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Ex-Mayor Livingstone

Ealing Times = London Mayor

It looks like the Ealing Times comes at some issues from the same direction as our beloved Mayor. They reported yesterday that Roger Evans, Tory transport spokesman on the London Assembly, is in hot water for an unguarded comment on his blog about free bus passes for young people on London Buses.

Evans said:

Given the cost of this concession, the levels of antisocial behaviour and the lack of control over the issuing and checking of passes, I will be recommending abolition – if asked.

The Ealing Times article fails to mention the cost of the scheme. These concessions have cost £55 million a year which is an awful lot of money that is not targeted at the poorest in society. The Mayor loves to trumpet these give aways without honestly talking about their costs. The costs have to be winkled out in questions because the Mayor only ever talks about benefits, not costs.

In addition to the cost many people feel intimidated by freeloading youngsters on the buses and the Police are finding that young criminals are using the bus system to do more crime as a result of these free passes. At the very least there should be a 9pm curfew for them. We pay twice if we let young people on our buses for free and then they scratch every window on the top floor with graffiti.

Only yesterday I had to restrain myself from leaping out of my car to remonstrate with a youngster who threw a bottle out of the top floor window of a double decker. The Mayor’s taxi bill is so large I can well believe that he rarely has to deal with foul mouthed youngsters on buses as I had to in Greenford recently.

I don’t suppose the Ealing Times has made the connection with their own story the previous week.

On September 17 this year, a 22-year-old man from Hayes was punched and kicked to the floor by a 30-strong gang on the 207 bus in Ealing, at 5.30am. His nose was broken, he suffered a deep cut to his eyelid which required nine stitches and he needed a further eye operation. The victim was off work for three weeks and on prescription pain medication for a month.

All the members of the MDP gang who attacked the man were eligible for free bus passes.

London Buses are subsidised to the tune of £100 millions. Again the Mayor keeps talking about buses but refuses to honestly address the subsidy we all pay. There is no way you can read TfL’s Statement of Accounts and work out what the bus subsidy is.

This year the Mayor increased his charge on us by 13.3%. For me this means that the Mayor’s charge is £481.02 this year. In 1999/2000, the year before the Mayor came into being, I was charged £129.07 for the Met and £45.95 for the London Fire Brigade. So the Mayor’s charge has gone up 2.75 times in seven years. Can you afford this Mayor?

One reply on “Ealing Times = London Mayor”

Phil,

The comment, which you quote in full, was certainly not unguarded. I would have given the same considered response to a question at a public meeting, or from a journalist, or to a letter from a constituent. Because this exchange occurred in the world of blogging it is being treated as if I was practising black magic!

The quote the Mayor actually fell back on was ‘this is an unaffordable luxury for Londoners’. That was dredged up from an assembly question time in June 2005. Clearly Livingstone had planned his story and was determined to write it regardless of how I responded.

It’s worth browsing the debate on ‘Conservative Home’ and the two threads on ‘Comment is Free’ which carried the Mayor’s article and my response. Public support for this policy is not as solid as Livingstone claims and there were plenty of critical posts, including some from his own supporters. One particularly keen flunky of the Mayor posted some 15 times in defense of his master, accusing people of ‘falling into Roger’s trap’ and pushing the ludicrous idea that Martin over at ‘Mayorwatch’ was a Tory – after ‘Mayorwatch’ correctly accused Livingstone of misquoting me.

Livingstone wants the scheme to be sacrosanct in the way that the Freedom Pass is, but there are two important differences:

First, the free travel is subsidised by other fare payers – who see their own bills rising fast. Many of these are low paid workers who can ill afford to have their money ‘redistributed’ – Fares Unfair.

Second, anti social behaviour is widely recognised as a problem. It is cited by passenger representatives, bus drivers, police officers as a serious concern and the fact that in over a year only 6 passes were withdrawn for breaches of the behaviour code demonstrates that TfL have completely failed to get a grip.

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