Labour Assembly Members have accused Boris Johnson of using cutbacks to “re-launch” his “failed mayoralty”.
The comments from Labour’s John Biggs follow a robust exchange between the pair at Wednesday’s Mayor’s Question Time over Johnson’s plans to “ensure the GLA is more coherent, focused and will deliver better value for hard-pressed London taxpayers.”
Appearing before Assembly Members yesterday morning, Johnson outlined a number of ways in which he intends to deliver “value” to council tax payers including axing up to 100 jobs.
Seeking to reassure City Hall staff who have faced a number of threats to their jobs since Johnson took office in May, the Mayor promised any staff changes would be “delivered sensitively and, it is anticipated, without the need for large numbers of redundancies.”
Questioned by AMs on his decision not to implement specific cost-cutting proposals contained in a recent report by Patience Wheatcroft, initially expected to form the blueprint for his Mayoralty, Johnson distanced himself from these specifics, commenting that was only a guide to the direction of travel.
Mr Johnson also praised staff for past performance, commenting: “Over the past eight years, the GLA has achieved a great deal, not least because of the dedication, expertise and quality of its staff.”
The Mayor’s office say that in future the Greater London Authority will be structured in four key areas: Communities; Development & Environment; Finance & Operations; and Corporate Affairs with a separate team exclusively focused on the 2012 Olympics.
However Biggs claimed the Mayor’s headline figure of 15% savings in reality amounts to no more than 3% and said yesterday’s announcement was “nothing more than a well-spun re-launch of a failed mayoralty” designed to detract from “four months of infighting, resignations, inaction and chaos”.
Biggs added: “If he really wants to cut or freeze council tax not just this year but year on year, Boris needs to be honest with Londoners and admit that this cannot be achieved without swingeing cuts to front line police and fire services.”
There was a warmer response from the Assembly Liberal Democrat group who said they “broadly welcome this direction of travel, which is something which we have been seeking from some years with the previous mayor.”
LibDem Assembly leader Mike Tuffrey commented: “What’s important is that this goes to providing better services and if this announcement is an indication of a direction of travel for a Conservative government then it’s surprising that Mayor Boris Johnson’s first big decision is to put fares up over inflation. We hope that isn’t a pre-cursor of things to come.”