I saw the Mayor’s press release about his Venezuelan oil deal yesterday and my first reaction was to be just to be so depressed. It will be great for people on income support although if the level of income support is wrong I might suggest that that is an issue for central government to solve not London council tax payers. I might also suggest that benefit dependency will not be tackled by more concessions to those that choose to stay out of work because they could not match their income from benefits by doing actual work and getting paid like the rest of us.
Yesterday I showed pretty comprehensively that the existing reduction in bus fares in September was unaffordable whilst TfL’s costs were so out of control. Now the Mayor is giving away even more money. As ever the Mayor is being totally disingenuous about the costs and benefits involved here. By all means talk about the benefits but what is all of this going to cost?
The Evening Standard said yesterday:
The Mayor’s office today revealed that the oil deal was worth between £10-£12 million when measured by current oil prices and exchange rates.
The piece goes on to remind us that:
In return, a team of officials from the GLA will work in Venezuela advising on recycling, waste management, traffic and on reducing carbon emissions.
The cost of these services is unknown (see press release from the GLA Budget Committee). They are likely to be in the order of millions if you are thinking of paying for expensive GLA/TfL people to be in Venezuela and not doing their day jobs here. I can’t imagine that the Venezuelans will expect anything less than £10-12 millions worth otherwise they would be getting a very bad deal.
It is hard to believe that the oil deal will make ANY contribution whatsoever to this new fares concession. This will be paid for by higher fares for the rest of us than would otherwise be the case or reduced capital expenditure. There is no-one else to pay.
A previous press release from the Mayor back in February suggested that 250,000 would receive a benefit of £280 each. This is a claim that the Mayor did not repeat yesterday as last time around Damian Hockney from One London did the math and suggested that the scheme could cost up to £70 million (the math being multiply £280 by 250,000).
Although the Mayor did not repeat the statement that this concession would be worth £280 he does keep talking about 250,000 even though his own people are estimating that only 160,000 will apply. Apparently the Mayor’s office claim the cost will be £15 million due to lower take up than that implied by the 250,000 and the fact that some people will travel more as a result of the concession. So not only will you pay higher fares but the buses will be more crowded too!
You have to wonder if the Mayor isn’t feeling just a tiny bit defensive about all of this. He has got fully 20 of his little helpers (a mishmash of leftwing MPs, trade unionists and spokespeople of left-leaning advocacy groups) to back him up. I also note that so far there is not a big ad campaign running. Remember the totally gratuitous £793K spent on ads to give away 100,000 free Oyster cards. See previous posting. Only last week the Times was reporting that his old buddy Hugo Chavez was proposing that he be allowed to serve as president for life and get control of central bank assets. No wonder he is feeling the need to wrap the old security blanket around himself.