Mayor’s Budget Approved Despite Strong Opposition
5.3% precept hike passed by London Assembly without majority support
The Mayor's budget, which saw a 5.3% increase for the Greater London Authority's council tax precept, has been approved despite having almost two thirds of London Assembly members voting against it.
The budget, which Ken Livingstone believes to be his greenest yet, now stands at £11billion amounting to an extra £15 per year on an average Band D property.
Following the vote, which went nine in favour (Labour and Green Groups) and 16 against (Conservative, Liberal Democrats and One London Groups), the One London Party attacked 'the democratic deficit' which allows the Mayor to secure his budget without "majority support from the London Assembly."
Damian Hockney, Leader of One London, said his party "has been campaigning consistently for reform since we arrived on the London Assembly in 2004." Hockney said Londoners should expect the Assembly, which costs Londoners over £6 million per year, to have real power but that it has instead "been a mere talking shop. Either it should be allowed to do a useful job or it should be scrapped."
Conservative member Angie Bray said "Just imagine if the Government were able to push through its annual budget on a minority vote, there would be a massive outcry. Yet here in London, with an Assembly of 25 members, the Mayor can force through his inflation-busting budget yet again on the say so of just nine members. This is not democracy in my view, it is an outrage."
And the budget will do little to boost the Mayor's popularity with Londoners. According to his annual poll of 1,418 Londoners, just 36% of respondents said they were satisfied with his performance and 26% fairly or very dissatisfied. Responding to these figures, Mr Livingstone said, “I think most politicians, in their third year in their second term, would be quite happy with a positive rating of 10%.”
Welcoming the approval of the budget, he repeated earlier claims that the free bus travel concession has been under threat saying, “There are some members of the London Assembly who seem to want to abolish anything that is free. Free school milk, free entry to museums, the Freedom Pass, and now free bus travel for under-18s - anything that is free gets threatened."
Assembly Member Tony Arbor, who last week backed a US style school bus scheme to replace free bus travel for the under 18’s, said “This is another above inflation increase which will hit those on low and fixed incomes hardest; the very people who have already been hit hard by the Mayor's rocketing fare increases”
He continued, “London Assembly Conservatives' proposals put the people of London first, improving their safety and delivered better services without costing them a penny more.
Because the budget failed to get a two-thirds majority opposing it, no amendments were made. However London Assembly members who did vote against have proposed a motion condemning what they call "Ken's above inflation rises".
The motion was seconded by Mike Tuffrey AM, who told the Assembly, “While we support increased funding to put more police on London’s streets Ken Livingstone could and should curb his enthusiasm for propaganda and profligacy at City Hall. The Mayor’s double whammy of above-inflation rises in council tax and public transport fares will hit the poorest Londoners hardest.”
February 15, 2007