Sadiq Khan has launched a direct attack on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his transport adviser Andrew Gilligan over their attitudes to Transport for London, as negotiations about conditions for further government financial support for the Mayor’s transport agency continue.
Speaking at a TfL board meeting today, the Mayor described the PM as lying for claiming in the Commons earlier that TfL had been put into a state of “bankruptcy” which was “entirely the fault of the current Labour Mayor of London” due to his policy on fares.
Also at the board meeting, Khan upbraided the PM’s transport adviser Andrew Gilligan for failing to attend it, as he is required to under the terms of the current financial bailout agreement set out by transport secretary Grant Shapps on 14 May.
In their absence Khan said to the PM and Gilligan, “If you are serious about conducting negotiations the way they should be I’m surprised the Prime Minister has spoken as he has on the floor of the House and lied”.
He also said: “Bearing in mind that Andrew Gilligan advises the Prime Minister and he is closely involved in these negotiations I’m shocked he can’t be bothered to turn up to the TfL board meeting”.
The current funding agreement between TfL and the Department for Transport states: “Two HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] appointed Special Representatives will attend all TfL board meetings.” Gilligan was named as one of the two in a written statement to Parliament by Shapps on 20 July. Gilligan was described at the beginning of the last TfL board meeting as being present, but made no verbal contribution to it during its five-hour duration.
Khan’s comments follow the Financial Times reporting that Shapps had warned Khan in a letter sent earlier this month that the government would seize direct control of TfL unless the Mayor agrees to raise more Council Tax from Londoners, increase public transport fares by more than he wants to and vastly enlarges the Central London congestion charge zone to the North and South Circular roads.
Johnson’s Commons comments were in reply to a question from Conservative London MP Bob Blackman, who asked him to “confirm that the government has not required the current Mayor of London to expand the congestion charge to the North and South Circular roads”.
However, Johnson, who preceded Khan as Mayor, did not answer Blackman’s question, saying (from 22 minutes) instead that “the black hole in TfL’s finances…the bankruptcy of TfL, which was left, by the way, in robust financial health by the previous Mayor…is entirely the fault of the current Labour Mayor of London, with his grossly irresponsible demagogic fare policies”.
Johnson’s statement that TfL became bankrupt is incorrect, because the bailout negotiated with the government avoided it.
At the TFL meeting, Khan asked Clare Moriarty, the government Special Representative who was present, “to pass on to Mr Gilligan and pass on to the government that TfL’s like-for-like operating costs at the end of the last financial year were £150 million lower than when I first became chair of TfL. Can you also pass on to Andrew Gilligan that since I was made chair of TfL, TfL has taken nearly £1 billion from its cost base, we have reduced its operating deficit by 86% [and] built up cash reserves of £2.2 billion – an increase of 31% from what I inherited from the Prime Minister.”
An opinion poll published today says Khan enjoys a 22-point lead over his Conservative rival Shaun Bailey with the support of 50% of the 2,000 Londoners surveyed.
OnLondon.co.uk exists to provide fair and thorough coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources. Click here to donate directly or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for bank account details. Thanks.