Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Boris Johnson denies he will delay C-Charge axe

Boris Johnson has denied claims made by his own Transport advisor that he will shelve plans to scrap the Western Congestion Charge.

Yesterday Dave Hill claimed that City Hall was considering delaying the axe, and this morning the Evening Standard reported that the axe would be shelved altogether.

According to a statement given by Boris' Transport Advisor Kulveer Ranger:

“We always wanted to remove it at the earliest possible opportunity but it was aspirational and these are difficult times,” he said.

“The Mayor has made clear his determination to sustain the vital investments that are required in the capital's transport system, and ensure that TfL has a balanced business plan.

“These are tough economic times, with factors such as the fall in Tube ridership due to the recession, and the collapse of Metronet, putting significant pressure on TfL's finances.”

Surprised by what looked like a sensible move, I asked the Mayor's office for a statement. Here's what I got back:

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's Transport Advisor, said:

"Boris Johnson has promised to abolish the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge and he will do so next year. This was a central part of his manifesto, and is in accordance with the wishes of Londoners as expressed in a detailed consultation last spring.

"The details for the removal are being finalised, but there is absolutely no question of this policy being dropped."

Within minutes, Boris posted the following on Twitter:

So which statement from Kulveer should we believe? And what on Earth is going on there in City Hall?

-Update- The Evening Standard's ferret goes into reverse again

Here they are last November when they thought that Boris would keep the extension:

And two days later when Boris announced he would scrap it

And this morning when they thought Boris would keep it again:

Will we see a final installment this afternoon?


Darren Johnson AM (Green press release) said...

Reacting to the report in the Evening Standard, that the Mayor is going to reverse his decision to scrap the Western Extension of the congestion charge in 2010, Darren Johnson said:

"This would be the only sensible decision. The Western Extension reduces congestion and raises much needed funds for London's transport network. It would be completely unfair for Boris to make it cheaper for car drivers in London, while raising public transport fares above the rate of inflation.

"The Western Extension generates in the region of £70m, funding that the Mayor needs to be able to fund new initiatives such as the cycle hire scheme, the cycle superhighways, and redesigning public space.

"Other benefits of the extension include a reduction in air pollution and C02 emissions. These benefits cannot be dismissed when London' s air quality is failing to meet European standards. "

Chris said...

Once again Boris's team descends into total chaos. I wonder how this will be reported. "Boris saves the congestion charge axe" no doubt.

AdamB said...

Well he can't really blame TfL this time as it appears to be his own transport advisor who created the story.

The Daily Mail don't seem to be playing either

Tom said...

Boris 'meets manifesto commitment, saves environment, leaps tall building in a single bound and saves small child from being menaced by pit bull', says Boris.

Anonymous said...

The real consultation is still to come, is it not?


AdamB said...

Apparently so, although there's been no mention of it today. Boris still talking about it like it's a done deal

Ken Livingstone (Press release) said...

“If reports that the abolition western extension of the congestion charging zone may be postponed are true, it will be a stark indication of the incompetence which governs policy in Boris Johnson’s administration. Today’s chaos over what is happening over one half of the congestion charge zone shows that Boris Johnson’s administration is incapable of running London effectively.

“To stop Londoners being hit by big fare increases, and taking into account tube ridership going down due to the recession, it is necessary to put transport policy back on track. The western extension of the congestion charge must stay. The higher £25 charge on the worst polluting cars driving into central London must be reinstated. Wasting money on gimmicks like getting rid of bendy buses in favour of a new Routemaster which may never see the light of day must stop.

“Furthermore disastrous policies that weaken steps to clean up our air must be reversed. Figures from the Campaign for Clean Air in London indicate that air pollution kills between 6,300 – 7,900 premature deaths in London a year. I pursued ground-breaking policies to start to tackle this vital issue for London, not just the extension of the congestion charge to the richest part of London, but also new charges for the worst gas guzzlers like Chelsea tractors and the Low Emission Zone for Greater London. The next phase of the Low Emission Zone must now be reinstated.

“Fare payers must be protected, which requires a decisive break with Tory transport policy in London.

“To reduce the growing hole in Transport for London’s finances which Boris Johnson wants to fill with big fare increases Londoners must no longer be expected to subsidise the worst polluters.”

Tom said...

Guto, sorry, *Boris*, obviously, has tweeted again:

"Lets be crystal clear about this. The WEZ will be removed by the end of next year. Amen."

Amen? He hasn't got a prayer.

Anonymous said...

Adam, just on another matter, the hearing tomorrow at city hall has been brought forward to 2.0pm


AdamB said...

Okay, thanks Tulip.

Appealing of Ealing said...

"Look over there! It's Ken! Look!"

The man who can't get over the fact he's not mayor anymore says:
"If reports ... are true".

Well, apparently they're not, so no need to read the rest of his election broadcast.

Though I have to say, if Johnson eventually does backtrack on this one, I personally will dangle him out of a window so that the rest of you can have target practice with your rotten vegeables.

barry rochford said...

Appealing of Ealing seems to know that the reports aren't true (re charge). If so, he should be Mayor as Boris doesn't seem to know - or if he does he hasn't communicated to his senior staff.
Boris can't be blamed for the recession and the consequences for London as a result. But in this situation, leadership is needed to avoid catastrophe. If the TfL finances are to be balanced without putting up fares hitting the worst off, then scrapping bendy-buses, scrapping the charge and considering re-instating higher tax on guzzlers (be fair - not all 4X4s are guzzlers and some ordinary cars pollute more) - all of these are needed.
Ken has a strategy, whether you agree with it or not - Boris has libertarian ideas that do not work plus gimmicks.
Keep hold of your rotten veg, Appealing of Ealing - Boris needs guidance, not the pillary.

Appealing of Ealing said...

barry rochford said...
"Appealing of Ealing seems to know that the reports aren't true (re charge). If so, he should be Mayor as Boris doesn't seem to know - or if he does he hasn't comm"

Anonymous said...

When Boris refers to the "tedious bureaucratic exercises" is he perhaps referring to the proper consultation on this issue?


Anonymous said...

Please remind me of the actual results of the informal consultation. I'm fairly certain that they weren't as clear as Boris is implying.


AdamB said...

You're right. A slim majority wanted to either keep the charge as it is, or modify it.

Richard said...

Adam that is a complete lie. 69% wanted it removed

AdamB said...

There were two parts of the consultation. The voodoo poll part where 67 per cent voted to remove it, and the more scientific opinion polling where a slim majority wanted to either keep it as is, or remove altogether

Summarised here"

Richard said...


"a slim majority wanted to either keep it as is, or remove altogether"

That makes absolutely no sense.

AdamB said...

Sorry, I meant to write "keep as it is or modify it"

Richard said...

This is a completely local issue. I know conducting "attitudinal surveys" is a legal requirement for non-statutory consultations but the results should be discarded because all that matters are what the local people think, and they voted overwhelmingly against it.

AdamB said...

I disagree Richard. The charge affected all people who lived, worked and traveled through the area, as well as paying for reduced fares and transport investment across the whole capital.

All Londoners will now have to pay greater fares in order to pay for getting rid of the charge.

Ultimately though, it was a choice for the Mayor.

saifu03 said...

There is no such thing as a "completely local" issue in a city like London. The whole point of a city is its connection internally to other parts of the city - if I wanted to sell it to the economists, I'd call it economies of scale. That means "local" decisions can, and will, affect beyond the local vicinity. If it was a local issue, it would make no difference, the cost of travelling by car within the zone if you are local is very low.
The congestion and pollution caused by cars is not retained within the zone, similarly, the benefits of fewer cars and better public transport are not only retained in the zone.
The day of snow showed how "local" issues (let's not bother cleaning OUR roads) are not localised.

Tom said...

"all that matters are what the local people think, and they voted overwhelmingly against it."

100% of the people sitting in my chair want Boris Johnson to stand on his head and fart 'Jerusalem'. Why is the Mayor IGNORING THE CLEARLY EXPRESSED DEMOCRATIC WILL OF MY ARMCHAIR.

Congestion is a citywide issue for the citywide government, not for Kensington.

Anonymous said...

Do we actually know which of the two polls was the most local? I might be wrong, but I would have thought that the one with the controlled sample (with the 44% - 41% result) was local and the other one with the uncontrolled sample could have included respondents from anywhere.


Appealing of Ealing said...

Interesting, the point about the loss in revenue.

Firstly, the purpose of the charge, allegedly, was not to raise revenue, it was to discourage people from driving into the charging zone, to reduce congestion. In other words, in an ideal world in which the scheme would work perfectly, you'd have no revenue at all -- you'd have a loss. Of course, that's not how it works, and the calculation was that people would still drive in...but who? Mostly people who don't have much of a choice, whether they can really afford it or not, or wealthy people who couldn't give a shit about eight quid. Not very equitable.

"All Londoners will now have to pay greater fares in order to pay for getting rid of the charge."


Adam, why is it more fair for some Londoners in one part of London to pay much more, when all Londoners can pay a little more?

Why demonize car drivers when your argument only serves to underline that private car usage is an important part of London's transport system -- after all, if they'd all taken Livingstone's anti-car jihad to heart and reverted to public transport, there'd be no revenue at all, (including parking and PCN revenue), and the network would have collapsed.

Secondly, as a revenue raising tool, (yes, what most people call a tax), it has to be one of the most inefficient I can imagine. They collected hundreds of millions of pounds from drivers, and ended up with only eighty something million of net profit, after all the running costs were paid for. What an absurd waste of money -- a tax, two-thirds of which is spent on the cost of collecting it. Totally, totally bonkers. Socialist bonkers.

saifu03 said...

Nice bit of contradictory stuff there. Stylish.
If it was about revenue, don't you think they would hav come up with a better way of collecting it that was not so fair?

I'll use short sentences so that they can all flow together and make sense, eh?
"In an ideal world", congestion (as a result of the *congestion* charge) would be lowered. One way of lowering congestion would be to push (charge more) car owners into using the car less and pull (by investing more to give a better service) into public transport.

Which part of the using monies generated for better public transport are you having difficulty with?

If all the drivers were to use public transport instead, maybe the trains and buses would get a little more revenue but the charge ould generate less. Of course, that would all lower congestion too. It may be a little better to consider that things are connected to each other rather than being discrete entities.