Gareth Bacon is Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.
Londoners should, by now, be very used to this Mayor breaking his promises. Be it his broken promise on ensuring “zero strikes” in the capital, or his promise to freeze all transport fares, he has consistently reneged on his election promises to the detriment of all Londoners.
Alongside these commitments, Sadiq Khan, in his election manifesto, pledged to keep council tax “as low as possible” and insisted that he “supported” Boris’s intention to cut the Olympic Precept. But, in a complete volte-face, not only is he raising his call on the council tax for all residents in the Capital by 1.5 per cent, he is maintaining the additional Olympics supplement on council tax despite his previous assurances.
The Olympic Precept on London’s council tax was conceived and introduced by the first mayor, Ken Livingstone, and continued by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson. It was designed to help London honour its funding commitments to central government for financing the Olympic Games in 2012. Between 2006 and this year, £625m was raised through this precept on the council tax, which means that London has now honoured its debt to government and made, in full, its financial contribution to the 2012 Olympic Games.
As the account has now been fully settled, Boris had detailed in his last budget that the current financial year would be the last year that Londoners would pay for this precept. He stated that it would be for the incoming Mayor to honour this commitment in his or her first budget. Yet, despite the temporary nature of the Olympics Precept being agreed by both a Labour mayor and a Conservative mayor, Sadiq Khan has once again broken a promise by forcing all Londoners to continue paying for this completely needless tax.
This broken promise unfortunately comes with a price tag. In the next financial year, Londoners will be out of pocket to the tune of £23m in total. This is very unfair to all the hardworking people in the Capital, who should no longer be expected to pay this unwarranted charge once the Olympics debt has been wiped, as it now has been.
My colleagues and I at the London Assembly have called on Sadiq Khan to make good his promise to remove this tax. We have proposed that he raise money in an alternative way, specifically by removing the long-term travel perk Transport for London offers to flatmates and lodgers of their employees.
Nominee Passes, as these travelcards are known, are granted to those that live at the same address as TfL employees, be they a family member or even a flatmate, landlord or lodger. By our estimates, the taxpayer currently has to foot a bill of over £33 million each year just so that TfL staff can hand out free travelcards to those they live with.
This would be hard to justify under normal circumstances, but at a time when the Mayor is asking Londoners to continue paying for an Olympics Games that has already been fully paid for, this is outrageously unfair. Sadiq Khan should immediately scrap his unjust ‘Olympics tax’ and end this gold-plated perk for TfL nominees.