Boris’s 9-point plan is a bridge to nowhere
(This article also appeared on Left Foot Forward)
As The Times revealed (£) recently, Tory internal polling reveals many voters don’t know what the Tory Mayor has achieved in four years,and that Number 10 is concerned that Boris Johnson’s campaign plans are ‘underwhelming’ and that he doesn’t have a ‘retail offer’.
By contrast, Ken Livingstone has seized the agenda with a promise to use TfL money to cut fares and other policies that will materially benefit Londoners.This has turned a procession for Johnson into a closely-fought contest.
Johnson himself says he feels like he has created a half-built bridge. So what is his is new offer for Londoners? The 9-point plan and a response to each point follows.
1. Cutting waste at City Hall – freeing up £3.5bn for services
This makes no sense – and Johnson himself has presided over rising waste, through high salaries:
• The total budget for City Hall itself is just over £155 million per year, so it would take more than 22 years to find that order of savings from City Hall alone. (Page 6, pdf).
• Under Boris Johnson the number of people earning more than £100,000 per year has almost doubled at City Hall, and many of them are part-timers like the Mayor himself.
In July 2010, Boris Johnson announced he would be saving £440 million per year (£1.76 billion over 4 years) by 2012/13 through sharing services and procurement across the GLA group. So far, the Mayor has managed to make savings of just £1.2 million per year.
2. Council tax freeze, putting £445 back in your pocket
• The Tory Party claim that the council tax freeze has saved the average household £445 has already been demolished elsewhere. They have magicked this up by comparing Boris Johnson’s council tax freeze against imaginary council tax rises from Ken – so it’s not a new offer at all. In fact Ken has supported all the council tax freezes in the last four years, which makes this claim entirely bogus.
• Crucially, this is dressed up as a future pledge but refers back to a false claim about the last four years, not the next.
• They use the average rise under Ken Livingstone in his eight years. The precept rose to fund an expansion in police numbers, which had been falling for a decade and rose by a third under Ken to more than 33,000. In Ken’s last year as Mayor, the precept rose by 4.8% as funding for police numbers was appropriate.
• Ken and the Labour Party supported each of the council tax freezes in this Mayoral term. His whole pitch is to preserve the living standards of Londoners now they are really struggling.
3. Creating 200,000 new jobs over the next four years
• In Ken’s eight years nearly 400,000 jobs were created. Net jobs growth under Johnson has been just 18,000 (3.824 million from 3.806 million in May 2008). A net 30,000 jobs have been lost in London since February 2011. At this rate of job losses, Johnson will have presided over no net job creation in London over four years, despite an expanding population.
• There is no explanation of what these jobs are or how he would create them.
4. Making our streets and homes safer with 1,000 more police on the beat
• In January this year Boris Johnson admitted on LBC that he had cut 1,700 police officers in the last two years.
• According to the latest MOPC (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) figures, Boris Johnson has actually cut 1,833 police officers since March 2010. They were at 31,427 at the end of December 2011 (see pdf) having been at 33,260 in March 2010 (see Metropolitan Police Authority figures).
5. Restoring 30 acres of green space and planting 20,000 street trees
• This was a project begun by the London Development Agency and inherited by the Mayor. He allowed the LDA to be abolished, tasking its £300 million budget with it.
6. Investing £221 million to transform local high streets
• It is unclear where this figure has come from. Boris Johnson has £50 million over three years for his outer London fund and has allocated another £50 million for the regeneration of areas hit by the riots. No detail has been provided regarding where the additional £121 million is to come from.
7. Olympic legacy – 11,000 new homes and 10,000 new jobs
• It was Ken Livingstone and a Labour government that won the Olympics in 2007 and put legacy plans in place to build thousands of new homes and create thousands of new jobs.
• There is cross-party criticism (see pdf) of the Mayor’s inability to deliver a more significant Games legacy, and basics – such as the ownership of the main Stratford stadium – have yet to be resolved.
8. Reducing Tube delays, building Crossrail and orbital links to our suburbs. Extending the Bike Hire scheme
• Tube delays have been ‘reduced’, by changing the definition so that trains can stop for nearly 15 minutes in the rush hour and it still isn’t a ‘severe delay’.
• Crossrail was lobbied for by Ken and the funding for it put in place in conjunction with the Labour government.
• Orbital links were promised in Johnson’s 2008 manifesto (see Boris Johnson’s transport manifesto, pdf) and still haven’t happened.
• Because Johnson botched the bike hire scheme it cost at least £230 million, making it very difficult to extend its limited geographical coverage without huge additional cost.
9. Securing a better deal for London from Number 10
• The only deal Boris Johnson has from Number 10 is to text the prime minister and the chancellor when he goes ‘off reservation’ as a way to engineer fake rows to help them all out.
• To secure a good deal, you have to meet and negotiate with people. But Johnson has met with bankers far more than government ministers.
• The LDA (London Development Agency) nwas abolished and £300 million lost without a murmur.
• In fact Johnson boasted that he had cut earlier and deeper than the coalition.
• Boris Johnson failed to stand up to Number 10 over student fees, EMA, the NHS, rising VAT and cuts to London’s services.
10. Where’s Point 10?
• This looks like a ten point plan that has a point missing. Surely it should have been 10?
• Maybe Johnson’s advisers said ‘raising fares again every year by 2% over RPI’ was a bad idea?
• But this is what he has already committed to in the TfL Business Plan he has signed (point 3.4, pdf).
Johnson has built a bridge – but to nowhere.