Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mayor's Questions - Opposition Get Their Act Together

This morning saw the first Mayor's Question Time of 2011. For once the three left wing groups had decided to work together on a common theme - 'the Mayor has misled Londoners'. Perhaps we will see more of this cooperation as the year progresses. The public gallery was also much thinner than usual.

Airport Capacity

The 'progressives' led off with the mayor's recent declaration that London needed more air capacity because there were more flights to China from Paris and Frankfurt. Labour accused Boris of providing misleading figures and a slightly torrid argument about the number of planes between China and London ensued - the crux seemed to be whether Hong Kong was included in the total.

There was broad agreement that Heathrow expansion was beyond the pale, but nods of approval were given to using Manston or building a new Thames Estuary airport, with Stansted, Gatwick and Luton getting mentioned too. Wherever is designated, there will be much local opposition which I suspect means that expansion won't be happening.

Conservative, Andrew Boff spelt out his worries about expansion at City Airport, following the unfavourable court decision earlier this month. Residents are concerned about the increase in flights and consequent noise and pollution in East London.


Green, Jenny Jones, had another go about cycling. Given the almost religious zeal which animates Boris on this topic, it is perhaps not the best point to attack - this time she was accusing him of underspending the budget. Andrew Boff made the point that after cycling to work almost on his own for many years, he was now accompanied by many new bike users of all shapes, sizes and ages. So more cyclists, lower spending, sounds good to me. Clearly Jenny knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, as they say...


With pay for AMs and senior staff frozen this year, Labour's Len Duvall asked if Boris was satisfied with pay rates at City Hall. This gave the Mayor a good opportunity to highlight the decrease in the payroll from Livingstone's £27 million to the new slimline £19 million. In the bad old days 52 people were earning over £80k per year and now this was reduced to just 32 people.

Main Line Railways

Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon set out to blame Boris for problems on the main line railways, which seems a bit unfair as they are the only part of London's transport network that he doesn't control. She felt there should be more staffed stations and urged the mayor to demand control of the network, within the boundaries of Greater London.

Boris said he was seeking greater involvement in the award of franchises to operators and lauded his success in getting them to accept Oyster pay as you go

Conservative James Cleverly warned of so called 'railheading' during the Olympics, as travellers from outside London parked up in the suburbs to use the transport network. Cheaper tickets for travel to the games would alleviate the problem. Dick Tracey suggested park and ride schemes based on brown field development sites for the duration of the Olympics.


Labour's John Biggs attacked the mayor for suggesting that banks might leave the country - after all, they hadn't gone had they? Had Boris been excessively alarmist? John tried at one point to draw a distinction between moral and immoral banks - a very grey and subjective area. For someone who represents the Square Mile and Canary Wharf, John doesn't exactly ooze enthusiasm about their main businesses.

I pointed out that these institutions (moral or immoral) employ many more people than just the highly paid experts we always hear about. Furthermore, they provide essential custom for small businesses that spring up in the shadow of their gleaming towers. Apart from some vague talk about manufacturing, the progressives had failed to articulate an alternative business model to sustain the capital if the financial sector did decamp to Zurich.


Boris was on the receiving end of a lecture from Lib Dem Mike Tuffrey about reducing the CO2 output at City Hall. The figures were still being calculated but the Mayor expected to have come close to reducing emissions by 10% during 2010. James Cleverly suggested that staff could help by turning off their computer terminals at night - on the 6th floor, which houses the Conservative Group 95% of computers were turned off. On the 7th floor, the home of Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and the Climate Change Fan Club, only 93% were turned off - another case of the progressives preaching rather than practising.

Tube Strikes

Chairman Dee Doocey followed the example of transport chair Val Shawcross, clamping down on Conservative attempts to raise the strike issue again. They seem very keen not to discuss union militancy, possibly because Livingstone is supported by the unions. Unfortunately for travelling Londoners, the matter just won't go away...
And this afternoon we saw the results of the 'progressives' efforts in a brief Evening Standard piece, evidently based on a joint press release which gave credit to Labour, Lib Dems and Greens, without naming any individual member. The article mentioned several matters which were not even raised during debate, indicating that the release had been drafted and sent out before the meeting took place. The intended message was 'Boris misleads Londoners' but the real message is 'Vote Labour, Green or Lib Dem if you want Livingstone back'.


Mrs Angry said...

32 people on over £80K a year? How many, on how much over? Would that be one person on £80K and 31 on £120K?

It seems a contradiction to me that Tories rant on about bureaucracy and localism and yet are so keen on working for the GLA, which is everything you now say your party is against. Surely by your argument, we can easily dispense with this layer of government?

sjm said...

So what do you suggest, Mrs A? That the Conservatives fold their tents and steal away, leaving everything to those wonderful Livingstone fans?

Sorry, but while the GLA exists, I'd quite like my views represented on it, thanks very much.

Roger Evans said...

Mrs A, in the last three years I think we have demonstrated that there was quite a lot of Livingstone's Empire that could be 'easily dispensed with'.

You don't have to clutter up your recycling bin with unread copies of 'The Londoner' any more. The Western Extension of the Congestion Charge Zone has gone, and I hear that even Livingstone isn't promising to reinstate it. Bendy Buses no longer block many of our narrow streets and by the end of 2011 they will be a memory for mothers to frighten their children with. The annual inflation busting council tax rise has been dispensed with too. I could give you plenty more examples.

As to 'ranting on', I imagine you probably meant it in a positive way. Your own contributions are always so measured...

The Finchley frog said...

At the risk of appearing to be one of those "ganging up" on Mrs Angry, perhaps I could remind her that it was the party in government that she appears to admire who saddled us with this costly beast - primarily, it appears to me, to get Kenny Baby out of their hair!

Mrs Angry said...

I think you lot are missing my point: I am not debating the pros and cons of Ken's reign, but disputing whether you Tories should be supporting an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and government.

Come on: localism is the word always dropping from the lips of the the Coalition government, and yet here you are, supporting a centralised body which frankly, most Londoners would be hard pressed to identify as any way beneficial to their wellbeing. What has Boris Johnson acheived in his time as mayor, other than provide a few bikes, by the way?

Does Boris ever visit the outer Lond boroughs, other than at election time?

Think of the money we could save by getting rid of the GLA ... obviously you would be out of a job, Rog,and all those lucky 32 on salaries above £80 K, but hey ho: so are many much more modestly paid council officers here in the LB of Barnet.

We're all in this together, remember?

The Finchley frog said...

Mrs A - yes, I would abolish the GLA. Totally unnecessary, achieves nothing, has no powers other than to "scrutinise" the mayor, doesn't reject his budget, invents "work" for itself to do, talks too much(adding to the CO2 emissions)and costs us all a lot of money.

So, if there's not a body to scrutinise the mayor, then goodbye to that post too. Both were the inventions of Bliar's government. But be warned, no GLA and your beloved Mr Toad goes too. Oh well......

Roger Evans said...

The Frog's logic is sound - unlike Mrs A. If you have a mayor you need an Assembly to scrutinise him or her.

The government was elected on a manifesto that proposed keeping the mayor and devolving more powers to him from government - a step towards localism. With more mayoral powers the Assembly has to become stronger too.

And so we will be taking on some exciting new roles. I did a lot of work on a cross party basis with the other groups and London Councils on precisely this issue during 2010. I think a blog post is due - you will all be pleased with its content.

The Finchley frog said...

" will all be pleased with its content".

Don't count your chickens, Mr E!

Mrs Angry said...

well, let's look at the logic in your comment, Rog: no one to scrutinise the Mayor? Get rid of the post of Mayor, save even more money ... Localism is not mean to shift power from an elected government to one individual, 'scrutinised' by a bunch of over paid assembly members, some of whom, (you may excuse yourself from this bit) seem to spend their time causing trouble, eating lunch at other people's expense, or charging taxi fares to the tax payer.

Localism, as I understand it, is meant to devolve power to the - sorry to sound like John Lennon/Karl Marx - to the people. It's called democracy, Rog. When residents on individual boroughs have some real input into the system of local government, we might be able to feel that the idea of localism is being respected. Until then, in my view, all we have in the Mayoral/Assembly system is a useless and unneccesary body with an alarming resemblance to one of those quangos you lot are supposed to detest so much ...

Redbridge resident said...

I have to agree with the Finchley frog and, to some extent, with Mrs Angry. Abolish the lot, and then government can devolve powers even closer to people by giving them to the boroughs - together with the cash that government currently spends on those responsibilities.

The frog is right about the mayor and assembly - it was an act of appeasement to Livingstone by Blair's government. If it was genuinely to give a "London-wide voice", then surely the Zanulab government should have restored the county councils in the West Midlands, Merseyside, Manchester, South and West Yorkshire, and Tyneside so that they too had an "area-wide voice"? Not only did they not do so, they abolished them in various shire counties (hotbeds of Toryism!!) and even turned some, like Wiltshire and Cheshire, into just two unitary authorities.

Roger Evans said...

Finchley Frog and Redbridge Resident have a lot in common, haven't they?

Pit Stop said...

Are they both green and slimey?

The Finchley frog said...

......unlike a pit stop who may be defective and oily.

Pit Stop said...

...oil helps the wheels go round!

Anonymous said...

R.E. wrote --> Banksters "...the progressives had failed to articulate an alternative business model to sustain the capital if the financial sector did decamp to Zurich".

I am quite angry at the losses I have faced at the hands of the financial sector. Thatcher may have encouraged share ownership. I bought shares in various companies and the likes of Bradford and Bingley are worth zero.

Even when you let to Professionals invest your money in Pensions and monthly investment products. My investments are going down hill, whilst the company managing my invesments are making bumper profits from the fees.

When you get the likes of Goldmans selling defective products to their clients. You know the that the system is corrupt.

I have lost confidence in the City.