The London Assembly has 25 members, nine of who are Conservatives. That means that the combined forces of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party will not be able to muster a two thirds majority to scupper the Mayor of London Boris Johnson's Council Tax precept cut of 1.3%. So that is good news for the five million Council Taxpayers in the capital. In Harrow and Kingston it will be more than cancelled out by tax rises from the borough councils. In Hounslow and Hammersmith and Fulham the borough councils will be providing a further saving.
Labour have objected that a 1.3% cut is a footling sum. So they proposed a amendment not to cut the Council Tax at all.
The Conservatives on the London Assembly offered a different approach. They called on Boris to go further and cut the Council Tax precept by 3.5%. This would be financed by ending the extraordinary perk where Transport for London staff are not only given free travel but allowed to nominate a "significant other" also to have free travel:
Staff nominee travel cards for TfL employees represent a cost of £35.8 million. We do not believe that in the current economic climate TfL should be using taxpayers’ money to fund the travel for people who do not even work at TfL and propose removing this over generous perk. We consider it reasonable to budget for only half the value of the nominee passes as not all the current pass holders will pay for travel instead, representing an increased income from fares of £17.8 million. This money should be used to fund a greater reduction in council tax than that proposed by the Mayor. By reducing the MPS’s contribution to the TfL’s Safer Transport Command TfL can use the additional fares income to cover this cost, with the saving from the MPS being passed on to a reduction of £17.8 million from MOPAC’s council tax requirement.
There was another proposal, that there should be a £300,000 savings from the London Assembly running costs:
GLA Conservatives welcomed the Mayor's target, from his Consultation Budget, for a further £300,000 of savings to be found within the Assembly's Budget. However, following pressure from the other opposition group's on the Assembly, who argued that this reduction would harm the Assembly's ability to perform its scrutiny role effectively, this savings target has been removed. GLA Conservatives feel that the Assembly should make its fair contribution to the savings which the whole GLA family must find. We propose reinstating the £300,000 savings target.
Our amendment proposes using this money to fund work within the GLA looking at the problem of homeless veterans in London. Despite differences of opinion on the scale of the problem of homeless veterans on our streets, that fact that there are any homeless people on our streets that have served for their country is an injustice and should not happen.
These are both very reasonable proposals. They put fairness above vested interests. Naturally they were voted down by Labour, Lib Dems and the Green Party. So what? It is Boris who calls the shots. If he wanted to implement them then the opposition would not be able to block them. Most Londoners would support him.
Over to you, Mr Mayor.