London Mayor 2024: Zoë Garbett pledges to bring back free morning peak travel for over-60s

London Mayor 2024: Zoë Garbett pledges to bring back free morning peak travel for over-60s

An “Elders’ Champion” holding City Hall to account on policies for older Londoners, a commission to control rents and a “Loo Tsar” to boost public toilet provision across the capital were among Green Party mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett’s pledges at the first hustings of the 2024 campaign for London Mayor, organised by Age UK London.

Garbett, a Hackney councillor who is also standing for the London Assembly, took centre stage as the only mayoral candidate attending. Labour’s Sadiq Khan was represented by his statutory deputy Joanne McCartney, Conservative Susan Hall by Assembly candidate Nick McLean, a Merton councillor, and Liberal Democrat hopeful Rob Blackie by Assembly member Hina Bokhari.

The Green candidate and her rivals’ stand-ins faced an audience of some 200 older Londoners and questions focused on Age UK’s manifesto for the mayoral election, which ranged from transport to housing, from digital exclusion to toilet provision, and from the cost of living to the increasing nuisance caused by e-bikes and scooters.

A first dividing line emerged as a key Age UK demand, the restoration of free early morning travel on the Transport for London network for over-60s, was backed by Garbett along with the Lib Dem and Tory speakers, though not by McCartney.

The concession was restricted during the pandemic in line with government funding conditions so that it ceased to apply before 9am, a change made made permanent last year.

“The system is too expensive across the board,” said Garbett. “It’s about priorities, and this is the right priority.” The reinstatement could be paid for by “cutting waste” at City Hall, McLean added.

“We would like to reinstate free morning travel, but we are not in a position to do that,” said McCartney. TfL had been left heavily reliant on fare income by the government and Khan had already found the money needed to retain the over-60 concession as a whole, she said, after the government had refused to fund it and suggested it should be withdrawn completely – a proposal which, she said, had not been opposed by the Conservative candidate.

McCartney pointed positively to Khan’s action plan for an “age-friendly” London, published last November, and his targeted support, including benefit take-up campaigns generating £4.8 million in previously unclaimed support, cost-of-living advice services, the Get Online London digital skills programme and more money “year on year” for toilets on the TfL network.

But both Garbett and Bokhari said TfL was still not moving fast enough on extra toilet provision. Bokhari said Khan and central government should be providing more funding, and Garbett said she would invest more. “It is a basic public need and it is a travesty we are still having to talk about it,” she said.

There was greater agreement about the need to regulate e-bikes and scooters more rigorously, and less for McLean’s suggestion that Khan was “waging war” on motorists. Even so, his confirmation of Hall’s commitment to scrapping Khan’s expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone beyond the North and South Circulars to cover all of Greater London “on day one” won some applause from the audience.

On housing, Garbett focused on renters and McCartney pointed to Khan’s pledge to complete the building of 40,000 new council homes by 2030. McLean highlighted Hall’s pledge to review the London Plan, the Mayor’s development blueprint for the city, to get more housebuilding underway. That could include changes to Khan’s requirement for 35 per cent of homes in major schemes to be affordable, he said: “Ten per cent of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing.”

X/Twitter: Charles Wright and OnLondon. Support and its writers for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photograph by Caroline Russell.

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