Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New Year at the Budget Committee


This morning the committee received a budget update from the four functional bodies. A common theme was the impact of the downturn on finances. Falling land values have resulted in reduced capital receipts and this in turn means that new projects have slowed down and been postponed in some cases. Falling interest rates have led to low returns on deposits and a more cautious approach to investments - no more Icelandic banks for us...


Metropolitan Police Authority

Deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, and assistant commissioner Tim Godwin told us about their plans to move more police officers into the front line. Presently only 65% of police time is spent on policing duties and this number would be improved by moving 550 officers out of custody suites and back onto the beat. Meanwhile introducing qualified nurses will be introduced in police stations to improve care for prisoners and lower the probability of deaths in custody. The number of special constables has grown from 600 to 2,600, providing a valuable resource to police town centres at night.

Money would also be saved by cutting roles duplicated by the Crown Prosecution Service and by reducing spending on IT, training and central services. The MPS were also lobbying the Home Office to allow them to keep the proceeds of crime seized by the asset recovery unit.


London Development Agency

The agency - a confusing morass under the previous mayor - had improved performance and transparency by focusing on fewer and larger projects, with more chance of delivering benefits. LDA priorities are now young people, environment and skills. Chief executive Peter Rogers told us of his plans to concentrate help on the retail, manufacturing and construction industries, in an effort to mitigate the impact of the recession.

Questioned about the closure of the London Climate Change Agency, formerly an arms length agency of the LDA, witnesses stated that it had failed to live up to early promises and was not particularly effective, with only 2 out of 9 funding partners feeling it represented value for money.


Transport for London

Despite the economic gloom and rising fares, TfL reported that passenger numbers were still rising', so the main revenue stream remained intact. Advertising income had taken a hit as companies scaled back their promotion budgets. The possibility of a shortfall of up to £1bn existed as a result of PPP cost disputes with Tubelines.

Money would be saved by cutting a number of budgets including highway maintenance. TfL believe that the quality of their roads is good but this was not borne out by the experience of constituency members on the committee.


London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority

Popular Chairman Brian Coleman made a reappearance alongside commissioner Ron Dobson. Brian was upbeat about his chances of saving more from the budget than required by the mayor. This would amount to at least £8.2m, without impacting on front line services.

Intervention by the mayor had led to investigation of the possibility of providing a new Emergency Services Museum for London, combining the contents of the Fire Brigade Museum, the Ambulance Service Museum, a collection of historic police vehicles, and the intriguing exhibits from Scotland Yard's infamous Black Museum. If the funding and a suitable venue could be found, this would provide an attractive alternative to the limited access these collections currently provide.


Progress on budget setting continues with the mayor's sights set firmly on a 0% increase this year. The budget will be set at an assembly meeting in February.

14 comments:

judith said...

The London Climate Change Agency?????

Reminds me for some reason of Waltham Forest's old signs as you crossed the Borough Boundary that claimed you were now in a nuclear-free zone!

Roger Evans said...

Not much evidence of global warming in Romfordthis morning...

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Roger Evans said...

Oh dear! Comment moderation is back on...

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Mr Evans -

'Popular' chairman Brian Coleman says things far more outrageous than I - more frequently too - and frankly I would defend his right to do so.

I am therefore surprised and dismayed that you have removed my rather mild comment.

Why? Just because you don't agree with it?

Stand up and defend your 'popular' colleague why don't you? I thought politicians liked a debate. Or do you think you're on to a loser?

Roger Evans said...

Well, I'm hardly going to let you use my blog to promote personalised campaigns against my colleagues - it's not as if you don't have plenty of other opportunities...

I wish my political opponents were as naive as you are.

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Shame.

I notice you've not leaped to the defence of your 'popular' colleague either. I can't say that I blame you on that score though sir.

Roger Evans said...

Just pulling my punches...

I used the word 'popular' in a committee context, and indeed Brian is always a popular witness with all sides because he says what he means - a refreshing change from the many faces of Ken Livingstone.

But don't take my word for it. What was Brian's majority at Barnet & Camden in each of his elections? Wikipedia have the figures:

Election 2000 majority 551.
Election 2004 majority 11,519.
Election 2008 majority 19,693.

The last of these achieved over Labour star and former deputy mayor, Nicky Gavron. He's clearly gaining support.

Whereas you have a single web page with a few 'friends' and you won't even reveal your name...

Roger Evans said...

Just pulling my punches...

I used the word 'popular' in a committee context, and indeed Brian is always a popular witness with all sides because he says what he means - a refreshing change from the many faces of Ken Livingstone.

But don't take my word for it. What was Brian's majority at Barnet & Camden in each of his elections? Wikipedia have the figures:

Election 2000 majority 551.
Election 2004 majority 11,519.
Election 2008 majority 19,693.

The last of these achieved over Labour star and former deputy mayor, Nicky Gavron. He's clearly gaining support.

Whereas you have a single web page with a few 'friends' and you won't even reveal your name...

Rog T said...

As a Barnet resident, who has a daughter in the Olympic Development squad for the 2012 Olympics, I read your comment regaring Brian Coleman with interest. My daughter recently had to receive an award from the Mayor of Barnet, John Marshall. The day before, she was rather agitated about the presentation. On discussing this with her, I realised that she thought Brian Coleman was the mayor. She had read his comments about the British Olympic team in the Edgware Press (unprompted by me). It had also been a topic of conversation within her swimming club. In the event she got on famously well with John Marshall and said he was a great guy, as he had taken the trouble to have a long chat. At a later event for the Jack Petchey foundation, he remembered the meeting and complimented her on her dedication.

I'm sure you have to be candid in your comments regarding Brian Coleman, but I can assure you he's causing a lot of damage at all levels to the credibility of the Conservative Party in Barnet and London generally. The sad thing about Brian Coleman is that he's his own worst enemy.If he learned to think before he made such outrageous statements, clearly designed purely to grab headlines, he'd be a far more effective politician.

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Sir - I choose not to reveal my name because of 'popular' Brian Coleman's reknowned golden rule of 'never forget and never forgive'.

And don't get me wrong, my campaign is not intended to be anti-Conservative, just anti-Coleman. I honestly believe that his buffoonery does the party much more harm than good.

As far as I'm aware, Labour 'star' Nicky Gavron never twinkled in Barnet in the run-up to the last London election. I don't think she even made it into the borough. Pathetic!

And of course Barnet is equally blessed and cursed with a phenomenal amount of cab drivers.

It makes for dreadful London election results of course, but its great when you need a cab home late at night.

:-)

Roger Evans said...

I met John Marshall a few years ago, great guy and really admirable that he stayed in politics and contributed som much after his 1997 defeat.

As for cab drivers, I have even more in my constituency, which is known as 'Green Badge Valley'. They got a poor deal from Livingstone so their political allegiance is not surprising.

Rog T said...

Given John Marshall's age and the renumeration for local politicians when he went into politics, it's fairly clear that he is one of a generation who went into politics to try and do something useful and community minded. I'm not saying that never happens today, but excesses of some members have certainly changed the perception of the public towards our local councillors and MP's. These few members excesses cause damage that undermines the vast majority. I don't expect you to denounce these members in a public forum, but if I were in your shoes I'd certainly give it some private consideration.

morris hickey said...

When Briam Coleman travels mainly by public transport using the travelcard issued to him at public expense rather than taxis paid for from public funds, and when he draws substantial sums of cash from just one local authority rather than two, he might be at risk of being "popular". Until then, "popular" he ain't!

If I were Leader of the GLA Tory Group then Coleman would not even be in my team until he had demonstrated a sustained period of humility and self-restraint.

In the meantime I'm waiting for the pigs to fly..........