When Zac Goldsmith publishes his manifesto I suspect we will see a good set of policies that he will promise to implement should he be elected Mayor of London on May 5th. His temperament will be to offer measures that are innovative but credible.
Yet however important they may prove, should Goldsmith take charge of City Hall they will probably achieve little “traction” with the electorate before-hand. What will attract more attention is the negative stuff. The warnings about what might happen if his Labour opponent, Sadiq Khan, were to triumph at the polls.
The Prime Minister expressed the point colourfully by cautioning Londoners against being “lab rats in the first Corbyn economic experiment in public life”.
The Goldsmith campaign team has produced some costings of the alternatives on offer to Londoners. The document concludes that Sadiq Khan’s fares pledge leaves a £1.9 billion “black hole” and adds that it would be filled by either:
- Hitting families– with a £175 Council Tax hike for the typical London household;
- Hitting public services– by halving the amount of Mayoral Council Tax money going to the Police and Fire Service;
- Hitting drivers– with a massive western expansion of the Congestion Charge Zone – costing motorists up to £650 extra a year; or
- Hitting the transport network– by scrapping vital planned investment on road, rail and town centre regeneration projects – causing delays, overcrowding and congestion.
There are certainly huge efficiency savings that could made in Transport for London’s bloated budget. The difficulty is that Khan does not have the credibility to deliver them – not least due to his financial dependency on the trade unions. He claims to have business experience but that seems to consist of being a partner in a firm of human rights solicitors.
When Khan has been challenged as to where he would find the savings, this document claims his response has been unconvincing:
- Phantom Saving 1
– scrap the Emirates cable car.
This won’t save a penny. The cable car is making a profit and cancelling the contract would incur a penalty of £20 million.
- Phantom Saving 2
– Khan wants to freeze the purchases of ‘new Routemaster’ buses’.
Khan can’t cancel Routemaster buses because the final order will be delivered before the election.
- Phantom Saving 3
Khan claims he can make efficiency savings by cutting agency staff.
This will cost more than it will save. Agency staff reduce costs, as the trade unions who fund Sadiq Khan’s campaign admit: ‘since 2010 TfL has been employing non-permanent labour / agency staff in permanent call centre roles as a means to save money and undermine trade union representation’.
So far Khan has failed to provide a clear answer as to where the £1.9 billion will come from. When challenged by the media over the figure his response has sounded petulant and rattled. This makes it all the more likely that the question will continue to be raised. It is also difficult to see him coming up with a proper answer given his union paymasters have a veto on his policies.