Snipe - The Scoop

Friday, 31 July 2009

Passengers call for Boris to bring back bendy buses

Passengers have demanded the return of the bendy bus just one week after Boris Johnson took them away.

According to the London Paper:

"COMMUTERS on the first route to get rid of the controversial bendy buses today declared: "Bring them back."

Passengers on the 507 complained that the single-decker replacements were overcrowded and failed to provide enough seating.

One told of chaotic scenes when around 100 people crammed on to a Waterloo to Victoria bus during rush-hour.

Well I hate to say we told you so but...

Another, Andrew Cooper, 39, of Westminster, said: "There are hardly any seats. I’m not sure why they got rid of the bendy."

Because of the bizarre vendetta of a man who never uses them?

Maureen Pullen, 48, of Winchester, said: "The bendy buses’ three doors allowed people to board much faster and brought down journey times."

Sine Msomi, 26, from Dulwich, said: "The bendy buses were a great way of getting around." And Agnes Macharia, 32, of Peckham, said she was "sad to see them go".

So much for them being "much loathed" Boris

A Transport for London spokesman said: "We have increased the frequency of buses to ensure we can carry as many as possible."

So you have increased the frequency and cost of the route, whilst *still* reducing the amount of people you can fit onto the buses.

That's quite an achievement. Why did you do it?

Mayor Boris Johnson campaigned to remove the 18-metre long bendy buses, pictured above, amid claims they put cyclists’ and pedestrians’ lives in danger.

Ah yes those 'claims'. During the election campaign Boris claimed that:

"They wipe out cyclists, there are many cyclists killed every year by them."

Except no cyclists have been killed by a bendy bus in London. At any point. Ever.

So that's £12 million extra cost, in order to carry fewer people, just to please a man who never uses them.

Congratulations Boris. This is the single most stupid decision you've made so far.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Boris Johnson on the joys of drinking and cycling

Boris Johnson on the dangers of drink driving:

"Too many lives are tragically wasted through drink-driving accidents, so I hope that the message really gets through by having Lewis and Mika, two of the world's most talented and renowned Formula One drivers, leading the call for people to think before getting into a car. This is particularly prescient at this time of year when many of us will be enjoying a couple of drinks in celebration of the festive season."

Boris Johnson on the joys of drink cycling:

"I have just one idea, if more people rode bicycles and fewer people droves cars you would not have to worry about the drink driving laws and I sincerely believe that. I have absolutely no prohibition about drinking a pint of two of beer and riding my bicycle where as I would not do that in a car." (Full transcript)

So let's get this straight, Boris has "absolutely no prohibition" about risking his own life and the lives of others?

He has "absolutely no prohibition" about breaking the law and risking a large fine or imprisonment?

And he has "absolutely no prohibition" about encouraging other Londoners to do the same?

You do realise that you're meant to be the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority don't you Boris?

And what was it you told us last Christmas?

"Johnson continued, "There are a wealth of public transport options out there that can get you home 24 hours a day, and anyone in London can utilise our CABWISE text service, which gives you the numbers of two local licensed minicab operators and a taxi operator wherever you are in London when you text HOME to 60835. For a few pence it could just help to save lives."

Come on Boris this isn't a joke.

If you want to risk your own life by refusing to wear a helmet then that's up to you.

But drinking and cycling puts the lives of all of us on the road at risk as well.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Chicken Feed: News in Brief

Brian Coleman censured by LFEPA

The London Fire Authority this week passed a motion censuring Brian Coleman for his recent unlawful and undemocratic actions.

This Authority
  1. notes with deep concern the unlawful ruling by the Chairman of 25th June.
  2. regrets the unnecessary delay in the appointment of Deputy Commissioner.
  3. has reduced confidence in the Chairman ability to lawfully and impartially chair Authority meetings.
  4. accordingly, censures the Chairman for his unlawfully ruling

Lib Dem LFEPA member Caroline Pidgeon said:

"It was important to show Brian Coleman the Chair of LFEPA that he had overstepped the mark in refusing to take an amendment tabled by one of the groups on the Authority. Just because he did not agree with it it still had a right to be heard and legal advice has shown this. The Mayor does need to be aware of how his appointees such as Brian carry out their duties"

Read the full background to this story in the second item here. He's a real asset this man.


Boris Johnson withdraws from Stonewall list

When asked why City Hall hadn't entered last year's Stonewall top employers list, Boris replied that:

"It was felt that the GLA was not best placed to enter the Stonewall validation process over this time of change in political leadership. The Mayor intends that the GLA will enter the Stonewall Equality Index this year and is confident we will score well."

But for some reason he now appears to have had a change of heart. According to a recent written answer to Dee Doocey AM:

"my ultimate aim is to achieve equal life chances for all, including the LGBT community, and take a new approach that brings Londoners together, rather than dividing them. It is for this reason that I have decided not to enter the Stonewall Index."

It's another U-Turn and the commenters at Pink News aren't happy.

Now I'm not particularly surprised by this one.

Boris is a Conservative and Conservatives don't like these kinds of things, just like they don't like anti-racist festivals.

That's fine, that's their right. But let's just be straightforward about it eh Boris?

Stop trying to be everything to everyone.

You're either a consensual Mayor, or a reactionary Telegraph columnist. You can't be both.

Thinking of which:

'Chicken feed' protest over City Hall job cuts

Boris is doing his bit to help workers at City Hall through the recession, by sacking them.

It's all part of Boris's re-organisation of the GLA. Times are tough and belts have to be tightened.

Just not the belts of either himself or his chief executive

Mayor of London in 2007-8

£137,579

Mayor of London in 2009

£143,911

That's a 5 per cent pay increase.

Chief Executive of the GLA in 2007-8

£183,000

Chief Executive of the GLA in 2009

£205,000

That's a 12 per cent pay increase.

Rosie, Rosie

But then I guess you get what you pay for, like with Boris's "food champion" Rosie Boycott.

Boycott who got her unpaid job with Boris, after a rigorous selection process (one letter) has been busy advising the Mayor on sustainable food businesses in the capital

Unfortunately she's not been able to sustain her own food business, which has now gone bust.


Finally we have the news of Boris's culling of the "loathed" 507 bendy buses.

The new buses which will cost an extra £12 million to run, will reward Boris's investment by carrying fewer people than the cheaper bendies carried before.

Still, at least he's got another photo shoot out of it:

Boris Johnson: "not in service..."

...for now, or for any time in the foreseeable future.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

A phone call from Brian Coleman

Throughout my investigations into Brian Coleman I have often been warned that he likes to issue legal threats.

"Be careful Adam" they say. "He'll sue."

The Barnet Times were one of those most recently threatened by Coleman.

The paper approached him after Barnet Council awarded him £10,000 to pay for a firm of expensive solicitors.

The council's insurers would have provided them for free.

According to the paper:

"Mr Coleman denied he was the councillor under investigation and vowed to sue this newspaper if it printed his name.

He said: "This has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor."

This was an out and out lie. Brian Coleman was the councillor under investigation and he was awarded that £10,000.

Brian Coleman lied to the Barnet Times, and he intimidated them with empty legal threats as he did so.

A couple of days ago I had my own run in with the Worshipful Mayor of Barnet.

I contacted an LFEPA press officer after some very specific allegations about Brian were brought to my attention.

I listed the allegations and asked them for a response as soon as possible.

Within minutes I received an angry phone call from Brian Coleman himself.

He said that the allegations were untrue and that even if they did happen to be true, he wouldn't apologise.

He then said that "even you wouldn't sink to the level of touching" these claims and that everything I had written about him was a lie.

I asked him to tell me which of the stories I'd published about him were a lie.

He told me that he "didn't want to go into it".

I asked him again to tell me where I had lied. Again he refused.

So what stories were they Brian? Was this story a lie?



How about this one. Anything wrong with that?

Because given your tendency to wave legal threats about, and given that you think my stories are all made up, I'm surprised not to have received a single complaint, threat, or even denial before now.

But I guess there's still time.


Brian Coleman has got to go... for a long nap

Brian Coleman: “Politicians with lower expenses tend to be the politicians who do least work. Those with higher expenses are the ones who do most work.”

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Richard Barnbrook misses Standards Hearing due to "stress related illness"

BNP London Assembly Member Richard Barnbrook failed to attend the Standards Hearing into his conduct today due to a "stress related illness."

Mr Barnbrook, who is facing a possible six month suspension, sent a doctors note to Dagenham Civic Centre excusing him from attendance for up to two weeks.

The joint investigation into his conduct earlier this year found that he had clearly broken the GLA and local authority codes of conduct.

The investigation was launched after he posted a video online referring to murders that had never happened.

When questioned about the video, he admitted that he knew his claims to be false, but insisted that it "made little difference" whether the murders had taken place.

He also refused to take down the videos, saying that they “would be removed in 4-6 weeks anyway.”

The committee was due to meet today to review the investigation and to decide what sanctions should be taken.

Sanctions for breaking the code range from the requirement to make a formal apology to full suspension.

Representatives of the GLA, Barking and Dagenham council, and the Metropolitan Police were forced to adjourn the hearing after receiving the doctor's note earlier this morning.

Mr Barnbrook who was to be represented by BNP spokesman Lee Barnes, had previously failed to submit evidence to the joint standards committee.

A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham Council said that he was also contesting its membership.

Two preliminary dates were set for a new hearing on either 12th August or 4th September.

The chair of the Committee Claer Lloyd-Jones said the hearing would proceed on those dates "unless something extraordinary happens"

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Brian Coleman refuses to explain AssetCo dinners

Boris Johnson's fire chief has refused to explain why he accepted dinners and a luxury hamper from a firm awarded a multi-million pound contract by LFEPA

The Barnet Times approached Brian Coleman yesterday after I revealed the nature of his relationship with Asset Co chief Executive John Shannon.


"When Mr Coleman was contacted by the Times Series for comment on why he accepted the meals and hamper he hung up the telephone."

Few will be surprised that Brian holds his constituents in such contempt.

His refusal to publish his expenses and his long abuse of the expenses system has already caused many in his party to call for him to go.

But for him to refuse to explain his relationship with a company awarded many millions of pounds of taxpayers money, is of another order.


-Update- A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade's Union said

“There does seem to be a somewhat incestuous relationship between AssetCo and Mr Coleman.

“When you have a situation where a company is lavishing hospitality on him with dinner dates and a £350 Harvey Nichols hamper you have to ask certain questions.

“We're reluctant to start making accusations until we've asked those questions, but at the moment it doesn't look good.”

According to the Barnet Times:

"AssetCo have declined to comment on the hamper, the meals and what was discussed at the meetings."

So Brian's in good company!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Brian Coleman takes a hamper and breaks the law

The London Fire Authority have awarded a £12 million contract to a company that lavished hospitality on it's Chairman Brian Coleman.

Asset Co and it's chief Executive Mr. John Shannon took Brian Coleman to dinner on three separate occasions.

On a fourth occasion, Brian Coleman accepted a Harvey and Nichols hamper from Mr Shannon at an estimated value of £350.

The relationship between Coleman and Mr Shannon only came to light because of a Freedom of Information request placed by this blog earlier this year.

Unlike the London Assembly, the Gifts and Hospitality registers for members of LFEPA are not available online.

The Asset Co contract is for a force of reserve firefighters, to be used in the case of industrial action and major incidents.

Members of the authority say that the contract was awarded on a purely competitive basis, and that Asset Co were agreed upon on a cross-party basis.

However, London's Fire Brigade union are not convinced.

A spokesperson for LFBU said earlier today:

"AssetCo’s wining and dining tactics might appear to have paid dividends for them, but I have no doubt that many of the volunteers, being ex-firefighters themselves, will re- fuse to participate when they realise how they will be used."

Unlawful and Undemocratic

The actions of Brian Coleman during a recent Fire Authority meeting were unlawful according to legal papers provided to this blog.

Coleman's decision to block a democratic amendment was "a breach of the law" and could leave the authority open to judicial review, according to legal advice.

The amendment which called for a vote on the appointment procedure for the new Deputy Commissioner, was blocked by Brian Coleman.

However, his unilateral decision complied neither with the authority's standing orders nor with the law.

As John Cavanagh QC puts it in his advice to the authority:

"Needless to say, a Chairman is not permitted to refuse to let an amendment go forward solely because he does not agree with the merits of the proposal..."

Unfortunately nothing is ever 'needless to say' where Brian Coleman is concerned.

Half Price Fares for unemployed are not working

Boris Johnson's half price fares scheme is failing to get through to the vast majority of unemployed Londoners, new figures have revealed.

Overall, only 20 per cent of those eligible for the scheme have taken it up so far.

More detailed figures show that in some of the poorest parts of the capital, less than one in ten of those eligible have been granted a card.

In the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Havering there was a less than 9 per cent take up by the end of May.

A new London Assembly report blames the complexity of the concessionary scheme.

Currently, only those unemployed for between 13 and 26 weeks are eligible for a half-price bus and tram pass.

Take up of other concessionary schemes such as the government's New Deal card, may also make them ineligible for the cards.

Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey who originally proposed the half-price scheme said:

“It is time to make a real success of the policy and ensure far more unemployed Londoners benefit from this important concession. More publicity and promotion of this important concession is now needed.

“This coming Wednesday will almost certainly see a further steep rise in unemployment, probably in every London borough. There has never been a more important time to provide a helping hand to people on low incomes who are searching for work.”

Deputy Chair of TfL Daniel Moylan told the Assembly last month that there was "no immediate plan" to change the fares structure

The London Assembly have urged the Mayor to "radically simplify" the various concessionary schemes available.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Boris Johnson's plans for East Thames Crossings

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Ken Livingstone's Expenses and the Daily Mail

Ken Livingstone is currently on LBC talking about his expense claims, as trailed in the Daily Mail.

He's had surprising support from most callers so far.

His biographer was non-plussed and his old nemesis Nick Ferrari has just called it a "non-story" on air.

The trouble with the original article is that either the Mayor's office, or the Mail themselves removed vital context from the claims.

Namely, who he was meeting for those dinners, and why.

You can judge for yourself why that was, but luckily one City Hall worker has just filled in the gaps for us. Here's what they found:


And their thoughts:

Dinner with Clinton Foundation, for the C40 Large Cities Climate Change conference in New York and in Shanghai all perfectly acceptable. They were promoting London, bringing in investment etc, etc.

Interesting that, if it was them, Ken paid for dinner with Bechtel. Probably didn’t want to constrain himself in calling the Metronet consortium the rude names he did!

Lunch with Jesse Jackson, at the Labour Party conference and in Cuba more of a party political/left wing love in. Not against the rules and pretty much any mayor of what Party would do it, although it would have been better if the Labour Party had paid for these.

Lord (Desmond) Plummer is an ex TORY leader of the GLC.

Green Alliance think tank dinner is a bit surprising. You would have thought that they should have paid, but Ken was at that time trying to build an alliance for the elections.

Without the full claims, I think that's as much as we're going to learn from all this.

The Mayor's office needed to deflect some attention from Boris and his aides, and they found just the man for the job.

To Ken's credit, he's at least been willing to go on air and answer questions about his expenses.

And he did leave the job some 14 months ago.

When are Boris Johnson and his aides planning to answer questions about theirs?

How Journalism Works: City Hall Cronyism Edition

Let's just imagine I am a certain soon to be ex-journalist for the Evening Standard shall we? Okay here goes:

Boris Johnson personally funneled tens of thousands of pounds to an organisation partly owned by his brother, an investigation by this blog has revealed.

Last year Boris signed off £81,235 to Price Waterhouse Cooper for services of little or no value to taxpayers. The Mayor's brother is a partner of PWC.

The bulk of the fee was for work on the Mayor's Forensic Audit Panel, a politically motivated vanity project led by a former colleague of the Mayor.

After months of investigation, the panel found no evidence of corruption. They also failed to prevent a £100 million black hole appearing in the finances of the LDA.

Investigations by this blog have also uncovered a large fee paid to the Mayor's own publisher Harper Collins. Over £9000 was paid for unspecified 'user licenses'.

City Hall insists that all 'competitive tendering processes' were followed by the Mayor and City Hall.

Okay I'm done now. Has anyone got a spare billboard?

Look over there! It's Ken! Look!


Going to tell us what the dinners were for, or put it all online?

No of course not.*


*Funny how they've found the time to leak this to the Daily Mail but haven't found the time to answer my FOI about Brian Coleman. Transparency eh?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Brian Coleman is an expensive liability for Boris

Paul Waugh has the reaction from Team Boris to Brian Coleman's humiliating refusal to publish his expenses.

According to Paul:

"He will be forced to give the details on 15 July when publication becomes mandatory, but sources close to the Mayor made clear his irritation at the failure to come clean.

"Boris has made it clear from day one that transparency and openness are the heart of his administration. He's tried hard to persuade the Labour party to agree to this," one ally said.

"He is disappointed when any Assembly member doesn't appreciate that the public rightly expect to know what's being done by their elected representatives in their name and with their money."

Now I don't know who this 'ally' of Boris is, although they seem to be spinning the exact same line spun to Iain Dale last week.

Unfortunately there's no evidence for it.

I've seen no evidence whatsoever that Labour Assembly Members have resisted their expenses being published and there is little remarkable in any of those published yesterday.

Team Boris are trying to spray some flak onto former Chair of the Assembly Jennette Arnold.

But her claims for taxis pale into insignificance when compared to Brian Coleman, Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes, and Boris himself.

It is true that she used her GLA taxi card for personal journeys but that is explicitly within the rules as long as the cost of those journeys are paid back.

And her fares get nowhere near the three figure amounts spent by both Brian, Barnes and the Mayor himself.

She's also paid back the cost of taxis waiting for longer than 20 minutes (the maximum time allowed within the rules). Have Boris, Barnes, or Brian done the same?

And if "transparency and openness are the heart of [Boris's] administration" why is it that he has he now twice appointed the contemptuous Brian Coleman to chair the London Fire Authority?

The man remains a total liability. He has always been a liability, and yet Boris consistently refuses to replace him with someone else.

What does that say about Boris's commitment to "transparency and openness" and what does that say about his continuing ability to choose the wrong man for the job?

And what's Brian Coleman's reaction to all of this? Is he shamed, contrite, or repentant? Don't be silly.

"Mr Coleman, who was unavailable for comment, has told colleagues that he believes it would be more cost effective to have a permanent City Hall car and driver available for official functions."

Why travel by cab, when you could travel by chauffeur instead? What a total embarrassment this man is.



-Update- Barnet Times: "Will leopard change it's spots?"

-Update 2- Brian Coleman has finally responded. Here's what he told the Evening Standard's Paul Waugh:

"I won't do it voluntarily. It's none of the public's business. They have coped well without knowing this kind of detail for more that 75 years,” he said.

“They are not entitled to drool over our personal lives. I'm not going to help the mad, bad and the sad, the bloggers on the internet. I'm not pandering to mob rule. It undermines democracy to suggest that all MPs, all politicians are the spawn of Beelzebub.

“Politicians with lower expenses tend to be the politicians who do least work. Those with higher expenses are the ones who do most work.”

There's not much that can be said about that.

Brian Coleman clearly has nothing but contempt for those people who elected him or for the wishes of the Mayor.

He should be sacked from LFEPA immediately.

Monday, 6 July 2009

London Assembly Members' full expenses go online

All London Assembly Members' itemised expenses have now gone online. Well, all Assembly Members that is, except for one:


Can you spot which taxi-loving, free-lunch scoffing Assembly Member is missing from the list?

Bit strange isn't it?

I mean, even the expenses for the Mayor's senior team have now gone online as well.

So come on Brian. The game's up. Hand them over.

PCC: Express humiliated the survivors of Dunblane

The Scottish Sunday Express "designed to humiliate" the surviving victims of the Dunblane Massacre the Press Complaints Commission ruled yesterday.

Here's a summary of the original story:

"The article reported that the survivors of the Dunblane shooting in 1996 – who were now turning 18 – had ‘shamed’ the memory of the deceased with ‘foul-mouthed boasts about sex, brawls and drink-fuelled antics’ posted on their social networking sites.

"The complainants said that the coverage had seriously affected their sons by criticising them and unnecessarily drawing attention to them as Dunblane survivors – including by publishing photographs of them – when they had previously been shielded from public view. They were just ordinary teenagers, and the article constituted a serious intrusion into their private lives."

Despite eventually offering an apology (of sorts) to their victims, the paper still insisted on defending it's actions to the PCC.

According to the ruling, the Express argued that all the details they published:

"had been publicly accessible on social networking sites" anyway.

However, in a landmark case, the PCC ruled that the paper had made a "serious error of judgement":

"In this case, while the boys’ identities appeared to have been made public in 1996, it was also the case – as the article itself had recognised – that they had since been brought up away from the media spotlight. The article conceded that ‘no photographs of any of the children have been seen in more than a decade’. They were not public figures in any meaningful sense, and the newsworthy event that they had been involved in as young children had happened 13 years previously."

"Since then they had done nothing to warrant media scrutiny, and the images appeared to have been taken out of context and presented in a way that was designed to humiliate or embarrass them. Even if the images were available freely online, the way they were used – when there was no particular reason for the boys to be in the news – represented a fundamental failure to respect their private lives. Publication represented a serious error of judgement on the part of the newspaper.

"Although the editor had taken steps to resolve the complaint, and rightly published an apology, the breach of the Code was so serious that no apology could remedy it."

I'm still not convinced, the Express is clear who the real victims of this story are though.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Iain Dale gets wheeled out over Boris's Expenses

You always know that Boris Johnson is in trouble when the hapless Iain Dale gets wheeled out:

"Boris has finally got Labour Members of the GLA to agree to all their expenses going online from Monday. This will be on a voluntary basis until it becomes mandatory on 15 July. For some reason Labour members have been very reluctant to agree to full transparency. Tories have, I understand been posting their totals, although not full details, since Boris was elected. Having gloated over the demise of Ian Clement, perhaps they have something to worry about. We are about to find out."

It's hard to know where to start with this, but I'll give it a go.

"Boris has finally got Labour Members of the GLA to agree to all their expenses going online from Monday"

Er, all Assembly Member's expense totals have been online since 2004 and taxi totals have been online since the Assembly was set up.

"For some reason Labour members have been very reluctant to agree to full transparency"

No source is given for this claim. However, I find it hard to trust the word of a man who doesn't even know what "GLA" stands for

"Tories have, I understand been posting their totals, although not full details, since Boris was elected."

Tory AMs have indeed been posting their totals. But then so has have every other Assembly Member. From all parties. For five years.

"Having gloated over the demise of Ian Clement, perhaps they have something to worry about. We are about to find out."

I'm sorry, but has something happened to Ian Clement? Has anybody heard anything?


-Update- The leader of the Labour group on the Assembly sent the following email to Iain Dale this morning:

Dear Iain,

I thought I should send you the attached letter and point out that the Assembly's Business Management and Administration Committee actually proposed (without any involvement from the Mayor's office) to publish itemised expense claims on 24 June. This was, you may be aware, the meeting at which the expense claims made by former deputy mayor Ian Clement were investigated and when it was revealed that the Mayor had been personally signing off Mr Clement's claims. I am therefore struggling to see how you can justify your blog post "Boris has finally got Labour members of the GLA to agree to all their expenses going online from Monday".

I'm afraid your statement that "Labour members have been very reluctant to agree to full transparency" is totally false and, unless you can back it up with some evidence, should be amended. Labour members actually pressed for full transparency at the BMAC meeting of 24 June. Also, your suggestion that "Tories have…been posting their totals…since Boris was elected" is wide of the mark and whoever gave you this information was being extremely disingenuous. As I am sure has since been pointed out, the GLA has actually published the total expenses of ALL Assembly members', as well as those of the Mayor and his senior staff, since its inception in 2000. So while it is true that "Tories have been posting their totals since Boris was elected", they - along with every other senior member of the organisation - also posted them for the eight years before he was elected.

In the interests of accurate and honest reporting, may I suggest you amend your blog accordingly and check the veracity of the information you were given.

Regards,

Len

The attached letter to Boris Johnson confirms this sequence of events.


Friday, 3 July 2009

Ian Clement, Boris, Cameron and jobs for the boys

The News Shopper have been going through Ian Clement's Bexley expense claims:

Among the long list is one for:

November 30, 2007 - Mr Clement treats former Bexley chief executive Nick Johnson to an £86.40 meal courtesy of Bexley Council taxpayers at London restaurant Le Pont de la Tour. Mr Johnson, then 54, had retired on November 4 from his £203,000 Bexley job on ill-health grounds, with a full pension and a six-figure settlement. Just four months later he took a new £125,000 job with Hammersmith and Fulham Homes, an off-shoot of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. No reason is available for the lunch.

A month earlier:

"October 31 and November 3, 2007 - Mr Clement claimed £90.57. Bexley Council said: "We were informed by Mr Clement all three items were incidental expenditure relating to the course". The course in question was the BT leadership course which necessitated Mr Clement travelling twice to the USA and which cost the council £7,000. No detailed breakdown of the £7,000 has been revealed by the council. Mr Clement left the council just months after completing the course."

The £7000 junket to America was cleared by Nick Johnson.

That's the same Nick Johnson who retired on "ill health" soon after, before turning up for a recuperative meal at Le Pont de la Tour, before swiftly moving on to a new job at Hammersmith and Fulham.

Any alarm bells ringing yet? Well they didn't ring for Boris last year:


Oh well I guess you live and learn. By the time David Cameron takes power nationally, I'm sure the Conservative Party will have sorted these problems out.

So who's in charge of all that? Oh yes here he is:

Nick Boles, former head of the Policy Exchange thinktank and a close friend of Mr Cameron.

Yes that's right, the same Nick Boles who was in charge of setting up Boris's administration.

And who later told the Assembly that it would have been too "ball-breaking" to do the necessary checks on Boris's appointments.

Like Ray Lewis. Who launched Boris's campaign. And who David Cameron chose to visit on his first day as leader.

Are you feeling filled with confidence yet?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Boris's new Routemasters will not have conductors

Passengers on Boris's next generation Routemasters will not be able to buy tickets from "traditional conductors" the Mayor admitted today.

A spokesperson said this evening:

"Plans for the new bus still involve an additional crew member."

But:

"The role will not be that of a traditional conductor as almost 99 per cent of fares are now collected through pre paid ticketing. Their job will be customer focused to ensure the safe boarding and alighting of passengers using the open platform, as well as providing information and assistance."

In Boris's transport manifesto he promised to

"[renew] traditional forms by commissioning a 21st century Routemaster with conductors."

and said that we would:

"see the next generation Routemaster, with conductors, running on the streets of London by the end of my first term as Mayor."

However, in January he floated the possibility that the buses could be staffed by Police Community Support Officers instead.

Unfortunately the chairman of the Met Police Federation immediately dismissed the idea, saying that it showed a "complete lack of understanding" of the role of CSOs.

It now seems that Boris's "additional crew members" will in fact be little more than glorified health and safety officers, employed mainly to stop people falling off the back.

And that back may not even be open for half the time.

In the revised specifications issued last month TfL said that:

"Manufacturers have been asked to consider options to allow for the rear platform to be closed off at certain times, such as at night"

Now whether you were a fan of Boris's original Routemaster promises or not, I think it's hard to argue that these two changes fulfill those promises.

Boris promised open-backed buses with conductors, but the buses will be neither truly open-backed nor truly staffed with conductors.

And they're still going to cost us anything between 75 to 110 million pounds extra a year.

That's an awful lot of money for a not-quite-a-Routemaster

So what do you think? Is this a happy modern compromise, or the worst of both worlds?