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Mayor Johnson

GLA precept to be frozen

Today Mayor Johnson used the occasion of Mayor’s Question Time to announce that he aims to ensure that London’s portion of the council tax, the GLA precept, will be frozen next year.

Not a Livingstone style, Newspeak freeze of RPI (=5%) but a straight English freeze of 0%.

You can read his full remarks here.

The key bits are:

In its original 1998 White Paper, the government envisaged that the GLA should be a small, strategic body. But as new powers have been added, and new ambitions acquired and new schemes conceived there has been a steady expansion of headcount, from 400 in 2001/2002 to 800 today, excluding consultants and agency temporary staff. That is a 100 per cent increase in eight years, and the effects have inevitably felt in our council tax precept, rising from £122.98 in 2001/2002 to £309.92 this year.

And though I appreciate that the expansion of the GLA plays only a part in the precept increase, I believe it is our duty to do everything we can to lift the burden on Londoners.

The people of this city are feeling a serious financial squeeze. It is our job to deliver taxpayer value. It is our job to restore trust in the way we spend their money. That is why my budget guidance is that we work towards freezing the precept next year.

We can do this if we first establish a clear set of priorities, and that means thinking about how we want London to look and feel in 2012, when we welcome the world to our city.

Next year’s savings target of £7.5m is already well on the way to being achieved. Circa £1m has already been achieved from the restructuring of my office and £0.5m from stopping my predecessors plans for unnecessary growth. A personal priority of mine has also been to review Press Office and Communications- 20% savings will be made in this area – and I’m extremely grateful for their proactive engagement on this, identifying savings which go beyond what I asked for. Other savings will be achieved through reprioritising programme budgets, existing efficiency programmes and putting a freeze on all but essential recruitment. This will include the 100 vacancies currently on our books. Our expectation is that many of these may be deleted.

Evening Standard coverage here.