After looking at Sadiq Khan’s manifesto a couple of weeks ago lets turn our attention and see what Tory candidate Shaun Bailey proposes in his manifesto.
Khan had some crackers such as the notoriously unreliable new Woolwich ferry being held up as a success, so let’s see what Bailey is saying and what he plans.
Bailey’s big plan is “100,000 homes for £100,000” which is actually £100,000 for a 25 per cent share of a home (with rent and service charges on top). Rebranded shared ownership really – with all the downfalls they often have. £100,000 for 25 per cent of course makes it the equivalent £400,000 for a full home – which at that level is to be a 1 bed flat almost every occasion. That’s actually more expensive than many current shared ownership.
One of Bailey’s main backers is former luxury property developer Nick Candy.
Problems with a lack of truly affordable homes and the eye watering sums this is costing London taxpayers and councils is not addressed. £4 billion of public money for so-called affordable shared ownership homes would swallow most if not all the entire housing budget.
He has nothing to say about homes being sold overseas (see my last post on flats in Thamesmead for sale in Hong Kong at £558,900 for a three-bed) or how that can be challenged or addressed to assist Londoners. He is an advocate of Help to Buy, which since it’s introduction has pushed prices ever higher. He criticises Khan’s record on affordable housing while proposing pretty much zero himself. A share of a 1-bed flat priced at £400,000 with rent and service charges on top is not “affordable”.
In fact he wants to continue with expensive schemes. Anything but build truly affordable housing seems his strategy. He proposes “I will partner with hotels across London to maximise use of our hotel spaces by filling out empty beds with those who need them most.”
It’s not a long term solution, and this is hardly going to be cheap. Overnight accommodation in hotels is often incredibly expensive to councils and tax payers. The obvious solution of BUILDING MORE TRULY AFFORDABLE HOMES is absent. And how crap is living in a hotel for months on end? Imagine it with a family. No kitchen for one thing.
He states a right for return during regeneration, but not for private tenants. Sorry, you’re out on your ear. Perhaps to a hotel at ridiculous cost to the taxpayer.
His idea for tackling large deposits for private tenants is a loan. Not addressing root causes but more debt.
He talks about making it easier to build on brownfield land. Trouble is there’s numerous schemes approved on brownfield where developers drip feed over a staggeringly long period of time. See Peabody in Thamesmead, Knight Dragon at Greenwich Peninsula and Hutchinson Whampao at Convoy’s Creek to name just a few. Any chance of action on developers doing this? What do you think.
Bailey claims he will create 8,000 new police officers. How that’ll be funded is another matter. There’s been two way to fund police under the current system, with the main element of police funding coming from central Government who have been cutting funds for a decade.
The second is raising council tax precepts which Khan has been doing – and Bailey has criticised. It’s not just Khan raising the council tax precept way above inflation for police funding – it’s happening nationwide. This is because Government has only agreed to fund a share of new officers when council tax precepts rise above inflation to fund a substantial element of new officer numbers.
Bailey claims a third way – funding that is supposed to be for infrastructure via the Mayor’s Community Infrastructure Levy. So that’s worse roads, rail, DLR and more then?
Where the officers will go is another matter. The last conservative Mayor (Boris Johnson) closed many across London. In south east London we’ve seen Greenwich, Westcombe Park, Woolwich, Sidcup and Belvedere close – to name but five. I took a look at the fate of police stations in 2019. All now sold. They aren’t reopening.
Bailey’s claim a crime epidemic, but what he doesn’t say is that an increase has occurred almost everywhere in the country regardless of who is in control. As I highlighted before, Kent saw a 152 per cent increase in knife crime from 2010 to 2019, Hertfordshire was up 89 per cent and Essex up 43 per cent. London’s increase isn’t above some of those places.
Central Government holds most of the cards when it comes to funding. Much like high crime is not only in London, high tax rises for police are also nationwide:
A 21.8% increase in council tax for the Police & Crime Commissioner for Northumbria? 😮 if my TV or energy bill went up by that much I’d have the right to cancel! 🤔 #northtyneside #counciltax pic.twitter.com/CV2nWX3JK2
— Jonny (@jonnymarshall7) March 19, 2019
This is a deliberate Government policy. The share of police funding from council tax payers has increased from 12p in every pound in the mid 1990s up to 35p now according to the IFS. Central Government have been cutting funding while insisting local Mayors or PCCs increase taxes to mitigate. Guess who gets the blame? Bailey is playing the game and stoking complaints against the Mayor – when his own Government’s policy is to increase council tax. It’s no different in Tory controlled areas.
Council tax is of course one of the most unfair taxes out there, with relatively little difference in bands between a small flat and a multi-million pound home in the capital. No word from Bailey on reforming that imbalance. If ever more funding is to be shifted to council tax at least make it fairer.
Bailey also wants to launch a police operation that’s a successor to a project the Home Office concluded had “no discernible crime-reducing effects”.
Perhaps the most damning element of Bailey’s campaign has been a continual stream of misinformation on transport. Whatever the motivation, it’s playing on voter ignorance.
He states TfL are bankrupt due to issues since 2016. Yet TfL’s operational day-to-day budget was moving towards break-even before the pandemic. What he’s actually talking about is the capital budget which builds infrastructure. Yet a city growing like London needs to build. Unless Bailey is proposing never to extend and improve infrastructure (and he’d be the first Mayor or leader from any party in 100 years not to) then it’s a nonsense. You build infrastructure, a city grows, business thrives, taxes are paid and loans are repaid. That’s how it works. Transport systems don’t just fund themselves but facilitate business and economic growth which results in greater tax income.
The incoherency of his plans are laid bare when he claims to support “the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham, and the DLR to Thamesmead”. Yes, the two projects his party refuses to fund from Westminster which is essential to proceed. And wasn’t he just advocating using infrastructure money for police and complaining the capital budget is too high? TfL are bankrupt one minute for building projects like the London Overground to Barking Reach, then the next are ok to build a DLR extension!?
As for the operational budget being hammered, that’s due to the network being far more reliant on fares compared to just about every other world city who enjoy diversified income streams. London doesn’t, and so a 90 per cent reduction in fare income broke the TfL finance model.
Since the pandemic begun, Bailey has criticised a number of initiatives his own Conservative party colleague – the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps – insisted upon in May 2020. With TfL facing a heavy reliance upon fare income (a model central Government insisted upon before the pandemic), once fare income plummeted TfL were reliant upon central Government to keep the network running. In return, the Department for Transport and Grant Shapps insisted upon so many policies Shaun Bailey now claims to oppose.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods? Here’s what Shapps insisted upon in a letter to TfL:
“Pushing forward closure of roads to through traffic” is not ambiguous. Bailey is quiet on his own party insisting upon it.
What about the congestion charge and ULEZ? It’s the same story as this other passage in a letter from Shapps to TfL highlights:
Bailey however pretends it’s nothing to do with his own party:
A stream of misinformation has continued to emanate from Bailey and his campaign.
His policy for cleaner air – despite approving the Silvertown Tunnel which will increase traffic across Greenwich borough according to TfL themselves – is to convert London buses to electric by 2025 using revenues from ULEZ to replace old buses with zero-emission buses. It’s not clear whether that’s all buses as he simply states “old buses”. Is a year old hybrid with diesel “old”?
He then mentions interest free loans for black cab drivers, though has alienated many by then stating he wants private hire vehicles like Uber to avoid the congestion charge. That’d be thousands more vehicles in the centre of London, and if TfL is “bankrupt” how does that help?
He states he’ll lobby the Government to permit a takeover of rail like Southeastern Metro. The very same plan Chris Grayling blocked as Transport Minister and Grant Shapps has done nothing to push forward. This of course requires money, but again TfL are bankrupt says Shaun and shouldn’t spend money. So how does it happen? You need to use the capital budget to do anything. Mind you, at least he raises it. Khan had nothing to say about switching Southeastern and better services in his manifesto.
He criticises Sadiq Khan for failing when he “promised to keep transport affordable” yet he advocated fare increases and for years railed against fare freezes and the hopper fare. He had nothing to say about above inflation rail increases from his own party directed by the Department for Transport. So while opposing low fares to encourage public transport, he then says “now too many children are growing up breathing dirty air”.
On the one hand he criticises Khan and TfL for being bankrupt then the next he’s saying open up parts of the network where demand is still limited and there’s a need to conserve cash. He states he will open the night tube and Waterloo and City Line. ON day one? Who pays given the stringent measures now applied to TfL? Wasn’t he just complaining about their finances? It’s all over the shop.
He claim sponsorship of the transport network will raise £490 million. That’s an extremely high amount and seems unlikely to be achieved. And what’s the trade off? How can they make so much from the transport network? Selling station names off? London has always had examples of commercial sponsorship (Sony recently rebranded Oxford Circus when the Playstation 5 launched for example) but it’s another matter to gain such high sums everywhere for many years. If it was a cash cow wouldn’t the private rail operators have done so on stations they control?
Throughout Bailey does what candidates do when they have little real idea about finances and go on about “waste” here and “waste” there. There may well be excessive salaries at TfL. We know they’ve cut a lot of jobs since last spring. However it’s treating voters as mugs to think trimming a million here or there does anything when the amounts needed are in the billions. London’s fare income fell by £2 billion due to a pandemic, so how to fix? A serious remodelling to a sustainable model along the lines of equivalent major world cities? Sod that, just “cut waste” to save a couple of million and get some sponsors on tube trains.
That’ll fix about one per cent of the funding gap.
London’s government has changed a lot over the past century whether it be the LCC, GLC or beyond 2000 into the current system with the mayor and GLA. There’s been some good candidates and many awful ones across different parties. Bailey is possibly the worst. Whether it’s ignorance or not, he doesn’t even get the basics. Pretty much every statement is misleading and pretends others are at fault for what his own party in Westminster have decided, whether it be police and transport funding cuts or measures last year when the pandemic struck. Khan has hardly covered himself in glory over many issues, yet somehow Bailey has managed to avoid often legitimate grievance and gone after the problems his own colleagues created – and then been a lapdog to them.
There’s little here to suggest he has learnt much.