Sadiq Khan reveals £500million pre-election spending splurge with more cash for police and Tube toilets

Sadiq Khan is to boost his pre-election spending by an additional £500m, with more cash for the Metropolitan police, Tube staff and motorists seeking to scrap Ulez non-compliant vehicles.

But critics said the “surprise money” had clearly been “hoarded” for an election year – and criticised the mayor for embarking on a spending spree rather than limiting council tax bills.

Mr Khan confirmed his share of council tax will rise by 8.6 per cent – adding £37.26 to benchmark Band D bills and meaning the average London household will pay £471.40 a year to City Hall from April.

This is almost £200 more than when Mr Khan, who is seeking an historic third term on May 2, first came to power in 2016.

It means the average bill in about half of London’s 33 boroughs will exceed £2,000 once the council share is added.

Mr Khan’s revised budget for 2024/25 includes a £512m spending “uplift”. This will be used to fund a pay rise of up to seven per cent for all 16,000 London Underground staff and to provide an additional £50m for his Ulez scrappage scheme, taking the total available for drivers affected by the Greater London expansion to £210m.

The majority of the extra cash appears to come from business rates – he received a £228m windfall just before Christmas – and the use of City Hall reserves.

Mayoral sources say an additional £76m has been found for Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley’s “New Met for London” plans to boost community policing and tackle racism and misogyny in light of the damning Baroness Casey report.

However it is not clear whether Sir Mark will receive all the money he wants as the budget papers state there is a “remaining budget gap of £38.6m” in police funding.

There will also be £3m to provide more toilets at Tube stations, after a campaign by Green members of the London Assembly that highlighted the “public toilet desert” across the capital’s public transport network.

A feasibility study on improving existing toilets and adding new facilities is expected “in a few months”. It is thought that stations served by the Night Tube will be prioritised, to help revellers “caught short” on their way home.

The revised budget confirms that £30m has been set aside by Mr Khan – despite him dismissing media reports at the time – to avert a week-long RMT Tube strike in the first week of January. Talks are ongoing with Tube unions over how to spend the cash.

A further £147m has been set aside for unspecified “transport innovations” – likely to be efforts to boost the mayor’s green credentials.

As previously announced, the mayor plans to spend £140m providing free school meals for all London primary school children for a second academic year.

Wednesday's Standard front page marking the launch of the London mayoral race (Evening Standard)
Wednesday's Standard front page marking the launch of the London mayoral race (Evening Standard)

Mr Khan said he was having to “step up” and do “everything I can to support Londoners” because the Government was “chronically underfunding” public services.

He said: “I’m having to use all the levers at my disposal to provide urgent additional funding from City Hall, particularly for the police.”

Peter Fortune, a Tory member of the London assembly, said: “An extra half a billion in additional ‘surprise money’ has turned up since Christmas. Money hoarded and not used. Money stored up for an election year.”

Of the mayor’s £37.26 Band D increase, £20 will go to Transport for London, £13 to the Met police and £4.26 to the London fire brigade.

Almost a quarter of the Met’s funding now comes from City Hall – it was 19 per cent in 2016.

Liberal Democrat assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said: “This is a sticking plaster budget from the mayor in an attempt to try and see himself through the upcoming election.

“Magically, the mayor seems to have found pots of money that only a few weeks ago he was denying existed. Our emergency and transport services are creaking at the seams/over stretched and this budget won’t fix that.”