Gareth Bacon is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.
Sadiq Khan is fast approaching the last year of his term in office. What has he achieved so far? He is consistently behind his own affordable housing targets. He has driven TfL into financial crisis. Violent crime continues to be on our front pages on a daily basis. Crossrail will open at least 18 months late and nearly £2 billion over budget. Meanwhile, he has increased the number of bureaucrats at City Hall by a staggering 37 per cent and spent a large amount of time and resources attempting to overturn Brexit.
London’s Mayor is overseeing an administration typified by virtue signalling, financial incompetence, and wasteful spending. For example, it is laughable that when London faces such significant challenges in crime, housing, and transport a Mayor could choose – as Sadiq Khan did – to spend over £400,000 on a beach party and £10 million for police officers to take a test designed to assign their personality a colour. To give another example, he has decided to freeze TfL fares for his term in office – a choice that will cost TfL £640 million, and a policy that TfL has identified in their latest business plan as impossible to continue with if he is re-elected.
Sadiq Khan presented his draft budget for the next financial year to the London Assembly last week, and we are concerned that some of his proposed spending decisions do not stack up with the real priorities of Londoners.
Crime is a top issue for Londoners and Khan should be taking every possible action as Mayor of London to tackle this epidemic. Violent crime in London has been on the rise for some time now: the murder rate has increased by 23.3 percent over the past two years and knife crime has increased by 32.1 percent over the past three years.
The Mayor has endlessly claimed that violent crime is a direct result of government cuts to police budgets and that he has done everything in his power to keep police numbers as high as possible.
But this simply isn’t true.
The reality is that the Mayor has choices available to him, but has made the wrong ones. Characteristically, in his draft budget, Khan has yet again prioritised PR over police officers and show over substance.
In response to Sadiq Khan’s draft budget, the GLA Conservatives submitted a balanced and fully costed amendment which cuts waste and inefficiency at City Hall, whilst reducing some of his more bloated budgets back down to the levels they were at when he first entered office. With our plan, Khan could fund 1,378 extra police officers funded by savings of nearly £83 million in other areas. On top of this, our proposal would provide enough extra money to freeze the non-policing tax precept, (which Khan intends to increase by 2.99 per cent) – a real terms tax cut for millions of Londoners.
Amongst other proposals, we have suggested that the Mayor could reduce his vastly increased staffing budget, withdraw the £13 million annual contribution that he gives to London and Partners (the Mayor’s PR company), and reduce the amount that TfL pays for employees to work on union duties, which has increased from £4.9 million to £10.8 million over the course of his mayoralty.
There is a cross-party consensus in the Assembly that the Metropolitan Police needs more resources and we do not disagree. However, in spite of this, the Labour, Green, and Lib Dem Assembly Members collectively dismissed our amendment and voted it down. We are disappointed that opposition parties decided to oppose extra police officers for London, but we hope that the Mayor reconsiders and includes our proposals before he finalises his budget at the end of February.
Sadiq Khan’s term of office has so far been characterised by a great deal of boasting but very little in the way of real achievement. It is dismal record from a man who last week publicly described himself as “a brilliant Mayor.” In reality, this is a Mayor who has taken his eye off the ball. This is a Mayor who isn’t listening to Londoners about their priorities. This is a Mayor who is more interested in pontificating about Brexit – an issue over which he has no control – than concentrating on the day job.
It is time he started focusing on what Londoners expect their Mayor to be doing. He can start by accepting our amendment and putting another 1,400 bobbies on the beat.