Friday, November 30, 2007

TfL's Press Office Costs

Roger Evans: Can the Mayor provide a year by year breakdown from 2000 to date of the total cost of TfL's press officers?

Ken Livingstone:

2003/04 £858,990

2004/05 £1,695,430

2005/06 £1,904,069

2006/07 £2,270,672

2007/08 £2,491,226

In mid 2004 TfL took over responsibility for London Underground, which probably explains the doubling of the budget. However things seem to have got out of hand since then with a further increase of just under £800K in four years.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Fire Station for Havering

The good news is that it finally looks like the new fire station for Havering will go ahead.

In May 2000 there were plans to withdraw a fire engine from Hornchurch and local residents organised strong protests. The various mayoral candidates visited and pledged to reverse the decision. The eventual winner broke his promise and the fire engine was withdrawn, along with half a dozen others in outer London boroughs.

Some months later the space at Hornchurch was filled by a specialist vehicle designed to attend road accidents. This proved very useful on the A12, A127 and A13.

When the new fire safety plan and model were adopted in 2005, the decision was taken to return the fire engines to the outer London boroughs, but the Hornchurch engine could not be accommodated, as its space was taken. This left Havering with the slowest fire attendance times in London. As a Fire Authority member I have been pushing for the return of our engine ever since.

In 2006 the brigade decided that the only solution was to build a new fire station to provide the necessary bays. This would also provide the opportunity to site the facility closer to the main routes at Gallows Corner. The decision has now been taken to use part of the Falcon Business Centre, which also houses a police facility, allowing for better coordination of emergency services.

Val Shawcross, the Fire Authority Chair, has joked that the new facility should be named the Roger Evans Memorial Fire Station - I just hope it won't take that long to build!

The Nanny State

Some politicians can't stop interfering:

Jenny Jones: Would you support a ban on the sale of fois gras in London?

Ken Livingstone: I have no powers to ban foie gras or any other food.

And a good thing too! I have never eaten fois gras or hunted foxes and I don't smoke, but I support the rights of those who do...

Jennettte Arnold: What action would the Mayor propose taking to ensure that the law protects all bus users from the harmful effects of second hand smoke while waiting at stops?

Ken Livingstone: As you are aware the recent legislation applies only to structures that are more than 50% enclosed and is applied to all bus stations in London, and also the 660 bus stops fitted with shelters that meet the criteria. The law is enforced by officials from the London boroughs.

Better carry a tape measure to check that shelters meet the criteria before lighting up, or indeed before complaining about someone else lighting up. It may be good for public health, it will certainly be good for the lawyers...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Politics Show After Action Report

The debate on theatres was tame compared to what followed. We all agreed that something needed to be done to bring our venues up to date. I stumbled when the interviewer suggested that some of the theatres should be allowed to close if they can't pay their way - my free market instincts agree, but I love our city and can't bear to see us lose good things. I also argued in favour of subsidising the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch earlier this year, so I wanted to be consistent. Perhaps I'm mellowing with age...

Then there was a discussion about the Mayor's £750k trip to India, which featured some trenchant condemnation from Brian Coleman. Livingstone claims that they will get the money back if it creates just 6 jobs, which sounds like more dodgy maths. At over £100k per job the lucky recipients will be able to afford plenty of his 53p travelcards.

They wound up with a discussion about the Metropolitan Police Authority, featuring deputy chair Cindy Butts. Cindy passionately argued that the MPA's support for embattled police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, demonstrates their political independence. As all but one of the non elected members voted in favour of the commissioner, I suggest it proves the opposite.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Politics Show Alert

You can see me on the Politics Show (London edition) tomorrow, talking about theatres of all things. The Assembly is doing a review of the condition of London theatres - which in many cases are outdated and tired - and possible ways to invest in our capital's attractions. A £1 levy on all theatre tickets is just one of the ideas under consideration...

East Thurrock & South Basildon Dinner

On Friday night I attended the fund raising dinner for mt good friend Steve Metcalfe, the candidate for East Thurrock & South Basildon, a seat which we should pick up at the next election.

Guest speaker was Iain Duncan Smith, who talked about his social policy work. I have known Iain since he was selected for Chingford in 1991 and I think he is more at ease than I have ever seen him. He clearly cares passionately about helping the communities he has met in the most deprived areas and he articulates his vision convincingly.

In the auction I bought two bottles of 'Gordon Brown Ale - Zero Strength' for £200, which in hindsight seems a lot - still, the money is going to a good cause, which is more than can be said for my end of year tax demand...

Talking of which, on the way there the taxi driver was telling me how worried he was about the security of his personal details, now that the government have mislaid them. When people without an interest in politics express such concerns, you know it is bad news for those in power. Several years ago I went to a pantomime which was full of jokes about David Blunkett - it was obvious the minister was doomed, and this feels the same.

December Londoner

The Christmas / Winterval edition of the Londoner wings its way to the capital's doormats. Highlights to look out for include:

Single Fare Price Freeze - Front page
Great 2 for 1 theatre and food offers with Oyster - pg2
Free travel for Londoners on New Year's Eve - pg3
Crime in London down to lowest in ten years -pg5
London's fares freeze - pg5
Bus passes made easy - pg5
New police teams 'are making London's buses and trains safer' - pg6&7
Make sure you get home safely during Christmas party season, Met says - pg9
Car free shopping is back - pg19

The usual TfL advertising takes up full pages at 4, 16 and 20. The Mayor's London Schools and the Black Child conference is advertised on pg6. The recycling campaign is advertised on pg12.

For the first time there is a special London assembly feature at the bottom of pg8.

And on pg9 there is the opportunity to win a two week cruise around the Indian Ocean. You just need to answer the question - In which Indian region is the city of Cochin? So you can follow in the Mayor's recent footsteps, but you won't be allowed to take 80 people with you...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Disorder on the Buses

Tomorrow the Transport Committee will be taking evidence from the police, London Buses and a bus operator.

This follows on from our meeting last month where passenger groups raised a number of concerns, and from our visit to observe enforcement at first hand in Stratford last week. I contributed an article about this to Conservative Home on Friday and you can read it at: .

Friday, November 16, 2007


So how can the lowest price be 80p but the average be 53p?

Was it because fare evaders were included - as suggested by Weggis and Andrew Gilligan? No...

Was it because free travel was included as suspected by me in the last post? No...

The Mayor has explained, very swiftly, by press release! The full text is here:

Amidst the hyperbole, the key paragraph tells us:

The reason the average is lower than the cheapest single fare is that many people travel using period tickets such as Travelcards or weekly bus passes. In these cases the cost per journey is less as the passenger makes more trips. For example the average number of trips per week on a weekly bus pass is 28.25. For a cost of £13 this is 46p.

Well, yes. What if the average number of trips rises? The average cost per trip then falls, but can the Mayor use the new lower figure to claim that he has cut fares? Because that is how the average figure has been used.

Can a passenger who only uses the card 10 times a week get a rebate????

To illustrate the way this works:

Example 1: Mayor Truthful promises to freeze fares for a year and does so. However an economic downturn reduces the number of journeys made on public transport. The average fare per journey goes up and Mayor Truthful decides not to press release it - because it will mislead people.

Example 2: Mayor Untruthful promises to pin fares to inflation but after the election he breaks his promise and imposes inflation busting increases over three years, only desisting as the next election looms. Over the same period the number of journeys increases as London is doing well. The average fare per journey therefore falls and Mayor Untruthful decides to press release it - because it will mislead people.

Neither of these examples is intended to resemble any living person - however for an official view of the truthfulness of TfL advertising, see the following from the Advertising Standards Agency:

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bus Fare Calculations

An interesting exchange at yesterday's Mayor's Questions.

Me: Following the latest increases, what is the cheapest ticket you can buy?

The Mayor: 80p

Me: And what is the average bus fare?

The Mayor: 53p

Me: So the average fare is 27p less than the cheapest fare - that's a novel concept...

I suspect that TfL includes some of its free tickets in the calculation, which undermines the veracity of the figure, because it creates an 'average fare' which can't be paid by anyone. It certainly makes the result of fare increases look rosier than it actually is.

TfL will be coming to see me to explain how they arrive at this figure and what they use it for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I've Been Awarded a Certificate

For completing the Capital Ring!

I didn't know that such a thing was available, but Gordon Clarke from TfL has been in touch after reading about my efforts on Barkingside21's blog. He also tells me that Walk London are organising a weekend of guided walks around the strategic network for 17 - 18 November. I prefer to walk on my own but for anyone who wishes to join a group, details are available at .

This will be the first non academic certificate I have received since I passed my cycling proficiency test...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Public Sector Rich List

The Taxpayers' Alliance have published their own 'rich list' of public sector employees. With the help of Freedom of Information requests and annual reports they have pieced together the top earners in public bodies for 2006/07. London is an expensive city so no surprise that our public bodies feature in the top 100:

The Olympic Development Authority has three employees in the top 100 - Chief Executive, David Higgins, Director of Finance, Dennis Hone, and of course, Jack Lemley, the former Chairman who stood down halfway through the year.

Sister body, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, features twice with Chairman, Lord Coe and Chief Executive, Paul Deighton.

Transport for London has its own high earners, Commissioner, Peter Hendy, MD of London Underground, Tim O'Toole, MD of Surface Transport, David Brown, and General Counsel, Howard Carter.

And controversial Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair is also in the top 100.

The National Health Service has many high earners but the only local manager in the top 100 is Norman Lindsay, Director of Turnaround at Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust. Mr Lindsay ceased his employment at the end of the financial year. I have not met him, but I know Whipps Cross and I imagine it was a tough job.

The full list, including rankings and actual pay is available at .

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bendy Bus Investigation

Following the disclosure of worrying accident statistics at the recent public question time in Ilford, the transport committee will be reviewing the record of these controversial vehicles. Complaints about the buses include:

Safety - are they prone to more accidents?

Fare evasion - up to four times the level found on other buses.

Shortage of seats - good news for buggies and wheelchairs but bad news for older passengers and pregnant women.

Unsuitability for narrow, crowded streets - particularly in the centre of town.

Ilford North MP Lee Scott has welcomed the review, saying 'These numbers are at an unacceptable level and are not to be tolerated. I want to see a far bigger analysis as some roads simply cannot cope with them.'

I hope that passengers and bus drivers will let us have their views on the buses. Contact me at .

The full story is carried by the Ilford Recorder, .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Commissioner Faces Assembly

Tomorrow morning the Assembly will be questioning Sir Ian Blair, the Met Police Commissioner. It looks like being a lively session which will probably make the headlines in the evening.

we are also questioning the new Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson, for the first time. I expect he will get a comparatively easy ride...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Radio Alert - Link FM

Tomorrow morning I'm the guest on our very own community radio station, Link FM. Appearing from 10:00 am, I will be talking about the London Assembly, transport in London, my role at Havering Council and, of course my newly published novel, Gremalquest.

Last time I was on Link we got into a discussion about my own broadcasting efforts on Radio Skerne, twenty years ago. This was the Darlington hospital radio which transmitted late in the evenings from a room in the basement next to the morgue. Keeping up a cheerful patter for a couple of hours all on your own, with a room full of corpses to walk through, was quite a challenge.

You can enjoy Link FM on line at .

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Any Suggestions?

There is a competition running at City Hall this week - the task is to choose a title for the Mayor's next Olympics publication.

The document is due to be published in early November and will set out the five commitments the Mayor is making in relation to the 2012 games.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'Award Winning' Londoner to go Cross Party

Well, one page anyway. Today the GLA Business Management & Appointments Committee (BMAC) approved proposals to give over one page of the Londoner each month to Assembly stories. The report states:

The London Assembly will contribute a regular column for page 8 of The Londoner. The column would be a maximum of 420 words, or 350 plus a picture, either vertically aligned on the left side of the page or horizontally across the bottom of the page. There would be no charge to the Assembly for the column.

So we know which page everyone will turn to in future...