This article, by Izin Akhabau, originally appeared in The Voice.
CONSERVATIVE LONDON mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has accused London mayor Sadiq Khan of using COVID as a ‘smoke screen’ for his poor management of TfL.
Khan has suggested that Transport for London is in financial difficulty due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of lockdown, Londoners listened to government advice and stayed at home.
He told The Voice that under normal circumstances: “London usually contributes to the country much more than we get back.”
He claimed that before the pandemic, the world class organisation had considerably reduced its deficit, and increased cash balances.
However, Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey said: “Sadiq Khan has been in control of TfL for nearly five years. It’s time he took responsibility.”
Most notably, Bailey points to the costs incurred because Crossrail could not be delivered on time.
He claims that £3.9 billion was wasted because the project was over budget, and that £1.35 billion was lost in revenue. This adds up to a whopping £5.2 billion.
However, Khan’s team say the Public Accounts Committee report showed problems with Crossrail’s delivery started to emerge by 2015, under the previous Mayor.
Bailey also suggests that Khan has wasted money on tourist fare subsidies, staff taxis and coffee machines.
Khan told The Voice that the government was being ‘vindictive’ and imposing unfair conditions on TfL COVID funding.
He pointed out that the government had not put conditions on the funding and grants it provided for private companies.
Measures the government hopes to introduce include an increased congestion charging zone.
More controversial is the cut to free travel for under 18’s.
The Child Poverty Action Group has said that children from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds will be disproportionately affected.
The cuts are expected to come in at the end of half term.
Khan has said he will not accept these measures, and that he will stand up for diverse communities.
He also suggested the government’s actions are politically motivated.
In response to the allegations from Shaun Bailey, a spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said: “These are fantasy figures and the Tory candidate is once again taking Londoners for fools. Sadiq has been clearing up the Tories’ financial mess on TfL and before the pandemic hit, he’d reduced TfL’s deficit by over £1bn.
“The only reason TfL needs money now is because fares went down 70% during Covid-19.
“The Tory candidate and his government now want to punish Londoners – by extending the Congestion Charge to the North and South Circular, hiking fares and raising taxes. Only Sadiq is standing up for London.”
In response to Sadiq Khan’s suggestions they were being vindictive, a DfT spokesperson said: “We have agreed an extension to the support period and to rollover unspent funding from the Transport for London Extraordinary Funding Agreement, allowing further time for negotiations for a new settlement.
“These discussions will ensure London has a safe, reliable network. It would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage.”
The London mayoral elections are are expected to take place on May 6 2021.