What Has the Mayor Got To Hide?

We have issued the following press release:

In June, London Mayor Sadiq Khan opened a crucial consultation that will decide the future of transport in London. We spoken to several members of the public and found that hardly anyone was aware of it. Some felt that it had been seriously under-publicised.

There have been occasional tube station posters, but they are very bland, mentioning housing and employment but not the quite drastic policies planned for drivers. For instance, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy threatens the extension of the Congestion Charge across Greater London and new taxes to force drivers out of their cars.

Congestion charging spokesman Brian Mooney asks: “What has the Mayor got to hide?

He amazingly claims that drivers pay too little to use the roads and they are subsidised by public transport users. Our research provides evidence to the contrary – that drivers pay four to five times over to use the roads and our taxes in fact subsidise public transport. The Mayor’s office was challenged to provide some evidence via a Freedom of Information Request, but could produce none.” [1] [2] [3] [4]

If he thinks that the overtaxed driving public will support him forcing us to pay even more – or worse still depriving us of using the roads we’ve paid for – then he should at least be upfront with us over his plans.

It would be quite unacceptable if he takes silence as approval for his uncosted proposals  – or even a blank cheque. Particularly as he was elected on a promise not to extend the Congestion Charge. [5]

I challenge the Mayor to appear on a mainstream phone-in with me to face the public over this important issue. This should be within the next three weeks to meet the consultation deadline.” [6] [ENDS]

Notes for Editors

[1] The claim is on p265 of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy consultation draft. “…the fundamentally inadequate and unfair way in which road use is paid for in London, with motorists paying too little, and in effect being subsidised by public transport fare payers.” https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/ draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017   Evidence to the contrary illustrating the net tax paid by drivers is on http://www.fairdealforthemotorist.org.uk/2017mts4.htm#_FOOTNOTE

[2] FOI request: MGLA280717-2452, correspondence available on request.  Failure to respond properly breaches both GLA and wider Local Government standards. “The Mayor is determined that the GLA leads the way in openness and transparency.” https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/governance-and-spending/sharing-our-information/openness-and-transparency https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/522205/Local_government_transparency_code_FAQ.pdf

[3]  Roger Lawson has experienced similar evasion from Mayor Khan’s aides at Transport for London. Roger asked for basic financial information on the costs and benefits of the ULEZ proposals, but no budgets or estimates of the costs have been provided (FOI Request Ref: FOI-0071-1718) – it is currently subject to a complaint to the Information Commissioner but the delays alone have frustrated democracy.

[4] There is other evidence that the Mayor’s MTS consultation does not meet legal expectations. Cabinet Office consultation guidelines include: “Consultations should provide sufficient information to ensure the process is fair.” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consultation-principles-guidance  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data /file/255180/Consultation-Principles-Oct-2013.pdf  The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 “The demands of fairness are likely to be higher when the consultation relates to a decision which is likely to deprive someone of an existing benefit.” (UKSC56, Haringey v Moseley) https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/search-results.html?q=Moseley%20v%20Haringey  In a more recent case, Justice Patterson reiterated the principles upheld by the Supreme Court case that a consultation will be fair if it: 1. communicates the public authority’s proposal to those with a potential interest; 2. explains why that proposal is being considered; 3. provides the consultees with sufficient information to make informed responses to the proposals. (R (Angharad Morris and Donna Thomas) v Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council [2015] EWHC 1403 (Admin)) http://www.burges-salmon.com/practices/disputes_and_litigation/publications/public_consultation_does_not _necessarily_need_to_set_out_alternative_options_moseley_revisited.pdf

[5] The 300 page MTS document fails to give proper ballpark figures for what will certainly be the large sums of money Mayor Khan plans to take from those who can currently afford to drive in London or the substantial cost of implementing his schemes. Sadiq Khan’s 2016 manifesto promised (p36) “to maintain the Congestion Charge at its current level”. http://www.sadiq.london/a_manifesto_for_all_londoners  The MTS threatens a range of punishing measures including: – Extending the Congestion Charge (road pricing) London-wide, with drivers being charged to use local roads – New and higher motoring taxes to stop drivers using our cars – A ‘workplace parking levy’ – a tax on going to work – Reduction in the availability of parking – Measures to remove road space from drivers who’ve paid for it – Gratuitous ‘car-free days’, road closures and speed restrictions.

[6] This offer is specifically aimed at the Mayor, not an underling or lobbyist substitute, as he made his promise in a personal manifesto. The timescale would be between now and 20 September to allow listeners adequate time to respond to the consultation which concludes on 2 October. .

London Mayor Transport Policies

As we are coming up to the election of a new London Mayor on May 5th, and of course for representatives to sit on the Greater London Assembly as well, it looks a timely moment to look at the policies of the main parties. I will only comment on their transport policies.

There is one thing that clearly differentiates the two main candidates for Mayor. It is that one is the son of a billionaire financier and businessman, while the other is the son of a London bus driver. You can easily guess which is which of course, but their policies on transport are actually not that much different. Both candidates will continue to support that expensive hand out to the electorate called the “Freedom Pass” where both the rich and poor get encouraged to consume public transport by unjustifiable subsidies which impose a major financial burden on local borough councils (and which the public end up paying for but not transparently). Both support the proposed new East London river crossings, investment in Crossrail 2 and tougher rules on HGVs entering London.

They are also both keen to reduce air pollution in London, and to encourage cycling. So Conservative Zac Goldsmith says “Dirty cars, vans and buses contaminate the air we breathe” and he intends to “make London the greenest city on earth”. As he also says in his manifesto, he has been a lifelong environmentalist and is opposed to expanding Heathrow airport.

Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, is keen to expand London’s public transport network while making it more affordable. One difference between the candidates is that Mr Khan would freeze fares for 4 years and cut Transport for London’s budget. Indeed he is threatening to take personal control of TfL by chairing that organisation. As he says, TfL is a vast organisation but he thinks it is inefficient and flabby. He suggests there are major efficiency savings to be made but he would spend more of TfL’s budget on cycling – expansion of the Superhighway network and Quietways for example. He would also spend more on support of 20mph zones. Mr Goldsmith says that freezing fares is not practical to meet the investment plans for TfL and maintain operations, i.e. that a budget could not be devised to do this.

Mr Khan also opposes a third runway at Heathrow but prefers expansion of Gatwick to meet demand for air travel growth. He supports keeping the Congestion Charge (aka “Tax”) as its current level but he would bring forward the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and extend it to major arterial routes “or a wider section of central London” as he rates cleaning up London’s air to be a priority. He would also call upon the Government to “introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme”, although that would surely not be likely to prompt a positive response.

Incidentally both candidates seem keen to pedestrianise Oxford Street. That has always been a popular concept but ignores the practicality of routing all the buses elsewhere apart from the objections from the retailers that this would deter a lot of their customers.

The Green Party (candidate Sian Berry), who actually did quite well in the last London elections, would also like more investment in walking, cycling and public transport. They would introduce a “smarter” congestion charge system with much more extensive coverage and also expand the ULEZ. They also support a workplace parking levy.

UKIP (candidate Peter Whittle) do not seem to have published a specific London manifesto at the time of writing, but historically they have vowed to scrap HS2, have opposed speed cameras being used simply to raise revenue, and opposed road tolls and congestion charging.

There are also a large number of other minor party candidates, if you don’t find any of the above to your liking. And don’t forget this is a transferable voting system (a supplementary vote where your second choice is used if there is no outright winner on first choices). So there is no harm in declaring your preference for a minority candidate. Just make sure you VOTE FOR SOMEONE.

Zac Goldsmith’s views on cycling 

Now it just so happens that I was able to ask a couple of questions of Zac Goldsmith at a recent husting meeting. I asked him what he was going to do to sort out the traffic congestion that Boris had created with the Cycle Superhighways, and whether he was a keen cyclist himself. In answer to the first question he said he would look at the issue when the works had been completed, and might consider mitigation measures if necessary. He avoided answering the second question altogether. An altogether weak response. I am afraid Mr Goldsmith comes across as a glib and slick politician but one who is not likely to win the election, particularly if he goes on in this manner. Needless to say he is trailing in the opinion polls at present.

But whichever candidate wins, it looks like we will get a continuation of the policies pursued in the last few years which have been so damaging to the road network of London.

Roger Lawson