Well, that didn’t take long.
Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has come out and tried to blame Mayor Sadiq Khan for the possibility of widening the congestion charge to a larger area of London incorporating area within the south and north circular – despite all signs pointing to this coming directly from Whitehall and central government.
We’ve been here before. TfL bailout number one was announced on May 14th which saw a number of measures pushed onto London by the Department for Transport and Grant Shapps. If they weren’t accepted accepted, the vast majority of public transport would cease.
On 14th May 2020 from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps sent a letter to TfL with a number of punitive measures, including:
Bailey then stated on numerous occasions the complete opposite, including this on 16th May:
He carried on with more of the same for days and weeks:
Other measures enforced by Shapps were DfT representatives placed on the TfL board and a move to remove Freedom Pass and child zipcard fares.
Fast forward six months, and it looks like history is repeating. Sources state government are now asking for the congestion charge to expand across a larger part of London. TfL board meetings have Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander on record opposing the move. The DfT are silent.
Shaun Bailey’s latest attack line is to point at pensions as a major source of TfL ills. Not the virus, lockdown and a 90 per cent fall in fare revenue, but pensions. Someone thought this is a worthy attack line, yet even by their own figures the total comes absolutely nowhere near the cost that corona virus and related fare income reductions have led to, let alone the cut from central Government.
Bailey states that excessive pensions have cost TfL £812 million over four years. Let’s assume for his sake it’s true, how does that compare to other costs? Well:
- Covid fare income reductions led to a need for £1.6 billion from May to October 2020 or the system would collapse.
- Central government cuts from 2016 are now £700 million per year
In Bailey’s world if only the pension issue didn’t exist all would presumably be fine, though his pension argument (that £200+ million a year pension contributions by TfL are too high) would have bought TfL less than one extra month’s operation after May before requiring assistance given they require £1.6 billion for six months.
Like all his previous attack lines, it doesn’t stand up to any degree of scrutiny when the numbers are studied and the sheer drop in fare income is revealed.
If the pension issue is so bad and wasn’t fixed over the past four years, why did Boris Johnson leave the pension structure as it is when he left the Mayoral position in 2016?
Bailey has a long history of “mistruths” on transport. Even among politicians and dodgy claims, his are so transparently bad it’s a mystery the Tory party let him into such a prominent position
He claims a fares freeze is also a major factor in TfL’s financial problems right now, though at £640 million over four years is less than a single year’s cut in funding from central Government. He also claimed it only benefits tourists – which is utterly bizarre.
He claimed rising Travelcard’s costs are Khan’s fault, even though it was the Department for Transport element for rail that was rising by inflation each year.
Bailey is now going into an election with a bizarre campaign promise to raise fares, then at the same time claiming fare rises are bad and the fault of Khan. It’s true that Sadiq Khan was planning rises next year anyway, which would match fare rises the DfT have already enforced on rail for years, yet the Shapp’s letter show Government are insisting Khan sticks to TfL fare rises. Of course Bailey doesn’t mention that – nor the continual rail rises for years from the DfT.
He has also claimed that Khan had threatened to halt London’s transport as if a choice – despite it being a legal requirement for TfL to halt most services without financial assistance. By law they would need to enact a Section 114 notice when income falls to a certain level – which was imminent by May 2020 after lockdown was implemented on 23rd March and fare income reduced substantially. London is more reliant on fares than most other major world cities – in large part due to cuts from central government:
Halting services was, and will be soon, a legal requirement and not a “threat” from TfL and the Mayor.
Government money for support comes with cuts and congestion charge increases. It’s no secret. It really is hard to think of a candidate that treats the electorate as bigger idiots than Shaun Bailey. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Sadiq Khan – Silvertown Tunnel for one and how he continually ignores many of the issues, and a lack of protection for bus drivers back in the spring.
Instead of fighting for the city Bailey has mostly opted for a continual stream of statements that anyone with basic knowledge can see through. He is playing the role of a lackey for central Government, which is an awful strategy for a Mayoral candidate.
At least if you are a bit of a yes-man, don’t make it so transparent before an election. Have some sort of independent voice and fight the corner of the people you hope to represent rather than roll over to Whitehall.
His floundering in the polls shows it isn’t working, but still he goes on. Has any candidate ever treated Londoners as bigger fools?