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13 October 2008

The reality of Boris’s cuts

London Mayor Boris Johnson's Tory administration has already embarked on a round of cuts. Katy Taylo

By Katy Taylor

Deprived parts of the UK capital are in danger from the cutbacks of Tory mayor Boris Johnson, opposition members (AMs) of the London Assembly say.

According to Labour AM Valerie Shawcross, Johnson’s cut backs have made “a bonfire of transport projects in areas in need of regeneration, in Labour constituencies”.

Recent budget proposals have also threatened emergency services and clamped down on cultural activities.

Johnson’s proposed 15 per cent of cuts or ‘savings’ to Greater London Authority funding will not come into effect until next year but 28 notifications of potential redundancies have already been issued within London Fire Brigade.

Stating her concern, Shawcross said: “London’s fire service is going up in flames and Boris Johnson is not interested.”

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According to statistics produced by the service’s Equalities Department 86 per cent of the service is white and male but it is the Equalities and Diversity Training Team that’s in greatest danger.

London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) Chairman Brian Coleman said: “We will just cut away the flab that’s grown in the the organisation.” Although many would argue this ‘flab’ works to prevent discrimination within the service.

The Fire Service’s museum and library are also under threat although a passionate campaign against its closure has been launched. Nothing is yet decided and the official line is that a “range of options are being considered” but when questioned the Boris-appointed chairman said the library would go.

Justifying the threats, Coleman said: “Cuts have to be made. We are in the middle of a recession and people don’t have any money. I would have thought that was obvious, even to the New Statesman.”

GMB union’s senior organiser, Ted Purcell, was unconvinced by the politician’s professed concern for the public pocket: “To be honest, when a Tory got into power we expected this”.

Labour AM John Biggs meanwhile highlighted the areas in which Tory cuts were showing most clearly.

Plans for the Cross River Tram linking Brixton and Peckham with Kings Cross and Euston have been delayed (and may well be dropped); the Thames Gateway public transport Scheme was scrapped last Thursday. Meanwhile there has been talk of creating radial routes between the wealthier suburbs.

It’s not just services that are being squeezed. London Assembly member’s have commented the already under-represented sectors of London’s population are being slowly dismissed and their opportunity to protest is being quietly quashed. This is particularly true for women.

The Greater London Domestic Violence Project – which works to reduce violence in London homes – did not have their contract with the Mayor renewed when it expired on 31st August. Workers have said their vital services are strapped for cash and face falling apart.

Funding for the annual Women’s Conference where 2,000 people discussed issues facing females across the capital has been cut. The Board of Safer Travel at Night, which looked into increasing women’s safety when travelling, have been suspended. What’s more the Mayor’s staff has become increasingly white male-dominated since his appointment.

More publicised was the clampdown on the anti-racism message of the RISE festival or withdrawal of £10,000 from Soho Pride just ten days before the event.

Half-price travel concessions for those on benefits have been done away with although Boris has stated they will return. Affordable housing is being promoted, but assistance schemes are only available for families earning in excess of £60,000.

Many politicians believe that those governing London are creeping back towards a traditional Tory agenda. Biggs said: “We are slowly seeing a return to notions of the deserving and undeserving poor”.

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