I've loved writing this blog since launching it at the start of this year, I've loved the high standard of comments it's attracted and loved the tips and bits of gossip readers have sent me. Happily for me, the Guardian has quite liked this blog too. That's why, from today, it has incorporated it into its mighty online empire. Please, please, dear readers, follow me there. Go on: STEP THIS WAY.
Neither the man from the Met nor London’s mayor could be accused of presentation fatigue. At a joint press conference at City Hall on Wednesday, Boris Johnson and Sir Paul Stephenson hawked Scotland Yard’s new, London-wide crime mapping website with the uncrushable optimism and huckster guile of door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. Is law-breaking soiling the deep pile of your neighbourhood? We have the answer! It beats as it sweeps as it cleans!
"Boris Johnson's claim that his swingeing fare attacks on Londoners are due to Ken Livingstone's 'largesse' is totally false and a transparent attempt to pass the buck for the costs of his own wrong policies and waste, including abandoning the charge on gas-guzzlers costing between £30 million and £50 million a year, abandoning the cheap oil deal with Venezuela worth £16 million a year, and the possible dropping of the congestion charge zone in Kensington and Chelsea which would throw away even more money.
Cavalier future plans of the Boris Johnson administration would cost even more, such as £100 million for a new 'routemaster' bus. London has a Mayor who transfers millions of pounds from ordinary Londoners who use public transport to drivers of gas guzzlers and residents of Kensington and Chelsea."
"Livingstone's claims are an attempt to re-write history to justify his mistakes. We are delivering £1.6 billion of savings from TfL's budget, and ensuring value for money for Londoners. Ken's gimmicks cost over £84 million this year and created a funding gap that threatened investment in London's transport. For him to try to offest this against his derided deal with Chavez or the hated £25 congestion charge, both of which contributed to his downfall, does not stand up.
"The agreement Ken signed with Venezuela stipulated that money given to London that was unspent, as several million was, must be returned. We will be delivering half priced travel for Londoners on income support next year, budgeted at around £7 million and paid for by us, not Venezuela's poor. Under Ken, some £8 million was wasted on the C02 charge that no-one wanted, with a further £10m saved by not going ahead. Then there is the £30 million squandered on the West London Tram that never got built.
"Going forward, this fares package will plug the gap left by the last administration and restore the stability that will enable the upgrade of the transport system to continue. We will be looking at the costs of the transport improvements that the mayor has committed to, including the new Routemaster, in the next budget round and will set out plans for funding at that time."
I predictd a row, but not a day-long brawl. Meanwhile, the Troll has steamed in. Go on, my son.
"Detailed plans are being prepared to oust Sir Ian Blair from his position as head of Scotland Yard in an attempt to halt the collapse of morale in the Metropolitan Police."
A no-name is quoted:
“He has become the issue. There comes a point when fairness has nothing to do with it and what matters is the integrity of the organisation.”
Unnamed sources should be treated with care, but the logic of those sentiments is becoming ever harder to argue with. That said, the big question for me is who would replace Sir Ian. The Guardian interviews a possible contender - Mike Fuller, Chief Constable of Kent - though he won't have endeared himself to Jacqui Smith.
“If Boris was not consulting on the scrapping the western extension of the congestion charge, or had not abolished the £25 charge on gas guzzling vehicles, I doubt that these fare rises would be necessary. His actions to protect motorists are likely to lose TfL around £110m annually and it would be grossly unfair for public transport users to be forced to meet these costs.”
The point being that at a time of high petrol prices the aim should be to keep public transport fares as low as possible to convince Londoners to switch their mode of travel.
“This fares package is designed to be fair to all Londoners, commuters and visitors. Some of us will pay a little more but I have ensured fares will remain affordable, especially for people who rely on public transport most, including the elderly, disabled veterans and those on lower incomes.
I have been left to tackle the unfunded legacy of Livingstone’s largesse. Put simply, the previous Mayor’s cynical and irresponsible pre-election fares freeze and support for unfunded transport schemes is unsustainable, and has produced a gap that has to be plugged. I’m determined to deliver value for money for London’s farepayers and taxpayers and that will mean some tough choices.
But let no-one be in any doubt. We’re investing billions to improve transport in London, prepare for 2012 and deliver Crossrail. This is a fares package that will sustain the investment needed to deliver the extra capacity and reliability that is vital for London.”
The full release is here, complete with details. Anyone good at sums?
"This unnecessary, above inflation fare hike is going to hit the pocket of every Londoner hard and makes a complete mockery of the Mayor's promise to provide value for money.
Boris Johnson has given us no evidence whatsoever for his claim that there is a transport finance black hole. What the evidence does point to is an increase in passenger numbers and revenue in TfL's coffers. If anything there should be a surplus this year, as there was in previous years. For Boris to blame his predecessor for this fare hike is nothing more than a cheap political shot.
If the Mayor genuinely is concerned about the fares budget then he should have thought twice [before] abolishing the £25 higher charge for gas guzzlers and should reconsider his expensive plans to replace the bendy bus. It's strange to say the least that Boris is consulting about the future of the Western extension of the congestion charge but hasn't seen fit to consult Londoners on this fare hike which will hit all passengers hard. It just smacks of playing political games with London's transport network."
There's a press release from the Mayor's office on this too. It's got numbers in it. Should be online soon.
“Last year the Liberal Democrats pointed out Ken Livingstone’s fare freeze was unsustainable and this announcement proves us right. As well as that what Mayor Johnson has failed to do so far is outline exactly how a inflation busting increase in fares will benefit the hard pressed traveller on London's transport network. Will we see better services, more reliable trains and an end to overcrowding? I somehow doubt it."
"Londoners are beginning to learn the high cost of Boris Johnson. [He] promised to save Londoners money but instead, after just a few months in office, he is pushing up fares above inflation to pay for his own incredible waste of Londoners' money.
Boris Johnson has lost between £30 and £50 million a year by abandoning the £25 a-day charge on the worst gas guzzlers in the congestion charging zone, he has scrapped the cheap oil deal with Venezuela, costing London £16 million a year, and he may throw away a lot more by abandoning the extension of the congestion charge to Kensington and Chelsea.
This situation is likely to get worse. Experts agree that his pledge to bring in a 'new routemaster' bus would cost over £100 million a year. Londoners are now having to pay through the nose for Boris Johnson's wrong policy decisions and waste."
Don't think the fares hike will go unremarked at this gathering this morning. Also under discussion: the new LDA, with its interim chief Peter Rogers and Mayor Johnson due to be in attendance, and the Tory Audit Panel. Webcast live from 10.00.
"Inflation-busting rises in bus and tube fares will be announced today by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in a move he will blame on the 'reckless' spending policies of his predecessor. The cost of travelling on London transport for adults will rise by more than inflation next year as a fares freeze imposed by Ken Livingstone is scrapped."
"Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, will announce on Thursday significant, above-inflation rises in most bus, Underground and some national rail fares, blaming decisions taken by his predecessor. The price increases will take effect from January and follow Ken Livingstone’s decision earlier this year, when mayor, to freeze most public transport fares and cut some bus fares."
You read it here first. And now, I feel a row coming on...
If I were the sort of person who goes round spreading rumours, I might mention the fact that other journalists have been receiving briefings by the mayor's office today about a rise in public transport fares to be announced by TfL tomorrow. Good job I'm not that sort of person...
Two minutes after taking this photo, Mayor Johnson was standing at the podium on the left and Deputy Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson at the one on the right. Their subject was the Met's new crime mapping website. I'll have more later. The BBC and the Guardian have more now.
This slipped past me completely at the time. Was there an announcement? Anyway, Mayor Johnson's election campaign manager has, since 1st July, formally been his Director of Marketing - number three on this list - and being paid the top adviser whack of £124,364 a year. That's 24 grand more than transport director Kulveer Ranger and 40 grand more than culture director Munira Mirza. I'm sure Dan is worth every penny: needs them, in fact, if he's to maintain the very impressive sartorial standards he sets himself during the campaign. But wasn't Boris the man who was going to cut back on extravagant GLA spending on promotional flim-flam? And since when was marketing more important than transport and culture? I wouldn't ask, but that's the sort of nasty man I am.