Sadiq Khan has warned of deep cuts to major London services including the police and the fire service unless Boris Johnson’s government intervenes after a sharp fall in revenue during the coronavirus lockdown.
The mayor of London has reduced his own pay by 10% and demanded that ministers plug a £493m black hole or see the budgets of the Metropolitan police, London fire brigade, Transport for London and the Greater London Authority slashed.
He said a failure to help could undermine the government’s pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers across the UK and efforts to transform the fire services after the Grenfell Tower fire.
In recognition of the cuts that local government employees may face, Khan has committed to take an immediate £15,273 pay cut, and to freeze the salaries of his 15 direct appointments.
Khan said: “Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on London’s public finances. TfL’s fares income has dropped by more than 90% and local business rates and council tax income has fallen off a cliff.
“This is the worst possible time for a return to austerity – just when we need to invest in London’s recovery. Unless ministers act, the current number of police officers will need to be reduced and it will be impossible to tackle youth violence or make the changes to the London fire brigade that are desperately needed after the awful Grenfell Tower tragedy.
“I didn’t enter politics to administer government austerity, and I will do everything in my power to persuade ministers not to force another era of austerity on local and regional government.
“Whatever happens I will protect the frontline services that Londoners depend on as much as possible – and it’s only right that I should volunteer an immediate pay cut in these extremely difficult circumstances and continue not to take any pension contributions. In addition, I have taken the decision to freeze the salaries of my political appointments at City Hall,” he said.
The GLA Group faced a £493m budget shortfall over the next two years as a result of an unprecedented loss of business rates and council tax income, caused by Covid-19, he said.
This is in addition to significant emergency costs already incurred by the GLA Group through schemes to support Londoners during the pandemic.
He has also warned that cuts could hamper the recovery effort to boost the economy, support jobs, invest in skills and help Londoners get back on track.
Khan was one of several Labour mayors who last week warned that local authorities were at risk of going bust unless central government intervened.
The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, has previously said councils will get the funding they need and Boris Johnson has said there will be no return to austerity as the country grapples with the pandemic. But the government has so far refused to commit to providing sufficient support to local and regional authorities responding to the pandemic.
The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government has been approached for a comment.