Been a while since I’ve looked at the Mayor’s Question Time Written Answers.  This month’s set contain some humdingers:

Relations with central government – since coming to power Boris has met Tessa Jowell (twice), John Denham, Jack Straw, Ruth Kelly, Jacqui Smith, Lord West, Hazel Blears, Tony McNulty, Margaret Beckett and Geoff Hoon.

Jeez, the job’s not all pleasure is it?  I bet he felt he needed a bath after meeting that shower.

Income Support Half Price Fares:

I have already announced that the discounts under the scheme to be launched in the New Year will be the same as for the scheme launched by my predecessor in 2007.

Cost the same, but from TfL resources rather than Venezuelan oil revenues.  Actually, the cost goes up, rather wonderfully, at RPI+1% from January and indeed in every other January, so this is the gift the keeps on taking.

Scrapping the Congestion Charge Western Extension:

I have asked TfL to focus on reducing costs and review possible mitigation, but inevitably there may be implications from a reduction in revenue. This would have to be considered as part of the longer term approach in the development of my Transport Strategy and TfL’s Business Plan.

In other words, there’s another hole in the TfL budget, chaps, and we’re going to fill it with cuts.  I’ll look to see if those cuts land mostly on the residents of Kensington or on the travelling poor.

Crime:

I intend to work in partnership with the Police, the Police Authority other criminal justice agencies in London to reduce overall crime by 20%. The start point will be 2007/08.

Hostage to fortune time – property crimes rise in recessions, Boris, having inherited a falling crime rate, is already cutting police budgets and having a negative effect on areas like domestic violence.  We’ll be watching this one.

The ‘emergency’ rail summit, as often reported on here:

I am keen to see this occur before the end of the year, although a date has yet to be set. Consequently no agenda has been confirmed, but it is clear that issues such as Oyster, safety and the chronic overcrowding of trains at peak times will be important issues to discuss.

Slow motion car crash here, I think.  As we’ve said before, Boris is constrained by the TOC/DfT relationship to fiddling at the margins.  If he wants real influence, he has to persuade the DfT to see things his way, not get everyone round a table.  Seven months on there’s no date, no list of invitees and no agenda.

ID cards:

I do not support the Government’s plans for Identity Cards on the basis that:
* There is no evidence that they prevent terrorist attacks.
* They will not  prevent illegal immigration.
* They will not prevent human trafficking.
* They are expensive. The official estimated price for a combined ID card and passport package
is £93.  According to the London School of Economics estimates, implementing the scheme will cost up to £20 billion of taxpayers’ money.
It is clear that, for the prevention and detection of crime (including terrorism), there is a need for the appropriate agencies to be able to access records of communications as has been standard practice for many years.  However I am concerned that the Government’s Communications Data Bill may not yet have the balance right between privacy and protection from crime.

[100% agreement here on that, Boris.  Credit where credit's due, although I'd like to see him go further and refuse to allow GLA funds or personnel to be used to help implement or prepare for the scheme.]

Thames Gateway transport:

I have asked TfL and the LDA to undertake a wider study of the Thames Gateway area to assess the long term transport and planning needs of the area.  This will include alternative options to the Thames Gateway Bridge for a river crossing and other transport infrastructure requirements to support the continued regeneration of the London Thames Gateway and to build on the record levels of public transport investment already taking place in the area.

Translation – ‘I’ve no idea what I’m doing.  In particular I’ve thrown away the funding on the table for a Thames crossing and will now look at a Thames crossing, but without any funding.  Meanwhile I’ve scrapped the other transport projects in the area because they don’t have any funding.  I’ll now look at whether they were needed.  I really haven’t thought this through.’

Gyratories:

TfL is undertaking limited work to determine the effects of restoring a small number of gyratories to two way working.  In reality removal of gyratories can only be achieved using developer s106 funding.
One of the basic objectives of any road improvement scheme, including examining the operation of gyratories, is to design a scheme that results in no loss of capacity to general traffic.  Every scheme is considered on a case by case basis and TfL has a duty, under the Traffic Management Act, to ensure that consideration is given to the needs of all road users.  Any gyratories that are reviewed will be considered in this light and any proposals that are developed would not be expected to worsen the overall traffic conditions.  One of my key priorities is to smooth traffic flow and I would not expect TfL to pursue any scheme that ran contrary to this.

Oo.  Both scrapping bendy buses and abolishing the Congestion Charge Western Extension could easily worsen traffic conditions.  Does he therefore expect TfL not to pursue them?  Will he publish TfL’s consideration of the effect on traffic congestion, particularly at bus termini?

Fairtrade:

I am delighted to support this worthy cause.

Just like his predecessor.  Red/Green Boris strikes again.  A lot of Conservative boroughs, on the other hand, aren’t.

Airports (Statutory Biggsy Wind Up Question):

Conservative Party aviation policy is clear.

No it isn’t.  You want to build an airport in the wrong place, the rest of your party don’t want to build an airport in the wrong place.

Does he support modal shift?

Absolutely.

Yeah, right.  I’ll believe that when I see it.  Currently he supports moving people onto bicycles, but not improving conditions for bicycles when this might affect motorists.  More on this multiple personality disorder of a policy later.

Boris Airport:

The provisional, in-house, desk-top research carried out on the feasibility of locating an airport in the Thames Estuary was always intended as an internal briefing and was not party to external
consultation

Translation: it really was Malthouse dribbling over a map and we didn’t ask anyone with any real knowledge.  I can’t believe we guessed this one right – considering how much press coverage it got, surely there was more to it to that than some bloke doodling?

Fatal and serious cyclist accidents by vehicle type (Val Shawcross gets cute):

Boris doesn’t have the figures for non-articulated buses, amazingly, from which we can presume they don’t have some overwhelming argument against bendy buses in.  For articulated HGVs, which we’ve long fingered as *the* threat to cyclists on the streets of London, there have been five deaths, eleven serious injuries and sixteen slight injuries in three years from 2005-2007.  Obviously, since the headline figure is 9 deaths a year in lorry collisions, there must be quite a number of cyclist deaths from *non-articulated* goods vehicles (of which, obviously, there are more on the roads).

38, 507, 521 bus tenders:

Tender bids for these routes are currently being evaluated. The information you request will be
published on the TfL website when the new contracts are awarded, in line with normal practice.

Boris uses the ‘commercial confidentiality’ defence there.  The first three routes to debendify, and we expect there to be two tender prices, one for each vehicle type.

Elephant and Castle remodelling:

The modelling of the scheme indicated long AM peak queues on Walworth Road and Kennington
Lane/Kennington Park Road (Inner Ring Road). This is not consistent with my manifesto pledge to reduce congestion. The congestion the scheme would create was also not consistent with an improved local environment.

Translation – my policy is that people on foot and bike come second to people in cars.  Except when it isn’t.  Watch the hands, not the mouth.

Routemaster competition:

TfL has been inundated with entries and I’m hoping to announce the results in December.

Website still says ‘Winners will be notified at the end of October or in early November’.  Consistency, consistency.

Keynesian Boris:

I envisage the [Economic Recovery Action] Plan will identify some key infrastructure projects in London that could be brought forward with government support.

*cough* I wonder how many of them will involve road-building?  We’ll see.

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3 Responses to Mayoral Questions Beget Mayoral Answers

  1. Alex says:

    Boris has met Tessa Jowell (twice)

    That’s just inhuman. How could they do it to him?

    Meanwhile, I think the Richard Montgomery International Airport can be explained by Tory mythology. The original Third London Airport study was commissioned, I think, by Harold Wilson (UNCLEAN!) and finalised by Edward Heath’s administration, who took the decision to kibosh the Foulness, Thames Estuary, and Wing options in favour of expansion at Gatwick and Stansted.

    So that’s OMG TEH HEATH!!! BURN! BURN THE WITCH!!! stuff to any good Thatcher cultist, rather like nuclear power is. (Of course, she did bugger all about either, but then this is a religion.)

  2. Alex says:

    I mean, the cult believes that nuclear power is fundamentally kosher, and we don’t have more of it because of eeevil socialists and Ted Heath.

  3. Tom says:

    The Roskill Commission was certainly set up by Labour, and chose Wing (or Cublington, as they called it), with Colin Buchanan dissenting and preferring Foulness, despite it scoring overwhelmingly negatively on surface access costs. Buchanan’s reasoning was that, despite cost-benefit analysis supposedly existing to stop people emotionally favouring one aspect over another in order to get an objective result, the environmental aspects of putting a huge airport in the Buckinghamshire countryside should outweigh everything else. Heath’s new government picked Foulness, but the recession and rising oil prices plus the realisation that it would need two motorways and a four-track railway killed it, and we eventually got Gatwick North and Stansted (and Heathrow T4, lest we forget – I think that was enabled by someone working out rather belatedly that these Jumbo things carried a lot more people in the same landing slot than a 707).

    Of course, this was the early 1970s, when you could talk about environmentalism and new airports in the same breath without anyone laughing. Boris constantly does this in 2008, but then Boris is a very 1970s person, since he was about 7 in 1970 and the child is the father of the man. Actualy, he seems to see both airport policy and the Left and probably much else through the distorting prism of growing up in the 1970s (hence all the gags about tractor factories and Stalinist Brutalist Mayoral offices that Boris, Norris and the boys bullyrag Oiky Hendy with) and arguably the Routemaster stuff comes in there too, since 1970-1980 was its heyday (last one built 1968, first routes de-RM’d about 1979). You can therefore argue that current Conservative policy as an attempt to re-run the Heath government without the mistakes, and thereby exorcise the unpleasant memory. I’m not sure I’m willing to pay for the therapy, though.

    Actually, I believe you’ve made the early 70s comparison before, Alex, regarding the New Labour equivalent of RM Airport, maglev, and big databases. It was about the last time when people thought grand projects, if sufficiently radical, were inherently good and therefore didn’t need proper management. It was probably Concorde that ended that one.

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