Throughout his time as Mayor, Ken Livingstone was pressing for controversial powers to ‘top-slice’ section 106 money for London-wide projects.
Section 106 money is the community benefit negotiated by local councils in their role as planning authorities to compensate their communities for the negative impact of new developments. It can range from making builders restore broken pavements to making a development car-free to reduce pressure on the local environment, all the way up to multi-million pound funding of affordable homes, transport improvements and community facilites, as with the new Arsenal stadium.
The worry about Ken’s top-slice idea was that local communities would get all the disruption from the developments, but the community benefit would be siphoned off to support the Mayor’s pet projects elsewhere. I was part of the cross-party lobby to save our community benefits.
After all, if an infrastructure project is benefitting a borough, then the council will be happy to negotiate a S106 contribution to its costs themselves.
Roll on to 2008. When he was standing to be Mayor, Boris promised a partnership with boroughs, not the arrogance of Ken. Is he keeping his promise? Well, Tory Westminster don’t seem to think so. They’ve just given permission for a 19-storey office block at Victoria, which will generate £12M community benefit for their residents. But now Boris wants £20M from the same scheme to go towards Crossrail.
This could set a precedent for other boroughs facing large developments – including Islington. Hands off our money, Boris!