Battle begins over Livingstones budget

17 Jan 02
London Mayor Ken Livingstone faces a battle to force his proposed budget through the capital's assembly after the Association of London Government dismissed it as 'unacceptable and unrealistic'.

18 January 2002

The ALG's final submission on the proposed council tax precept for the Greater London Authority attacked Livingstone's suggested £555m rise for 2002/03, which represents an increase of 35% on last year.

The proposal follows a 23% rise in 2001/02 and what the ALG described as a 'generous settlement for the GLA' from the government this year.

At the current rate of increase, the ALG also predicted that the total precept paid by Londoners would rise from £150.70 to £368.35 per household by 2004/05.

The association, which represents all 33 London boroughs, said the GLA's latest budget 'contains wish-list elements that are not realistically achievable', and questioned the mayor's ability to provide improvements in services such as transport despite the huge cash demands. The ALG does not have statutory powers to overturn the draft budget, so it chose not to repeat last year's alternative precept suggestion.

Instead, the association's local government finance director, Stephen Fitzgerald, said the GLA budget would face 'determined cross-party opposition' from London boroughs in advance of a London Assembly meeting on the issue.

The Assembly can overturn the budget through a two-thirds majority, which would also require significant cross-party collaboration.

The GLA has proposed a precept increase of 921% for Transport for London alone – from £10.1m in 2001/02 to 103.1m in 2002/03 – despite additional government grants of £267.6m this year.

In light of transport underspending in the current year, the ALG budget committee recently questioned the viability of TfL's proposals, such as major staff increases, and there is now a strong feeling that some of the mayor's schemes will not get off the ground.

'It is unfair that council taxpayers should have to foot the bill for things that will not happen,' said an ALG spokesman. 'Council tax is a serious issue for many people. It is regressive and impacts heavily on people living on tight budgets.'

A spokeswoman for the GLA said that the 35% rise 'was necessary to match the mayor's commitments to much-needed investment in London'.


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