After Tuesday’s Council meeting, where the Labour group made themselves look foolish over the Freedom Pass amongst other things, it appears that Nicki Gavron, the Mayor’s invisible deputy, is coming to Ealing.
See this notice that appeared on Ealing Today Forum yesterday:
The Deputy Mayor of London will be at the next EBSCAG (Ealing Borough Senior Citizen Action Group) Meeting on Friday 22nd Feb 08 between 2pm and 4pm at Ealing Town Hall.
The theme for the meeting will be “Transport in Londonâ€ and key issues includes:
1) Freedom Pass
2) Door to Door Transport
3) Public Transport
And much more…
Light refreshment available
Limited spaces, so reserve your place or have any access needs please contact Jim on email: or via
Tuesday’s Freedom Pass motion from Labour was:
This Council welcomes the Mayor of Londonâ€™s decision to extend the benefits available to Londoners from the Freedom Pass concessionary fares scheme. This extension will enable many Ealing residents to have greater access and mobility and enhances their quality of life significantly. This Council commends the Mayor of London for his actions that are vital for some of our most vulnerable members of society.
In their speeches Labour councillors Dheer, Nirwal and Bell all managed to misquote me to the point where they were simply lying. Dheer was sufficiently embarassed to look down at his shoes whilst speaking. Nirwal shot me a look as she twisted and Bell is old and cynical enough just to keep up the eye contact throughout. They were all just pulling words out of this piece and changing the order of what I said.
In the end the Labour group voted against this amended motion:
This Council welcomes promises to extend the benefits available to Londoners from the Freedom Pass concessionary fares scheme.
The Council notes that the contribution of London boroughs to the Freedom Pass is some Â£227M in 2007/2008 and Ealing Councilâ€™s contribution is about Â£9M of this. The contribution of the London Mayor to Freedom Pass costs in this year, as in every year previously, is zero. The Council:
Deplores the London Mayorâ€™s dishonesty in claiming last year that London Boroughs were threatening the existence of the Freedom Pass.
Calls for Transport for London (TfL) to show it provides value for money to London Boroughs by being completely open about the costs to it of the Freedom Pass and for there to be independent arbitration of disputes between TfL and London boroughs on the costs of the Freedom Pass.
I seconded this amended motion with this speech:
I rise to second Cllr Barchuckâ€™s amendment.
I also want to fully endorse Boris Johnson’s position that the Freedom Pass will be protected as an untouchable right.
In my comments I will follow the same convention as the Prime Minister and only refer to the Mayor by his office rather than mention him by name.
Cllr Barchuck points out that the Freedom Pass has almost nothing to so with the Mayor. It has been around for 24 years and is protected by law and is entirely paid for by London councils. The Â£9 million that Ealing is contributing this year is one of our largest expenses and also the fastest growing.
In the Mayorâ€™s first year in power the Freedom Pass cost London Councils Â£142 million. This year the bill will be Â£227 million â€“ a rise of 60% under the Mayor. To give you an idea how much that is it is the same as the running costs of two district general hospitals like Ealing Hospital.
The Freedom Pass is a great thing and not to be messed with lightly. But the Mayorâ€™s only role in it is to act as an arbitrator between London Councils and their contractor, namely Transport for London, in the event they cannot agree a price. As chairman for TfL the Mayor would be disqualified by reason of conflict of interest in any sensible arrangements.
When the Mayor makes a song and dance about the Freedom Pass he has two motives. Firstly he wants to steal the credit for this service from London councils. In this he often succeeds in spite of the passes saying on their face that they are provided by your local council. Secondly he wants to protect his position as arbitrator between London councils and TfL, the so-called reserve scheme, which any right thinking person could only describe as an unjust anomaly. The reserve scheme is merely a means for the Mayor to take money off councils and hand it to TfL.
Why does the Mayor need all of this cash? The answer is that TfL is incredibly badly run and wasteful. You all know that I can give you chapter and verse on how rubbish TfL is but let me pick a couple of items from my list:
Â· Â£1.6 billion a year structural deficit for last four years
Â· In the last five financial years Â£8 out of Â£12 billion in government grants spent just subsidising running costs
Â· At the end of the last FY some 112 TfL employees were paid over Â£100,000
Â· TfL spends over Â£50 million a year just promoting itself
Â· TfL has 100 press officers
Â· TfL spends tens of millions on adverts every year.
Â· Just one campaign, to promote the westward extension of the Congestion zone, cost Â£8.2 million.
TfL is a wasteful and inefficient bureaucracy, which Londonâ€™s councils and Ealing in particular does not need to subsidise. The members opposite should remember whom they represent.