GLA approves Mayor’s budget

The Mayor of London’s Final Draft Budget for 2021-22 was approved without amendment by the London Assembly on 25 February. This was despite more members voting against it than supporting it.

The passing of the budget means the Mayor’s portion of Council Tax (precept) will now be increased by 9.5% across London.

Council Tax increases are usually quoted for Band D properties, but the average price of property in Chiswick is £1 million, putting it in Band F.  The 5% increase from Hounslow plus the 9.5% increase from the Mayor makes the increase for 2021 – 22 on a Band F property £137.50.

Introducing the budget during the Mayor’s Question Times session, Sadiq Khan said the capital has had to contend with “the perfect storm of increased costs associated with responding to the pandemic” combined with the Covid-induced falls in revenue from Business Rates and Council Tax and financial crisis at Transport for London.

An ongoing increase in Council Tax of 1.5 per cent per year is assumed for 2021-22 onwards, according to the final draft of the mayor’s budget. This will be kept under review through next year’s budget process.

Assembly Members voted by 12 to 11 against approving the budget, but it was passed anyway in law, as those opposed were unable to agree on an amendment to it.

Extra money for Met and GLA

Sadiq Khan this month revealed plans to invest an additional £38 million in the Metropolitan Police as well as a £5 million to help the safe reopening of London’s economy. He also criticised the Government’s “continued underfunding” of the Met police.

Speaking during the February meeting, Mr Khan said that the budget had been put together “under difficult circumstances” and pointed to the financial toll that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the city.

He added: “Despite these huge challenges, I remain optimistic about London’s future. We can start rebuilding London so that it is an even better city after the crisis than it was before. This is exactly what this budget sets out to help deliver.”

Criticism from the opposition

The Conservatives had proposed an amendment that would scrap the increase in Council Tax and instead save £95 million by reforming TfL’s bonus scheme and pensions, doing away with nomination passes, reducing time given to TfL staff to carry out trade union duties and scrapping the planned Commission for Diversity.

Susan Hall, leader of the GLA Conservatives, said: “Londoners can’t afford Sadiq Khan’s Council Tax hike – that’s why we’ve put forward an alternative budget for London.

“Our plan would fund London’s concessionary fares, invest in policing and create a new £50 million recovery fund, without asking Londoners to pay a single penny more in council tax.

“The Mayor could save nearly £100 million by scrapping his statue-toppling commission, cutting his PR budgets and reforming Transport for London. He doesn’t need to increase Council Tax.”

Green Party mayoral candidate Sian Berry questioned whether the share of allocations between the Met and crime prevention work reflects “the right balance” between the two.

Khan replied that the £13 million for the Met provided certainty over a four-year period and is particularly important given that the amount of Business Rates income can be uncertain from year to year.

Sian Berry expressed concern about a reduction in the budget of the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) expected next year. She urged him to put “equal effort into securing the future of the VRU.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Hounslow Chief Exec apologises for comment in bad-tempered council meeting

See also: March 2021 Budget reaction

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