On Friday Gordon Brown announced Crossrail as a part of his election-winning giveaway goodie-bag.
On Saturday England performed magnificently on the rugby pitch and Gordon Brown chickened out of an early general election.
I think Labour would have lost a lot of seats but not enough to ensure a stable Conservative government that could change the course of our country’s future. I think a reasonable majority 18 months down the track is a much more attractive proposition. By then the economy will be looking sad and Gordon Brown’s mismanagement of domestic affairs for the last ten years will be hard for him to deny.
Which brings us back to Crossrail. Brown could have announced this scheme 10 years ago. He spent 10 years not giving this scheme the go-ahead because he did not see the electoral advantage in it for him and his party. Now he sees that the zeitgeist is running against him in London and that both London MPs and Livingstone will have a hard time keeping their positions in general and mayoral elections and all of a sudden Crossrail is a goer.
As far as I can see Crossrail will be great for Ealing, London and the whole country. I moved here in 1987 mainly because I thought that it was brilliantly situated for access to the City, West End and Heathrow. Crossrail just takes that to another level. The financing of Crossrail will come to be seen as a problem though.
Between Ruth Kelly and Gordon Brown they held out for more cash from the City. I think that it is a shame that the Corporation of London agreed to give up £200 million. Why? Because this cash was earmarked for economic development. I know that Crossrail will drive both London’s and the whole country’s economy but other parts of the country get transport infrastructure and economic development funds. It seems London has to make a choice. Don’t forget that the Mayor is also using LDA cash that should be going towards economic development to fund his bread and circuses programme, you know Tate Gallery extension, Tour de France, Childcare Affordability Programme, etc.
The London London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have shown how London subsidises the rest of the country. In the context of a net outflow from London in the range £5.8 to £20.4 billion the price of Crossrail at £16 billion over 10 years of building seems pretty modest.
The worst part though is that the London Mayor has agreed to underwrite this programme with our council taxes, see warning from London Councils here. As the blog Burning Our Money points out this programme is likely to cost a lot more than the advertised £16 billion. The Corporation of London’s economic development pot is just a spit in the bucket. The Mayor has signed a potentially huge blank cheque with our cash. He doesn’t care about our tax bills. He cares about getting re-elected and getting his hands on Crossrail. This is a project of national significance and as such should be underwritten by central government not London. The contrast with the Mayor’s Olympic funding pledge could not be more stark.
The Mayor’s job was to get Brown to give us the cash for Crossrail and not to expose Londoners to unecessary risk. The Mayor has blown it.