Sadiq Khan’s proposed Greater London Authority budget for the coming financial year was rejected by the London Assembly today – but with no amendments to it agreed by a majority of members, the document is still deemed to have been approved, with a final draft to be considered next month.
The draft consolidated budget for 2021/22 includes plans to raise the Mayor’s portion of Council Tax – the precept – by 9.5% to make up for shortfalls in Transport for London and Metropolitan Police funds, with the GLA group as a whole facing cuts of up to £493 million.
Assembly Members voted by 13 to 11 against approving it, with only members of the Labour Group in favour. Conservative Group leader Susan Hall, who also chairs the Assembly budget and performance committee, described the Mayor’s proposed budget as “half-baked” and suggested that it lacked sufficient detail to be agreed on today.
“London deserves a recovery budget, a bold budget, a budget that maps new ways to restore the old ways,’ Hall said. “However, this is not that budget.” She added: “Whereas the other functional bodies deliver traditional budgets, the Mayor has adopted a wobbly, sort of ‘wait and see’ approach. We hope to get a better idea of his exact spending in February.”
A motion proposed by the Conservatives that called on the Mayor to rethink and have more of a “vision for what London can achieve” was voted down by AMs. The Tories were challenged by Labour’s Onkar Sahota, who claimed they were simply looking to criticise Khan.
“They’re putting forward a motion just criticising the mayor, not having come across another alternative budget of how to help London through this crisis we are in,” he said.
The only amendment proposed came from the two Green Party AMs, Caroline Russell and Sian Berry, though that too was voted down. The Greens made several suggestions for additional income streams and how the money from them might be spent, including an additional increase of 0.3%, or 41p a year, on top of the proposed precept increase.
They said this would bring in an additional £1.2 million, which their amendment said would go towards tackling rough sleeping by providing beds for under-25s. They also proposed up to £1 billion of spending on 2,000 new homes for key workers in London over several years, having identified an initial £400 million of available housing funding that could provide 907 of the homes. Despite several members expressing a desire to engage with some of the issues raised by the Greens’ amendment, it was defeated by 22 votes to two.
The Assembly will see the Mayor’s final draft budget on 25 February 25, when any specific amendment proposed will require the support of two-thirds of AMs in order to be carried. However, both Hall and Labour Group leader Len Duvall suggested that an emergency meeting could be held at a later date if more details emerged about exact spending plans to ensure proper scrutiny is carried out.
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