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Mayor’s Question Time: Boris’ budget day

29 January 2014

A tax-cutting budget to support growth — that’s the central, very Conservative message of Boris Johnson’s 2014-15 budget for London. At Mayor’s Question Time today, he bombarded members with all the positive things to have come out of his mayoralty. Unemployment down by 18,000, employment up by 54,000, bus crime down 40 per cent, Crossrail still on time and on budget while the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the Northern line expansion are on track.

Boris has decided to keep his voters happy with a tax cut. Despite ever decreasing government grants, it’s the second consecutive year he’s cut City Hall’s share of council tax — the Mayor claims means a 24 per cent drop in real turns. The 2014/15 cut works out at 33p a month per household, described by Lib Dem member Stephen Knight as being ‘so trivial most Londoners won’t notice it’.

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As the meeting descended into shouting, Boris rounded on Knight, describing this response as ‘typical of the Liberal Democrats’ and said voters in May’s elections will know they the Lib Dems are ‘the party of high council tax’.

Less controversially, Boris confirmed MayorWatch’s story that part-time season tickets will be introduce on the Tube within the next 12 months:

‘The introduction of contactless bank card payments on the London Underground and other rail services later this year not only provides customers with more flexibility, but also provides a golden opportunity to develop more flexible ticketing products.
“I have therefore asked TfL to introduce ticketing which specifically addresses the needs of part-time workers from January 2015.’

This is something that has support from all parties. Boris nicked the idea from then-transport minister Norman Baker, who already mooted the idea back in September for the national network . Caroline Pidgeon has been campaigning for the tickets inside the London Assembly, so it’s her victory as much as Boris’s for making it happen.

As ever, Boris’s grasp of his budget details was sketchy at times, having to consult his deputy mayor Kit Malthouse on the detail. He is a good performer, but would he get away with missing details purely on that basis in a bigger arena?

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  • Dai Station

    Part time season ticket technology could also be used to create part time Freedom Passes as a strategy for tapering the entitlement to free travel for the over 60s in a manner that does not spark major resentment. It is unjust that low and middle income workers, struggling to afford housing, spend a very high proportion of their earnings on travelling to work and subsidise commuting for over 60s who may be much wealthier than they are. If the senior citizen freedom pass entitled the bearer to a capped number of journeys per month rather than unlimited travel, it would still help the retired to get out and about but there would be less unwarranted subsidy.

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