London Mayor Boris Johnson said he was “particularly pleased” with the coalition Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement that the capital’s two big transport projects have
been saved – the upgrading of the London Underground and Crossrail.
However, like a malign conjuror, he distracts us and neglects to mention the swingeing cuts in policing, transport and housing which will hit middle-income earners in London and attack the poorest.
Some £6 billion in cuts in transport alone will mean axing step-free access across the tube network, the extension of the Docklands Light Railway and the upgrading of Croydon’s Tramlink. On top of this, in January, we will have a 7 per cent increase in tube and bus fares. So the Mayor’s claim that London has come out better then any other region from the CSR – all down to him, of course – rings hollow.
Since then, Boris has had his wings severely clipped by the Treasury, as grants to the London Development Agency have been cut to reflect the Government’s view that economic development should be national and quangos abolished.
This has substantially limited one of the primary purposes of the Mayor, enshrined in the GLA Act 1999, to promote economic development and wealth creation in London. While being in denial at first, he has since been busy writing to his “old school mates” in the Government and admitting to ministers that cuts to the LDA will mean “no budget” to promote London internationally for tourism and inward investment.
These cuts come in just as the capital needs to shine the most – during the 2012 Olympics, arguably the biggest international showcase a country can ask for – the shop was open but the shelves were empty. So much for banging London’s (and the country’s) drum.
Things look dire with all these broken promises. The Mayor and the Government’s commitment to East London job creation comes to an immediate halt with the ending of the Olympic employment and skills programme.
Add to this, whole chunks of the Mayor’s programme for reducing youth violence and support for at-risk young people will be cut. This means that jobs and opportunities will go.
Further, the Minister for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills has written to the Mayor to inform him that the Government will be abolishing the statutory role of the London Skills and Employment Board – something for which the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, fought tooth and nail.
Similarly, the Government’s proposals to devolve powers to the Mayor are strewn with hazards. Not surprisingly, it is devolving functions without the cash. It looks like Boris Johnson will get the royal parks with a much-reduced budget – reduced by at least 25 per cent.
This will put a lot of pressure on him to turn the royal parks into moneymaking venues and increase their commercial activities to run them. Bring on the baseball caps, candy floss and souvenir mugs. Talking of mugs…
With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Murad Qureshi is a Labour member of the London Assembly
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