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Mayor Johnson

We have half the fires but the LibDems see a political opportunity

Ridiculously huffy LibDem assembly member Stephen Knight has joined the far left FBU and the Labour party in condemning the London Fire Brigade’s latest ideas about fire planning.

For me the key bit of the LFB press release was the words:

The savings come against a backdrop of the Brigade:

  • Attending half as many fires compared to a decade ago
  • A third fewer house fires than a decade ago
  • Almost a third fewer incidents altogether

In September LFB announced that the number of fires in London has more than halved over the last decade and is now at its lowest point since records began in 1966. The idea that there is not room to restructure the fire service when times are tough and you are doing half the work you were a decade ago is quite laughable.

Fires overall are down 51%, half, from 55,063 in 2001 to 26,845 in 2011.

The overall number of incidents firefighters attend has dropped by 39 per cent from 187,737 in 2001 to 115,126 in 2011 (this includes call outs to things like road traffic collisions, false alarms and non-emergency calls such as to people stuck in lifts). Obviously false alarms and non-emergency calls are not as large a drain on resources as actual fires.

Note that the number of house fires has not diminished as fast as the overall numbers of fires, down a quarter (26 per cent), from 8,940 in 2001 to 6,618 in 2011. This is because commercial property has got a lot safer over the past decade as modern building regulations have forced the modernisation of commercial buildings up to modern safety standards and LFB themselves have done a lot of work to identify and force improvement of high risk buildings. LFB has also worked very hard to push smoke detectors into homes but has not made such a big impact on domestic premises as it has on commercial ones.

For many years now it has been apparent that LFB was wastefully warehousing firemen in beds over night near commercial centres who weren’t doing very much, besides getting a good night’s sleep. The changes announced by LFB take resources away from places where they have much fewer fires nowadays and push them out to the suburbs where there are more fires at night, especially the early mornings.

The idea that a service that is doing literally half of the work that it was ten years ago cannot safely give up some savings is just silly. I can understand the FBU’s position, it is a union after all and will naturally look after its own. The Labour position shows how ill-equipped it still is to govern. The LibDems in government will not thank Stephen Knight for showing the LibDems in the same light.

If people like Knight want to make us all safer he would be better off reminding people not to smoke in bed and to fit smoke detectors rather than indulging in hysterical shroud waving.

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Ealing and Northfield Mayor Johnson

Acton Firestation not going anywhere

Over the autumn Labour and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have been trying to get some traction out of firestation closures in London. Locally Labour figures have been scaremongering about the possible closure of Acton fire station. Today it has been confirmed that this will not happen. The fire brigade gives some interesting background that was reflected in the BBC story but not in the Evening Standard piece by Ross Lydall. London Fire Brigade say:

The savings come against a backdrop of the Brigade:

  • Attending half as many fires compared to a decade ago
  • A third fewer house fires than a decade ago
  • Almost a third fewer incidents altogether

The Labour/FBU position is essentially that any change to the LFB estate is a disaster regardless of how much work there is to do. This really is ridiculous. I remember working with LFB in 2003/4. It was obvious then that they were failing to match resources with demand and that this was wasting money. Long-standing Spanish practices resulted in mainly (men) sleeping in firestations overnight in locations where there were known to be no fires at night. It is only the deficit crisis that has caused LFB to finally grasp this nettle. The highly political and leftwing FBU will fight these changes tooth and nail. Labour will try to dramatise the ending of Spanish practices that are ripping off Londoners as dangerous cuts when they are no such thing.

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Mayor Johnson

Bottled sunshine

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Ealing and Northfield Mayor Johnson Onkar Sahota

Lazy bones – October

Last month our member of the London Assembly, Onkar Sahota, only managed to ask one written question out of 505 asked that month. This month he has upped his work rate a little and is asking 8 out of 485 questions.

His first is on a subject that is important to all of us but unfortunately one over which the London Mayor has no influence – the current NHS reconfigurations that are dropping out of Labour’s £20 billion Burnham Challenge programme.

He is also asking a slightly obscure question about the redevelopment of the Bow Street Court building:

Finally he asks six questions inspired by Ealing Transport for All:

Sahota is paid £53,439 a year to perform a specific function on behalf of the 600,000 population of the boroughs of Ealing and Hillingdon. That function is scrutiny. Questions, which have to be answered promptly, are the main mechanism by which assembly members can hold the mayor to account.

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Ealing and Northfield Mayor Johnson

Boris wins but Barnes loses

Commiserations to ex-GLA member for Ealing and Hillingdon, Richard Barnes who lost his seat this afternoon to Labour’s Onkar Sahota. There were 3,110 votes in it or 1.9%.

Mayor Boris Johnson had a much better time of it in Ealing & Hillingdon beating Ken Livingstone by 12,215 votes or 7.5%.

Boris outperformed his party by 12.1% and even Richard outperformed by 3.4%.

Ealing & Hillingdon results here and here.

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Ex-Mayor Livingstone Mayor Johnson

Vote Blue Alien

The Labour campaign (it stopped being the Ken Livingstone campaign a couple of weeks ago when Labour realised that Livingstone was a liability to his own campaign) has been awful. They have made promises they can’t keep and failed to apologise for Livingstone’s epic £220K tax evasion whilst he has been out of office. Labour’s last poster just about sums up everything that is wrong about Labour and Livingstone. Negative, dishonest and wrong.

Boris Johnson is a leader for all Londoners, improving the transport system, keeping us safe and costing us all less. He does it with a smile on his face and a real connection to London and its people. Boris is a mayor for everyone. I do hope that you will vote for him.

The polls opened already at 7am this morning. I hope that you will vote for Boris for Mayor, Richard Barnes for the Ealing & Hillingdon GLA seat and for the Tories in party list vote. If you are voting for Boris you don’t need to worry about the second vote in the mayoral election – just leave it blank (it only comes into play if you vote for someone who won’t be in the top two, eg if you vote Green + Livingstone or LibDem + Johnson).

The polls stay open to 10pm. If you haven’t posted your postal vote you can complete it and deliver to any polling station. You don’t need your orange polling card – just turn up and they will look you up. If you tell the party tellers at the polling station what your number is then you won’t be bugged by party workers ringing your bell at 9pm asking if you have have voted. There is nothing sinister about it – they are just trying to get out their vote.

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Ex-Mayor Livingstone Mayor Johnson

Livingstone’s great big bus fare lie

A major plank of Livingstone’s election platform is that “A single bus fare is now up 50%”, see page 19 of London Elects “The Candidates” publication.

The recent history of TfL fares is provided by the Londonist blog. The bus fare that Livingstone is referring to is the Oyster PAYG (peak) tabulated below.

It was £1 for three years until Livingstone lowered to 90p it in the run up to the 2008 London election. This was not enough to get him re-elected but it does provide a basis for Livingstone’s statistical nonsense. When Livingstone was in power he raised bus fares by 43% from 70p to £1. His later 10p cut was totally unaffordable. At the time he made this decision the subsidy for bus journeys was already 33p per journey.

Of course Boris Johnson had to raise bus fares when he came into power. You can guarantee that Livingstone would have done too (he had previous after all). It would be much fairer to claim that Johnson raised fares from £1 to £1.35 or 35%. Not only was Livingstone’s rise bigger than Johnson’s it was earlier. Livingstone is relying on you having a short memory. Don’t buy it.

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Ex-Mayor Livingstone Mayor Johnson

Labour fares nonsense

Last night I had a bit of a debate on Twitter with Labour councillor Hitesh Tailor on the subject of public transport fares although Tailor’s debating technique is limited to spewing out one-sided, unreferenced factoids.

Transport for London’s (TfL’s) fares have been running ahead of inflation ever since it was set up and Boris Johnson has only made small in-roads into TfL’s costs but he has made better progress with this than Ken Livingstone ever did. The Channel 4 programme on the Tube in February was evidence that Johnson has demanded more for less from the Tube system taking out 800 staff. Frankly no-one was ever going to seriously tackle TfL’s costs (and its labour force) in the run up to the Olympics, least of all Livingstone. Johnson has talked about automating tubes in the future – a change that will have to be forced through in the face of extreme opposition from the railway unions that are supporting Livingstone.

Livingstone has been using Fares Fair as a weapon since 1981, 31 years, so he knows it works. We know though that he lied twice before about cutting fares.

MANIFESTO PROMISE: “I will freeze tube fares in real terms for four years” (Ken Livingstone, Ken 4 London, 2000, p. 8).

PROMISE BROKEN: In January 2004 – before the election – cash fares on the Tube rose by up to 25 per cent. Travelcards also increased. Livingstone himself admits in his recent memoirs: ‘I decided to increase the fares before the [2004] election’ (TfL, Board Papers: Agenda Item 5, 29 October 2003; Ken Livingstone, You can’t say that, October 2011).

MANIFESTO PROMISE: “I will freeze bus fares for four years” (Ken Livingstone, Ken 4 London, 2000, p. 8).

PROMISE BROKEN: In January 2004, the single bus fare outside central London was increased from 70p to £1 a rise of 43 per cent. The weekly bus pass for those travelling outside central London rose from £7.50 to £9.50, an increase of 26.6 per cent. For those travelling in central London it rose by 11.7 per cent, from £8.50 to £9.50 (TfL Press Release, New Year, New Fares, 2 January 2004).

Livingstone is not the right person to tackle the unions and work practices on the Tube which is the only long term way of lowering fares. If Johnson wants to be seen as a credible national politician in the future he needs to demonstrate that he can reform public transport in London and stop the fares spiral. Livingstone hasn’t a chance. Johnson just might.

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Mayor Johnson

Boris’ election broadcast

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Ex-Mayor Livingstone Mayor Johnson

London transport week – more kidology from Livingstone

The contrast this week between the transport manifestos of Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone was quite stark. On Monday Johnson produced a crunchy list of practical transport measures that build on his solid record of achievement in the transport realm.

Today it was Livingstone’s turn. He surprised many by taking a mild approach to drivers: no rise in congestion charge, no Western Extension and no £25 gas guzzler charge. We have had almost four years of friends of Ken telling us that millions could be raised by these charges. No more.

The centre piece of Livingstone’s plans are his 7% fares cut, now rebranded as a “travel voucher”. The photo is taken from this ITV piece.

Livingstone is taking people for a ride. His fares sums simply don’t add up. He says that they will cost 3% of £9 billion London’s transport budget. That is £270 million per annum. Or £1.08 billion over 4 years. At the same time he is saying that: “He will make the average Londoner £1000 better off over four years.” The population of London is about 7.8 million. At £1,000 each that is £7.8 billion.

Livingstone’s pledge only applies to 1 in 8 Londoners. Or his pledge is only worth 1/8th of what he says. Either way it is nonsense. You choose.