Four hundred and forty five pounds. Or £445, if you’re a fan of digits. That’s how much more council tax the average London household would have paid between 2008/09 and 2012/13 had Boris continued with Ken Livingstone’s average annual increase of nearly 13%. That increase, a total rise of 153% over Livingstone’s eight years as mayor, amounted to an extra £964 cost for every household in London.
By contrast, Boris has frozen City Hall’s share of the council tax for his first three years in office, and today announced that he will cut it for the first time in the history of the mayoralty. The cut itself is small, but what it represents, what it stands for and the extent to which it underlines the difference between the two candidates, is huge.
City Hall under Ken Livingstone threw cash around as if it grew on trees – always seemingly oblivious to the fact that the money is the taxpayers’, not the mayor’s. Remember the independent Forensic Audit Panel saying that the London Development Agency had squandered tens of millions pounds of public money – it had “misspent money on a massive scale”, they said. Remember Ken changing the employment severance rules just before he was kicked out of City Hall meaning his cronies were entitled to a £1.6million pay-off. Remember (pp.39-44) the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent by Ken’s cronies on foreign travel. Remember Ken spending £36,000 of taxpayers’ money on a trip to Cuba and Venezuela (you may remember Ken visited Havana more often than he visited Hillingdon during his eight years as mayor). Remember (p.10) Ken spending £20,500 of Londoners’ money on a lunch with his socialist mate Hugo Chavez (he’s the one who offered his support to Colonel Gaddafi last year). Remember Ken spending £28million on publicity and advertising. Remember Ken spending £2.8million on the The Londoner propaganda sheet.
Boris scrapped The Londoner as soon as he became mayor (even despite the obvious benefit it provided to incumbents) and has continued his campaign against excessive waste ever since. It is that prudence which has saved Londoners nearly half a grand since 2008. What’s more, on top of huge savings, Boris has also made City Hall far more transparent and accountable, publishing City Hall expenditure over £500. What underlies all of this is that Boris, like most Conservatives, respects the financial sacrifice that households make in paying taxes, and understands the duty and responsibility that politicians have in ensuring the money is properly spent. Ken, like most socialists, treated the taxpayers’ money as if it was a gift from Londoners with which he could do whatever he chose. In these times of financial difficulty, Londoners need far more of the former and far less of the latter.