CSR: London Mayor claims key services are protected
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Housing, Local Government
Boris Johnson promises Londoners 'greater value for money'
London Mayor Boris Johnson has claimed to have successfully protected the capital's key services but admitted wider Government cuts may still hit hard.
The Tory politician said the Spending Review recognised the city's role as the "motor" of Britain's economy and that it would be "madness to starve it of fuel". He said the giant Crossrail project was secure, although it would be delayed by a year to 2018, Tube upgrades would go ahead and bus services had been protected.
Public transport users would see fares increase by an average of 6.8%, free and concessionary fares would not change and the western congestion charge extension would be axed by Christmas. Mr Johnson said frontline police numbers may be maintained, if not increased, as a result of huge savings and reforms already undertaken by the Met.
But speaking at City Hall, the mayor admitted huge changes to the benefits system and public housing could still have a painful impact on many, including the "poorest and neediest". He said: "We are in a grave economic predicament. What I am telling you is we have worked hard and successfully across London to protect certain vital services.
"There are arguments to be had about how to protect London from some of the more damaging affects of budget cuts. These will be particularly felt across London. Those are arguments that will continue and we will continue to make these points for the benefit of Londoners."
In line with his party colleagues, Mr Johnson laid the blame for the swingeing cuts on what he said was the "maladministration" of the Labour government. He said behind-the-scenes talks in which he was asked to pick between Crossrail and Tube upgrades were like "asking a tigress to choose between two of her cubs".
Mr Johnson said "every penny" of the £9.3 billion 2012 Olympic programme would be spent. He announced a "housing task force" aimed at achieving the Holy Grail of getting better use out of public land and encouraging private investment in affordable homes.
Asked what the impact on policing would be, Mr Johnson replied "it's all going to be fine" before one of his deputies, Kit Malthouse, added "there is still a lot to work out". Mr Malthouse said officials were "increasingly confident" necessary cuts could be met by reducing "back office functions" without taking officers off the frontline. Mr Johnson declined to rule out increasing the police precept portion of the council tax demand and said he was determined to do "anything in the interests of London".
The mayor said reform of Tube services was "something we are determined to see through" and urged Tube union leaders to "come to the table and do the deal that is there to be done". Mr Johnson added that he has been criticised for jamborees of "marquees and furry pendants" at the opening of new cycle facilities but they were "history".
Asked whether Londoners would be worse off, Mr Johnson said he was confident the impact of the cuts could be "mitigated" to protect the capital. But he added that it was "ludicrous" to expect him to predict "in some Panglossian way" the impact of "every jot and tittle" to massive budgets. Pangloss was an often blindly optimistic character in Candide, by the 18th century French writer and philosopher Voltaire.