Sunday, May 22, 2011

Questions to The Mayor

Last week saw the first Question Time for two months. We usually give the mayor - of whatever party - a break in April to allow elections to take place untainted by political rhetoric, at least from City Hall.

Labour have decided - or perhaps been directed by HQ - to build their questions around a 'theme' on these occasions and on Wednesday the special theme was 'Outer London'. Those of us who represent the suburbs watched Labour's Novelty Visit with some amusement as they sought to criticise Boris on transport around outer London, policing in outer London, and the effect of benefit changes on outer London, without providing much in the way of evidence to support their efforts. For us, there were many opportunities to talk about specific projects which the mayor has helped us with.

In Redbridge we have seen the introduction of traffic lights and surface level crossings on the Gants Hill Roundabout, with far less disruption to traffic flow than I had thought possible - proof that TfL can make improvements without attacking drivers when they put their mind to it. We have also seen the opening of a rape crisis centre for East London, based at the Loxford Polyclinic, fulfilling one of Boris's early election promises.

In Havering we have enjoyed solid cooperation with the Met Police on initiatives such as the Yellow Card scheme and 'Barred from One, Barred from All', both of which serve to reduce drunken violence in Romford Town Centre. And at Gallows Corner we have opened the first new fire station built in London for over twenty years.

Later this year Redbridge will see the completion of another election promise when the Number 25 Bendy Bus snakes its way into the history books, to be replaced by a more conventional service that doesn't block the traffic, catch fire or enable industrial scale fare evasion.

But we want more. I took the opportunity to ask Boris to hold another of his 'Trees For London' votes. The last of these encouraged even more public participation than the AV referendum and was won by the country park at Fairlop Waters, which duly received its prize of new trees as well as a bonus - artificial boulders which both improved the park and helped to preserve the dwindling stock of real boulders in their natural habitat.

Cycle Super Highway 2

I had a crack at Newham Council for their policy of denying cycling opportunities to my constituents. Cycle Superhighway 2 was supposed to reach out of the City, through Tower Hamlets and Newham to terminate in Ilford. I have a keen cycling fraternity in Redbridge and they were looking forward to this new route speeding their way into town. Unfortunately the party poopers at Newham have refused passage through Stratford town centre, thus cutting off CS2 prematurely, with no benefit to Redbridge.

Boris assured me that he had met Newham's executive mayor, Sir Robin Wales to discuss this matter - amongst other things I suspect - and that the connection to Redbridge would soon be established.

My colleague Brian Coleman was none to impressed with me interfering in the affairs of a sovereign borough in this way and he raised an objection. However on occasions the actions of other boroughs echo beyond their borders - Newham has form on this - and in those cases I make no apology for speaking out.

Tube Strikes

I also asked Boris what he thought about Bob Crow's somewhat provocative remarks at the Transport Committee. The mayor refused to be drawn and perhaps this indicates that some sort of dialogue is taking place. I'm sure that Londoners will welcome steps to prevent the recent industrial strife but I am pessimistic - history will repeat itself until the balance of power is changed by government legislation to require greater participation in the unions' strike ballots.

Jenny Jones also decided to clarify her position, stating that her suggestion that Tube staff go on strike by refusing to collect fares and leaving the ticket barriers open had in fact just been a 'question' to Mr Crow, with no intention of putting ideas into his head. Mayoral candidates - even Green ones - do have to be careful about the causes they espouse....

By this time the Labour Group Leader had left John Biggs to wind up the team's Outer London Novelty Tour. As they embarked on their metaphorical mini bus back to their Inner London strongholds, I wondered who was snuggling on the back seat and what songs they were singing. It was nice to see you, do come back soon guys - and next time bring your map and compass....


Redbridge resident said...

Whilst the withdrawal of the red crocodiles from bus route 25 is to be welcomed, it will also see operation return to one of London's poorer performing bus companies.

Mrs Angry said...

I don't know why you think it amusing that Labour should remind the Mayor that the outer London boroughs are neglected by him other than in the run up to an election. There is a genuine sense in the outer boroughs that we are largely out of the loop where the Mayor & GLA are concerned. Most people would find it difficult to find any benefit that their GLA member has brought to the constituency, and therefore earn the £50,000 plus we have to pay them.
Speaking of which, I am glad to see you upset Brian Coleman: good man, Roger - wear his disapproval as a badge of honour.
I am slightly disappointed that you missed an oppportunity for another photo of a roundabout. And I was surprised to see that it is a firestation being opened at Gallows Corner rather than a correctional facility to appeal to the section of diehard hang'em and flog'em Tory voters: and a few Tory councillors we could name ...

Roger Evans said...

It would appear that Londoners disagree with you Mrs A, according to our latest poll which shows the mayor's ratings going up.

And we actually stopped a 'correctional facility' a few years ago when the Labour government wanted to build a super prison in Havering. The fire station is already open by the way, scroll back a few months and you will find I covered it whilst Mrs A was still a twinkle in the eye of her creator...

The Finchley frog said...

I think Mrs Angry is really either Baroness Thatcher or Ann Widdecomb pretending to be a leftie.

Mrs Angry said...

Finchley Frog, I see you have blown my cover. Damn. Yes, I am indeed Ann Widdlecombe: looking for a nice Tory gentleman, preferably light on his feet, but keeping his hands to himself, to escort me into the twilight years of my career - how about it?