London Mayor Boris Johnson could cut the city's council tax by ten percent without anyone noticing any loss of services, blogs the irrepressible journalist and councillor, Harry Phibbs.
Do we really need to spend £8m a year on the London Assembly, for example? Phibbs would prune the bureaucracy right back, and cut its budget to £1m. Then there is nearly £500k spent by the Mayor's Brussels section. Don't we have MEPs to do that job? And what benefit do Londoners get from the Mayor's International Relations budget? We have a Foreign Office for that, too.
Salaries for 'London stakeholders', whoever they are, cost another £400k. Police liaison (not to be confused with fighting crime) is another £540k. Phibbs would cut another £200k on 'transparency agenda' spin-doctors. And the £100k 'internal communications' budget would go entirely.
Budgets for liaison with central government, public consultations (usually things are decided long before anyone asks the public their opinion), the 'State of London Debate', £1m-worth of business liaison (which businesses regard as just a cumbersome bureaucracy), another £1.3m in business policy, more in policy evaluation, £140k for media monitoring, a £500k 'diversity' programme, £1.7m for 'political advisers' – the list goes on and on. This is a city council, not a world superpower. Some of these programmes are just not needed, many are counterproductive (like the 'sponsorship team' which costs more than it raises), and all could be done more cheaply.
Add it up and Phibbs reckons he could save £93m, cutting the council tax by 10%. And he is not just fantasising: he and his colleagues have trimmed huge layers of fat off the Hammersmith & Fulham Council budget, without losing any essential services.
If only he were working for David Cameron and George Osborne...