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Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
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London Mayor’s Budget: Enough to buy one onion

The four year term of the London Mayor and the GLA Members comes to an end on 3 May, when voters will be going to the polls. Last week, Assembly Members questioned the Mayor about his budget, which can only be overturned by two thirds of Assembly Members voting against it.

city hall from river.jpg

This means it is impossible, given the political make up of the Assembly. This year’s budget is critical in that it gives an opportunity for the Mayor to present his vision and priorities for London and Londoners – this Mayor failed to do this.

I, along with my Labour colleagues, proposed a fully costed plan to cut transport fares by seven per cent, this will save commuters around £1,000 over four years. Labour’s proposal is to use Transport for London’s surplus to put money back in Londoner’s pockets to help them through these difficult times. However, all of the Conservative members of the Assembly voted against this proposal and Mayor Boris Johnson also blocked it.

Mayor Johnson’s proposal of a one per cent cut to council tax means annual savings of  £3.10 for the average Londoner, or 26p a month - enough to buy one onion. This measly sum is meaningless compared to the £110 extra a monthly zone 1-4 travelcard will cost you this year, or the £46 extra you are forking out for a monthly bus pass since last year. The Tory Mayor's fare rises are costing Londoners a lot more. He could make a real difference to Londoners if he supported Labour's plan to cut transport fares but all he is interested is in gesture politics.

In these difficult times when costs are rising we should be doing all we can to help people, rather than the paltry cut offered by the Mayor. It is a shame that the Tory Mayor has chosen to increase fares and burden our communities with this additional hefty tax.

The examination of the Mayor’s contribution in the last four years shows he has achieved next to nothing. He’s completed, with varying degrees of success, projects started by former Mayor Ken Livingstone and claimed credit for those initiatives as his own. We have seen his vanity projects like the new ‘routemaster’ bus design that is costing £12 million for just five vehicles.

Hire bikes paid for by increased fares but are becoming more and more unpopular with Londoners. And the City Hall council tax freeze, saving Londoners pennies,  is wiped out by the serious impact on the quality of life of Londoners with his huge fare rises, the reduction of police numbers on our streets and failing to deliver affordable social housing.

In all the key areas affecting London’s communities Mayor Johnson has failed to deliver. The number of police officers on our streets is down almost 2,000 in the last two years with incidents of burglary, theft and muggings up since last year.

The Mayor has increased public transport fares over and above inflation every single year since he was elected – a huge 26 per cent increase on average since 2008. As in previous years I have supported the Mayor’s decision not to put up his share of the council tax, and the one per cent cut in his precept this year. But this fails to provide meaningful help to our communities during the period of financial hardship. However, Mayor Johnson remains the main cheerleader for City bankers who caused the recession and continue to draw scandalous bonuses. The Mayor lacks vision and real commitment to support Londoners. The forthcoming election will be the opportunity for Londoners to have their say.

Navin Shah AM

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13th February 2012