London’s council tax bills are set to rise after Mayor Sadiq Khan announced he would ask households to make good a £17.4m annual cut in government policing grants.
Mr Khan’s office says the government’s cut is due to former Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to reduce the amount of police funding raised through City Hall’s share of the council tax.
In last year’s Autumn Statement, Ministers said police funding would be maintained at current levels, as long as the local police precept is increased by 1.99 per cent a year. According to City Hall, Mr Johnson’s decision means London won’t benefit from the government’s commitment.
Mr Khan will raise his share of council tax by 1.99 per cent from April 2017.
The Mayor today insisted he was committed to continuing Mr Johnson’s pledge to maintain officer numbers at 32,000 but warned “it will get increasingly difficult to defend police numbers in the face of such significant Government cuts and the previous Mayors reckless decision to cut the police precept last year.”
He added: “The Government has made it clear that they expect us to increase council tax by 8p a week and, reluctantly, I am left with no choice but to do so in order to protect our city from the threats that we face.”
Mr Khan’s criticism of his predecessor’s budget contradicts his stance ahead of the Mayoral election when he blocked efforts by Labour London Assembly members to oppose and amend Mr Johnson’s spending plans.
The Mayor’s change of approach has been criticised by Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon, who said: “In just one year Sadiq Khan has gone from ordering Labour Assembly Members to support Boris Johnson’s last budget to now ridiculing it.”
She added: “I hope the Mayor now takes a long term and realistic attitude to protecting London’s police budget.
“That almost certainly does require raising the council tax precept, but it also needs to be combined with tackling some of the waste and excessive perks that are still prevalent through the Met.”
Conservative Assembly member Steve O’Connell said: “It’s absurd that the Mayor could attempt to blame his predecessor for his own inability to balance the books.
“Boris was able to reduce council tax over his eight years – a move supported by Sadiq’s Labour colleagues – whilst maintaining police numbers.
“With his reckless spending announcements over the past seven months, this will likely be the first of many increases placed on the taxpayer. Londoners will end up paying for the Mayor’s multiple irresponsible and publicity-seeking commitments.”