Sadiq Khan has published his proposed Mayor’s Budget for 2022-23 which covers support for Transport for London and other services in the capital.
His foreword says this: “At the time of writing, London is in the grip of a serious crisis. Our city has more COVID-19 infections than any other UK region, we are seeing an explosive and alarming rise in the number of Omicron cases, and our NHS and other public services are being placed under immense strain because of staff absences caused by sickness and the need for key workers to self-isolate. The government is also still refusing to properly fund London’s public services, particularly Transport for London, the Met police and the London Fire Brigade. It’s against this extremely challenging backdrop that I’m having to take a series of tough decisions to ensure that the progress we have made towards building a fairer, greener, safer and more prosperous London is built upon, rather than put at risk. The pandemic is the only reason TfL is facing a financial crisis”.
The last sentence is a lie and he yet again blames the Government for his own financial mismanagement over the past several years that meant that TfL had no financial resilience to meet the unexpected impact of the Covid epidemic.
The Mayor goes on to say “However, as a condition for the emergency short-term funding, the government is forcing us to raise additional revenue in London through measures, like council tax, that will unfairly punish Londoners for the government making our transport network so dependent on fares income”.
Why should not Londoners pay for the transport network they use? Either in fares or council tax (preferably the former)? Basically he is begging the Government to fund TfL rather than getting Londoners to pay while TfL continues to run uneconomic services instead of adapting its business to meet the new market conditions.
Sadiq Khan’s foreword is a classic example of him blaming the Government for his problems. We need less politicking and more constructive and practical steps to get TfL back on an even keel.
I’ll pick out just a few interesting points from the budget document:
- The budgets anticipate a reduction in bus services of 18% by 2024-25.
- Road pricing is definitely anticipated. It says on page 56: “In addition, further to the requirements of the 1 June 2021 funding agreement, the budget assumes a widening of road user charging schemes in later years to deliver the Mayor’s transport policies, subject to a full impact assessment, consultation as appropriate, and decision-making processes. The implementation costs have not at this stage been included as discussions are still ongoing”.
- The Mayor talks about cost reductions in TfL but in reality the total operating expenditure rises from the expected £6.8 billion in 2021-22 to £7.5 billion next year.
- The deficit between operating income and expenditure in TfL remains high at £1.35 billion in 2022-23 and is still £638 million in the following year. That ignores the capital expenditure and other items making the total “financing requirement” of £2.1 billion for next year. See page 95 of the budget document for the breakdown. Clearly the Mayor is expecting the Government to come up with the cash to finance these deficits which is surely unreasonable.
- Expected income next year from the Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ schemes is £754 million which just shows how much money is being taken out of the London economy and from the pockets of Londoners to support the Mayor’s grandiose plans. This is a charge on Londoners for which there is no countervailing financial benefit.
- The proposed adjusted basic amount of council tax is £396 for a Band D property (an increase of £32 over 2021-22). Yet again the Mayor is increasing his council tax precept at more than inflation when the general population is facing major cost of living increases from food and energy bills. Normally such a large increase would require a public referendum (see pages 109/110) but the Mayor is apparently asking the Government to waive that requirement.
Summary and comment: This is a typical socialist “spend, spend, spend” budget where instead of cutting the cloth to what he can afford the Mayor wants to continue spending regardless of economic and market conditions. The budget should be reconsidered and brought more into line with reality.
Please make sure you submit your own comments on the budget by sending an email to GLAbudget@london.gov.uk (but it needs to get there by the 18th January so it’s URGENT).
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