There has been a sustained smear campaign against Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate for the Mayor of London, which has not been suffered by the Conservative candidate, Boris Johnson. These are some of the voices that have been drowned out in the ‘personality circus’. Given the current circumstances, a majority of Londoners cannot afford to be beguiled by the ‘cheeky chappie with the floppy hair’. Boris Johnson is a Tory through and through, and will always put the City of London before Londoners.
The Academics (1)
As most Londoners are struggling with falling real living standards, we endorse the policy to cut fares adopted by Labour’s candidate for mayor, Ken Livingstone (Johnson still has six-point poll lead in mayoral race, 16 April). The cut in fares will benefit hard-pressed fare payers and can help businesses and jobs in London that rely on consumer spending. By contrast the current Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has increased fares by more than inflation in the past four years and is committed to further fare increases of 2% over inflation in each of the next four years. His policy further erodes the real living standards of fare payers in London, with consequent damage to businesses and jobs.
The controversy over the affordability of the policy to cut fares seems entirely misplaced. In the last financial year the total surplus over budget at Transport for London was more than £1.3bn. In the current financial year TfL estimates the surplus will be £830m before exceptional items of expenditure. These unbudgeted surpluses are over 41% of actual fare revenues last year and over 23% of next year’s estimated annual fare revenues. The promised cut in fares is 7%.
Clearly the policy of cutting fares is affordable. Indeed, after the cut there are still hundreds of millions of pounds available for potential investment or other items of spending. Londoners will make their own judgment on 3 May, but they should do so in the certain knowledge that Ken Livingstone’s policy of cutting the fares by 7% is easily affordable.
Prof Victoria Chick University College London
Prof Hulya Dagdeviren University of Hertfordshire
Dr Chris Edwards Senior fellow, University of East Anglia
Prof Susan Himmelweit Open University
Prof George Irvin SOAS
Prof Margot Light LSE
Prof Simon Mohun University of London
Robin Murray Senior visiting fellow, LSE
Prof Engelbert Stockhammer Kingston University
Prof Jan Toporouski SOAS
Prof John Weeks SOAS
The Urbanism and Regeneration Advisor – Richard Rogers (2)
The choice of who is to run the city has never been more critical. We need a Mayor who is visionary and decisive, who understands the needs and aspirations of ordinary Londoners. We want a Mayor who understands the need for a better distribution of wealth and who will help protect the vulnerable from the Government’s slash-and-burn economics.
I worked for 10 years with both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson as chief adviser to City Hall on urbanism and regeneration — and I am convinced that Ken best meets the needs of Londoners.
We’ve already seen that Ken understands the job of Mayor. He can think strategically and is deeply interested in the detail. He established the autonomous role of the Mayor at a time when there was far less appetite for devolved power than there is now.
Under his leadership London became a model city — culturally, socially and economically. It was visited by leaders from around the world studying how such urban vitality had been achieved. Ken maintained the green belt and increased public space. He set a target for developers to build 50 per cent of affordable housing adjacent to all new private developments.
Ken focused on the regeneration of east London, and when with his support the Olympics were won for London, he chose a site in the East End knowing it would strengthen one of the poorest parts of the city.
Ken secured the go-ahead for Crossrail, he cut congestion, revived the bus service, licensed minicabs and doubled the number of cycling trips made in the city. He has the ambition to achieve even more.
Some people, including too many from the liberal Left, say choosing Ken would be disappointing. I agree that his inability to apologise over gaffes is unattractive, and although he has done nothing illegal, greater transparency over his tax affairs would have been wise and welcome.
But to echo American author Jake Lamar on Barack Obama, I would not be disappointed if Ken cut public transport fares by seven per cent, showing his understanding of how most people are struggling in tough economic times.
I would not be disappointed if he offered childcare grants of up to £700 to low-income families, interest-free loans to families earning up to £40,000 a year and campaigned for better childcare services. I would not be disappointed if he reinstated the Educational Maintenance Allowance.
I would not be disappointed if he took full responsibility for Londoners’ safety by heading the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime — and by reversing the cuts Boris Johnson made to policing, including Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
I would not be disappointed if Ken made cutting Londoners’ fuel bills and reducing carbon emissions a priority. I would not be disappointed if he introduced a city-wide empty homes strategy, ending the scandal of decent homes lying empty while waiting lists lengthen.
I am passionate about the benefits that compact, sustainable cities can provide. I would not be disappointed if Ken were given the chance to make London a model for the world once more.
The Outer London Transport User – Helen (3)
Boris Johnson made many transport promises before he was elected in 2008 – London Transport Is A Mess, he claimed. How has Boris improved public transport for me in the outer London borough of Hounslow (Z4 Tube/Z5 National Rail) in his four-year term?
We’ve seen no improvements in Underground services – the Piccadilly line upgrade, due to be completed in 2014 under the previous Mayor, has been put back to 2025. The line is still using rolling stock built in 1973. Hounslow railway station continues to have an abysmal service of only one four-carriage train an hour on a Sunday – during the summer, especially when there’s cricket on at the Oval, passengers at the next stop of Isleworth are unable to board due to overcrowding.
Our local train operating company, South West Trains, was the very last in London to install Oyster-compatible ticket machines – almost two years after Oyster was accepted for travel on London’s rail services. When they finally arrived, they were of little comfort as Boris Johnson had raised the daily off-peak Oyster cap for Zones 2-6 from £5.10 TO £8.00 and the peak Oyster cap from £9.00 to £15.00, then again in January this year to £8.50 and £15.80 respectively.
When repeatedly challenged about these enormous increases, the Mayor claimed these massive hikes were actually reductions. Boris Johnson also removed the price differential of 50p between a one-day Travelcard and the equivalent Oyster cap which was designed to encourage Oyster use, putting up the Oyster price to the same as a paper one-day Travelcard.
Children’s fares have also gone up – under the previous Mayor, children over the age of 5 with a Zip Oyster photocard could travel all day on Tube, Overground and Rail for £1. The child off-peak cap (depending on Zones) is now up to £7.60 and the peak cap up to £10.30. Not only that, but the child Oyster card itself was free under the previous Mayor; Boris Johnson has introduced a £10 charge for it, meaning that each child’s card costs at least £15 as a passport photo is required. Johnson may boast about “free” travel for children on London’s buses and trams, but without the £10 child Oyster (a huge sum for parents on a low income) each child must pay the adult cash fare of £2.30.
As for the buses, the promised orbital routes never materialised and there are no Countdown screens at any of the bus stops I regularly use – I do not have a smartphone and I cannot afford to pay for the text message service every time I use a bus.
I have never, ever seen a PCSO, police officer or British Transport Police officer on bus, train or Tube when I travel home late at night, which I do at least twice a week.
Boris Johnson has increased bus fares by 50% since he became Mayor and the daily Oyster cap in outer London by 70% in just the last two years. As his Bullingdon buddy George Osborne takes us into a Double-Dip recession and the Mayor himself has refused to admit at several public hustings that his own election manifesto commits to annual fare hikes of RPI +2, use your vote wisely next week – Boris Johnson is the only Mayoral candidate committed to raising our sky-high fares even further.
The Journalist – Seumas Milne of the Guardian (4)
“The best that Johnson has been able to come up with as a flagship promise for the next four years is to reduce his share of Londoners’ council tax by 10%. But Livingstone is standing on what by any reckoning is an imaginative progressive platform that would have a significant impact on Londoners facing the biggest fall in living standards since the 1920s.
That includes a funded 7% cut in public transport fares (while Johnson promises to increase them), a nonprofit lettings agency to reduce rents and cut out estate agents, a restored educational maintenance allowance for 16 to 18 year-olds, childcare grants and loans and an energy co-op to cut gas and electricity bills through bulk buying.
If the focus of London’s election were actually on the bread-and-butter issues at stake, the outcome would hardly be in doubt – especially given the overlap between Labour, Green and even Liberal Democrat policies in a system of preference voting. But so far they have been drowned out by the personality circus.”
Ken Livingstone’s manifesto includes (5):
Use TfL surpluses to cut fares by 7% by October this year and freeze them throughout 2013
Reverse cuts to police numbers. Getting more police on the beat cuts crime and keeps police and residents in touch with each other
Reduce rents by establishing a non-profit London lettings agency to cut out estate agents’ profit. Build new homes built to take pressure off the housing market
Use San Francisco-style ‘smart parking’ to cut traffic circling for a space, coordinate roadworks and give more Londoners access to car clubs
Review all major junctions, trial a cyclists-only traffic light phase and redesign cycle superhighways for safety
Restore a London-wide educational maintenance allowance of up to £30 a week for 16-19 year olds. Work to extend the number of genuine apprenticeships
Support a vibrant banking and financial services sector, put money back in Londoners’ pockets and oppose restrictive practices on attracting skilled workers
A network of wild flower corridors to transform the verges of roads, footpaths, cycleways and railways into refuges for nature
Electric buses and support for the development of electric taxis. A London health commissioner to help tackle air pollution
Work with boroughs to use discretionary planning powers to protect the high street and local pubs
Help make Boris Johnston an Ex-Mayor on the 3rd May 2012. Vote for Ken Livingstone.
For more see Boris and Lynton Crossby’s spin against Ken backfires (6)
Tony Benn says:
By cutting fares Ken is tapping into his strongest London Labour traditions to help people facing hard economic times.
We are back with a right wing government punishing people on low and middle incomes whilst feathering the nests of the richest. If these people are let off the hook on Thursday in the single biggest election before the next general election they will not let up. They will go much further.
The real choice on Thursday is between Labour and Conservative. Voting anything other than Labour in this election will damage the quality of life for millions.
I urge every Labour voter, every trade unionist, peace campaigner, community organiser, co-operator and campaigner for equality to turn out in massive numbers and send the Tories a message they will never forget.