Friday, September 29, 2006

Hold on Tight Please

One year ago, an Assembly report highlighted the rise in complaints against bus drivers from approx 10,000 to 40,000 over a period of four years. TfL promised action but last year the numbers continued to spiral:

Roger Evans: How many complaints specifically regarding the bus driver have TfL received since 2005?

Ken Livingstone: During the financial year 2005/06, TfL received 53,353 complaints specifically regarding the bus driver. Since April 2006, the figure is 15,414. During the financial year 2005/06, 1.1816 billion passenger journeys were made on buses.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Maybe it's Because he's a Londoner

I'm often asked about the cost of Livingstone's propaganda sheet, The Londoner. Here's the answer:

Roger Evans: What is the current annual cost of The Londoner?

Ken Livingstone: The 2006/07 Londoner budget totals £2.8 million. The cost is equivalent to 10p per copy per household.

So that's £1.20 per year, per household of course, and the Mayor thinks it is good value.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Golden Buses Part 2

A question about bus subsidy from the September session:

Roger Evans: What percentage of the overall cost of running London's buses does the fare income provide?

Ken Livingstone: In 2005/06, fares income (including reimbursement for concessionary travel) covered approximately 62% of the cost of the London bus network.

But Ken, surely reimbursement for concessionary travel is part of the subsidy, after all, it is recovered from the public authorities involved, and hence from council tax or public grant....

In 1999 the, admittedly less attractive, bus service was breaking even on fares. We don't want to go back to that, but there must be a less costly alternative.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Golden Buses

Livingstone is very proud of his buses and it is true that the service has improved, but at a cost....

Roger Evans: What is the current level of public subsidy provided to London Buses?

Ken Livingstone: In 2004/05 - the most recent year for which fully validated data is available - the bus network required a subsidy of £550 million.

Easily the most heavily subsidised bus network in the country.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A 'Virtually Instantaneous Response' to Anti Social Behaviour

In September last year when Livingstone launched his free travel for Under 16s policy, he promised to withdraw the passes of the minority of youngsters who misbehaved on the buses, promising a virtually instantaneous response to anti social behaviour. An expensive advertising campaign warned that vandalism, drinking or smoking would result in individuals losing their concessionary pass. A year on, (MQT September 2006) I decided to check on progress:

Roger Evans: How many free travel concessions have been withdrawn specifically for anti social behaviour, or breach of the behaviour code, since the introduction of the policy?

Ken Livingstone: Four (!!!!) free passes have been withdrawn due to anti social behaviour. Since the scheme started in September 2005 some 1644 free travel concessions have been withdrawn mainly for misuse of the concession.

Misuse of the concession refers to use of cards by those not entitled to them. Vandalism, drinking and smoking are included in the anti social behaviour category - an impressive one card withdrawn every twelve weeks!

Two possible explanations - (a) there is virtually no anti social behaviour by people under 16 on the buses, as suggested by the Mayor, or (b) the much trumpeted deterrent is unenforceable in its advertised form.

Police officers are now advised that they do not have the power to withdraw travel cards from suspects. Clearly this response to anti social behaviour was more virtual than instantaneous.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Red Ken = Red Lights

Time to dust off the old campaign slogan as our mayor reveals that 1,000 new traffic lights have been commissioned since he came to power in May 2000. I wonder why the traffic is slowing down.... Yesterday's Evening Standard takes up the story:

The rise in the number of traffic lights was uncovered by the conservative group on the London Assembly.

Roger Evans, the group's transport spokesman, said wthe figures would be no surprise to disgruntled motorists who were a "long term target" of the Mayor.

"They provide further evidence that the administration's policies are slowing down traffic and making motorists' lives a misery." claimed Mr Evans.

"The explosion in these extra traffic management measures is making a significant contribution to the ever increasing gridlock that is plaguing our roads."

"It is no good introducing stringent measures such as congestion charging if at the same time you add nearly 1,000 new traffic lights for motorists to negotiate."

Mr Evans added: "The Mayor is not playing a fair game and seems more interested in pursuing a vendetta against motorists, rather than genuinely trying to keep traffic moving."

A great idea from our Mayor - let's create congestion, then we can tax it!

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Fine State of Affairs

Ever wondered why TFL made congestion charge so complicated to understand and difficult to pay? If nobody was fined, it would make far less money - of course.

Angie Bray: What percentage of the annual revenue is formed by penalty charge payments?

Ken Livingstone: This is detailed in the Fourth Annual Monitoring Report. For the last financial year, these accounted for about 30% of the annual revenues from the scheme.

That's right - a third of the income from congestion charge relies on people who don't pay - and then get caught.

Mayor and Labour Party Out of Step Over Nuclear Energy

A recent debate initiated by the Lib Dems led the Labour and Conservative groups to unite to support an open minded approach to the energy review. The Greens and Livingstone are not happy....

Darren Johnson: What did you say to the Labour group after they voted for a Conservatve amendment that said further nuclear power should not be ruled out of the Government's energy review, thus wrecking the opportunity for the majority of the Assembly to join with you in taking a clear pro renewables, anti nuclear stance?

Ken Livingstone: In my view there is a progressive majority in London and all of those who make up that majority should work to make it as effective as possible, whilst accepting that we will sometimes disagree. On this issue the Assembly, by voting for a Tory motion that said that nuclear power should not be ruled out of the energy review, is out of step with progressive sentiment in London.

I have made it clear that my view on this matter is the commissioning of a new generation of nuclear power stations would be an expensive mistake that we should not impose on future generations. I will be working with others who share my view to ensure that the case against nuclear is made as clearly and effectively as possible.

The position of the Greater London Authority as a whole is not affected by the Assembly's vote.

The position adopted by the Assembly, as proposed by the Conservative group, brought out the sharp contradiction between David Cameron's rhetoric on the environment and the record of Conservatives in London.

I have said to the Labour group that I believe the position adopted by the Assembly should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

So that's told them, and we await the U-turn. Meanwhile, expect further divisions between Livingstone and his supporters.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

TV Alert

BBC Politics Show at 12:00 today - I am making a live appearance to discuss fare rises and the Chavez 'oil for CCTV and fingerprinting' deal. There will be commentators from other parties but not sure who they are at this stage.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Forms Squad - You're Ticked

It appears that the Met Police are taking paperwork seriously - they've got a 'forms squad', and what's more, it's an award winner....

Some revealing numbers in this response to my colleague Richard Barnes:

Richard Barnes: How many forms have been created by the MPS since the establishment of the MPS anti-bureaucracy task force?

Ken Livingstone: There are approximately 2,300 MPS forms in existence. The MPS forms unit states that 326 new forms have been created since September 2004. Pioneering work by the MPS forms unit has ensured that some of the most widely used electronic forms 'self populate' with the author's personal details. This process saves the MPS approximately £350,000 a year and has just won first prize in this year's National Reducing Bureaucracy Awards Scheme. The forms unit has a rolling programme to ensure that whenever possible, forms are available only via their intranet site, to be downloaded on demand. This reduces printing, ordering and storage costs. It also ensures that only the most up to date form is used. As a result, most of the available forms have been converted.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Superpope to the Rescue

As we wait for the approved record of yesterday's question time to be made available, one incident which was referred to has already received wider publicity in the Evening Standard Diary. It concerns my opposite number, Lib Dem member Geoff Pope. It appears that, over the weekend the mild mannered transport committee chair and former Mayor of Richmond Upon Thames transforms into a caped crusader fighting crime on the buses. Who said the Lib Dems were all mouth and trousers? The Standard explains:

returning from Hornsey at the weekend, he encountered a full scale fight on the top deck of a W7 bus outside Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End. Two teenage girls were hanging over the stairwell panel, having a punch up. A third girl leapt into the fray. Pope shouted to keep calm but was forced to delve into the fight and prise their locked arms apart. It eventually took four passengers to break the girls up. The end result wasn't pretty: clumps of hair strewn across the floor, one girl had a cut face and the other had a huge bump on the head the size of a golf ball. "I have never witnessed such anger in a woman's eye like that before." said Pope.

Wish I could say the same....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mayor's Question Time

Today Livingstone answers questions from members of the London assembly. Most of the responses are in written form, provided outside the meeting. No doubt there will be some nuggets which will feature here in coming days.

Meanwhile, I am inviting suggestions for questions in advance of the October question session. Please leave ideas here and I will consider them for the future. Of course my own decision about what to ask is final....

Friday, September 08, 2006

Less Congestion Equals Lower Traffic Speeds

At the July Question Time Angie Bray asked Livingstone to give a definition for the phrase continuing adjustments to capacity, which appears in his annual report on the congestion charge. His reply shows why fewer vehicles are not travelling any faster and why congestion is actually created as a matter of public policy - then of course blamed on the number cars and selfish drivers, the only road users who are not a 'priority':

Ken Livingstone: Ongoing changes to the traffic-moving characteristics of the road system include:

Widespread use of traffic control and road safety related measures on major and minor roads, having impacts on traffic levels and speeds;

Measures to assist pedestrians and cyclists at junctions;

Bus priority measures and increased bus activity and patronage;

Increased frequency of street works, particularly associated with increased activity by utilities and high technology communications.

Most of these interventions have been valuable and beneficial, either directly to selected users of the road network or more generally.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mayor's Diary Summer 2006

The Mayor's report also lists his meetings over July and August. Amongst the long list, the following stand out:

July 5th, met with Phillip Anschutz and David Campbell
July 6th, addressed the Islam Expo
July 10th, climbed Nelson's Column
July 10th, met representatives of Al Jazeera
July 12th, met the Chief of Staff to the Venezuelan Minister for Energy
August 30th, attended a dinner with the Chinese Ambassador

Monday, September 04, 2006

Nuclear Free Zones - It's the GLC Again

Another extract from the Mayor's report for August. This will look familiar to anyone who experienced the old GLC. Leopards don't change their spots....

Mayors for Peace

On 3 July, I met with the Mayor of Hiroshima, Dr Tadatoshi Akiba, who is the President of Mayors for Peace, as part of a European visit by an international delegation of Mayors. London is one of the 1,300 cities that are members of Mayors for Peace. The aim of this organisation is to lobby for a nuclear weapon free world by 2020.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

It's Crackers of Caracas...

With the Mayor's monthly report now published, it's time to read about how our leader spent his summer holidays. On 1st of September he was hosting a party in Trafalgar Square (yet again). The accompanying statement from Livingstone is characteristically long winded and repetitive:

London Caracas - Caracas Londres

A free concert will take place in Trafalgar Square, which is being organised in conjunction with the Venezuelan capital Caracas to highlight the growing links between the two cities and with Latin America more widely. The concert - London Caracas - Caracas Londres - takes place on 1st September with bands from Latin American countries lined up to perform.

London's growing Latin American community makes an important economic, social and cultural contribution to the city. Latin American and Caribbean music and dance have a global cultural influence impact and this will be an opportunity for Londoners to strengthen cultural links with Latin America. The concert will give a flavour of some of the contemporary music coming out of Latin America. It is part of an ongoing cultural exchange programme that will see UK bands playing at a similar event in Caracas next year, underlining the friendship between our two great cities.