Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's That Bridge Again

Back in January, Liverpool Street Station was closed for two days longer than expected because of work on demolishing a bridge over the line, which ran late. Perhaps there is a jinx - part of the new bridge fell onto the line last night, leading once again to the closure of the station.

Passengers on a fast train leaving the station had a lucky escape when the driver managed to brake in time and keep the train on the tracks. Passengers on other trains were left stranded and eventually walked to safety along the tracks. I just missed the incident, passing through the area on a train into town about thirty minutes before the debris fell. The return journey later in the evening involved taking the Central Line to Newbury Park then the 66 bus to Romford.

The station was closed this morning but the good news is that Liverpool Street is now open again and services are getting back to normal.

UPDATE: Today's Evening Standard report that TfL contractors have been banned from the site by Network Rail until the accident investigation is complete.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mayor's Answers

Written answers are now available from last week's Question Time. A record of the verbal exchange will soon be cleared by the Assembly Chair:


Roger Evans: Can the Mayor ensure that TfL reinstate fortnightly cleaning of Gants Hill Station as a matter of urgency?

Boris Johnson: It is important that station facilities, including the subway, remain at a good standard of cleanliness for the safety, comfort and convenience of users. I will ask TfL to liaise with Redbridge Council to see how they can better work together to improve the conditions at this location. This will include reviewing the frequency of the subway cleansing.


Roger Evans: Can the Mayor arrange a TfL briefing on the work currently being done at Gallows Corner and plans for the future?

Boris Johnson: Certainly. TfL will be in touch with your office to arrange a suitable time and date.


Roger Evans: Can the Mayor instruct TfL to install CCTV cameras in the subway between Maybank Road and Mulberry Way?

Boris Johnson: TfL is aware of the concerns of local people regarding personal security and anti social behaviour and that the London Borough of Redbridge would be content to monitor CCTV cameras provided that TfL secure funding for their installation. I have asked TfL to prepare a business case for CCTV camera provision, to determine the case for funding this issue against competing demands.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Boris Johnson Faces First Question Time

On Wednesday Boris took questions from the London Assembly.

The question time format provides a useful opportunity to raise constituency matters, so I started by asking about the withdrawal of bus route 500 which serves Havering-Atte-Bower. For some years now we have been trying to get TfL to provide a decent bus service to the village, not only for local people, but also for visitors and staff travelling to St Francis' Hospice, including up to 20 day patients. Livingstone's administration always refused to consider providing a service, preferring to focus their efforts on inner London. Boris made a good start by expressing support and agreeing to meet with myself and Romford MP, Andrew Rosindell, to discuss possible solutions, including extending existing bus services to the village.

I also raised the level of cleaning in the Gants Hill subways, and the Mayor has promised to have this reviewed.

Labour members chose to snipe away, with a puerile stunt involving a cycling helmet and detailed questions which no reasonable person would expect to get an answer to without providing notice. Perhaps they were asleep for the last eight years, because they should have remembered that Livingstone never gave a detailed response, and the MQT format allowed him to avoid doing so - clearly they need to go away and rethink their approach, as with so many things...

And former politicians Peter Hulme Cross and Ken Livingstone were in the gallery, the latter looking sour and out of place. The quality of political groupies has declined since April.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Term Limits

I understand that Boris has written to the Government, asking them to impose a two term limit on the Mayor's job. The effect would be to prevent anyone serving longer than eight years in the post. This follows a failed attempt to insert a two term limit in the act which extended the GLA's powers recently.

Term limits are common in America, but are unheard of here, and I have mixed feelings. We showed that in London, it is possible to beat a strong incumbent who supposedly holds all the advantages, so is a limit really needed?

Term limits would have cut Margaret Thatcher's rule short in 1987, and ended Tony Blair's reign in 2005 - would this really have been a good thing?

For my own experience, I did three terms as a Waltham Forest councillor and by the end I was getting a bit stale, I would not have wanted to do four. On the other hand, I'm on my third term at the London Assembly and - thanks to the change of Mayor - it really does feel like a new job.

Now, I do think we should be writing to the Government asking them to end 'proportional representation' for the London elections, but that is a different story...

Term limits - good or bad?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Brooms at City Hall

SJM asks how things have changed at City Hall. The atmosphere is different:

In the old days silence would fall when Conservative members entered the lift. Conversations ceased, papers were clutched to chests (to avoid a Caroline Flint style leak), backs pressed to walls. As you left the lift on the sixth floor, talking would resume...

Now the staff are more keen to speak to us. Several times people have asked me if I am one of the 'new intake' or the 'old guard', because there are plenty of new faces around. Amongst the existing staff there is relief that Boris has not pursued a scorched earth policy, and quite a number have found interesting new jobs working for him. Meanwhile, we have been bombarded with unsolicited CVs from people who want to work for Boris.

On the Mayor's floor, the new team is taking shape. The Mayor is gathering around him a London version of the Government of All Talents, with imaginative appointments including Ray Lewis and Kate Hoey, along with experienced Tories like Steven Norris. I have been up there more times in the last eight days than I did in the eight years that Livingstone was in charge. Old names above the office doors hark back to the past era, but many of them have gone elsewhere. Some changes are needed - under the old regime the floor was a maze of partitions and barriers (now being removed), and some of the offices were pretty grim, one being more like a lurid pink telephone kiosk than a place of work.

On the seventh floor the remnants of Labour, the Liberals and the Greens have had the mother of all battles over office space (despite having fewer members), however they did get their act together sufficiently to grab all the top Assembly jobs, shutting out the 11 Conservatives and the BNP member. Obviously they feel they can run the Assembly with just 13 members, but the prospects are not good as they tried and failed with 15 members eight years ago. Expect them to come crawling back for help within six months...

The Conservative group occupy the sixth floor once more. With seven new members, there is a lot of enthusiasm and climbing of the learning curve. Richard Barnes is group leader again, I am deputy leader again, and new member Richard Tracey is group whip. There has never been such a large political group at City Hall, so keeping everyone in the loop will be a challenge.

And BNP man Barnbrook has taken up residence in the office formerly used by UKIP (who became 'One London'). He raised a number of challenges at the assembly AGM and clearly sees himself as some sort of enfant terrible. However much we detest his views, he was democratically elected and has a right to play a full part in assembly committees, so we wait to see how he will interpret his role. He supported green member Darren Johnson in his bid to be deputy chair of the assembly...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Last of the Londoner

The Mayor has made good on his election promise and ceased publication of 'The Londoner', Livingstone's supportive propaganda sheet.

This move will save £2.9 million from the City Hall budget and Boris plans to invest £1 million of this in planting new street trees around London. This instead of cutting trees down to make newspapers. Where the trees will go is still to be decided, so any suggestions would be welcome - I will pass them on.

Under the old regime, Transport for London, the Met Police and of course the LDA, were forced to contribute to the cost of producing the Londoner. TfL had to buy three full pages of advertising in every issue. Only the Fire Brigade escaped the 'Londoner Tax' because members of its authority were brave enough to reject Livingstone's edict.

Boris has made a flying start in his first week - long may the new broom continue to sweep clean.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thank You

The result of the election in Havering & Redbridge was as follows:

Roger Evans Conservative 78,493
Balvinder Saund Labour 35,468
Farrukh Islam Lib Dem 12,443
Lawrence Webb UKIP 12, 203
Ashley Gunstock Green 9,126
Leo Brookes English Democrat 6,487
Paula Warren Christian Peoples Party 5,533
Peter Thorogood Independent 3,450
Carole Vincent Left List 1,473

Giving a conservative majority of 43,025. The large turnout also helped to elect Boris Johnson and gives us a Conservative group on the Assembly of 11 - the largest political group to be elected to City Hall in the GLA's short history.

Can I thank everyone who campaigned for us and everyone who took the time to vote - this was a great result for democracy as well as my party. I return as the member for Havering & Redbridge, an area I am proud to represent, and I will work for all my constituents regardless of their politics, over the coming four years.