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Along with millions of others, my Council Tax bill will increase this April – by the maximum level allowed without a referendum. In Hammersmith and Fulham that means an increase of 4.99 per cent on the main bill. But there is also to be a 9.7 per cent increase in the precept imposed by the Mayor of London.
Why is the Mayor of London being allowed such a big increase?
Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, said in a statement to Parliament before Christmas:
“The Mayor of London has requested flexibility to levy an additional £20 on band D bills to the Greater London Authority precept to provide extra funding for Transport for London. The Government have expressed ongoing concern about the management of TfL by this Mayor, and it is disappointing that London taxpayers are having to foot the bill for the GLA’s poor governance and decision-making. While the Government will not oppose this request, any decision to increase the precept is solely one for the Mayor, who should take into account the pressures that Londoners are currently facing on living costs and his decision to raise council tax by 9.5% last year.”
“Disappointing.” Yet the failings are to be bailed out. Why is Transport for London not taken away from the Mayor if he is incapable of running it properly? It is an essential public service – not just for Londoners. Nor is it just London Council Taxpayers who face the costs of the financial mismanagement at TfL. Extra funds have also been poured in from central Government – without any robust prospect of improvement.
Ross Clark wrote in the Daily Telegraph:
“Ever since Covid, the Government has indulged Khan by bailing out Transport for London with grants. It did once try to insist in return that the mayor investigate automating the Tube, something which could save billions in the long run, making public transport in London much less dependent on subsidy. But if the London mayor is making a serious effort to do that, I can’t see any sign of it.
“Indeed, the bailouts have continued in spite of Khan wasting taxpayers’ money on a commission into the legalisation of cannabis – something which lies well outside his jurisdiction.”
Then there is the controversy over the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, ULEZ. This is a declaration of war on white van man. Drivers will be charged £12.50 a day to enter the zone if the vehicles are not compliant.
This issue was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions recently:
Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con)
Q13. To continue a theme, evidence is now very clear that the London Mayor’s sham consultation has suppressed 5,000 negative responses from members and supporters of FairFuelUK, for which I chair the all-party parliamentary group. What angers me is that this proposal is a tax against my South Thanet residents, it is a tax against Kent residents and it is a tax against all of the home counties. It is true taxation without representation. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he will do all he can to stop it? This tax is a fill-up for a failed Mayor’s budget and a failed Mayor.
The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend makes an excellent and powerful point, and he is right to highlight that the Labour Mayor is imposing that tax on a public who do not want it. Expanding that zone is not something that communities want. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to urge the Mayor to consider and respond properly to all views and stop that unfair tax.
I suppose if the Mayor was to “consider and respond properly to all views” that would be progress. But why should he be allowed to proceed with such a damaging scheme? Labour councils such as Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham have opposed the scheme.
Air quality should be improved by incentives and positive initiatives – not crude and expensive anti-car measures. Instead, the Mayor should look get on with switching to electric buses. Regular use of dust suppressant spray – particularly around construction sites is an example of a measure that would have a modest cost and a significant benefit. What about taking the theft of bikes seriously? Also, he should work with motoring organisations to reduce pollution by avoiding traffic jams. This might mean getting rid of unnecessary bus lanes and traffic lights – also removing humps. Where traffic lights are deemed necessary could more of them be switched from pelican crossings to puffer crossings (the ones with sensors) to avoid cars kept waiting with their engines running when the road is clear? Having vehicles crawling along benefits nobody.
But the ULEZ expansion is misguided. It is not enough to say it is for Londoners to elect another Mayor. What use is that to the people of South Thanet?
In any case, for the rest of local government there is a safeguard of staying within budget. When this is not achieved in Liverpool or Slough the commissioners are sent in. Why does Khan get a special dispensation to help himself to ever more dollops or public money and to do as he pleases – with just the gentle murmur that it is “disappointing” and he should “consider the views” of those who are displeased?
If the Government is serious about wanting a return to economic growth, then action is needed to prevent sabotage from the Mayor of London.