Boris Johnson settles old accounts instead of helping Londoners

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts outside 10 Downing Street during the Clap for our Carers campaign in support of the NHS in the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19), in London, Great Britain Brittany, May 21, 2020. REUTERS / Toby Melville
As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is now insisting that prices be raised above inflation next year (Photo: TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS)

Through the misery of Covid-19, which claimed so many lives, the stories of heroic acts by frontline workers and the stories of the communities that came together raised the nation and gave us hope.

However, our government has unfortunately chosen to exploit the unprecedented situation we face to further refine selfish interests and settle the old books.

Shamefully, this is how the government treats Transport for London, punishing Londoners for doing the right thing during this crisis.

Residents and workers in the capital have responded to our calls to avoid public transportation to help us slow the spread of the virus and allow NHS staff and other critical workers to get to work safely.

It was absolutely the right thing to do, but it resulted in a catastrophic collapse of TfL’s revenues, which came almost entirely from tariffs and charges.

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It costs £ 600 million a month to operate tubes, buses, trams, trains and other services in London.

It doesn’t take a qualified accountant to know that you can only sustain expenses on such a large scale when income is almost exhausted – even with TfL’s conservative cash reserves, which we have increased by 16% since I became Mayor.

Like the private rail companies, TfL has asked the government for financial support to help us get through this crisis and continue to provide vital services.

However, unlike the failed private rail companies, which got the big bailouts they were apparently asking without question, TfL had to spend seven long weeks of negotiations before being offered a bad deal with many conditions.

I was honest – I am not happy with this deal, but it was the only one the government was willing to sign.

What does all this mean for Londoners? Over the past four years, TfL’s rates have been frozen after increasing 42% in the eight years that Boris Johnson spent at city hall.

As prime minister, he is now insisting that tariffs be raised above inflation next year. The government also forced TfL to immediately reintroduce the urban toll – which I had suspended – and temporarily expand its level and scope.

To say that it was not a condition of the government is a lie. It is stated in black and white in the wording of the agreement, which TfL had no choice but to accept.

I will not follow the government in the political party game – as tempting as it may be – because, frankly, I have more important things to do

That’s not all. The government has also insisted that TfL suspends free travel during peak hours for Freedom Pass holders and more than 60 cards and temporarily removes the precious free travel for young people, which will hit finances hard family in these difficult times and will harm the life chances of many people. young Londoners living in abject poverty.

TfL was in good financial health before the outbreak of this health crisis. When I became mayor, TfL ran an annual deficit of almost £ 1.5 billion, Boris Johnson leaving no plan on how to go about being in surplus.

We have reduced the operating deficit by 71% and it is anticipated that it will become surplus over the next two years.

All of this was done by ruthless efficiency within TfL, which more than paid for the TfL rate freeze I promised in 2016 and delivered.

What we are seeing now from the government is nothing more than a little partisan politics in times of crisis. They are trying to blame a Labor mayor for their decisions, leaving TfL in massive debt and punishing Londoners for trying to promote the Conservative’s partisan ambitions before next year’s mayor elections.

London now has world class public transport authority at TfL. Over the 20 years of its existence, it has overseen a dramatic transformation of London’s tubes, buses and trams.

Let’s be honest – in the late 1990s, London’s public transportation system was run down and in decline. But thanks to sustained investment, it is now the envy of the world – a national asset of which we should all be proud and seek to protect.

The government’s financial package will not support TfL until September of this year. Detailed discussions on a longer term solution will need to take place, with three main options available.

First, the government could commit to a long-term operating subsidy – as practically every other major city in Western Europe has for its transportation network. It would not be the rest of the country that would subsidize London, it would be a part of the massive contribution of capital to the coffers of the United Kingdom which would be reinvested to ensure that the economic engine of our country continues to pull on all the cylinders.

This option would imply that the government would swallow its pride and reverse its terrible policy of withdrawing the subsidy in the first place, which Boris Johnson accepted when the mayor.

The second option is for the government to delegate real tax powers to London so that we can raise more money that we need locally to pay for our transportation system.

And the last option, which I hope all parties agree should be avoided at all costs, would be for TfL to be left with insufficient funding and able to return to the situation before 2000 – with a reduced budget, in decline and declining.

While these discussions take place, I will tirelessly focus on tackling the spread of Covid-19, managing a safe transport network for passengers and staff, and preparing London for a recovery that will lead to a better and fairer future for all. .

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This is why I will not follow the government in the political game of the parties – as tempting as it may be – because, frankly, I have more important things to do.

I promise to continue to be as clear and direct as possible with Londoners about the challenges we face in London, the steps we need to take to protect ourselves and the implications of what the government has decided to do at TfL.

My job as mayor is to roll up my sleeves and get things done for London – I just want the government to stop holding us back.

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