- Labour’s Budget Spokesperson John Biggs AM lays out alternative to Boris Johnson’s 2015/16 Budget including:
§ Funding for 1,025 extra police officers, equivalent to an additional 33 officers on the beat in every London borough
§ Transport fares cut by 2.5% to 2014 levels saving the average commuter £56 a year on a 1-6 Annual Travelcard
§ City Hall’s share of Council Tax frozen
London Assembly Labour Group Budget Spokesperson John Biggs AM will today (Wednesday) set out ambitious proposals which would fund over 1,000 additional police officers for London and cut travel fares by 2.5%. The fully funded plans will be set out in a debate at City Hall today when Assembly Members will have the opportunity to propose amendments to the Mayor’s £17bn Budget for 2015/16.
If agreed by the Assembly and Mayor, the proposals to fund an extra 1,025 police officers would mean the equivalent of an additional 33 officers on the streets of every London borough. The proposal comes amid rising concern about the 26% rise in violent crime last year and growing public unease with the Mayor’s cuts to local neighbourhood policing, which have contributed to the loss of 4,333 uniformed officers since 2010.
Amongst other policy proposals Mr Biggs’ Budget amendment also argues for freezing transport fares at 2014 levels, reversing the 2.5% hike imposed on London’s commuters earlier this year. The amendment will also seek to reverse the removal of off-peak PAYG caps for Zones 4-6, which saw fares rise as much as 38%, and instead ensure they would also be frozen at 2014 levels. The cut to travel costs would give a year of much needed respite from fare rises, saving the average commuter £56 a year on a 1-6 Annual Travelcard. A recent study found that 76% of Londoners say fares are now ‘too high’ following the 40% rise in ticket costs since Boris Johnson came to power.
The fully-funded package of amendments to the Mayor’s Budget includes freezing the GLA share of council tax at 2014 levels and putting the money saved by cancelling the Mayor’s £4 cut in Band ‘D’ Council tax (which would save just 1p per day for each London household) into funding for the 1,000 new police officers. This will be supplemented by additional funding drawn from a combination of savings within the Met’s existing budget, and funding from retained business rates. The fares freeze would be funded by drawing on TfL underspends of £81m, and increasing the target for savings, putting £98m back in to the pockets of Londoners.
London Assembly Labour Group Budget Spokesperson John Biggs AM said:
“The Mayor’s Budget as it stands does nothing to address the serious concerns Londoners have about rising transport costs and a grossly diminished police force – two of the most serious issues facing the capital today. What Londoners want is a Budget which tackles these concerns head on, that is what our proposals seek to do.
“Funding an extra 1,000 police officers on London’s streets would both help to crack down on rising violent crime and provide much needed reassurance to those concerned about the impact of Boris Johnson’s cuts to the police force.
“This January Londoners faced the seventh year of fare increases under Boris Johnson. Given there is ample funding as a result of TfL underspends, it is bewildering that Boris has allowed fares to outstrip growth. With 76% of Londoners believing that fares are now ‘too high’, it is essential that we offer some respite to those struggling to cope with the costs of commuting. Cutting fares back to 2014 levels would help reduce pressure on those anxious that their pay-cheques will not stretch to cover Boris’ year on year fare hikes.
“Whilst Boris’ tokenistic council tax freeze would save Londoners seven pence a week, freezing fares at last year’s levels would save the average commuter £56 a year. It’s clear that would leave most Londoners significantly better off. ”
- Copies of John Biggs AM’s full Budget amendment will be available from Wednesday (28th) morning. The summary of the Budget Amendment to be proposed at Wednesday’s meeting by John Biggs AM reads:
- Transport - We would reverse the Mayor’s 2.5% increase in transport fares that Boris Johnson has already announced for 2015-16. Instead, we would freeze fares at their current level putting £98m back in to pockets of hard-pressed Londoners, and restore the off-peak PAYG caps for zones 4-6. In order to benefit all Londoners, we would create a fund for more step free stations and put a further £20m into the cycling budget. To increase bus services for London’s poorest communities we propose to add 30 more hybrid buses to the fleet this year. We are keenly aware of the high levels of pollution in London and would therefore accelerate the process of cleaning up our aging bus fleet. We are clear that this re-balancing of costs between travellers and the corporate vaults of City Hall is affordable and right.
- Policing – We would freeze the GLA’s share of the council tax at the 2014-15 level and use the £10.54m it generates to help free-up resources across the GLA family. These resources would enable us to provide London with over 1000 much-needed additional police officers. An average over 30 new police officers per borough.
- Housing – We would tackle London’s chronic housing shortage by establishing a GLA-backed Housing Investment Company to directly commission the construction of new homes in addition to those currently built by Housing Associations using GLA affordable housing grants. We would also drive up standards for private tenants by investing in new programmes to tackle sub-standard properties. Furthermore, because no tenant should fear the consequences of a rogue landlord, we would empower tenants – the consumer – by giving them more information on rogue landlords and better access to legal representation, and by driving London’s worst landlords out of the market.
- Economy – We would take genuine action to increase job opportunities in London through introducing a young person’s jobs guarantee, providing help for older Londoners to retrain and by reducing the excessive cost of childcare, which prevents many parents from returning to work. We would also introduce universal free school meals for all primary school age pupils in London, which would increase educational attainment, address food poverty and help parents who are struggling with the cost of living.
- Environment – Recognising the imminent threat of climate change, London’s air quality crisis, and the increasing difficulty that many Londoners – particularly those on fixed incomes, such as pensioners – face heating their homes, we propose a research project in to the creation of community energy cooperatives in London; a London air quality study aimed at creating a bigger, stronger, ULEZ; the Clean Air Routes to School programme, which recognises and seeks to mitigate the effects of poor air quality on school children; the establishment of a GLA London ‘noise team’ to focus on aviation that blights the lives of many in the capital; and funding the H.E.A.T (Home Energy Advice Team) to help those in fuel poverty improve insulation in their homes and obtain the best energy tariffs.
- Education – We would provide grants to schools whose students face socio-economic barriers to academic attainment through the Supplementary Programmes for Schools (Leadership clubs) and out of hours tuition fund; replace the Mayor’s elitist ‘Gold Club of Schools’ programme with the GLA Education Kitemark scheme for schools that require and demonstrate improvement in a short space of time as part of the family of local authority schools; and introduce a schools matching unit to assist in matching new schools with the closest existing outstanding academy, rather than allow private companies to take over new schools in Mayoral approved developments.
- Health – We would invest further in reducing health inequalities and bridging the divide between physical and mental health services. We would form a London Health Inequalities Unit to monitor and address unfair health inequalities across London. We would commission a Mental Health Strategy for London to determine what is and what is not working for Londoners. The results of which would be used to establish a pan-London approach to mental health issues and connect the currently fragmented and dysfunctional system.
- John Biggs is the Labour London Assembly Member for City and East.