London Mayor Sadiq Khan has as accused the government of “abdicating its responsibility to keep the public safe” by pressing ahead with “huge cuts” to police and youth service budgets at the same time as the capital faces what the Mayor called “a catastrophic threat to jobs and growth from either a bad or a no-deal Brexit.”
The Mayor said he will “continue to lead from the front on policing” and with violent crime reduction policies but claimed his “hands are tied behind our back because of these government cuts.”
He also described as “extremely disappointing” what he called the government’s refusal to give London the funding it needs to “go further and faster to tackle toxic air pollution” and repeated his recent call for more housing investment to accompany today’s “welcome confirmation” that local authorities will released from the cap preventing them borrowing to build.
The Mayor also challenges Chancellor Philip Hammond’s claim that austerity is coming to an end, despite his announcing in his House of Commons budget speech that national public spending will grown in real terms by 1.2% over the five years starting in 2020, with borrowing remaining at around £20 billion a year. There will an increase in public spending of around £30 billion, though the bulk of this will go on the National Health Service.
Other responses to the budget have been less damning, though Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business group London First, said it contained “no real game changers for London,” despite “some worthy measures for business.” She said that the business rates relief announced would help “relatively few firms in the capital” and “falls far short of the radical overhaul of business rates needed to keep pace with changes on the high street.”
Think tank Centre for London, said the Chancellor was right to recognise a need for “great flexibility” towards high streets, with “lighter planning regulation, a register of empty shops and a brokerage scheme,” all of which were recommended in the Centre’s recent report on making better use of London’s “meanwhile space”.
Both London First and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed plans to make e-passport gates at Heathrow and other airports available to visitors from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan as well as European Economic Area citizens, though London First warned that “sending a message that the UK is open for business will take more than that.” The Chamber, however, called the e-passport initiative “great news for business travellers and tourists alike,” and also applauded the Chancellor’s announcement of £1 billion from the British Business Bank to support small and medium-sized builders.
Unsurprisingly, the London Assembly Labour Group has given Hammond a frosty response, with economy spokesperson Andrew Dismore AM, like the Mayor, bemoaning, “missed opportunities to give vital public services here in the capital a helping hand,” and observing that with “violent crime is a huge concern for all Londoners, adequate funding for the Met and youth services ought to have been a priority.” Dismore says the budget, “will leave Londoners asking when they will actually see the end to austerity that they were promised.”