Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Job Opportunity - Election Monitoring in Venezuela

An intriguing reply from the Mayor:

Bob Neill: Please provide details of the meeting you held with Rodrigo Chaves, Venezuelan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs on 18th September.

Ken Livingstone: On 18 September 2006 I met with Mr Rodrigo Chaves, the Venezuelan Deputy Minister for Europe who was accompanied by Ambassador Toro-Hardy. In the meeting Mr Chaves passed on an invitation to me from President Chavez to visit Venezuela.

We also agreed that the discussions between our offices regarding the co-operation agreement would continue and that he would report back to the President that these discussions were progressing.

Finally Mr Chaves explained that they would like to invite a number of people to the Presidential elections in Venezuela in December to act as independent observers to ensure the process is seen to be free and fair. He asked if I could recommend a number of people who might be suitable to perform such a function which I agreed to do.

Probably a good idea to get those application forms in early and avoid the rush.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Livingstone at Odds With Government Again

This time it's over the recent comments about Islam:

Bob Blackman: What is your reaction to the announcement by the Communities Secretary that Islamic centres that promote isolationism should be closed?

Ken Livingstone: I believe (hope) you are misquoting the Minister. 'Isoationism' is a vague and undefined concept. Action should be taken against any institution of any faith which breaks the law.

And having a Secretary of State for Communities is a pretty vague and undefined concept too. Let's hope we change some of these Orwellian department titles when we get back into government, hopefully before we have MiniTruth (Alastair Campbell) and MiniLuv (John Reid) foisted on us.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's Hard to make a Profit.....

.... running a cafe in Trafalgar Square:

Bob Blackman: Given that the cafe Rred@Trafalgar Square has declared itself insolvent, what changes are proposed to allow the new company to operate at a profit?

Ken Livingstone: We are currently procuring a cafe operator to manage the cafe for 12 months. During this period we will develop proposals for the delivery of a sustainable and economically viable cafe service on the square.

Perhaps there was insufficient passing trade....

Friday, October 27, 2006

Row of the Week

I feature in today's 'Row of the Week' in the Evening Standard Inside City Hall column - to be precise:

Motorists have rarely regarded Mayor Ken as their friend and more bad news is on the way. TfL is planning to introduce another 1,719 sets of traffic lights on London's roads, in addition to the 5,827 already there. As the Tories revealed recently, this is already 1,000 more than when Ken was elected in 2000. Evans, the party's transport spokesman on the Assembly, said: "Over the past six years, Ken has treated London like a giant lego set, raining havoc at will and charging people for the pleasure. He promised to get London moving but the statistics say otherwise." Ken says the roads are becoming more pedestrian friendly - and can point to a 45 per cent fall in casualties in the past decade as evidence.

Although it is interesting to note that according to those same figures, one of the safest places is the London Borough of Barnet, where the Conservative council has been ripping out the road humps and bus lanes - much to the Mayor's consternation.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

And the Gold Medal for Avoiding Elections goes to...

Here's the answer to a question that Martin over at Mayorwatch suggested:

Roger Evans: You will no doubt be aware that the 2012 Mayoral and Assembly elections will be held in very close proximity to the start of the Olympic Games. Do you think that sticking to this timetable is the right course of action?

Ken Livingstone: I do not think this timetable is ideal and my preference would be for the London elections to be postponed until 2013.

So at the next election in 2008 we could be electing a Mayor for a term of five years - use your vote wisely.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When the Left Fall Out

Livingstone and Phillips are old foes. At Question Time in October Elizabeth Howlett provided an opportunity for Livingstone to put the boot in:

Elizabeth Howlett: Why does the Mayor feel that the Commission for Equality and Human Rights will be unable to ensure that all groups are protected? Is it a failure of legislation or staffing?

Ken Livingstone: I have been consistant, through the legislative framework, in my views on how the CEHR can best serve London's equalities agenda and develop arrangements that best fit the unique London equalities landscape. Specifically I would wish to see a separate statutory race committee and other strand specific committees to address the broad areas of discrimination while maintaining expertise, focus and remedies for each equality strand. There has been little to convince me that this type of framework is being put in place.

Closure of the CRE is, in my view, a mistake. Recent comments by Trevor Phillips, the new chair and only permanent appointment in the CEHR so far, regarding the veil, education and more broadly multiculturalism are a disgrace and will, I believe set equalities back years. Trevor Phillips has used the CRE as a platform to discredit multiculturalism and alienate black communities and has had limited impact in effective enforcement of race relations legislation during his time as chair of the CRE.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Alternative Carnival

On the same day as the successful Notting Hill Carnival, Livingstone held his own Caribbean Showcase in Hyde Park. Guess who paid the bill:

Damian Hockney: Could the Mayor detail how the Caribbean Showcase on Bank Holiday Monday in Hyde Park was financed. How much did the GLA contribute? How much did it cost altogether? Who contributed the rest?

Ken Livingstone: The Showcase was financed by the GLA and through sponsorship.

Altogether the Caribbean Showcase cost £308,000. The net cost to the core GLA was £68,000. The LDA contributed £120,000 and Creative London contributed £95,000 as outlined in DA 1654. The remaining income was raised through sponsorship (£15,000) and stalls (£10,000) from the following organisations: Western Union, London Fire Brigade, Transport for London, GV Media Group (publishers of the Voice newspaper) and the Colourful Network.

The majority of the organisations listed above are, of course, publicly funded....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Consultancy Opportunity at TfL

Bob Kiley, formerly the Commissioner for Transport, has struck a particularly good deal with the Mayor. Hopefully his negotiating skills will continue to be available to TfL.

Peter Hulme Cross: Can the Mayor confirm how many days Bob Kiley has worked under his consultancy agreement and how many of those days were spent in the UK?

Ken Livingstone: As part of the negotiation of arrangements with Mr Kiley, agreement was reached to ensure that the Chair of TfL and his nominee continue to have Mr Kiley's skills, knowledge and experience available on key issues.

This year Mr Kiley is contracted to provide the maximum of 90 days service on a non-exclusive basis. Under the contract there is no requirement for the services to be provided in the UK. However, to date, all the services provided by Mr Kiley have been provided in the UK.

The Chair of TfL, the Commissioner and the Commissioner's office have been in regular contact with Mr Kiley since the commencement of the consultancy both for the supply of information and the provision of advice. There are regular scheduled meetings between the Commissioner, Mr Kiley and other senior officers. Mr Kiley also attends at TfL's offices when necessary. A consolidated list of these dates is not kept.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Question Time Alert

Today Livingstone faces his monthly question time with the Assembly. The session has been delayed until 11:00am as he is meeting Gordon Brown first, so we can expect a statement on their agreement. But can Gordon expect support for his leadership from a man who once called for him to be sacked?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Love in Continues

More on Livingstone's Venezuelan adventure as Andrew Pelling raises the awkward human rights question:

Andrew Pelling: What understanding do you have with the Venezuelan government that transfer of technologies for genetic fingerprinting will not be used for abuse of human rights in Venezuela?

Ken Livingstone: There is no evidence that fingerprinting technology has been used to abuse human rights in Venezuela. I have no reason to believe that the government would use the technology to do so in future.

Fingerprint scanning machines have been used in Venezuelan elections since 2004. These elections have been observed by international bodies including the Carter Centre and the OAS (Organisation of American States) and deemed free and fair.

I am sure you will join me in condemning the real threat to democracy and human rights in Venezuela which comes from those who supported the unsuccessful military coup against President Chavez in April 2002.

If the technology is so good, perhaps it should be brought in for some East London boroughs at election time - and we can draw our own conclusions from the final paragraph....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

TfL Publicity Budget

My colleague Andrew Pelling obtained this response when he asked about the TfL publicity spending for 2005-6. There are some unusual items included in the broad budget:

Andre Pelling: Please provide a comprehensive breakdown of the £78m expenditure on advertising and communications in 2005-06, showing individual overspends / underspends from both the original 2005-06 budget and the revised budget. Please detail the amounts spent on each type of advertising and each campaign during the year.

Ken Livingstone: Below is an overview of how this budget was allocated:

£40m on advertising, customer information and customer research. The advertising includes safer travel at night activities, road safety campaigns targeting motorcycle riders and vulnerable teenagers, Oyster and additional TfL investments to reassure Londoners after the terror attacks on 7/7.

£10m cleaning and maintaining London's bus shelters.

£13m on equality and inclusion, annual reports, stakeholder consultation and communications and customer magazines.

The £78m also includes around £15m on activities that are not traditionally associated with advertising, marketing and communications. This includes expenditure on direct communications such as phone rental, call charges and purchase.

The amount spent on different types of advertising is 32% TV, 10% radio, 25% outdoor, 14% press and 19% cinema.

Major advertising campaigns during 2005-06 include: Congestion Charging (£2.9m), cycling (£1.16m), London Buses (£2.5m), London Underground (£1.3m) and road safety (£3.4m).

Additional investments were made in response to specific events in 2005-06 that were not anticipated when the base budget was developed. These were:

7/7 - greatly increased costs including additional posters on all modes and the 'Everyone's London' campaign associated with 2 for 1 deals for those using public transport to get to events and attractions.

Additional advertising on the national rail network to explain to customers that Oyster Pay as You Go is not valid following on from the train operating companies' failure to accept TfL's offer of financing Oystercard validators.

Additional marketing on London's buses to combat anti-social behaviour.

Additional support for the London Safety Camera Partnership focused on reducing the number of young people speeding.

Increased publicity to inform those who drive into the capital that the daily congestion charge has increased from £5 to £8 a day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mayor's Diary for September

It's been another packed month for Mr Livingstone. Amongst the many engagements were:

London Caracas: Caracas Londres festival on 1 September
Liberty festival on 2 September
Launch of Future London on 7 September
GLA reception at TUC conference on 11 September
Meeting with Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 15 September
Launch of the Older People's Strategy on 18 September
Meeting with Rodrigo Chaves, Venezuelan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs on 18 September
Screening of 'An Inconvenient Truth' at the Curzon Cinema on 19 September
Awayday for London Labour MPs on 21 September - we look forward to the 'going away day'.
Labour Party conference in Manchester on 25-27 September
India Calling 2006 conference on 2 October
Hay In London Festival Ethical Food debate on 3 October

Thursday, October 12, 2006

November's Londoner

The latest edition of The Londoner, Livingstone's propaganda sheet, has hit the streets. For anyone too busy to read it, the headlines include:

Crime Rate Cut in the Capital by Local police Teams (front page)

Cash Fare Rises Mean Oyster is London's Cheapest Ticket

Million Pound C-Charge Debt Makes US Diplomats Britain's Worst Payers

Free Travel will Help Young Londoners Fulfil their Potential

Modern designed buses and flexible shifts mean there's never been a better time to be a female bus driver

Thousands to attend climate change event in the capital

Crime still falling in London as confidence in the Met grows

Should people pay more to drive 'Chelsea tractors' ?

Larger zone will cut congestion and mean less pollution and fewer accidents (Centre page spread)

Don't rush to flush if it's just a pee (Advert - yes really)

Make room for cyclists (Another advert)

Tomorrow's post will come from the real world...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Road Tolls Could be Introduced by Stealth

The TfL Toll Provisions Bill is ostensibly intended to enable tolling on the new Thames Gateway Bridge, but this response shows that it could be used for much more:

Angie Bray: What future schemes will this proposed bill enable TfL to enact?

Ken Livingstone: The powers proposed by the Bill could be used for any project where TfL has made a toll order under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. The only current toll order is for the Thames Gateway Bridge.

Colleagues in Parliament should bear this in mind when they debate Livingstone's legislation...

Monday, October 09, 2006

South American Soulmates

Interesting to see that London isn't the only city with a mouthy mayor:

Angie Bray: You are holding a London Caracas: Caracas Londres event on 1 September. Do you agree with the comments made by the Mayor of Caracas that the middle classes are "rotten and putrid"? And do you support his expropriation of private property?

Ken Livingstone: The London Caracas: Caracas Londres event on 1 September was successful with over 15,000 people attending.

The governance of the City of Caracas is a matter for the elected Mayor of Caracas.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Our Friends in The South

There was another City Hall sponsored conference in February. Here Lib Dem Mike Tuffrey unearths the details:

Mike Tuffrey: Could you give the details of the topics discussed and progress made at the 'European conference of solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean' in City Hall on the 24th and 25th of February? Could you also inform me who hosted the event and the sort of organisations and individuals who attended?

(As if we couldn't guess)

Ken Livingstone: The event was organised by a number of trade unions and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, and I agreed to provide City Hall as the venue. The event was attended by 260 delegates from 20 countries, mostly from trade unions across Europe. Amongst the issues discussed were: solidarity with Cuba, the experiences of Latin American counterparts and the EU's approach to the American blockade of Cuba.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Consultancy Opportunities in London Government

My colleague Andrew Pelling uncovers the cost of consultants:

Andrew Pelling: What was the expenditure on professional and consultancy fees by each GLA functional body and the GLA in the last financial year?

Ken Livingstone: Expenditure on professional and consultancy fees are as follows:

Metropolitan Police Authority £344K
London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority £3,427K
Transport for London £160,500K
London Development Agency £47,119K
Greater London Authority £5,231K

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why Bother With ID Cards When....

Richard Barnes: When a sample is taken from a suspect and then it is found that they are not involved in any criminality, do the MPS automatically remove the information from their database?

Ken Livingstone: DNA samples are taken from persons who are in detention following arrest for a recordable offence, under section 62 and section 63 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Once taken, all DNA results remain on a database.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mayors Questions for October

The deadline is Friday this week. Please let me have any suggestions before then - and remember that I decide what to ask....

Aldgate Far-East?

Just to be fair, I must include this leading question from my Labour colleague, John Biggs. Remember, you heard the proposal here first...

John Biggs: Would you support renaming Aldgate East Station as Brick Lane?

Ken Livingstone: There are many difficulties associated with changing the name of an underground station. In particular, all maps across the underground network would need to be altered and other maps, for example for tourists, would be rendered out of date which could cause specific problems.

However, if there is widespread demand for this change, LU would look into the issue in more detail.

Could anyone who supports this proposal let me know please....

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Conference Alert

I'm off to Bournemouth today so not sure if I will be able to post anything until I return on Wednesday. Last week New Labour were fully in control of their conference (except for Cherie's outbursts) so we need to be disciplined this week.

London events include a joint reception with the ALG tonight and, of course, the Boles Routemaster which will be visiting for a couple of days. I will be keeping an eye out for other mayoral candidates.

For once there is no visit from Livingstone. I'm sure we'll miss him.