London Mayor Boris Johnson fails to spend £111m fund
- 12 February 2013
- From the section London
London's mayor has failed to spend more than £100m provided by the government to invest in the capital's economy and help create jobs.
Business minister Michael Fallon has criticised the slow progress in London and warned it is behind other cities in its efforts to boost growth.
A partnership group was set up but the money has not been allocated.
Boris Johnson said it was important to make the right long-term decisions and not to spend the money too quickly.
Labour said it showed while the mayor had been critical recently of austerity measures, asking for more money to invest in infrastructure, he was failing to deliver on his economic promises using what he already had.
In his budget last spring Chancellor George Osborne provided £70m to spend on economic development in the capital, adding to a sum of £41m made available the previous autumn.
The total fund of £111m was to be allocated after consideration by the London Enterprise Partnership, a group consisting mainly of business figures who advise the mayor on where to invest it.
But none of it has been spent.
There have been delays setting up the London partnership and there are still vacancies in its membership.
A government deadline to produce a jobs and growth strategy for the capital by the end of last year was missed.
According to draft budget papers, £100m is being carried over to spend on capital investment in the next financial year.
Attending a private meeting of the LEP last month, Mr Fallon criticised the speed of progress in the capital, saying it was lagging behind other big cities in the UK.
Labour accused the mayor of "dithering" and said Londoners were suffering from the delay.
Sadiq Khan, shadow minister for London, said: "This is a good example of why London needs a full time mayor not someone who's got an eye on being the leader of the Conservative Party and only one eye on London.
"Unemployment is more than 9%; you've got people looking for jobs, businesses saying we need regeneration, companies saying we could do with some infrastructure investment.
"It beggars belief that the mayor is sitting on £111m of taxpayer's money."
Mr Johnson opened trading at the Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning, appealing for more science and technology companies to be listed to attract equity investment.
The mayor said he was unaware of any criticism from Mr Fallon and insisted it was important the money was invested wisely, rather than quickly.
He said: "I think it's very important as a public body that you treat taxpayers' money with extreme caution and you don't regard it as your duty to fire-hose money at projects before they've been properly scoped out.
"This isn't a competition to write cheques to every concern and to every supplicant that wants funding in London.
"That was the failing of previous administrations in City Hall. You've got to be very careful about how you spend this money."
In a statement Mr Fallon said: "Local Enterprise Partnerships are best placed to understand what their local areas need and it's crucial they retain their independence from government.
"But I am impatient for growth and that's why I made clear to all the LEPs that I want to see more ambition and greater pace from them, including fully worked up growth plans.
"LEPs are a real power shift away from Whitehall to local communities and businesses, and are vital for delivering growth at the local level."