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the announcement as a positive for Venezeulans is also hardly credible as all TFL advice and assistance will now be withdrawn.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.