Thursday, 30 October 2008

"Andrew Gilligan" and other Associated Keywords

I wouldn't want to suggest that Andrew Gilligan is self-obsessed, but on the other hand...

-Update- Andrew Gilligan claims he is 'automated'.

Andrew Gilligan caught 'sockpuppeting' his critics

Andrew Gilligan on a rant while I was away:

"There's a certain mad nobility in the way Boris's opponents seem determined to strap themselves to the most unpopular causes going. You wonder what's next a support group for double-glazing salesmen? A bid to rehabilitate that misunderstood feminist icon, demonised by the Right-wing media, Rose West?"

Now where have I heard that one before? Could it be from an 'anonymous' commenter a few weeks back:

"There's a certain mad nobility in this blog's obsessive support for the most unpopular vehicles in London. What's next - a campaign to rehabilitate Rose West?"

And again from commenter 'Kennite' on Dave Hill's blog:

"There's a certain mad, self-destructive nobility in the Ken Left's dogged defence of some of the most disliked things in London - Sir Ian Blair, bendy buses."

Oh dear Andrew, you do seem to have been working that phrase hard. So what else have you been working at?

Here you are seemingly defending yourself in the third person:

"The point the Gilligan piece was making is that the world has changed. It's not Boris or "Tory ultras" that will "abandon" the 50,000 new affordable homes target - it's the economy, and it's going to happen whether Dave Hill likes it or not"

and again attacking Dave Hill:

"Nobody outside the ranks of Ken Livingstone supporters would accept your principal commentator, Dave Hill, as "independent". He has repeatedly attacked Johnson, found endless inventive ways to repeat the "racist" slur about him, done his very best to downplay the importance of the LDA grants scandal and made clear his delight at polls showing Ken closing the gap."

And on the Evening Standard:

"Liz Jones hasn't written for the Standard for nearly two years, SuperClive. A good sign that, like so many who condemn the paper, you don't actually read it."

and on Ken Livingstone's radio show:

"Dave Hill's famously unbiased reporting has unfortunately omitted to mention the several callers who suggested that Ken was "bitter," that he should stop "slagging off Boris Johnson" and that his mayoralty had "lost its way." As for Ken's claim that Gilligan is obsessed with him, I counted about fifteen mentions of Gilligan. Who, exactly, is the obsessive one here?"

Er, the man counting the mentions of his own name perhaps?

And on your political allegiances:

"Nor will it do to write off everyone who opposes Ken or New Labour as, by definition, a Daily Mail reactionary. If Polly had ever read any of Gilligan's columns, she would see someone writing from a broadly left-wing, if anti-New Labour, perspective"

Or a pro-New Conservative perspective? Or an anti-anti Boris Johnson one? Or a pro-sockpuppeting your critics vibe? Or an anti-responding under your own name slant? Which is it Andrew? Your public deserves to know!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Tory Troll is on Holiday

Normal posting will be down until the middle of next week as I'm off to Malta for a few days.

Hopefully the international monetary system won't entirely collapse while I'm gone and I will be able to catch a flight back on Wednesday.

In the meantime the best other places to keep up to date can be found here and here. I will pick up any emails as soon as I can.

I will check back with you all soon. Tada for now...

Cameron's favourite council threatens workforce

Hammersmith and Fulham council has threatened it's entire 4200 strong workforce with redundancy, if they do not accept substantially lower employment benefits and conditions.

The council which is seen as a flagship for the 'family friendly' Conservative pary is planning to halve paid maternity leave and cut flexibile hours for workers with school children.

Employees currently have the right to sixteen weeks fully-paid maternity leave and 24 weeks half-paid. This will now be dropped to just six weeks fully-paid and twenty weeks half-paid leave.

Core hours will also be extended to 4.00 pm meaning that employees with young children will no longer be able to fit in the school run.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council have been widely applauded by the Conservatives after it implemented a 3% council tax cut.

For a household living in a Band D property this equates to an annual saving of about £35.

However, in order to pay for this, there have been big cuts to voluntary organisations and big hikes in fees and charges. 

These have included increases to the cost of meals on wheels and an increase in burial costs from £660 to £1000.

And while 'efficiencies' have been found here they have not been found in councillor allowances.

Earlier this year council leader and former member of Boris Johnson's 'Forensic Audit Panel' awarded himself an additional £5000 for a role he was already being paid to do.

The year before he also attempted to increase allowances by a inflation busting 18%, an example that has earnestly been taken up at City Hall.

Fight Back

Hammersmith and Fulham Unison branch secretary Noreen Morris said of the council:

"We have faced two years of cuts and are struggling to continue to provide effective services with less resources, in many cases covering for colleagues who have already left.

"Senior managers continue to give themselves large pay increases and to employ large numbers of expensive agency staff.

"To basically threaten them with dismissal unless they accept the new terms and conditions is appalling and a real insult to our hard working staff."

Workers have until April before the threatened redundancies will begin. I wish them the best of luck.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Simon Milton on being the caretaker of London

At a talk at the London School of Economics last Tuesday Tony Travers said of former mayor Ken Livingstone that 'love him or hate him he had a well developed narrative for the city.'

Asked what the new Mayor's narrative would be Sir Simon Milton replied that he had 'never come across a Conservative or Labour way of sweeping a street.'

It was a telling comment and over the course of his speech, Milton set out a plan for London government without an ideology, and of his vision for a city without a vision.

Now I'm not saying he didn't express any ideas. There was much talk of 'economic sub-hubs' and 'polycentric development' and a dozen other ways in which the rim of the donut might get a little extra jam.

But beyond this I got very little sense of how a Boris Johnson administration will significantly alter London. 

It was as if they have been elected as street-sweepers and so it will be as street-sweepers that they will remain.

A New Broom

Asked what difference a Conservative government would make to his plans, he said that they would try and reduce the number of 'statutory strategies' that they were required to set: "it should be down to the Mayor to decide what the Mayor should do" he explained.

But listening to Milton, it was clear to me that he would be happy to 'decide to do' as little as possible to significantly alter the city at all.

Now there will be many who will be pleased to hear this. 

If you listen to Tory Assembly members at Question Time you will barely hear a question which does not mention stripping back the GLA to the 'slimline' version of it (they) envisaged.

But the problem with this, is that if all you do with a street is to sweep it, then the street itself will quickly fall into disrepair.

And if you don't have any new ideas for that street, then there will be plenty of others who will have interests in sweeping in with some of their own.




Barack Boris Update: October 2008

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Boris's Bendy Bus Jihad: the smog of war

The Liberal Democrats today warned Londoners could become 'victims of Boris's obsession' after it became clear that replacing bendy buses will significantly increase pollution in the capital.

In a written answer to the Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, the Mayor insisted that COlevels will 'not change significantly' when bendy buses are replaced.

However, analysis of Boris Johnson's own figures shows that replacing bendies with conventional double deckers would require an extra 189 buses on the road in order to meet current capacity.

This would lead to an estimated 13% increase in CO2 emissions across those routes.

If you factor in current plans to serve some of those routes with single decker buses instead, then the increases are likely to be higher.

Caroline Pidgeon said earlier today:

"Mayor Johnson’s plans to bring in the new Routemaster-style bus will increase harmful emissions at a time when everyone else is trying to bring them down.

“Londoners must not become the victims of Boris’ obsession with meeting his pledge in time for the next election. The new hybrid or fuel-cell Routemaster is a great idea, but pollution must not get worse in the meantime."

London is currently under the threat of  unlimited fines for it's poor air quality.

With that in mind Pidgeon suggests that phasing out bendy buses should be delayed until a more clean and efficient alternative is produced:

“If the Mayor is serious about climate change and reducing pollution, he’ll wait until his new hybrid or fuel-cell Routemaster is ready for service.

"Otherwise, we’ll either have more diesel fumes churned out, or not enough buses to meet demand, with packed buses sailing past commuters at bus stops.”

So how about it Boris? Are you willing stay your hand from the Bendy Jihad?

See also: Boris's Bendy Jihad: the doublethink edition.
Image by: Beau Bo D'or

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Boris Island, Jenny Jones and another near miss.

So how goes the 'feasibility study' into Boris Island? Have the surveyors been hired and the architects consulted?

Apparently not:

"The current work draws upon in-house expertise and poses no extra cost to the GLA. I am expecting a progress report shortly. If this recommends that further work is undertaken by outside specialists then this option will be fully costed."

In-house eh? I wonder what that involves. A quick visit to Simon Milton's office perhaps, or an even quicker phone call to David Cameron?

How about Assembly Member Jenny Jones? She seems happy to help:

"Will the study being undertaken by GLA officers in to your proposal for an airport in the Thames Gateway consider the difficulties to construction that could be posed by the wreckage of liberty ship SS Richard Montgomery, which sank off the coast of Sheerness in 1944 carrying a cargo of explosives, around 1,500 tons of which are reportedly still on board the wreckage."

Ah yes, that old wreck. Surely Boris considered that before announcing his scheme? Didn't he?

"Thank you for highlighting this important issue. I will make sure that my officers consider the implications of this in their current evaluation of Thames Estuary airport options."

Phew, well done Jenny. That could have all got very messy there indeed.

Beau Bo D'or on Boris's Bendy Lobotomy

  • More from his excellency Beau Bo D'or here
  • More on Boris's Bendy Jihad here and here.


-Update- Beau Bo D'or suggests a new poster campaign:

Boris's Bendy Bus Jihad: the doublethink edition

Back in the early days of Boris's bendy revolution, mere facts were as nothing to the greater good of the bendy jihad. But as Boris takes on his new role as the arbiter of truth, these facts are becoming a little more difficult.

Take these written answers sent out to assembly members last night. Asked whether replacing bendy buses will be good value for money, he replied:

"Londoners elected me on a clear manifesto of ridding the capital’s streets of bendy buses, which due to their vast length that makes them so unsuitable for London’s roads.

I have made it very clear I believe that London needs a bus that is fit for the 21st century and that the bendy bus, the scourge of the capital’s cyclists, is not the solution."

Scourge eh? So how many have fallen to this scourge so far?

"I am informed that, thankfully, there have been no fatal accidents arising from collisions between cyclists and articulated buses in London since the introduction of articulated vehicles."

Okay, but surely there must have been many other serious collisions?

"Serious incidents are defined by TfL as those where a cyclist may have required treatment, including in hospital. There was one serious incident involving a cyclist in each of the years 2005/06 and 2006/07, and two in 2007/08."

So there has been just four incidents in three years?

"This does not weaken the case for their removal. The perception of safety is an important element in whether people decide to cycle or not.

The bottom line is bendy buses contribute to the perception that cycling is unsafe, and it is my intention to correct this perception in order to get more people cycling."

So we have established that they're not all that dangerous and that their value for money doesn't check out either.  

But surely there must be some benefit to getting rid of them?

"It is important to point out, however, that the extra congestion caused by the bendy bus on some roads can have a significant environmental impact.

We know that congestion causes emissions to increase, and it is my hope that the removal of the bendy buses will contribute to a reduction in congestion which should, in turn, lead to a positive impact on emissions."

So by that logic, getting rid of bendies should actually decrease congestion on London's streets, no? How about the first routes to be debendified?

"TfL do not consider that the replacement of articulated buses on services 38, 507 and 521 will have an impact on congestion along these bus routes."

So the 'killer' bendy bus hasn't actually killed anyone, and getting rid of the 'road-clogging' artic won't actually un-clog any roads.

Oh well, at least we can cling on to our 'perceptions' once he has frittered away that extra £60 million

See also: Boris's Bendy Jihad: the smog of war.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Boris Johnson: Diwali, Wikipedia, and crash dieting

Is it me or is Boris Johnson back on the sauce again? What on earth was he talking about here?

Richard Barnbrook falls off the BNP's 'truth truck'

From an email exchange between one Londoner and the BNP's representative on the London Assembly Richard Branbrook:

Your Name: *****
Email: ********
Website: http://
Message: Hello Mr Barnbrook

In your article titled "Sir Ian Blair - the real reason" you assert that Jean Charles de Menezes was an illegal imigrant. For your information it was shown during the course of the criminal trial into the Health and Safety charge that Mr Menezes was lawfully in the country on 22 July 2005.

Mr. Barnbrook's reply:

From: specialprojects@bnp.org.uk
To: *********
Subject: RE: A comment from *****
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2008 19:26:01 +0100

And!!

Well I guess that clears that one up.


Have you been in contact with Richard Barnbrook? Have you been in touch with the berk in brown? Have you exercised your right to reply? If so then Tory Troll would really like to hear from you...

Friday, 17 October 2008

Will Labour AMs back Ken Livingstone for 2012?

Labour Assembly Members are said to have informally agreed to back Ken Livingstone as their candidate for Mayor in 2012, Tory Troll can reveal.

Some Labour AMs had initially opposed the idea of Ken running again, but according to one of their number, changed their minds when it became clear that he may run either with or without them.

The key to their decision is thought to have been the possibility that he might stand against them as an independent candidate or even as a candidate for the Green Party instead. 

However, a senior Green source said the party have had no talks with Livingstone, who would have to become a member and go through a lengthy selection process before even being considered.

Similarly Ken would need the backing of the wider Labour party if he were to ever run again on a Labour ticket.

Comeback Ken?

Relationships between the Labour group and Ken have always been complicated, starting as they did in opposition to him in 2000.

John Biggs was initially scathing of the former mayor and Ken would often jokingly refer to the 2000 intake as Labour's 'second eleven'.

When he rejoined the party in 2004, several Assembly Members hoped that he would only run for one more term before handing over to another candidate, most likely Diane Abbot.

Their informal decision to back Ken for 2012 has therefore only become known through the loose lips of one Labour Assembly Member, who shall remain anonymous.

It seems highly unlikely that the group as a whole will formally back his candidature until at least after the next general election.

But with Ken still in the public eye, and with no other candidate yet to play their hand, it looks increasingly likely that Labour will turn to him once again.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Boris Johnson, bendy facts and a question of view

If you ever fancy coming along to Mayor's Question Time, I have a warning for you: be prepared to listen to plenty of them. Questions I mean.

Today's edition was full of them. We had questions on the financial crisis, on Trotskyism vs neo-liberal socialism and on the 'iron curtain' of Oxford Street buses.

Oh yes there was to be no shortage of questions, but the bigger question was as to whether we would hear any answers.

Lib Dem AM Mike Tuffrey was one of the first to give it a shot:

"There is something of the 'don't panic Mr. Mainwaring' about your remarks" he began in what has now become Assembly Members' customary approach to dealing with the Mayor.

"I have not heard a word from you on how London should respond to the financial crisis. You must come forward with some ideas of what to do."

"I accept," replied Boris "the desire of Liberal Democrats to be gloomy, but I do not think we will get anywhere by talking like we are going to be slitting our wrists."

Labour Transport spokesperson Val Shawcross was one of the next to give it a go:

"How much is it going to cost to replace the bendy buses Boris?"

"I can't give you the answer to that."

"This was a flagship manifesto commitment. Why do you not have any idea about how much it will cost to replace them?"

"I do not want to get into the costs. It will be much cheaper than the figures I have read."

"Travelwatch say that it will cost an extra 12.4 million a year to replace them. That is an extra £60 million when you take into account other costs."

"I do not agree with those figures."

Getting nowhere with the cost, she moved on to the safety record:

"What advice are you getting from officers at TfL? David Brown for one says they are 'no less safe than any other vehicle on the road'."

"I have every respect for David Brown, but as a cyclist I think they do pose an unacceptable risk."

"Is that not the advice you are getting?"

"That is not my view. I am the chair of TfL"

Pleased as he was with his new status, Caroline Pidgeon thought she would give it a test. 

She asked Boris about the £40 million cut back at Camden station. Boris replied that he did not recognise the figures. 

Asked for the second month running about the Olympic contract with Cubic he made it clear that he would have to pass:

"You are chair of TfL. You should be aware of this," said Pidgeon. Boris tried out a smirk.

"It sounds to me that you are really not on top of your transport brief" she carried on. "It should be a simple matter of yes or no."

Mayor Boris looked back at her, his feathers hardly ruffled. A simple yes or no, he must have thought. A simple yes or no?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Boris Johnson: when you're in a hole keep digging

Boris Johnson writing today in the Daily Telegraph:

"When we look at our options, and you think of the lasting benefits of infrastructure investment, you can see that even in little old Britain we have some stunning opportunities, of a scale not seen for a generation.

"There is Crossrail, 75 miles of track finally providing a link between Heathrow and the City and a staggering 10 per cent increase in London's transport capacity. There are upgrades of the Tube, massive investments in track, signalling and air conditioning, vital to the future liveability of Europe's greatest city."

'Jamie' replying today in the Daily Telegraph:


Shh Jamie. I'm not sure he's worked that one out yet. 

Monday, 13 October 2008

How goes the Sketch-a-Routemaster competition?

Dave Hill reports that the latest trailed entry to Boris's sketch-a-bus competition is liable to topple over on sharp corners.

With that in mind another entrant to the competition has been offered up to us. Here it is:
Well what's to say about it? It certainly looks a lot like a Routemaster, albeit one with a Bob the Builder type flavour. But what's it like inside? Let's take a look:



Hmm. Is it just me or does this look disproportionately long? And what is that bar-booth seating all about? I'm not sure I'd want to be the lucky pensioner stuck in the middle of one of those. 

Still it could be a lot worse I guess and it is certainly the best looking entrant so far.

Meanwhile, with the competition closed, unofficial entrants are still coming in to the Troll. This entrant by Ewan is my current favourite:

Can you do any better? Feel free to drop me your own efforts and I will add them to the pile.

Assembly consider investigation into 20mph zones

The London Assembly Transport Committee are considering an investigation into the costs and benefits of 20 mph zones after a recent bid for a borough-wide zone was rejected by the Mayor.

Lewisham Council agreed to implement a borough-wide zone earlier this year but have since had their bid rejected by Boris Johnson on 'money-saving grounds.'

Now that decision will be tested by the proposal for a thorough investigation into the zones.

According to a report sent to the London Assembly:

 The likelihood of a pedestrian being killed when hit by a vehicle increases according to the speed of the vehicle. Research by the Department for Transport suggests that a pedestrian  hit at 30mph has a 1 in 5 chance of dying; at 20mph the figure is 1 in 40.6 

Financial implications 

Reducing casualties also has the benefit of saving money. Estimates by the Department for Transport were that traffic incidents where a person was killed or seriously injured cost an average of £134,000. The average cost of a fatality is £1.19 million.
 
By contrast, it is estimated that the cost of setting up 'speed over time' cameras to police a borough-wide zone would be just £1 million.

The report also cites evidence that 20 mph zones improve the flow of traffic, which is purportedly one of Boris Johnson's main transport aims.

It also counters claims that the zones increase traffic speed elsewhere, and makes it clear that major thoroughfares would have to be excluded from the zones.

However, although 20 mph zones have been shown to significantly reduce casualties and costs, there is not thought to have been sufficient research into all of the effects of the establised 'blanket-zones.'

The proposed investigation would seek to fill in some of those gaps. The Transport Committee will discuss the proposal this Thursday.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Richard Barnbrook stars in own historical fantasy

Their Assembly Member is known (to himself) as Richard the Lionheart, but the BNP entered even further into the realms of historical fantasy today with this Pyongyang-style summary of last week's plenary session:

"Tories, Labour, Lib-Dems, Greens and other Tweedle-Dee Tweedle-Dum parties on the Greater London Assembly were all shocked last week when the only GLA member to oppose their motion on granting amnesty to illegal immigrants was the BNP’s Richard Barnbrook."

Really?

"The leading Tory on the GLA, Richard Barnes, also attacked the BNP for daring to oppose the motion, but then in typical cowardly Tory style, abstained when the vote came. His fellow Tories did however vote in favour of the motion, and it was passed with only the BNP voting against it."

Right. So what's this all about then?


Note to the BNP. If you're going to rewrite history, make sure that your readers can't check it for themselves first.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Guido Fawkes thinks twice about child killer smear

From a hastily withdrawn blog post on Guy Fawkes blog of parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy:

You can't take the law into your own hands they say, but when the law fails to protect innocent children, many people including Guido, will say justice was done. Searching for the perpertrator of this crime is a waste of police time and taxpayer's money. Will the outcome of this trial be better justice?

Who knows? Will your next attempt to associate Gordon Brown with a child-killing pervert be any more successful, or funny? 

Or was using the horrific death of somebody else's child, to score a laugh, too low for even you to stomach?

-Update- Paul Staines says he is sweet and innocent.
-Update- And then decides to go all anonymous.


Friday, 10 October 2008

Pressure rises on Boris to cut Western Extension

The Liberal Democrats today warned Boris Johnson against implementing any of his 'half baked' alternatives to scrapping the Western extension of the Congestion Charge.

Their City Hall transport spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon said this morning:

"We support the idea of making the charge easier to pay in the Central Zone, but none of the other half-baked options suggested by Mayor Johnson are feasible."

“Boris Johnson must stick to his election pledge to scrap the western extension, and not play around with half measures.”

Among the alternatives put forward by the Mayor were that people living within the zone could be exempted from the charge and that a charge-free period could be introduced for the middle of the day. 

The Liberal Democrats objections to keeping the extension are that:

"The 90% residents’ discount to the charge, given to a very large number of residents in the western zone, actually encouraged them to drive their cars into central London for a mere 80p per day. This was made worse by not allowing residents to pay for a single day but requiring them to “buy” a whole week, thus incentivising them to drive more.

"The choice of the Kensington and Chelsea area as an extension to the original scheme was arbitrary and based on the limitations of the existing technology. There were other areas within Greater London more in need of action against congestion.

"Consultations and opinion surveys made it clear that a majority of those living in the area in and around the Western extension were opposed to the proposal."

Today's intervention comes after Boris's own party urged him to scrap the extension and after his one-time cheerleader Andrew Gilligan labeled the decision his 'first big test'

However, with the news that the GLA group may lose up to £70 million pounds to a failed Icelandic bank and with big shortfalls in his budget still unaccounted for, the loss of the western extension revenue would be a bitter pill to take.

Increasing congestion in the capital at a time when London risks receiving unlimited fines for it's poor air quality would also not be well timed. 

Nor would allowing more traffic into the West End, at the same time as Boris is actually increasing the amount of road space taken up by the city's buses.

Scrapping the extension would fulfill an election promise for sure and endear him to the hearts of all those who oppose the charge.

But at the same time does Boris really want to go down as the Mayor who reversed the shift of Londoners from cars to public transport just as times are getting tough?

This is a big test for Boris Johnson. How will he fare?

-Update- Tower Hamlets consider own congestion zone.

Kit Malthouse and Simon Milton are not lovers

Just in case you were wondering...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Humph wasting Boris Johnson's time on Radio Four

Now I'm all for Boris Johnson being questioned as often as possible, but can somebody explain to me what the point of this morning's interview on the Today programme was?

According to Dave Hill, the Mayor was all but dragged into the studio to answer questions on the departure of Ian Blair. 


So did the BBC have some new killer angle or exclusive information to put to the Mayor? Apparently not.

What we actually got was almost ten minutes of Humphreys asking ever-varied versions of 'why did you sack him?' until most listeners (and presumably Boris) lost the will to live.

I mean it's not like there aren't plenty of other questions they could have asked the man.

How new are Boris's 'new transport police teams'?

Some new news just in from my newly-read Mayor of London news feed:

"The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today joined Metropolitan Police Commander Rod Jarman and Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy to announce the 30 locations across London that will benefit from new transport policing teams."

Excellent. So that's thirty extra teams of police in the capital. I guess I must have been a  bit hasty with this question yesterday.


But hang on wasn't Boris asked about this at the last Mayor's Question Time? Oh yes:

"Transport policing

(1)Question No: 1604 / 2008

Jenny Jones

Following your announcement regarding the new London Underground policing teams, can you confirm whether this will involve new British Transport Police officers, or whether officers are being diverted from other duties?

The new London Underground Neighbourhood Policing Teams have been formed by realigning existing reassurance teams on the LU system to provide a greater focus on providing visible and local policing on the tube network.The teams were launched on 1 August and will be dedicated to the needs of each specific neighbourhood area, with the policing priorities for that area decided in partnership with passengers, local staff and the local community.

Transport policing (2)

Question No: 1605 / 2008

Jenny Jones

If officers are being diverted from other duties to police the Underground, why do you support this decision, given that the London Underground is a low crime environment and crime on the network has decreased significantly over the past year?

London Underground is a low crime environment but there is always more work to be done to maintain this. The London Underground Neighbourhood Policing Teams will provide an opportunity for officers to get to know their local communities and understand the important issues in their area. They will do this by working in partnership to identify local problems, as well as working to develop targeted solutions to tackling crime and the types of behaviour that make people feel unsafe. As stated in my answer to question 1604/2008 these teams have been formed by realigning existing reassurance officers already working on the Underground in order to make the best use of resources across the network.

Transport policing (3)

Question No: 1606 / 2008

Jenny Jones

Is the entire cost of the new London Underground policing teams being met by the British Transport Police?

The cost of the new teams will be covered by existing London Underground funding for British Transport Police."

So does that mean that there will be no new funding and no new police officers, or does today's announcement indicate that there will be genuinely more police out on the streets?

Because when you are claiming that crime has fallen because of these 'new teams' then shouldn't you make it clear whether or not those crime-fighters have been redeployed from fighting crime elsewhere? 

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Will Boris Johnson cut police numbers in London?

The London Assembly have asked for assurances that police numbers will not fall as it became clear that Boris Johnson will implement the first real-terms cut in their funding for years.

With inflation growing, Boris's planned 1.25 per cent growth in the police and fire budget will mean a real terms shortfall of £72 million.

According to the Assembly's pre-budget report:

"Kit Malthouse AM acknowledged the scale of reductions that will be necessary, telling us that he expected grants to remain ‘on the floor’ in future years, and confirmed to us that this would mean the Metropolitan Police Authority would be looking for ‘big ticket’ savings in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

There are no detailed efficiency proposals to support the MPA’s savings targets, and there is as yet no evidence to demonstrate that the targets are achievable through genuine efficiencies rather than service cuts."

Because for all the spin before the election about the GLA being 'mired in waste' the much-promised 'big ticket savings' have so far not been found. 

For an example of this just think back to this promise made shortly after winning the election:

Boris Johnson, the new Mayor of London, is to slash advertising budgets for the Greater London Authority, including the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London, to pay for more police on the capital's streets.

Reiterating his manifesto promise, Johnson said that funding of £16.5m for an extra 440 police community support officers to patrol buses and Tube stations will come from cutting Transport for London's advertising budget.

So what happened? Take a look at today's report:

The Mayor’s manifesto pledged to fund these officers by reducing the Metropolitan Police Service’s communications budget. However, this has not proved to be possible and the funding will now be provided by Transport for London.

And with Malthouse's promised 'big-ticket savings' still hiding in the wings, it remains to be seen just what cuts will now need to be brought out to the front line.

Boris Johnson makes huge savings to his savings

Anyone else remember this particular piece of spin published in the God's honest Daily Mail last month?

"Boris Johnson will offer David Cameron a possible blueprint for a future Tory Government when he announces plans for a huge cost-cutting drive."

Huge eh? You better live up to that billing now Boris. How much are we talking here?

"The capital's mayor will unveil details of a major restructuring of the Greater London Authority that will see spending cut by up to 15 per cent on a vow to 'do more for less'."

'More for less' eh? That's what we like here at the Troll - impossible promises.

"He says his overhaul will mean reductions of nearly £500 million in the mayor's £3.2 billion annual budget."

£500 million? Have they got that right? Maybe we should check the actual figures from the Mayor's budget guidance:

"For 2009-10 a reduction of 15 per cent in net revenue expenditure from the amount of £79.1 million (which excludes the contribution to the Olympic and Paralympic Games)."

Whoops! So it was actually a 15 per cent reduction in City Hall spending, not GLA-wide spending. And we are only talking about a cut of £12 million, not £500 million. 

Those cost-cutting claims aren't looking too credible so far. But hang on what's this from the Assembly's pre-budget report:

"A high-level announcement was made by the Mayor of 15 per cent savings... Our key findings are that the 15 per cent announced was not quite what it seemed, being in fact around 5 per cent once previously planned reductions in expenditure on the elections (and) the removal of planned growth are taken into account."

You what?

"Spending on GLA elections peaks in election years and then falls away immediately following elections.

The previously planned change in expenditure on elections will result in a reduction of £6.2 million in net revenue expenditure between 2008/09 and 2009/10 (there is £400,000 of planned expenditure on the elections in 2009/10, compared to £6.6 million in 2008/09).

This cannot reasonably be described as an efficiency saving or a budget cut – it simply reflects the usual pattern of expenditure on GLA elections."

So well over half of Boris's 'cost cutting drive' wasn't actually a cost cutting drive at all. And the billed £500 million GLA saving, actually amounted to less than a £4 million saving at City Hall.

Oh well, never mind Boris. I guess the place wasn't as 'mired' in waste as you made out.

Monday, 6 October 2008

BBC London report on Kit Malthouse's four jobs

Kit Malthouse on inflation-busting allowance rise

The Metropolitan Police Authority today awarded their Vice chairman and Boris Johnson's Deputy Kit Malthouse, a whopping 44% increase in his basic MPA allowance.

Malthouse will now take a £55,000 allowance from the MPA on top of his £53,543 joint Deputy Mayor and Assembly Member salary.

He justified the raise by claiming that he will do the job full-time, five days a week. 

However, as he is already employed as an Assembly member and as Boris Johnson's deputy, it is not clear where these five extra days will be found.

Speaking to BBC London, fellow member of the MPA Jenny Jones said:

"It looks very greedy to me. I think that if you are getting paid for three jobs, you should do three jobs and I think that is absolutely impossible. To me this is snouts in the trough and I just find it very unacceptable."

The MPA allowance would have ordinarily gone to the Chairman but under MPA rules it has been diverted to Kit Malthouse instead because the Chairman is now the Mayor.

Under a change in the law, all Assembly Members who are also members of the police authority can now draw a separate allowance.

However, the last Chair of the MPA Len Duvall did not claim any allowance when the law changed in May.

Testing Times
 
Boris Johnson is said to have asked the MPA to find £18 million pounds worth of savings and at today's meeting Kit Malthouse said that they had been through a 'very testing budget round'.

But with members of the authority today approving a total of £191,610 in extra allowances to themselves, then things are only likely to get more testing still.


-Update- BBC London report on the story

Baptism of fire as Boris takes the Chair of the MPA

"We find ourselves in a situation which is pretty messy" said the last Chairman to the new Mayor. "What assurances can you give to future police commisioners that you aren't out of control."

We were sitting watching Boris Johnson's first appearance as the head of the Metropolitan Police Authority and by any measure this was not the best of starts. 

In the audience were members of the Metropolitan Black Police Association who had called for a boycott of the Met, and on the panel were members angered at being bypassed twice in just a few days.

Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Dee Doocey was among them:

"We don't have a problem with the outcome (of Blair's resignation) it is the way in which it was taken. If you do not consult with the MPA on something as important as this then it raises the question of what you will you do next."

Chair of the London Assembly Jennette Arnold agreed:

"Who did you talk to about this? I suspect that you didn't talk to anyone apart from your Deputy." Boris smirked:

"It is true that not everyone was consulted, but it was not the case that nobody was either."

Jenny Jones called for members who had been consulted to put up their hands. No members did.

Before the start of the meeting Boris's press office had announced that an inquiry would be launched into racism in the Met. Members were concerned.

Len Duvall reminded Mayor that it is not for him to establish inquiries but for the MPA as a whole. Boris replied that he hoped no-one there felt put out. 

Members of the authority then lined up to criticise the review as being everything from not independent enough, to being "the world's biggest long grass job"

Faced with this opposition Boris quickly agreed to review the review.

The following motion was then put up to the Authority:

“We believe that decisions concerning the confidence of Londoners in their Commissioner need to be taken by the Metropolitan Police Authority, with its cross party and independent membership, reflecting a broad range of Londoners views.”

"That seems eminently sensible to me" replied the Mayor, who quickly raised his hand. Members of the Authority looked back in disbelief.

-Update- MPA award themselves big rise in allowances
-Update- Statement from Jenny Jones in the comments
-Update-
Reports from Dave Hill and Mayor Watch