OPINION - London hit with largest transport and council tax rises in a decade

 (Ben Turner)
(Ben Turner)

The biggest jump in Tube and bus fares for more than a decade. The largest hike in the mayor’s share of council tax bills for 20 years. And the highest rise in food prices since 1977. That last one isn’t Sadiq Khan’s responsibility but the rule of three demanded a flourish.

As our City Hall Editor Ross Lydall (also not to blame) reports, Londoners face a double whammy of transport (5.9 per cent) and tax (9.7 per cent) rises. Ross’s piece has plenty more detail, and if you scroll through you’ll also find a handy breakdown of the new TfL fares and daily/weekly caps.

The mayor says he has been compelled by the government to match the rise in national rail fares and increase his share of council tax by the maximum permitted, blaming “insufficient” funding for frontline services. Today, he announced that extra funds for the Met police would allow for 500 additional police community support officers (PCSOs) to be recruited.

Khan has also taken on the most powerful lobby group in Britain: not the CBI, National Trust or animal rights activists, but the over-60s. The mayor confirmed that the temporary ban on the use of 60+ Oyster or Freedom Pass cards before 9am on weekdays was being made permanent, and with immediate effect. City Hall says the move will save £40m a year.

The rise in TfL fares may not be welcome but it is at least par for the course, with Londoners receiving the same treatment as those using national rail services. But it is on the GLA “precept” – the largest since he became mayor and the biggest overall since Ken Livingston in 2003 – where Khan is vulnerable.

He will blame the government, and not wholly without merit. Devolution is fundamentally about paying to play. The deal is that local leaders get to make the decisions and in return have to take more of the responsibility and raise more of the cash.

In the capital specifically, the mayor’s main powers relate to transport and policing. But the government, in imposing condition after condition on TfL and demanding inquiries into the departure of Cressida Dick, is pretty brazen about being happy to interfere in London politics, but happier still to allow Khan to swallow the political pain of raising taxes.

At the same time, with now-Labour-run Westminster Council freezing council tax, someone living in that borough will be paying almost as much to the mayor as they will to their local authority. Not something that will appear in Khan’s campaign literature as he seeks an unprecedented third term in 2024.

Elsewhere in the paper, Harrow Council has joined Sutton in announcing it will not cooperate with TfL in installing ultra-low emission zone cameras in its area.

In the comment pages, Martha Gill says the Met does not have the ability to reform itself — it needs ministers to do it for them. But that will take more than Suella Braverman bashing them for being too “woke”. While Homes & Property Editor Prudence Ivey wonders whether we really all should be living in lorry-sized tiny homes to solve the housing crisis?

And finally, is it just me or has the reaction to comments by Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, who suggested people not bring cake into the office, been somewhat unhinged? Whatever next, Chris Whitty says get vaccinated and maybe eat a vegetable? Anyway, at least we now know Rishi Sunak’s favourite slice is carrot and red velvet.

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