Spending (Supplementary) [2]

Session date: 
September 9, 2009
Question By: 
John Biggs
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Obviously I speak as one of your supporters on this issue and you have the assurance of Labour Members that we will rush to protect you from the knuckle scraping tendencies of the Conservative Party if they come to pillage London and take away its resources! I think I welcome part of your response where you are saying you will stand up for London against a Government which is planning to slash our services. That is a reasonably clear statement from you is it?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Spending (Supplementary) [2]

Answer for Spending (Supplementary) [2]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Well, I certainly think that this is not the moment -- I hope everybody agrees. No matter how seductive Brian [Coleman] was in his invitation to me to lay out various things that I wanted to cut in TfL, that is not the way we should approach it, folks. That is not the stuff to give the troops. We have got to defend and protect vital services for Londoners, and I will do that.

John Biggs (AM): I think Londoners and the wider public will welcome, also, Brian's [Coleman] revelation that, as is fairly widely known, in the unlikely event that there was a Conservative Government there would be massive cuts in spending which would threaten those services which you have already told us are essential for London's continued prosperity.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, I certainly think there are going to be economies and I am going to encourage economies but I am not going to have economies for things that I think are essential.

John Biggs (AM): It is fascinating to have a Conservative Mayor who desperately needs a Labour Government!

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not need a Labour Government. That would be the last thing. As I said earlier on, the last thing this country needs is any more agony from this Government whom we have had for quite long enough.

John Biggs (AM): You highlighted also - this is a bit of a weasely way out - that there are lots of ways to make savings through trimming the fat, if you like. Can you assure every police officer in London that their pension will be safe under your administration, in the event that there are spending pressures?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The pension fund arrangements of the Metropolitan Police Service will be completely protected. I have no doubt about that whatever.

John Biggs (AM): OK. And civil service pensions as well in London? Or are they part of the bloated fat that can be cut?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I said earlier on, I do think there is a discussion to be had about public sector pensions and we need to --

John Biggs (AM): OK. So you might withdraw the GLA family from the national pension fund agreement?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We need to look at that.

John Biggs (AM): OK. So we take that as a possibility. I wanted to ask you another question.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Unfortunately I do not have - much as I would like it - jurisdiction over this subject. I think it is important to raise it.

John Biggs (AM): OK. Talking about, in Brian's [Coleman] question, your control over the GLA family and he specifically refers to TfL, but it is about the wider GLA family. You refer to the LDA. Are you happy that you have control over that? By which I mean, on the headline you have cut staff, but there seem to be an awful lot of consultants coming in the back door. Do you think that is under control? Some of whom are the people you made redundant, of course.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do think that Peter Rogers [Chief Executive, London Development Agency] is doing a very, very good job of getting a grip on some of the worst excesses of the LDA which, I think, had lost credibility and lost support over the last few years in London.

John Biggs (AM): Right. This is the question, I think, you have been trying to avoid answering today, and it is that, in the media in the last week, a clear statement was said that we have our hands on the tiller of the Metropolitan Police Service, we are not going to roll over like we did before and we are not a rubber stamp. Do you believe, and can you clarify, that you have the controls and checks and balances over the Metropolitan Police Service in London which gives you the satisfaction, as Mayor, and which demonstrate, also, that you understand the boundaries between your responsibilities as Mayor --

Darren Johnson (Chair): Is this in relation to public spending?

John Biggs (AM): Yes, it is in relation to spending.

Darren Johnson (Chair): Can you clarify the question then, John?

John Biggs (AM): And the proper exercise of independent duties by the Metropolitan Police Service?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. Let us be absolutely clear that the arrangements of the Metropolitan Police Authority give political accountability and oversight to London and, of course, as a condominium with the Home Office, but the operational management of the Metropolitan Police Service is in the hands of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Paul Stephenson, and he does an extremely good job, as I have said tirelessly over the last few days.

Darren Johnson (Chair): John, I am only going to take more questions on this if it is related directly to public spending cuts, which is the question. So if it is about policing and public spending cuts and accountability issues, then fine. If it is the wider issues then you are on the wrong topic.

John Biggs (AM): Absolutely. It is about policing and public spending. No, no, no. This is clearly about public spending because, in his interviews, Mr Malthouse said that things are not written down and they are done on a handshake. So can you assure Londoners that there is no handshake about budget spending cuts within the Metropolitan Police Service which we do not know about?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The Metropolitan Police Authority, on which you sit, draws up the Metropolitan Police Service budget and you are there to scrutinise it.

John Biggs (AM): I think at roughly the same time as you gave us the assurance about RPI plus 1% on fares you said that you were committed to preserving police numbers in London. Can you repeat that commitment today?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I certainly am determined to protect front line policing as far as we possibly can in the current financial circumstances.

John Biggs (AM): So, substantially, you are saying you are on our side rather than the side of Brian Coleman and the Conservative Party on this issue?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think Brian [Coleman] makes a very, very good point and very trenchantly and powerfully put, which is that there must be wide ranging economies across Government, and I think everybody watching this would support him.

All I am trying to say, respectfully and humbly, to you is, I think, it is our job, here in the GLA group, when people come and say they want to make cuts, to distinguish between cuts in personnel, cuts in waste, cuts in ludicrous fripperies for Government officials and cuts in vital services for Londoners. It is, intellectually, not a difficult distinction to make. There is a huge amount of flab and fat to be taken out and that is what we are going to do.

John Biggs (AM): So you believe that, whatever the scale of cuts from whatever the Chancellor is, you can meet that need through flab cutting in City Hall?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You are again asking me to try to outline a strategy to deal with a hypothetical situation. I am determined to protect the vital investments that this city needs whilst cutting, as far as we possibly can, wasteful public expenditure.

John Biggs (AM): So you will be making announcements in the next few weeks, presumably, as the budget approaches, of the cuts in flab that you are proposing for the coming year?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Obviously in the TfL business plan you will see a great deal of information about that, of course.

John Biggs (AM): And they will protect services, protect police numbers, protect fire cover and remove these things which were never necessary in the first place?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): In the nature of the political dispute there is going to be a debate about where the cuts fall and what is essential and what is not essential. That is something that, I am afraid, we cannot anticipate here in this Chamber this morning.

John Biggs (AM): So you cannot rule anything in or out at this stage?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What I will tell you is I do not want to see front line policing and cuts in London's fire protection and I certainly do not want to see anything that diminishes our ability to make the big infrastructure investments we need in this city to make it more liveable, more attractive and more wonderful to live in.

I think that we are in danger of talking ourselves into a sort of psychosis of destruction and going around assuming that we have to eviscerate wonderful schemes that actually would be of great long-term benefit. Let us just be a little bit more positive in our approach to this and let us remember that we can make the necessary savings without doing damage to the essential things that we want to do for London.

John Biggs (AM): Right. The problem with lists of course is that things not on lists, we might conclude, are going to be treated differently. So you have not said anything about increasing fares and you have not said anything about cutting bus services, for example. So my conclusion --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No. I have given you no list. There is nothing either on or off --

John Biggs (AM): Yes, you did. You said police, you said fire cover, you said essential things. Anyway, thank you, Chair.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Come on. Do me a favour. Come on. All I am trying to do is give you what my thinking and my objectives are here, which is that I accept that we have a duty, at a time of real financial difficulty, to try to cut waste, but I am going to stick up very, very strongly and passionately for the things that, I believe, London needs.