Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Choppy Water at MQT

Boris and the Conservative Group don't agree on everything - the mayor appealed beyond traditional party loyalties to secure his election so some dissent is to be expected. The other groups have commented on the somewhat independent approach of some Conservative members. "Ken would never have tolerated this from Labour." is a commonly expressed sentiment.

Past meetings have seen clashes over a proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and the powers that TfL exercise in deciding the location of bus stops. Today things got rougher than usual.

With the coming year's budget in prospect, members lined up to make the case for a repeat of last year's precept freeze. Trenchant colleague Brian Coleman pushed a bit further, calling for significant cuts particularly in the Transport for London monolith. It probably got a bit more heated than envisaged but Boris was left in no doubt that we will be seeking to protect council tax payers during the budget consultation.

Andrew Boff then raised concerns about the LDA's funding of new academies. The worry - shared by other members - is that the mayor is extending his powers onto territory that is firmly under borough control. Andrew even suggested that the effect would be to recreate a smaller version of the ILEA, along with an 'Outer London Education Authority' - OLEA!

Some constructive criticism of the administration is, in my opinion, a good thing, and anyway it is our job. Visitors in the gallery told me how refreshing they find this after the toadying that is all too evident at Prime Minister's Questions. But perhaps things went too far this time...

I raised concerns - originally highlighted by Morris Hickey - about the standard of service on the 462 bus route, which often runs early at Fulwell Cross, 14 minutes early on one occasion documented by Morris. The Mayor promised further sanctions against Arriva if the service did not improve and told us that two drivers had been disciplined for failing to observe the timetable. Hopefully things will get better but I'm sure we will soon know if they don't.


morris hickey said...

For about the first time ever I seem to have some resonance with Brian Coleman!

Transport for London (TfL) is an organisation allegedly responsible for public services. In practice it is self-serving, largely ignoring representations both from local councils and from the public. I was a long-serving member of Redbridge Council's Public Transport Liaison Group (PTLG) and its chairman for some years. We met 4 times a year, and matters affecting buses and the Underground (both of them the direct responsibility of TfL, and of London Transport before that) were on our agendas unresolved for meeting, after meeting, after meeting. They were there, unresolved, for years rather than just months. The TfL representatives attending our PTLG meetings were rather evidently just messengers for the faceless officials back at HQ.

TfL has a serious job to do in the monitoring of the bus services for which it awards contracts. To be fair to Arriva (a company in which I hold a small number of shares, as I do with First and Stagecoach) the problems with route 462 (and before it a rather different 362 from the current one) go back well before Arriva won the contract. Persistent complaints to TfL - and to whichever operating company - over many years have been met largely with resounding indifference. It really is one of those organisations that leads one to wonder whether their total absence would be noticed other than the cash saving on their precept on our council tax.

However, in conclusion perhaps I should remind Brian Coleman that if his enthusiasm for TfL's reduction comes about there might be fewer people around for the licensing of taxis and their drivers......

morris hickey said...

BTW, in the last few days I have become aware that in addition to all his publicly paid appointments, Brian Coleman is now the mare of Barnet.