The magnitude of the mayor's proposed cuts is even more of an outrage than his tantrum at being exposed.
The magnitude of the mayor’s proposed cuts is even more of an outrage than his tantrum at being exposed
Last week we saw Boris Johnson’s mask slip. It was ugly, dismissive and totally unbefitting of the role of mayor of London – but it was nowhere near as offensive as his planned 90 per cent cuts to youth and education services.
Boris has made a big deal about his initiatives to help vulnerable Londoners.
Yet when leaked documents revealed his plans to cut the budgets for many of these programmes by 90 per cent over the next two years, his reaction was as aggressive as the cuts he is considering; he first denied all knowledge before exploding ‘stick it up your…’
It’s clear that being found out hit a raw nerve. But the fact that he would even consider such huge cuts to schemes designed to help some of London’s most vulnerable young people tells us everything we need to know about his cavalier and uncaring approach to governing.
The leaked document states ‘we are forecasting a 90% reduction in GLA managed investment in education and youth’ services and makes clear that the end of three large projects would disproportionately hit the most vulnerable groups of young people.
There is a good reason these programmes exist – in the face of stringent government cuts to local authorities, someone needs to take up the strain.
Even with these projects, the mayor’s own report accepts that there is increasing concern over the levels of 17+ achievement, the low numbers of apprenticeships, and high numbers of children living in poverty.
Boris’ target to create 250,000 apprenticeships, for example, lies in tatters after two years of falls in the number of people starting apprenticeships in London. His answer to this problem? To slash the budget to zero by 2016.
Projects to increase apprenticeships and support for people to stay on at school may seem like optional extras to Boris Johnson but for many young people they make a world of difference, helping them to get on in an increasingly competitive jobs market.
What makes it even worse is that the mayor is planning to use charitable donations to cover up his cuts. The paper’s proposed next steps include ‘influence mayor’s Fund for London plans to support young people’.
In particular it forecasts that the charitable fund’s income will increase due to the new ‘Penny for London’ campaign launched only a few weeks ago by the Evening Standard.
I bet when the Standard started the campaign, they didn’t envisage the mayor using their readers’ charitable donations to plug the gaps his cuts would create.
What will happen now is not clear. Boris could have ruled out implementing cuts of this magnitude – instead he lost his rag and had a tantrum.
However, the leaked report may give us an indication of his focus. It concludes that ‘we need to manage expectations’ – in other words, spin like mad.
Boris Johnson’s mask has slipped, and we now know that we can expect not just tantrums in the face of scrutiny but a policy akin to scorched earth, drastically cutting funding to important projects and leaving his successor to pick up the pieces after 2016.
Andrew Dismore is the London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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