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The end of TfL? Now govt demanding higher council tax. Refuse and we take over.

In addition to trying to force an extension of London’s congestion charge to cover more of the capital, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is now also threatening to increase the council tax precept across London in return for TfL continuing to operate according to a leaked letter obtained by the Financial Times. He has threatened to take direct control if TfL refuse to agree.

In contrast to numerous government demands on publicly run TfL, bailouts to private rail companies and private bus companies outside the capital in recent months have been awarded with few strings attached.

DfT placed minimal conditions on rail companies

Just yesterday I covered how planned TfL bus cuts to Darent Valley hospital have been scrapped. Those cuts were mooted after government cut £700 million a year in funding to TfL. Expect cuts like that to come back, and far more widely.

UPDATE: Housing Minister Robert Jenrick has this morning popped up with claims that verge on outright lies as an excuse for measures that could be forced onto London. Jenrick was discovered to have let developer and former newspaper publisher Richard Desmond off paying tens of millions of pounds earlier this year in a decision ruled illegal. He help Desmond after a donation to the Conservative party.

TfL’s deficit had actually decreased from £1.4 billion four years ago to £200 million before the pandemic – which is entirely to blame for funding issues.

Creation of TfL

TfL oversaw a vast increase in services and bus frequencies since creation in 2000. A reversion to direct Department for Transport control could see see mass cuts across routes. This is also the same DfT who have made a pigs ear of managing rail franchises for many years costing taxpayers large sums of money. While accusations of high salaries for TfL top level staffing may be true, the DfT are no better. They spent £88m on consultants in 2019-20, up 156% from 2017-18.

DfT managed rail franchises see much lost revenue through open stations – while blaming TfL for cost problems

The range of demands placed on TfL is also growing longer in other areas. Central government are again pushing for driverless tube trains. As research has shown, the measure would cost huge amounts to convert existing stock and upgrade signalling – yet would still require staff onboard for safety measures such as on the DLR. Savings would be nonexistent. It’s a headline grabbing stunt that has no relation towards an attempt to truly lower costs.

The Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey is also again attempting to again pin the blame on Sadiq Khan for the proposed congestion charge expansion and a series of possible cuts, despite numbers simply not adding up.

Bailey’s latest claims are that staff passes for spouses, costing £44 million, are an example of waste under Sadiq Khan. However the staff perks have existed for decades and the cost is tiny in comparison to requirements of £1.6 billion over the past six months to operate services as fare income plummeted.

14 May letter from Grant Shapps insisting on expanded congestion zone in bailout 1

Earlier this week I looked at how the latest threats are repeating what happened earlier this year in a classic example of political games. Government demanded various cuts in talks, held TfL over a barrel and then pinned the blame on them when agreed. If TfL hadn’t agreed, all services would have ceased.

Tweeted a day after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted upon congestion charge increase

What we saw then, and again now, is government and Bailey making public statements at odds with what Shapp’s demands in private. In public its all Khan’s fault, while in private it’s do what we demand or get no funds.

It really does now appear government are on a vendetta against cities including London, willing to sacrifice economic growth for political power and control in Whitehall.

You may not like Khan, and there’s a fair few reasons not to, but this power grab by central government is a severe risk to services and economic growth in years to come. If it happens, expect a severe downgrade in services and the real chance of higher taxes.

15 Comments

  1. Jo

    As someone who really doesn’t like Sadiq Khan these measures are presumably something that those in power are doing to appeal to me, but it’s so transparently awful to drag down a transport network used by many people including key workers alongside the wider economy while treating the electorate as fools that my loathing for the government and Shaun Bailey is now at an all time high. Impressive given I don’t like the alternative.

    On sheer principle this is a loathsome action. Khan, like or loath, is an elected Mayor. You don’t take power away when it suits by threats and bullying unless you don’t believe in the very basis of democracy. It shows up Shaun Bailey, Grant Shapps and the rest for the atrocious people and politicians they truly are. God help that these morons are in power, or hope to be.

  2. Roy

    One thing I have realised over the last 6 months is that over the last 50 yeats this is the worst bunch of nincompoops I have ever seen…from the Cycling/Traffic Agendas…Rail Management….the virus Lockdown etc all actions of the Woke Generation..I had the Covid last December and I just had a new one but with no name. As I mentioned before…much as Sadiq is a publicity seeker he is not half as bad as that nightmare Ken Livingstone and an angel compared to Bailey. My view on tfl…I think they are great….but as we have seen countless times whenever Govt are in control of anything its a disaster…
    This Govt Ministers are all Control Agenda fanatics with the intelligence of a peanut and no sense of responsibility

  3. Paul SuperUnknown

    Though the savings made by instituting driverless tube trains might be moot, we will never again be held to ransom by tube drivers in the way they robbed us during the Olympics and at the onset of the night tube!
    I say: “Too bad, so sad, bye-bye, tube drivers!”

    • Comment by post author

      fromthemurkydepths

      On board staff could simply strike instead. Tube drivers have good terms and conditions so it works.

    • Dilwar Miah

      So what you’re saying is, you’re happy for the congestion charge zone increase, happy for fares to increase, happy for Council tax to increase, happy for tax rise from general population to cover the costs of running TfL in order for them to make it driverless? You do realise, government is still funding private railways and buses except for TfL.

    • Charlotte

      It will cost more money to update current signalling, tracks, ped doors, new trains for driverless trains, than to keep existing drivers.
      Current drivers will not lose any pay due to their contracts, there will be a new contract drawn up for train Captains ( impossible not to have a driver on a train in deep tunnel levels) for the future position going forward.
      Driverless trains work in other countries as they are built to work, our infrastructure is 150 years old, TFL will need to work around existing infrastructure.

      So basically you are saying abolish everything the unions have worked for that actually benefits you!!!

      Annual leave pay
      Maternity pay
      Paternity pay
      Pensions
      Maximum working hours
      Employers to abide by contracts
      Discrimination
      Minimum wage

      Unions just organise strikes”
      Unions do lots of other things too. Striking is just one type of industrial action, which in turn is just one of many tools that trade unions use to secure better conditions for members. Often, strikes are a last resort only if employers won’t negotiate reasonably.
      “Unions are destroying the economy”
      We are told that unions hold the country to ransom by threatening to strike. It is in fact employers keeping wages unsustainably low and threatening employee’s terms and conditions that force unions into industrial action, and are responsible for the disruption that follows.

  4. Player442

    Extension to Congestion zone, Higher Council Tax, More fare rises!!!??
    Why don’t they ask ordinary working London er to just commit Suicide.
    Nothings about people anymore, it’s all about power & control. This is the worst Satanic Government I have experienced in my life.

  5. Graham

    As part of my Council Tax bill to Greenwich Council which I pay in full £1375.77 per year for 2020/2021 £ 295.17 already goes to Sadiq Khan and the Greater London Authority. a further £93.98 as been added to Greenwich Council Tax bills to cover Adult Social Care in Greenwich.

    Part of the problem is with so many people now taken out of paying Council Tax or paying greatly reduced bills due to various reasons beyond their control this as seen a further reduction in revenue to the GLA and Greenwich Council.

    Personally I would be happy to pay TFL through Council Tax in return for much better services in the Borough, but doubt very much that this would happen knowing Sadiq Khan (GLA), TFL and Greenwich Council.

  6. Richard

    Everything this government touches turns to shit! TFL bailout should be no different to the NR ,Bank bailouts. Hardly any conditions attached. This resembles a coup by Boris and his incompetent cronies. Mayor Khan is a democratically elected Mayor yet this PM is engineering any way possible to get rid of him by destroying TFL. In the mean time he is sighting tube driver’s wages. Really!!!!!????? Tube drivers are the lowest paid train drivers after the tram drivers. Yet he is deflecting our attention turning working class people against working class people while his rich cronies get richer. People do not be fooled ,with this government does not care about the ordinary people.
    Driverless trains!!!!! Really!!!! One of Boris’s ideas. It will cost billions and billions to get that going. How many billions has this government wasted on hs2? Billions. How much has Boris wasted on his half naked ideas when he was Mayor? How much has this government wasted on private consultants? Yet this is the same government that wants to destroy TFL.
    Remember World class Tube for a World class city? That was Boris’s catch phrase when he was Mayor of London. We are the only major capitol city in the world that does not get government funding for it’s tube network, yet this is the same government that throws mo ey at the private sector while deflecting the public’s opinion to tube driver’s wages , firemen, police , nurses wages and so on and so on.
    As the North who fell for his empty promises during the general election is finding out. This government will leave them and us to rot, unless you are an oligarch who can afford to pay Boris for a game of tennis.
    Do not be fooled by this propaganda!!! This government are trying to bring back the Victorian age. They do not want working class people who do an honest job to benefit from the basic employment rights such a decent pension, sick pay, holiday pay and so on and so on.

  7. Martin sheppard

    This government should stop living to us all and make people like Cummings pay his council taxes in full and abid by the same rules we have to

  8. Barbara Bayne

    Let’s not forget how much better off TFL would be If BoJo hadn’t spaffed millions on his vanity bridge.

  9. CDT

    Fare evasion is another major issue that sees revenue to TFL cut by millions year on year as has done for many many years.

    Transport should be fully funded as is vital to the success of any City and indeed the Country.

    Public transport and the NHS should not be used as political pawns to gain political points.

  10. Tmc

    As a driver on the underground good luck with driverless trains.it will cost billions and will take al least 30 years.and who is going to pay for it ?.This is a deflection by Boris and his mates they have managed to completely destroy this country with their mishandling of Covid 19 the money that has been wasted could have completely rebuild the transport systems in all of the major city’s in the UK.

    • CDT

      I agree with you 100% Tmc,

      I am totally against all forms of driverless trains and vehicles. There is far too much automation what we need is proper jobs for people.

  11. The bridge project was ultimately cancelled, but not before millions were poured down the drain in consultancy fees and the like.

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