Please note that the Mayor is quite unconcerned about using public resources to rebut what it is essentially a political attack. I met the guys from Bow Group back in August and had a very nice lunch with them in a West End cafe – liver and bacon with veggies. We discussed their paper and my own work on TfL’s finances and the Charge.
I know the CC numbers and the Mayor’s people are spinning outrageously. There comes a point where you have to say they are just lying. They have been challenged to discuss the finances of the CC in the round and they keep ignoring the bits of the financial picture that undermine their case. They say:
Far from costing London £930m, the first full three years of operation in the central zone produced an income of £591.7 million with an operating cost of £288.6 million – giving a net operating income of £303.1 million.
The first number £930 million is not made up. It is simply the sum of all the income from the CC recorded in audited TfL accounts for the last 5 years. Londoners have paid TfL £930 million in charges and fines in this time. It is a matter of undisputable fact.
The Mayor’s figures are snatched out of the air, are not audited and are untrustworthy. The figures the Mayor is using ignore the capital costs of the scheme (£161.7 million to set up and £103 million to extend). Laughably they also exclude indirect overheads which the Audit Commission insists that TfL include in its accounts. The Mayor’s figures treat the Congestion Charge as if it was run out of a garage and not part of a grossly inefficient organisation with frightening overheads. To give a concrete example the £8.6 million the Mayor spent on advertising the Western Extension, more than even the Tories spent on all their 2005 general election campaign ads, is not included in what the Mayor calls operating costs. The Bow Group figures, as bad as they are do not include the cost associated with research into technical issues such as the comparison between tag and beacon and ANPR or the cost of consultation. As we saw this week consultation on the politically motivated re-branding of the CC is costing £1.137 million. More electioneering paid for by us.
Just so you know the two Bow Group guys are volunteers. The one figure the press release did not try to rebut was that there are 173 press officers working for the Mayor and his bodies. They can’t very well rebut this figure as it is based on published, though notably inaccessible sources – you can pull it together by following these links: Hamwee question 2471/2006 and TfL numbers. Note that LibDem AM Hamwee had to ask twice to get the full answer out of the Mayor.
I do wonder though if diligent volunteers like Christopher and Alastair working on behalf of the Tory leaning Bow Group will be enough to turnover the Mayor’s £100 million a year comms budget – more on this later.