Sadiq Khan today refused to be drawn on the details of updated 2024/25 City Hall budget plans outlining £512 million of extra spending, despite the best efforts of London Assembly members at their regular Mayor’s Question Time session.
His draft budget, also confirming an 8.6 per cent or £37.26 Band D rise in the Greater London Authority’s share of Londoners’ Council Tax, was published yesterday, following its public consultation.
It means the Band D figure for the years from April will be £471.40 But Assembly members will have to wait to interrogate the plans at a scheduled plenary session next Thursday, the Mayor said.
Some of the extra spending has already been confirmed, including £140 million to continue funding free school meals for all London primary school children in the 2024/25 school year, a further £4 million for free meals during school holidays, and a £50 million increase in the Ultra-Low Emission Zone vehicle scrappage scheme.
The additional spending also includes a further £35 million for policing, £3 million for more public toilets on the Transport for London network, and the £30 million added to the TfL staff salaries budget for £2024/25, which meant a threatened week-long strike by London Underground RMT union members was called off at the eleventh-hour earlier this month.
At City Hall, Khan hit out at what he called “deliberate disinformation” over the budget boost, such as the claims that – as his Conservative rival in the mayoral election race, Susan Hall, has put it – “taxpayers’ money” had been given to the unions to avert the strike.
Khan said the strike would have cost the city’s hospitality sector alone some £50 million. “I stepped in, because TfL didn’t have the resources, to add £30 million to their budget for them to negotiate with the unions to resolve the issue amicably,” he said. “If we can afford to give workers a decent pay rise I believe we should do so.”
Khan remained tight-lipped over his anticipated decision about TfL fares for 2024/25 despite the budget papers showing a further £147 million allocated to the network for unspecified purposes and TfL’s own budget figures showing lower fares income forecasts than earlier drafts, saying only that he was “determined to keep London’s transport system as affordable as possible while continuing to deliver a world-leading transport network”.
Londoners may not have long to wait, with suggestions that an announcement about fares could come as early as tomorrow. More detail on the extra £147 million for TfL will also be published ahead of next week’s Assembly plenary.
The draft budget reveals that almost £260 million of the extra spending would be enabled by estimated increases in Business Rate funding – a regular source of additional revenue for City Hall that becomes known during the budget-making process after initial plans are drafted. But the Mayor is also dipping into City Hall reserves for the rest of the £512 million.
Overall, the Greater London Authority budget for next financial year amounts to some £21.7 billion: £17.4 billion in revenue spending, more than half of that on TfL; £4.7 billion on policing; and £1.5 billion for spending on capital projects, primarily transport renewals and investment.
After income, mainly from fares, Business Rates and other revenue, some £1.49 billion remains to be met from the Mayor’s share of council tax. Of the proposed £37.26 per household increase at Band D, £20 is earmarked for TfL, £13 for the Metropolitan Police, and £4.26 for the fire service.
The London Assembly has two opportunities to discuss the mayoral budget – next Thursday and again on 22 February. Assembly members may amend the budget, but only if a two-thirds majority agrees on the changes. To date, no mayoral budget has been successfully amended.
X/Twitter: Charles Wright and OnLondon. Support OnLondon.co.uk and its writers for just £5 a month of £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Today’s Mayor’s Question Time session can be viewed in full here.