Sunday, 25 May 2008

Boris Johnson doubles fares for London's poor

Boris Johnson will double the price of bus and tram fares for the poorest Londoners, he said today.

In an announcement slipped out on a Bank Holiday, the Mayor said that applications for half-price fares from people on income support would no longer be accepted from 20th August this year.

The half-price offer was established last year after an oil-deal was brokered between London and the Venezuelan government. Up to a quarter of a million Londoners on low-incomes were expected to benefit from the reduced fares while Venezuela were receiving technical advice and assistance from TfL.

In an attempt to justify the doubling of fares, Boris Johnson said today that:

'I simply think there are better ways of benefiting Londoners and better ways of benefiting Venezuelans.'
There has been no indication what those better ways might be.

The Mayor has also said that closure of the London/Caracas office will save (a pretty insignificant) £67,000 a year. However, none of that alleged saving will go back into either reducing fares for London's poorest or into improving the lot of Venezuelans. 

Ken Livingstone who established the discount fares, said today: 

"Regardless of Boris Johnson's objections to the oil agreement with Venezuela he has announced no alternative way to provide cheaper travel to the more than 80,000 Londoners on Income Support who benefit from the half price bus and tram fares. It shows that he is more interested in pursuing his right wing ideological agenda than improving the living standards of the most deprived people in the capital."

The employment of private equity boss and renowned asset stripper Tim Parker earlier this week was a clear sign that Boris was likely to pursue a number of cuts to services. However, it was not expected that he would do so quite so soon or that he would so blatantly target the poorest people in the capital.


The Mayor's attempts to frame the announcement as a positive for Venezeulans is also hardly credible as all TFL advice and assistance will now be withdrawn. Venezuela were also presumably happy with the arrangement as similar deals have now been set up with a number of American cities and states.

And although the effect of Boris Johnson's announcement on Venezuelans is difficult to gauge, the effect on London's poorest people will be easily felt. The signal it sends to the country is also not difficult to read. 

As Dave Hill points out on his blog today, Boris Johnson had explicitly promised to end 'the growing divisions between rich and poor' in his victory speech, but has now significantly increased that gap as one of his very first acts as Mayor. 

This coupled with schemes to take free bus travel away from rowdy children, and to scrap targets for affordable housing should send a clear message about who will, and who will not benefit from a Johnson Mayoralty and any Tory government that follows.


Stevep said...

Surprisingly enough we didn't hear about this before the election. 'Londoners, we will double the cost of you getting around' not being the ideal election slogan.

This really smacks of the 80s Toryism they make out has gone away. These people probably won't vote for me or vote at all, so fuck the lot of them he is basically saying. And for what? To please his right wing 'policy exchange' cronies. What an arsehole.

Chris said...

Makes all the Tories' cries of horror over 10p tax affecting the poor now sound even more hollow.

Actions speak louder than words.

Martin said...

@Chris: absolutely but can Labour stop navel gazing long enough to make something of it?

Anonymous said...

Tories in 'fuck the poor' shock.

Did we really expect anything else?

The Tory Troll said...

@Martin: Probably not. But the Londoners who will have hundreds of pounds added to their travel expenses every year will not be worrying too much about what Labour will do, they will just be worrying about how they will make ends meet.

As it stands the Tories will probably win the next election regardless. The best thing that Labour can do for the country in the meantime is make it fairer and make poorer people better off. Any advances in that regard will then be harder for a Tory government to reverse, (although admittedly Boris johnson doesn't seem to be finding it that hard so far.)

Labour should ignore accusations of 'drifting to the left' and just do more to help the poor. it isn't a matter of appealing to the core vote it's just a matter of doing what is right and if that forces the Tories real positions out into the open, then all the better.

It's not as if doing more to help the poor will alienate middle class voters. it will just make the choice clearer for them. The reason the tories hated Livingstone so much was that he managed to appeal to the centre ground and big business whilst pursuing a number of socialist policies. They couldn't allow that anomaly to continue for too much longer.

K said...

@TTT and @Martin. Exactly. Who cares less about Crewe and the Brown saga. The Conservatives are already in power in London and look what they're doing. I couldn't care less what happens to Brown, but I do care what happens to my city. Wake up Londoners. Just because you voted Boris in doesn't mean you should put up with this kind of crap.

tim said...

Perhaps if good ol' Ken hadn't pushed up the adult bus fare from 40p to £1 in less than ten years, this wouldn't be so much of a prob....

and completely axed one of the bus services in bromley (361) and diminished the frequency of the 351...!

The Tory Troll said...

That's strange, you seem to suggest that the bus services that you use so much that you find there aren't enough of them cost you a pound a go, when any oyster card user knows they cost 90p.

And 40p was the old cost for kids to travel on the buses (the last time you used one perhaps?) and children and pensioners now ride for free. 100% reduction isn't too bad. It's certainly a bit better than the 100% increase Boris announced today.

Karl said...

It's going to be a miserable four years, and no mistake.

Anonymous said...

Glad I didn't vote Tory in the Mayoral Election I'm proud that I voted for Ken even though he didn't win I like him a lot and he was a good Mayor

Anonymous said...

"This coupled with schemes to take free bus travel away from rowdy children.... should send a clear message about who will, and who will not benefit from a Johnson Mayoralty"

It's worth noting that you would have got that policy either way, as Ken was so impressed with it and the "Payback London" idea, that he adopted it himself during the campaign.

As to who will benefit, how about the passengers who want to travel in a non threatening environment. As to who will not benefit, you answered that yourself: "rowdy children". We can see who you prefer to align yourself with.

The Tory Troll said...

Nothing to say about the doubled bus fares then?

Anonymous said...

I don't support it. I don't want to see poor people made worse of. I will be disappointed if the Mayor can't demonstrate the better ways to help Londoners he mentioned.

Nothing more to add about your support for rowdy children over passengers that want to travel in peace? Why do you find it so offensive that trouble making kids have the privilege of free transport removed until they earn it? Ken liked the idea. Can you expand upon what you dislike about it?

The Tory Troll said...

We're in agreement then. It's a terrible policy. My point about bus passes being taken away is not about the policy itself (bus passes were already being taken away before the election started as it happens) but about Johnson's policies as a whole hitting the poorest most. i could go into more details about affordable housing and the freedom pass but that would be a whole other post, which you can then come and comment on. Otherwise you are in danger of trying to divert attention from the central point of this story. Something Boris and his team have already successfully achieved.

Anonymous said...

But the thing is, it's not me that is diverting attention, it was you by mentioning the scheme to take away free bus travel from rowdy children as some kind of attack on the poor, when it was a central plank of the manifesto on which he was elected, and even garnered the support of his main opponent.

There's no point even having subsidised travel if the experience is so awful that it puts people off using it - maybe that's why take up of the scheme was low?

Where there are policy decisions that require serious scrutiny and questioning, such as anything which makes poorer people worse of, I'm happy to agree and lobby for change, but I don't think you bring people with you in the debate by overplaying your hand.

The Tory Troll said...

Your anonymous objections are duly noted.

Anonymous said...

LOL, you mention "anonymous" as if it's a pejorative. You can turn off Anonymous comments in Blogger if you don't like them. Although I don't exactly see you broadcasting your name anywhere on this blog. So you're not anonymous?

The Tory Troll said...

No. My name is Adam Bienkov, which I write under elsewhere. You are a concerned Londoner writing from that well known London borough of Kent I believe.

As a general rule I allow anonymous comments as long as they are not either:

a) trolling
b) boring
c) irrelevant to the original post
d) abusive
e) libelous

I have given you some leeway but your comments are clearly covered by at least one of these and will be moderated according to these rules from here on in. If you don't like it, then don't bother yourself commenting.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have bored you, Adam - I'm assuming that was the one. I'll try not to be a repeat offender.

Alberta Jenny said...

Venezuela is paying for advice that was not offered to them for free and the most convenient form of payment is in oil.
President Chavez and the 60% that voted for him considered this was an excellent opportunity to organize Caracas, a city that is an urban nightmare.
Quite unfortunately, both cities ended up loosing.

Ysabel Howard said...

Good evening. A couple of things. I should just point out that this adding hundreds of £££ to Londoners' costs isn't exact. The bus fare is actually £2, whether for one stop or 20 stops. It's clearly a barmy amount for say a three-stop trip bringing back the shopping. That is why almost no-one pays it. A one-week bus pass costs £13.00 for unlimited travel. I use one to commute to and from work, a four-bus exercise which would cost 4 x £2 x 5 days = £40 at full individual fare or £20 at half-fare. As a regular bus passenger I can think of imaginative things to do to certain adolescents. Removing their bus passes is mild.

The Tory Troll said...

Good morning to you Ysabel.

I advise you get yourself an Oyster card. It's only 90p a go then.