By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
Earlier today, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson addressed the London Assembly with his proposed budget. Boris' re-election campaign has said the draft budget "could not have made the choice for the next Mayor of London any clearer".
The most noticeable thing about the speech is that instead of focusing on exciting projects City Hall can show off (the Olympics, etc), Boris instead talks about crime, transport and housing most prominently. The budget closely follows the advice of ConservativeHome columnist Stephan Shakespeare, who wrote yesterday:
"Our poll showed the least important issues to Londoners were ‘Promoting London’s image’ and ‘Promoting the Olympics’… What London voters really care about is crime, transport, and cutting the high cost of living in the city. Crime is already a plus for Boris; now he needs to concentrate on winning the argument on transport. And he can best show he cares about easing the financial burden on Londoners by lowering its price."
Boris kicks off his re-election budget by outlining his transport achievements:
"We promised a 24 hour freedom pass… We promised a booze ban on public transport. We… have made the tube network the safest in Europe and brought bus crime down by 30 per cent. I scrapped the vindictive £25 charge on family cars, and I kept my promise and listened to what Londoners really thought of the western extension zone of the C charge. I promised the world’s best cycle hire scheme"
Boris moves to respond to Ken Livingstone's promise to cut public transport fares, by pointing out Ken did not deliver on the that promise when he ran for election three times previously:
"Londoners will be asking… what will be cut by those who call for a £1.2 billion reduction in TfL’s revenue. Perhaps it’s the Bank station congestion relief work ... Or cutting the Safer Transport Teams and the bus network. Which would it be? I know we will be rehearsing these arguments over and over again and I understand the politics of it. As has my predecessor who has made the same promise in 2000, 2004 and 2008 and yet has never actually delivered on that promise."
Boris then turns to crime:
"It is the first priority of the Mayor to keep Londoners safe and I believe in keeping numbers high. That is why I am re-balancing the precept towards the police to maintain those numbers. … There will be around 1,000 more fully warranted police officers on London’s streets at the end of this term than I inherited… All of this has meant an overall reduction in crime over this Mayoral term of over 10 per cent. … This budget builds on the successes of this term and there will be NO police cuts while I am Mayor."
The key section on housing is:
"I promised that I would deliver 50,000 new affordable homes – the most in any single Mayoral term. And despite the terrible economic conditions of the past few years by May they be. And during the next investment round, over 2011 – 2015, we will deliver a record breaking 55,000 affordable homes, which will not only house London’s workers but will also create 100,000 jobs."
The section on the Olympics was notable for how small it was:
"Last but not least this budget delivers, through the new Mayoral Development Corporation, a true legacy for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, on time and on budget. … There will be 10,000 new homes – 40 per cent of them family sized – and 10,000 permanent jobs in addition to all those already created by Westfield and other regenerated parts of east London. We are carrying forward a £30m programme in grass roots sport… to deliver a sporting and health legacy."
In summing up his draft budget, Boris again referred to his three key themes of crime, transport and housing, and again bashed Ken Livingstone' fares policy:
"We have a choice. We could go for a short-term political swindle that will cut more than a billion from our investments – and which would simply drive fares even higher in the future. Or we can keep going with our programme of driving down crime, investing in transport, and growing the London economy. We can go back to the politics of waste and division and posturing. Or we can get on with the work of improving the lives of Londoners. I want to get on with that work, and I commend this budget to the assembly."
The full speech can be read here.