Letter for publication: rebuttal to Shaun Bailey letter

Dear Sir,

In his letter last week, the Conservative Mayoral candidate attempted to blame Mayor Sadiq Khan for the changes to the Congestion Charge.

The Conservative candidate conveniently overlooks that the increase and extension of the charge were demanded by his Government as the price of finance for TfL in light of the current coronavirus crisis; they are emergency measures which had to be taken with very little notice to comply with the Government demands. Those demands are set out in their letter to the Mayor:

Paragraph 12(h) refers to the Congestion Charge:

12(h): the immediate reintroduction of the London Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ and urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels of these charges in accordance with the relevant legal powers and decision making processes

It is therefore clear this is the responsibility of the Conservative Government – however hard they sneakily try to transfer responsibility, so as to get people to blame the Mayor. It is their all too frequent tactic to mask blame for their unpopular polices, for example local council cuts.

The congestion charge increase and extension of scope is to help offset the catastrophic collapse in public transport fare income – approximately 90% – due to the Covid19 pandemic. It will be the first rise in six years, and was a condition the Conservatives demanded before providing TfL with a £1.6bn bailout , in large part a £505 million repayable loan. Without this, the transport system would have come to an insolvent halt within hours.

Other conditions include above inflation fare rises; removal of children’s free bus travel; and removal of the freedom pass and over 60s oyster concessions outside off peak times.

Sadiq Khan did not want to impose them, but the Mayor had no choice but to accept these conditions, failing which public transport would have ground to a halt as TfL ran out of cash.

The Government have also demanded representation on TfL’s board to ensure that their conditions are met.

yours faithfully

Andrew Dismore
London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden
Chair, Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee
City Hall
London SE1 2AA