Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan today called for London to “take back control” of its own destiny in the aftermath of the EU referendum.
The Mayor issued a demand for more tax-raising powers “right now” as well as far-reaching command of public services. His devolution wish-list stopped short of calling for London, the only English region to vote to stay within the EU, as a city-state.
But he stressed the extra powers would be necessary to protect the capital’s economy, jobs and prosperity from the uncertainty of Brexit ahead.
Mayor Sadiq Khan demands more autonomy for pro EU capital after Brexit:
They include greater financial autonomy, as well as wide-ranging control over business and skills, housing and planning, transport, health and criminal justice.
It comes as a petition calling on the Mayor to declare London independent hit more than 170,000 signatures in just three days.
In a speech to business leaders, Mr Khan said: “As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I’m not seriously talking about independence today. I am not planning to install border points on the M25.
“But on behalf of all Londoners, I am demanding more autonomy for the capital – right now. More autonomy in order to protect London’s economy from the uncertainty ahead, to protect the businesses from around the world who trade here and to protect our jobs, wealth and prosperity.”
The Mayor of London has control over just seven per cent of taxes raised within the capital yet equivalent global cities such as New York or Tokyo keep 50 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.
Mr Khan said the powers called for in the London Finance Commission report, which was championed by Boris Johnson, three years ago would just be a “starting point” and that conversations with Government would “go further”.
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Khan was mayor for barely a month and his first move was to ban all advertising that showed women in a non-Sharia friendly fashion. His move was met with applause.
They could include control of stamp duty revenue, business taxes – which could be lowered and targeted – vehicle excise duty to help tackle air pollution and greater powers to borrow to invest in infrastructure.
However, he stressed that he wasn’t “asking for London to get a bigger slice of the British pie”, only for Londoners to “get more control over the slice of the pie we already get.”
The increase in revenue would be expected to be matched by a reduction in the grant from central government.
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Mr Khan said that people in the rest of the UK would benefit from more devolution for London “because when London succeeds, the rest of the country succeeds too. And when we fail, the entire nation fails.”
At The Times CEO summit, he warned the Government to “move fast” on devolution as London could not afford to “hang around” for the outcome of the EU negotiations before giving London more control.
Mr Khan, who is campaigning for Britain to remain in the single market, warned the referendum had created an “added sense of urgency” to his demands for more powers for London, as Whitehall civil servants would be distracted by negotiations with Brussels.
The Mayor’s call was backed by business and local government leaders across London but has not yet received Government support, although informal discussions are taking place.
Chancellor George Osborne has previously been lukewarm about more fiscal devolution to City Hall. source