Report of the Mayor

Plenary on 2015-01-28
Session date: 
January 28, 2015
Question By: 
Roger Evans
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Item 3 is the draft consolidated budget.  Let me explain to colleagues how this is going to work, in case you have forgotten since last year.  First, I will ask the Mayor to present his draft budget and he will have ten minutes or less in which to do that.  I would like to stick to time if possible today because we have a long meeting ahead of us.  Following that presentation I will ask Mr Biggs, who is the Chair of the Budget and Performance Committee, to respond and he will have five minutes.  Then I will take questions from Members.  The question and answer session will last for two hours with time divided in the normal way between groups, each group taking a lead on different sections, apart from the Green group who have waived their right to do that.  Therefore, without further ado can I ask the Mayor to present his budget?


Answer for Report of the Mayor

Answer for Report of the Mayor

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Thank you very much, Roger. 


I am pleased to present the budget that I think will lengthen London’s lead as the greatest city on Earth, while continuing to widen opportunity, look after the poorest and the neediest in our city and allow us to continue with successful policies to cut crime, as we have by 17% in the last six years; to improve the quality of life by planting many more trees, improving green spaces; introducing Further Alterations to the London Plan to create new opportunity areas in Harrow, Bromley, along the Old Kent Road and Canada Water, and the wholesale transformation of Old Oak Common, which I think has been an important step and has just been concluded today, where Crossrail and High Speed 2 (HS2) will together combine to create the equivalent of a new Canary Wharf to the west; new housing zones to boost housing supply; an emphasis on the growing tech and life sciences cluster and, of course, enabling us to drive forward the scientific, cultural, higher education quarter that is being developed on the old Olympic site at Stratford - the Olympicopolis - and you will have heard in the last couple of days about University College London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sadler’s Wells, the University of the Arts and now the great US institution, the Smithsonian Museum, is coming to London to build their first international branch here in our city; a great achievement for London.


We are doing all these things while simultaneously cutting waste across Greater London Authority (GLA) budgets, reducing the unnecessary expenditure and driving down Council Tax.  As my friends on the Conservative side will remember, the last Mayor put up Council Tax by 152% in his time in office.  We are cutting it in real terms by 28% already and, over the life of this mayoralty, there will be a 40% real term cut in Council Tax.  We are determined simultaneously to protect the poorest and the most vulnerable Londoners, expanding the London Living Wage (LLW), as we have: now 429 accredited employers, £60 million has gone into the pockets of some of the poorest and neediest families in London.  We have frozen transport fares in real terms for the second year running, continuing to give concessions, the Freedom Pass for everybody over 60, including in the morning peak, introducing travel concessions for apprentices as well as for students, free travel for disabled war veterans and armed services personnel in uniform and, of course, extending travel discounts to people seeking work.


We have just introduced an innovative social supermarket, which provides considerable help to people on low incomes to get food they can afford.  We are driving ahead with the - and I use the word “driving” advisedly, driving in a low carbon kind of way - implementation of the world’s first Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to improve air quality and to stop the horrific toll of 4,300 Londoners who die every year as a result of excess air pollution in our city, and we are continuing with funding for homeless veterans schemes.  I pay tribute to the work of GLA Conservatives, Gareth Bacon and others, who have championed that important work.


This investment in the poorest and most vulnerable is of course supported by what we are doing to help children and young people across the GLA group in education, through the grassroots sports initiative, through attacking health inequalities, through supporting volunteering, through the police cadets which are now at an all time high - I think 3,200 - fantastic work by everybody in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on that, and many other initiatives.


You will know that it is only by encouraging wealth creation in London and a pro-business attitude that we will generate the revenues that any great society will always need to help the poorest and the most vulnerable, and that is why I reject some of what has been proposed by the Labour Party: the imposition upon London of a swingeing property tax which would hit families who cannot afford to pay that kind of money.  I do not know how strongly it is supported.  I notice that no Labour mayoral candidates seem to support it.  I have yet to hear the views of the Labour London Assembly Members.


I reject a return to the failed old policies of high taxes and high spending, just when the economy is starting to turn around: unemployment in the last year in London fell by 82,000.  The number of people in work has risen by 90,000.  The total number of jobs in London has increased by 307,000.  We now have 5.58 million people working in London, which is an all-time high, NEETs (not in employment, education or training) are at an all time low or the lowest for 25 years and we are indeed on track to create - as I promised in 2012 - 200,000 jobs through the implementation of our programmes.


We want young Londoners to get those jobs.  To that end, we are helping to drive up standards in schools, to encourage the provision of more school places in London - and members of the Assembly will be familiar with our plans there - and to boost apprenticeships.  It has been a very successful campaign.  We are up now to about 170,000 over the lifetime of the mayoralty, just since this mayoral term began in 2012.  We have helped 95,310 people to become apprentices.  Clearly, as the economy starts to get going, it will become harder to get young people into apprenticeships when they are naturally starting to find work, but we are continuing with that campaign full throttle.


The London economy is forecast to grow faster than virtually any other region in Europe, and now represents - as Members of the Assembly will know - about 22%, perhaps 26%, of UK Gross Domestic Product.  In order to cope with that growth we have to keep investing in transport infrastructure, and I am very pleased that I am able to tell you that capital investment under this mayoralty is now up by £250,000 at £5.3 billion in 2015/16, excluding the borrowing for Crossrail.  In spite of all these investments, which are enabling us to do Crossrail, the Northern Line Extension, the £150 million investment programme in step-free access, increasing the bus network by 5%, putting £4 billion into our road network - and it thoroughly needs it - going ahead with a Night Tube and Crossrail 2 and new bridges and the extension of the Tube, we are able to do all those things and simultaneously produce a fare package that I think represents very good value for London, holding down fares to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) in January 2015 without compromising delivery.  For the first time we are taking over most of the commuter rail services operating out of Liverpool Street station.  Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford will become part of the London Overground, as will the Romford-Upminster branch line, and the services currently running to Shenfield in Essex will become part of the new Crossrail service.  Obviously we are going to continue to lobby for the further devolution of those rail services and those authorities to London, and I think that is something that is widely supported in the Assembly.


I thank the Assembly additionally for the support you have given in the matter of fiscal devolution.  This is a campaign that is gaining ground.  We asked for that devolution, along with every other major city in Britain, not because we want more power taken away from central government but because we think great cities should be able to plan and budget for the investments that they need.


I single out, of course, our programme of housing delivery.  It is vitally important; perhaps the single most important issue now for Londoners.  This budget contains plans for the delivery of at least 15,000 affordable homes a year between 2015 - 2018.  The expansion of the First Steps programme to help people get a share of the value of their property so that the London property market is not reserved just for oligarchs.  Funds of £200 million for the London Housing Bank (LHB) to speed up building on large sites and new housing zones attracting the smaller house builders back into the market, and we are making great progress.


My friends - I use that word advisedly - national house building council figures show that more homes were registered last year than at any point since electronic records began 26 years ago - up 60% compared to 2012 - and we will achieve our goal, set out at the beginning of this mayoralty, to deliver 100,000 new affordable homes for Londoners over this term of office.


London’s population, as Members of the Assembly will know, is growing faster than at any time in its history.  Next week, according to the Further Alterations of the London Plan (FALP) - and I will wind up now, Roger - we will pass 8.6 million for the first time since 1939.  To deal with that economic growth, to manage it in a sustainable, sensitive, environmentally friendly for the benefit of everybody in London, I believe we must stick with the course we have set out today.  This budget will take forward the greatest city on earth, and I commend it to the Assembly.  Thank you very much.