Sadiq Khan’s first budget has been criticised by London’s spending watchdog for “its distinct lack of transparency and its apparent attempts to hide cuts”.
Members of the London Assembly have held a series of public question and answer sessions with the Mayor and top officials from Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and other functional bodies to assess the scale and impact of Mr Khan’s spending plans for the coming year.
In a cross-party report published today, Assembly Members say their scrutiny has revealed an apparent £615 million reduction in transport investment and a 40% cut in funding to the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation which is meant to lead a major regeneration of the area.
The report says committee members are “frustrated by a lack of transparency in certain elements of the budget process,” including a failure to clearly break down transport project budgets to allow easy comparison against TfL’s previous business plan.
AMs are calling on Mr Khan to revise his budget to include “a high-level breakdown of the annual savings and efficiencies contained in the TfL business plan”. When they appeared before AMs earlier this month, the agency’s officials rejected such calls saying that to provide a breakdown would create “a cottage industry” of outsiders assessing its performance.
We are demonstrating real results in cost reduction and we will do through the life of this plan. But I really don’t think that it’s the right approach to describe in detail where the 4 billion is coming from and then monitor it and create a cottage industry measuring and auditing progress against the 4 billion.
I think it’s much more straight forward to look at the quarterly results and see if we’re making progress.
Ian Nunn, Chief Finance Officer, TfL
The committee is also calling for greater transparency around savings due to be achieved by Mayoral agencies and says “savings and efficiencies must be presented on a consistent basis”. Members also say Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’s“savings counter” should be reset to zero to aid scrutiny of the body’s performance.
Gareth Bacon AM, Chairman of the Budget and Performance Committee said: “The Mayor, throughout the budget process, has shown a worrying lack of transparency with his refusal to publish the initial budget submissions.
“We need much more information on the Mayor’s plans so we can properly scrutinise and vote on these budget proposals.”
The full Assembly will debate and vote on the Mayor’s proposals in February and has the power to amend the total budget each functional body if a two-thirds majority agree to do so.