Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Crumbs from the bankers' table or progressive tax and regulation?

How grateful should Londoners be for the Mayor's latest call on bankers to "give something back" by donating some of their bumper Christmas bonuses to after-school clubs?

He says:

"With the bonus season upon us, I hope others — individuals, as well as institutions — will give something back"

This is little more than a smoke screen.

If Boris Johnson really believed bankers should pay something back, he wouldn't have spent his time as Mayor campaigning against:

He wouldn't have dismissed calls for fairer tax and regulation as "neo-socialist claptrap" and he wouldn't have wrote that people should "stop whingeing about house prices boosted by City bonuses".

It seems the Mayor wants us to forget that the banks' wreckless behaviour caused the economic crisis and resulting budget deficit. And he wants bankers to encourage our collective amnesia by sparing a few crumbs from their table of generous bonuses for charities of their choice.

Of course, any charitable donations from bankers or anyone else this Christmas are welcome. But this misses the point.

Charitable donations will not prevent another financial crash. Nor will they reduce income inequality or contribute to balancing the government's books. They shouldn't be allowed to take the place of progressive taxation by absolving bankers of their real responsibilities.

Only regulation and a tax regime which encourages corporate responsibilty - the very things Boris Johnson has campaigned against - will achieve this.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Comprehenisve Spending Review: What it means for Londoners...

The Comprehensive Spending Review will hit middle income earners in London and attacks the poorest, with women shouldering the biggest burden.

We have just seen a series of swingeing cuts attacking police, transport, housing – with higher rents for tenants, benefit caps that will hit Londoners hardest and thousands of jobs lost – not just in the public sector, but across the board.

  • We have already seen cuts in London, imposed by Boris, which include
  • £1.7bn cut to London’s bus service;
  • £16m cut to Metropolitan Police Funding
  • Cut of 455 Metropolitan police officers
  • A £16m cut to London Underground with 400 Tube Ticket Office jobs to go and ticket offices closing all over London
  • Plans to make London Underground step free have been axed
  • London’s affordable childcare programme has been axed
  • Extending the Docklands Light Railway and upgrading Croydon’s Tramlink – both axed.

Today’s announcement by George Obsorne is a vicious attack on London and Londoners.

If the 20% cut in policing is translated into police numbers, that’s another cut of 6,500 police officers and almost 900 PCSO’s in London.

If we add today’s cuts to the Mayor’s cuts to transport in London, we see cuts of over £6billion to London’s transport system.

Tube and bus fares are likely to go up by 7% - bus fares have already increased by 20% last year and have actually increased by a third since 2004.

Housing – the budget for social housing has been cut by 50%. The cuts to housing benefit and today’s announcement to charge up to 80% of market rates for social housing will disproportionally affect Londoners – especially those living in central London.

The Mayor himself said earlier this year no government has moved “so far and so fast to make cuts” as has his administration at City Hall.

Of course, I welcome the reports that Crossrail will be spared but the cuts being imposed today, and those imposed earlier by Boris, will severely affect Londoners from all walks of life.

Friday, 3 September 2010

E-mail to Greenwich & Lewisham Labour Party members

Dear Labour Party Member,

I have been asked by a number of Labour Party members about who I am supporting in the contests for the leadership of the Party and to be the Labour candidate for London mayor. For some, I realise the choices are not easy.

I have been fortunate to have attended a number of hustings and debates and witnessed the performances of the various candidates. And like you I have now received literature from most candidates.

For me, the debate has been characterised by the issue of realism versus populism. Having listened to some of the internal debates amongst Labour Party activists, I think we sometimes need to remind ourselves that not everything Labour did in our 13 years of government was bad. In fact, we did a lot of good things and of course we would have liked to have done a lot more. Of course, on reflection, there are things we might have done differently.

But, despite losing the last national election, we still have good support which can be built upon to deliver another Labour Government. However, the work to retain and regain the trust of our communities must begin quickly.

That's why I am supporting David Miliband as the only candidate who has realistically assessed the challenges for Labour in the future. He has repeatedly said that we cannot go back to the past and must prepare for the challenges we face now and in the future. I've copied David’s latest email below.

We need a leader who has the presence and calibre not just to lead the Labour Party but also to become a prime minister. David Miliband has shown recently that he has that experience as well as the ability to turn policy into practical actions that make a difference. Anyone watching some of the television debates and interviews cannot have failed to have been impressed by him dealing with the difficult questions. He has worked hard to gain broad support across the different political views of the Party and trade union movement. He does not want to see a return to some of the divisive debates of the past.

Please look at his website http://www.davidmiliband.net/ if you want to know more about his policies but I would urge you to give him your first preference (or, failing that, a second preference) in the Labour Party leadership ballot. I would also recommend you read his latest email below.

Len Duvall

PS Don't forget to vote for Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral ballot. Over the years Ken has met and faced many tough challenges. He has the experience and skills to win for Labour. Between 2000 and 2008 he increased the number of police officers in London and created new transport infrastructure which the Tories are slowly trying to dismantle. London needs an effective advocate and champion in these difficult times to challenge the excessive cuts of this Conservative-led coaltion government.

Dear Len,

I respect both Tony and Gordon deeply. But their time has passed. Their names do not appear on the leadership ballots. And now we need to stop their achievements being sidelined and their failings holding us back.

I'm sick and tired of the caricature that this leadership election is a choice between rejecting or retaining New Labour. It does a disservice to all of the candidates and, even worse, a disservice to the thousands of members who’ve been participating in this contest over the last few months and working hard for years.

To those trying to trash our past and those trying to recreate it, I say enough is enough, it is time to move on.

I joined the Labour Party back in 1983 because I believed then, as I do now, that we are stronger when we stand together. And that has never been truer than when applied to our Party.

I believe that this election is about pulling together all the talents of our Party. It's about teamwork, mutual respect - and a rejection of the tired old Westminster games of closed door briefings, posturing, attack and rebuttal. I want to change the way we do politics.

Because I want to lead a government not a gang, a movement not a machine, where honest debate can be a source of strength, not a sign of weakness.

And we do this for a simple goal – because we want Labour to be the Party that enables hard working people to achieve their aspirations.

That means building a new economy – to drive down unemployment right across Britain. It means ensuring work pays with a living wage. It requires tackling the too wide gap in life chances.

In politics, moments matter. So as your ballot papers land on your doorstep in the next few days, I humbly ask for your vote for Leader of our Party.

If you’re planning to vote for me as your first preference or second preference please let me know by clicking here Or if you’re still undecided please click here and a member of my team will be in touch

Together we can cast the old play book aside – we can once again reflect the lives, the communities and the best hopes of the British people.

The first 100 days of the Coalition Government has shown their creed - and made our task all the more urgent. There are millions of people who need Labour to win again to deliver them a fair chance in life. And I will not let them down.

I am ready to lead. But at this crucial moment I need your support to make the Labour Party the change Britain needs.

Please vote for me as your first preference.

Thank you,

David Miliband

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Labour elections: different leader; same mayor

In the course of a Twitter debate a few days ago, a volunteer on David Miliband’s campaign who is backing Ken Livingstone for Mayor became involved in an exchange with some of those supporting Ken’s rival for the London nomination.

The argument of some during the debate was that if you were supporting David Miliband for the leadership, you could not possibly support Ken Livingstone to run for Mayor.

But the reality is many David Miliband supporters are also backing Ken. One of Ken’s earliest endorsers was Virendra Sharma MP, who has also backed David Miliband. Yesterday Jon Cruddas became another high profile example. Four of the five Labour London Assembly members who are backing David Miliband (including me) are also backing Ken.

Ken’s campaign is seeking to unite the London Labour party and welcomes support from the supporters of all the leadership candidates. Devolved politics means different alliances for different reasons are formed – and in London the dynamic is clearly towards a broad degree of unity around Ken Livingstone’s candidacy.

Hence, just as many David Miliband supporters also back Ken, so Ken’s campaign has received backing from supporters of all the other leadership campaigns.

Just last week I was telephone canvassing with Ken’s team and found myself amongst Andy Burnham supporters, Diane Abbot supporters, those backing either of the Eds, David Miliband, and even an ex-Lib Dem crossing off the days since he left the party – all campaigning for Ken, and many under 20.

They are our future in Labour and it was great to be part of debates and conversations all from different political perspectives about the direction we are heading.

These party members are not going to be bullied into making decisions based on old tribal loyalties of the past. In the mayoral contest, and the leadership contest, members are taking a hard look at all the candidates and coming to a rational, considered view on who is best for Labour.

The political zealots – the “Labour Party Taliban” – who seek to play the tired, divisive game of internal politicking that has overshadowed much of our recent and not so recent history are, I think, in for a shock. The majority of party members, certainly the ones I have been campaigning alongside, just do not want to go there and neither does the wider electorate.

I remain on good terms with colleagues and friends who do not share my views or my support for this candidate or that – and that’s how it should be. In the coming months and years the broad church of Labour will need to come together to defeat our real opponents. We should not be wasting time and energy with factional, internal battles.

Nationally and in London we need to retain, and in some cases regain, support from all sections of society. In London we have a good base on which to build: the last local elections saw Labour make exceptional gains in both inner and outer London and, despite some losses, we made gains in the last GLA and European elections.

But in the changed political landscape we will be fighting on different political territory. We must seek to limit the Coalition’s term in office and to do so we need strong, experienced leaders who recognise the reality we face. Both in London and nationally this means someone who can articulate a clear and unambiguous message for Labour.

That’s why I am supporting Ken Livingstone to win back the mayoralty and David Miliband to defeat the Coalition government. There is no contradiction between the two and only unreconstructed tribalists will try to suggest otherwise.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Bad news from Boris on Blackwall

You might recall that I sent a letter to the Mayor on 1 April asking that the Woolwich Ferry be kept open throughout the night during the Blackwall Tunnel closures. Click on the images below to read the Mayor's detailed response. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Two years on, the cost of the Tories in London is clear

Below is my piece for Labourlist.org, which has been picked up by the Guardian

This week marks the second anniversary of Boris Johnson’s election as Mayor of London. With just days to go until the country goes to the polls, what does the administration of Cameron’s Bullingdon Club colleague tell us about how a Tory government might look? If they really are the party of change, what kind of change can we expect?

On all the big issues facing London – housing, public services, transport, crime, safety and the environment – the Tories’ record in power is not a good one.

There are over a third of a million households on London’s housing waiting lists – families often living in over-crowded and poor conditions and with little security. Yet despite this urgent need, one of Boris Johnson’s first moves was to scrap the policy that half of all new housing should be affordable. And he has gone back on his election pledge to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2011.

Despite promising to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority to get more police on the street, Johnson is actually cutting 455 officers and has refused to guarantee the neighbourhood policing model of one sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs for every London ward.

And while he rails against public sector “fat cats” in his Daily Telegraph column, he has presided over massive pay rises for himself and his most senior staff, while cutting jobs lower down the chain.

His re-organisation of City Hall has made the GLA more white and more male.

Just a couple of weeks ago, it was announced that London’s childcare affordability team is being scrapped. With the future of early years and Sure Start centres in jeopardy from the Conservatives, Boris Johnson’s decision puts 10,000 childcare places for low-income families under threat.

But it is arguably transport which has suffered most thanks to Tory rule in London.

Boris Johnson has failed to persuade his party to commit to Crossrail. He has cancelled a funded Thames crossing in East London that would have brought jobs and regeneration to the area. And wasteful, regressive decisions like halving the size of the congestion charge zone, replacing London’s modern bus fleet and wasting over £1.5m per vehicle on building five new double-deckers have been paid for by the biggest real terms fare rises in Transport for London’s history.

Hardworking Londoners faced 20% bus fare rises in January thanks to Boris Johnson’s decisions. And rather than keeping fares down and protecting public services, he has instead spent his political capital campaigning against tighter regulation for financial services and a higher rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000. He has spent his time talking up the chances of bankers leaving London, warning they have been “punished enough”, and has campaigned against taxing City bonuses.

On the environment, London has gone from being a world-leader in tackling climate change to losing the chair of the influential C40 group. Under the Conservatives, plans to charge the most polluting vehicles a higher rate of congestion charge have been cancelled.

And while up to 5,000 Londoners die prematurely because of the city’s poor air quality, Boris Johnson prevented a scheme going ahead which would have charged the most polluting vehicles for driving into Greater London.

This is the cost of the Conservatives in London: a less green city, higher fares for hard-working Londoners, reduced services and a lack of support for people who need a home they can afford.

For anyone who thinks the Tories have changed, Boris Johnson’s two years in charge of London reveals their true face. The presentation may have improved, but at every opportunity the “nasty” party will fall down on the side of the few, not the many.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

TfL responds to call for greater engagement with the public on Blackwall - now we need solutions!

TfL have just circulated a note about two upcoming events they've arranged in order to provide the public with more information about the ongoing works at the Blackwall Tunnel, which I've included below.

The meetings, which are open to all, will be held at the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf on Friday 14 May and at the O2 in Greenwich on Saturday 15 May.

These attempts to improve relations with the residents of East and South East London over Blackwall are, without doubt, a step in the right direction, but more meaningful action is still required to address problems caused by the closures and, more generally, the lack of river crossings east of Tower Bridge.

Sadly, I've not yet heard anything back from the Boris Johnson about my proposal to keep the Woolwich Ferry open to southbound traffic during the closures - even though he's had over two weeks to reply. While I understand that this is a busy time, with the General Election in full swing, campaigning on behalf of the Conservatives shouldn't come before the needs of Londoners.

Public invited to find out more about the Blackwall Tunnel refurbishment programme

Transport for London (TfL) will hold public meetings at the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf on Friday 14 May and at the O2 in Greenwich on Saturday 15 May, to discuss the safety improvement work which is being carried out on the northbound Blackwall Tunnel.

At the meetings, TfL staff will discuss plans for a number of future weekend closures of the northbound tunnel and will answer any questions from the public about the refurbishment programme.

The weekend closures are needed to carry out works which cannot be completed either safely or practically during the regular overnight closure programme. TfL is currently discussing dates with local boroughs and stakeholders and will announce when the weekend closures will occur once these have been agreed.

TfL’s contractors will use the first set of weekend closures to start work on upgrading the Blackwall Tunnel’s ventilation shafts – which will allow smoke from vehicle fires to be removed from the tunnel more quickly and effectively. In addition, sections of the tunnel’s walls will be relined with concrete, which will make it easier to repair in future.

Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for London Streets at TfL, said: “The northbound Blackwall Tunnel refurbishment works are vital to ensure the continued safe use of the tunnel for years to come. We are holding public meetings to discuss the safety upgrade work and weekend closures programme, and I would like to encourage anyone interested or affected by the closures to come along and talk to us about the work we’re doing on the tunnel.”

The refurbishment will improve safety and maintenance, ensuring the efficient running of the tunnel for years to come. New fire and incident detection systems, new lighting, a new CCTV camera system and better access for emergency services will be installed as part of the modernisation works and safety improvements in the tunnel, which carries 50,000 vehicles a day.

Work on the refurbishment will be completed by December 2012. For more information about the scheme, please visit
www.tfl.gov.uk/blackwalltunnelrefurbishment .

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Blackwall Tunnel Letter to Boris Johnson

Here's the text from a letter - sent to Boris Johnson on 01/04/10 - containing a new proposal for how the effects of the ongoing works at Blackwall can be alleviated:

Dear Boris

You will no doubt be aware of the difficulties currently being experienced by motorists in South East London as a result of the ongoing nighttime closures at the Blackwall Tunnel, which are due for completion in December 2012.

I recently met with David Brown, Managing Director of Surface Transport at Transport for London, and other senior officers to discuss these problems and was reassured to find that TfL are currently in negotiations to enable the Woolwich Ferry service to remain open until 22:00, as opposed to its current closing time of 20:00.

Although this will come as a partial relief to motorists, I am concerned that it will simply not be enough to alleviate the impact of the nighttime and proposed weekend closures. With this in mind, I would like you to explore the option of extending TfL’s current proposals significantly, perhaps to include a 24-hour ferry service, throughout the period of the works.

While I appreciate that the provision of such a service would have inevitable cost implications for TfL, the difficulties that have arisen due to the renovation works should have been anticipated prior to their commencement and opportunities to alleviate them, including funding, fully explored.

Given the strength of feeling in South East London towards the current closures, I would be grateful if you could provide me with your views on my proposal as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely

Len Duvall AM

I'll keep you posted on his response.


Friday, 26 March 2010

I've pasted a press briefing note below following my recent meeting with TfL to discuss the ongoing problems at Blackwall Tunnel. Anyone affected by the works might find it useful.

Blackwall Tunnel Update

Len Duvall, London Assembly Member for Greenwich and Lewisham, recently met with senior Transport for London officers, including the Managing Director of Surface Transport, David Brown, to discuss tunnel-users’ concerns about the planned night time and weekend closures at the Blackwall Tunnel between February this year and December 2012. Len Duvall made strong representations on behalf tunnel users who, he says “have been left angry and frustrated by the current works”.

Len Duvall has also met with Clive Efford, MP for Eltham, and Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, to discuss the problems currently faced by those using the Blackwall Tunnel.

Clive Efford MP said:

“One of Boris’s first acts as Mayor was to scrap the Thames Gateway Bridge. He then turned his back on this part of London and left us with overcrowded roads and trains. My campaign to get him to give priority to the Silvertown Link proposals has clearly had an impact on his recent consultation over his transport plans. Southeast London has been the poor relation when it comes to transport investment and its time the Mayor tackled the problem of congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel.

“A road crossing will not be enough; we also need to expand the Docklands Light Rail services to North Greenwich from where we should look at extending it to Eltham. Boris claims that this idea has been looked at before, but I am not aware of anyone looking at a scheme to bring the DLR to Eltham from North Greenwich.

As new technology develops, emissions will diminish and the need to tackle congestion will become the priority. New road crossings alone will not solve this problem so we also need to expand the public transport options for people who want to travel between Greenwich and Docklands”

Nick Raynsford MP said:

“Large numbers of residents and businesses in Greenwich and Woolwich are very annoyed that there has been little, if any, consultation about the closures of the Blackwall Tunnel or the impact they will have on the already congested roads.

“Not only has Boris Johnson cancelled the Thames Gateway Bridge, which would have relieved pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel – he is also creating three years of chaos for Blackwall Tunnel users. His empty promise in the election campaign before he became Mayor to review the contra-flow in the Blackwall Tunnel has been exposed as a gimmick”.

At the meeting, TfL officers informed Len Duvall that, although the southbound tunnel has now been fully upgraded, the northbound tunnel currently fails to meet EU safety guidelines developed in response to the 1999 Mont Blanc Tunnel fire, which killed 39 people. Speaking from City Hall, Len Duvall said: “the rationale behind the renovations is compelling, not only are TfL legally compelled to comply with existing regulations but they also have a moral duty to make the tunnel as safe as possible for the motorists using it”.

Alternative Solutions

Temporary Vs Permanent Closure

Len Duvall did, however, ask TfL officers whether all alternative solutions to the current one had be explored. He was told that there were only two feasible options to enable the works to be conducted; the current one, which involves Sunday to Friday closures between 21:00 and 05:00, Sunday morning closures between 01:00 to 08:00 and occassional weekend closures; and another option of permanent closure of the northbound tunnel for approximately nine months. While both proposals have adavantages and disadvantages for motorists, TfL eventually drew the conclusion that the current closures posed the least disruption.


Following requests from local constituents, businesses, and MPs, Len Duvall also discussed the prospect of employing a northbound/southbound contra-flow system in the southbound tunnel, which will be open to northbound traffic only throughout the closures. However, he was told that the introduction of this system would take up to an hour each evening, which would mean that the southbound tunnel would have to remain open for an additional hour while this was carried out. According to the officers present, the result would have been an additional eight months of closures.

Len Duvall was told by TfL officers that, apart from the potential for cost and time overruns, the use of a contra-flow system during closures could not be employed as the safety of passengers under such a system could not be guaranteed. Len Duvall said: “TfL officers have assured me that the use of a contra-flow system at the Blackwall Tunnel presents too great a risk for tunnel users and increases the likelihood of ‘head on’ collisions, particularly between HGVs, which pose the greatest risk of fatalities should they catch fire in a tunnel. While a two-way system has been employed successfully at the the Rotherhithe Tunnel, it is important to remember that HGVs are not permitted to use this tunnel.

In light of this information, Len Duvall said that he was “shocked” that Boris Johnson made a manifesto commitment, which he later scrapped, to reintroduce tidal-flow at the Blackwall Tunnel during his 2008 election campaign. Speaking at City Hall, Len Duvall said: ”the Mayor was irresponsible and unwise to raise local expectations of a reintroduction of tidal-flow at the tunnel given the significant safety implications of doing so”.

Later Closures

In addition to contra-flow, Len Duvall also discussed the possibility of a later, 22:00, closure on weeknights but was informed that, as with the contra-flow proposal “the ability to close the northbound tunnel one hour later on weekdays at 22:00, would have resulted in six hours lost working time per week, adding anything up to another eight months to this already lengthy project”.

Woolwich Ferry

Despite his concerns about the closures, Len Duvall was pleased to hear that TfL is in ongoing negotiations with the operators of Woolwich Ferry to extend the existing service, which currently closes at 20:00, to 22:00. Len Duvall said that “although this process should have been anticipated and carried out in advance of the closures, I am relieved to see that TfL have recognised tunnel-users’ concerns and are now beginning to pursue methods of adding much-needed spare capacity during this difficult time”.

TfL Engagement

Although Len Duvall accepted the need for works to be carried out at the tunnel, he was critical of TfL’s communications strategy, which he believes “has inflamed motorists and residents”. With this in mind, he informed TfL of the measures he feels are necessary for TfL to “demonstrate that extensive efforts have been made to minimise inconvenience to motorists”.

Speaking at City Hall, Len Duvall said “TfL failed to provide residents, motorists and the business community with the level of consultation necessary to ensure that they were fully aware of the options available. While the opportunity to consult on the closures has now passed, TfL must keep tunnel-users informed about weekend closures or unscheduled changes to the works by using new media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and the local press”.

While acknowledging that TfL had endeavoured to minimise inconvenience to motorists using the Blackwall Tunnel, he sought particular assurances from TfL officers at the meeting that they would “walk the extra mile” in providing as much advance warning as possible of weekend closures in order to avoid gridlock. He was told by officers that they would seek to provide a minimum of four weeks notice to tunnel-users and that closures would be sensitively timed so as not to coincide with Tube and DLR maintenance closures wherever possible.

River Crossing Capacity

Speaking at City Hall about London’s severe shortage of capacity in terms of river crossings, Len Duvall said: “while the ongoing works at the Blackwall Tunnel are an inconvenience to many motorists, they merely serve to highlight the need for new river crossings east of Tower Bridge. Plans to create a crossing in the form of the Thames Gateway Bridge were well underway until Boris Johnson decided to scrap it as part of a series of cuts that have disproportionately impacted on southeast London.

“The Mayor has so far failed to show any signs that understands the plight of southeast London’s residents and businesses, which is demonstrated by the fact that, despite having been elected almost two years ago, he has still not received TfL’s full report on the feasibility of a variety of river crossings.

“What the people of London need, is a Mayor who is going to demonstrate a long-term vision for the city’s transport infrastructure, not one who hasn’t even decided whether or not he’ll stand for a second term.

“Even if he commits to the ‘Silvertown Link’, it may still take up to 20 years to create a new crossing, and there is no evidence whatsoever that Boris Johnson has even begun to think about how such a project would be funded in what will inevitably be difficult times for public spending.

“Over the short-term, Boris Johnson can alleviate the worst effects of London’s river crossings crisis by committing to the current Woolwich Ferry service - which only has short-term public investment - and ensuring that its 45 year-old fleet is replaced as a matter of urgency. The Mayor should also consider the provision of an additional ferry service at the Gallions Reach – Thames Gateway Bridge alignment.

“It is essential that, instead of wasting time and money on fanciful projects, such as his proposal for a ‘Thames Estuary Airport’, which it will cost up to £5million just to conduct further study in to, the Mayor begins to act on a matter which has for too long held the people and businesses of southeast London back”.