Today the Guardian Comment is free blog has published the piece below from me. They changed the title and added an intro that slightly garbled the point of what I was trying to say but it was very sporting of them anyway.
I have reproduced the article below so that I can put in the links to the background.
10 things the Mayor would rather you didn’t know
The complete list of things the Mayor would rather you didn’t know is rather longer than this but here are ten examples I have dug out over the last 18 months or so.
- 27 teenagers were knifed, shot or beaten to death last year in London and another five murdered already this year. Although the Mayor claims that crime is going down, violent crime is higher now than when he came into power.
- Every time someone got on a bus in 2006/7 it cost Transport for London (TfL) 32p, total subsidy £617 million.
- The Mayor has collected £1.2 billion in Congestion Charge charges and fines in the five years of the scheme’s operation. All of this has been spent on out of control set-up and running costs. There is no surplus in spite of the Mayor’s claims.
- Every time someone got on a Docklands Light Railway train in 2006/7 it cost TfL £1.28, total subsidy £78.5 million.
- The kick off event for the Tour de France held in the summer cost £10.5 million of which £9.2 million was provided by the Mayor. £3 million was spent on advertising.
- When the Mayor wanted to give away 100,000 free Oyster cards last summer the advertising bill was £792,966.
- Last Autumn the Mayor consulted on emissions related congestion charging. The consultation cost £1.4 million and ended on 19th October. The results of the consultation were not published until the implementation of the scheme was announced on 12th February this year. They showed that 60% of Londoners thought that the higher charges proposed would be not very or not at all effective.
- The Mayor paid £464,000 towards Nelson Mandela’s statue unveiled last October.
- Every time someone got on a Tube in 2006/7 it cost TfL 55p, total subsidy £553 million.
- The Mayor’s press officers and comms people now number 265. These people cost something like £13 million per annum.
A common theme with these factoids is that the Mayor is happy to tell you how lovely he is. Mandela statue – lovely. Grand Depart – lovely. Free travel for children – lovely. Low Emission Zone – lovely. But, he rarely wants to discuss the cost of his munificence as that would raise awkward questions like: “Is this a sensible use of so much cash?”. Many things that the Mayor does are to be welcomed, but, as a Conservative, I would argue that the state cannot do everything so it needs to carefully weigh the cost and value of its activities so that resources, that can only be expended once, are expended in the most productive way. The Mayor consistently tries to hide this information and just tells us what he thinks is good for us, or, more likely, what is good for him.
Many of us would ask whether we couldn’t have less self-promotion and less dead kids. The publicity bill is approximately £100 million per annum. Knife arch or advert is a straight choice. Better cost control at TfL or more coppers is another choice. Without a grip on the numbers you can’t have this debate.
Every time the Mayor makes a new announcement ask him how much it is going to cost and ask if the money could have been spent on policing or making public transport work or even given back to us!