Mayor Sadiq Khan has dismissed as “desperate nonsense” Conservative claims that he’s continuing to levy an ‘Olympics tax’ on households despite the cost of the Games being paid off last year.
Since 2006 London households have been paying towards the cost of the 2012 Olympics under a deal agreed between central government and London’s first Mayor, Ken Livingstone. More than £620m was raised through a ‘precept’ on council tax bills, with households in an average Band D property paying £20 per year between 2006/07 and 2015/16.
In the current 2016/17 financial year the contribution was £8 per household after former Mayor Boris Johnson cut the precept in his final City Hall budget to collect only the outstanding sum.
The charge was originally expected to expire at the end of this financial year with household bills then falling by at least the £8, however City Hall’s latest budget maintains the £8 charge as well as an increase of £4 per year which Mr Khan has pledged to spend on policing.
As a result of him not scraping the £8 annual charge, Conservatives on the London Assembly have accused Mr Khan of “trying every trick in the book to pay for his wild spending promises at City Hall, including taxing Londoners for a Games which has already been paid off.”
Gareth Bacon, the party’s leader at City Hall said the Mayor “needs to properly balance his books without using Olympic money, which was never intended to be his blank cheque.”
Mr Bacon and his colleagues say that instead of maintaining the precept, the Mayor could save money by axing the free travel passes issued to the spouses and partners of Transport for London staff and use the resulting money to pay for his policies.
However, although the Tories are seeking to blame Mr Khan for perpetuating the Olympic precept, the initial decision to rollover the residual £8 levy was actually made by Mr Johnson before he stepped down last May.
The former Mayor’s final budget, which was supported by Conservative AMs, said:
“The continuation of the residual £8 balance of the Olympic precept is assumed in the budget forecasts for 2017-18 onwards. It will be for future Mayor to determine whether this element of the precept is maintained in practice and if it is for what purposes the related revenues generated will be applied.”
In continuing to collect the cash, Mr Khan has simply acted in line with his predecessor’s budget forecasts but, unlike either Mayors Livingstone or Johnson, is free to spend the money on his priorities rather than using it to pay for the Games.
Last night Mr Khan dismissed his opponents’ attack as “desperate nonsense” and pointed out that he was already reviewing the travel perks enjoyed by senior TfL officials earning over £100,000.
The Mayor told this site: “I have always been crystal clear to Londoners that I will keep the council tax precept as low as possible without risking Londoners’ safety. Promise made – promise delivered, with the non-policing element frozen and Londoners paying just 8p a week more towards policing.”
The London Assembly will vote on the Mayor’s budget for the coming year on Wednesday. AMs have the power to amend the total budget for each of City Hall’s functional bodies if a two-thirds majority agree to do so.