Thursday, 29 April 2010

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

Below is my piece for, 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 .

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.