The contrast between the Nelson Room and the City Hall chamber could not be greater. Sitting on the sumptuous suede effect gallery seats, surrounded by state of the art audio visual equipment my only complaint was that I was too cold. The Mayor is getting very windy on the subject of carbon but perhaps he could turn down the aircon a couple of notches.
The main topic for the first hour or so were the TfL price increases. Nobody had spotted Livingstone’s RPI wheeze. There was much talk of mitigating the effect of these above inflation rises on poorer Londoners but the fact is that if you don’t get onto Oyster TfL are going to plunder you. In many ways the Mayor comes across as an extremely bright and capable man. He then blows it by describing how his weird oil deal with Venezuela is going to help poor Londoners.
Tory spokesman for transport, Roger Evans, asked a question following up on the Â£78 million number that I got out of TfL:
“Why is the budget for TfL’s ‘Advertising, marketing and communications’ Â£78 million? Why do you think it is necessary for a public body that provides a monopoly service to spend such an amount on advertising?”
The Mayor tried to pretend that this was a small sum compared to overall TfL spending and to justify it in terms it being spent on things like timetables. In his breakdown of this spending he still had to admit that Â£40 million goes on advertising.
The Mayor admitted that this figure was a Â£14 million overspend on this budget and that he would expect to see spending in the same ballpark next year. The self-promotion goes on.
One of TfL’s expensive ads warns young people that if they misbehave on public transport they will lose their travelcard. The Mayor admitted today that only 4 cards had been withdrawn in a year. I can’t see this measure stopping many hoodies from scratching up bus windows.
I was interested to see this component of London democracy in action but it was pretty poor sport. Although Livingstone was suffering from a cough he seemed happy enough batting away the questions of the assembly member. Incidentally our member, Richard Barnes was not present.
Although not quite the marathon that the EAC was it still went on for 2 hours 37 minutes – not for the faint hearted.