cycle, it is also essential to the safety of cyclists throughout the capital. The establishment of cycling routes through roundabouts and dangerous junctions is a project that will save lives and is all the more necessary with imminent introduction of Velib in 2010

Boris Johnson has cut funding for work on equalities. In one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world that is still blighted by unacceptable gaps between rich and poor, this vital work needs to continue. In a time of recession it is the poorest and least socially integrated that are likely to be hit the hardest.

The Mayor has also reduced funding for rape crisis centres, turning his back on one of his election pledges despite a 16% increase in the number of reported rapes last year.

Boris Johnson has not just cut valuable projects to make savings, however. He has increased the economic burden on the average Londoner. Despite his promise of a zero increase to the council tax precept he has raised public transport fares above the rate of inflation, costing a typical working household an extra £180 a year. The Mayor today told me that this was a necessary increase fares due to a “hole” in the Transport for London budget. What he fails to realise is that this is a hole he himself has created through his expensive plans to phase out bendy buses and his decision to drop plans for an emissions based £25 congestion charge for gas guzzling vehicles.

It is easy to complain about all of these things. But alone in the Assembly, today, only the Green Party Group produced a detailed, costed alternative to the Mayor’s budget. While we do not dispute that some key savings need to be made, the Green budget proposals reverse the damaging cuts to essential work on the environment, equalities, housing and health. Our proposals increase the funding for completion of the London cycle Network, provide much needed investment for work on safer streets and public transport as well as reducing fares. This would be funded by cancelling the Mayor’s expensive plans to phase out bendy buses, reinstating plans for a £25 emissions based congestion charge and increasing the standard congestion charge top £10. In order to create new jobs and cut household fuel bills we are proposing to re-instate and expand the Green Homes Service and invest in wind energy schemes and a household insulation programme.

While the Mayor is proposing cuts and fares increases to deliver a zero council tax increase, the Greens are proposing a very modest precept increase of just 7 pence per week for a Band D council tax payer to help deliver a fairer, healthier London.

What Londoner’s need is a capital that is not over-dependent on the financial sector; an economy unaffected by fluctuating fuel prices and a budget that will help to lead our city out the recession. The Mayor’s budget has failed on all fronts. Despite his green rhetoric and promises of a more affordable city, Boris Johnson’s policies will make London more expensive and more polluted.

Comments

  1. says

    Darren is ight but I would simply emphasise that the meanness and the lack of greenness are integrated.
    Faced with the downturn London should have two immediate short term economic priorities – to keep up investment, both to counter the recession and enhance the economic efficiency of the capital, and to protect the less well, who will be hit most, to the greatest degree possible from the effects of the recession – by keeping down fares.
    Johnson has done the exact opposite of what is required. He has cut investment such as on the DLR, which will affect the poorest areas in east London, while raising fares.
    Evidently if investment is to be maintained and fares kept down financial resources must be found. These should come from the most affluent and from polluters. This will also have the further beneficial effect of dealing with the key short, medium and long term goal of protecting the environment – indirectly because the best off produce the greatest amount of CO2 and pollution, and directly by taxing pollution and CO2 emissions themselves.
    That would mean reintroducing the CO2 congestion charge on gas guzzlers and abandoning any abolition of the Western Extension of the congestion charging zone for example. These two together would keep down fares.
    Instead Boris Johnson is putting up fares, refusing to tax polluters, and cutting back the congestion charging zone. This introduces a cost bias in favour of cars and against public transport – another anti-green measure.
    In essence Boris Johnson is favouring polluters and car drivers over the poorest areas in London, public transport users, public transport investment. and those protecting the environment.
    It is not only a wrong policy but an integrated wrong policy.

  2. says

    Owing to a ‘lovely’ email I just had, I should point out the Martin in post 1 isn’t me – as anyone capable of clicking the poster’s link would see!

  3. says

    John Ross proposes more taxes for hard up Londoners – whatever the problems, his solution is always the same.

    Yesterday the Greens also proposed reintroducing the charge but their budget fell when Labour opposed it – is there a gap opening up between Ken and his old colleagues?

  4. Simon Fletcher says

    Roger Evans omits to point out that it is the mayor and the London Conservatives who are taxing hard-up Londoners with a six per cent overall fare increase including an eleven per cent increase in the price of a single Oyster bus journey.

    Meanwhile drivers of the most polluting cars are favoured by cancelling the CO2 charge and removing the richest part of London, Kensington and Chelsea, which also has the highest concentration of gas guzzlers in the country, out of the congestion zone.

    A solution exists to avoid punishing London transport users in this way; bring an end to anti-green anti-public transport measures like abolishing the western half of the congestion charge zone and reintroduce a higher charge on the most polluting cars. This would bring real benefits to the majority.

    The fact that in a recession the mayor and his colleagues on the London Assembly continue to support big and unnecessary fare increases indicates that they do not and will not defend the interests of Londoners.

  5. says

    I’ve been at the calculator…

    11p a week off my council tax is marginally less than the recent VAT saving on something costing £5, or £60 for the whole year.

    I’ve therefore saved more in VAT in January than I’ll save all year from Boris freezing council tax by cutting all these things (mostly by filling the car up once, I reckon).

    Do I feel richer and more likely to spend my way out of recession because of this generosity? Nope, I’m decidedly fearful of the way things are going. Boris isn’t helping matters with his amateurish style and bizarre obsessions, plus my Oyster is emptying at a noticeably faster rate these days, since most of my commonest fares have gone up at way above inflation.

  6. says

    Nice article but full of holes and inaccuracies.

    Darren says that “savings have to be made”, but the Green group budget proposed an increase in the Council Tax precept.

    He fails to say that spending on cycling is increasing, that off peak fairs are being cut, that the freedom pass is now 24 hours, that Oystercards will be accepted across most of the surface rail network (saving money for commuters), that we are getting more police on the streets, more police on the transport network (that the Greens want to cut) etc. etc. etc.

    The Green’s alternative budget was bonkers and the Lib Dems and Labour didn’t even bother putting one forward.

  7. says

    Hi James

    Just to say, I did ask the Mayor’s office if they wanted to submit an article in response and was told one would be coming from a Conservative AM but in the end, nothing…

  8. says

    Roger Evans fails to mention that by far the biggest tax rise has come from Boris Johnson in the form of the completely unnecessary above RPI fares rise in January.
    The difference lies in who will be taxed and who will gain financial relief.
    Ken Livingstone’s policies were to tax polluters (the CO2 congestion charge) and to engage in the oil for expertise deal with Venezuela which allowed London to fund half price bus travel for those on income relief with no burden on fares, and not to engage in hugely expensive vanity projects such as bringing back Routemasters with conductors.
    That policy aided both the lowest paid and ordinary Londoners by keeping down fares – without Boris Johnson’s reversal of the CO2 congestion charge and scrapping of the Venezuelan oil deal for purely ideological reasons there would have been no need for any above RPI fares increase at all in January.
    Boris Johnson’s policy is therefore to give financial relief to polluters, those who unnecessarily want to bring their cars into a large area of central London (the scrapping of the Western Extension of the congestion charging zone), and right wing ideologies while unnecessarily putting up fares for those traveling on public transport – which, as Darren Johnson points out, will cost the average Londoner many times the cost of the nil increase in the GLA precept.
    It is simply that Ken Livingstone prioritised public transport users and those who were tough on pollution, while Boris Johnson prioritises polluters, those who want to bring their cars into central London, and those who want to live in yesterdays nostalgia world of Routemasters and conductors while severely financially punishing public transport users.
    Yes it does sum up the difference very clearly. Boris Johnson is hitting Londoners where it hurts, in their pocket, just when London is entering the worst recession since World War II.