LONDON MAYOR Ken Livingstone will press ahead with all transport schemes outlined for the capital next year despite a huge £115M funding gap in his transport budget.
Livingstone confirmed last week that he was ready to increase council taxes by £1 week by enforcing a 'precept' on London's 32 boroughs to bridge the gap in Transport for London's (TfL) 2002/ 2003 budget (NCE 1 November ).
Livingstone warned the Greater London Authority's (GLA) budget committee of the impending rise in council tax, saying it was very unlikely that the government would increase funding for London over the next three years.
He claimed that Londoners would support a rise in council tax if it meant that TfL could implement schemes vital to the introduction of congestion charging by January 2003.
These include bus priority measures.
He said he would rather raise council taxes than delay congestion charging because transport was such an acute problem in the capital.
'Fares have gone up at twice the rate of inflation over the last 12 years but council tax has effectively gone down, ' he said.
Livingstone added that paying the extra money was 'better value than buying a lottery ticket'.
He also said that he had not included funding to cover the takeover by TfL of London Underground.
He said this was because he did not expect that the transfer would happen until 2003 as there would have to be agreement on liabilities taken on by TfL after the signing of private finance contracts for the Tube upgrade.
'I would not be at all surprised if we go the whole of 2002 without having the Underground transferred to us, ' he said.
The TfL budget will go to the GLA for approval early in the new year.
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