Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London
Yes, the retail bit of campaigning is important, but it’s only part of the job of winning the 2020 London Mayoral election. A lot of my effort over the coming months will be dedicated to my day job of holding Sadiq Khan to account at the London Assembly. Khan will ultimately have to run on his record. If Khan doesn’t deliver during his first mandate – and he really hasn’t – it will be harder for him to promise to do better the second time around and still have Londoners believe him.
Fortunately the London Assembly is blessed with talented representatives from all sides of the political spectrum who hold Khan to account every day. And today we have a big job: we need to continue with our efforts to pin Khan down on Crossrail (a.k.a. the Elizabeth Line). When it comes to infrastructure that is absolutely needed for London’s future, it’s hard to beat Crossrail. The city will soon be home to 10 million people and our aging transport network will struggle to cope. And if Crossrail doesn’t go smoothly it means London might not get a crack at Crossrail 2, another infrastructure project this great city needs to stay competitive.
Unfortunately, Khan has taken his eye of the ball on Crossrail. It was on time and on budget when Boris Johnson left office, but the opening has now been pushed back from December of last year to August 2020. The central government has also had to provide a third bailout to keep the project going. There is also a dispute as to what Khan knew – and when – about the delay, including what he told the members of the London Assembly about it. Khan claims he was only told in late August, while briefing documents appear to suggest he was told a month earlier, and waited until late August to inform the public. (Note: the facts behind this timeline dispute are summarised nicely in this forensic post from London Reconnections.)
Now, I think all Londoners accept that Crossrail is a complicated project and that a delay is not a huge surprise. But I also think Londoners expect their Mayor to be straight with them about the state of play. That’s why Khan was summoned back to the Assembly’s Transport Committee before Christmas to explain himself. And to no-one’s surprise, Khan admitted no fault (he never does), instead pinning the blame on Sir Terry Morgan, the former head of Crossrail.
Fortunately, we’ll have Sir Terry at committee today, along with Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander and Khan’s chief of staff. Here are some of the questions we’ll want answered:
- How did the Mayor’s Office react when Transport for London described the planned December opening as ‘not possible’ in their printed materials for their July 20, 2018 meeting?
- What did Transport for London officials brief verbally to the Deputy Mayor and Mayor’s office about the possibility of a delay to the planned December opening in their July 20 meeting
- What did Sir Terry tell Khan at the meeting of July 26 about the possibility of a delay to the planned December 2018 opening? Is it as Sir Terry described it in a recent interview with LBC radio, or as the Mayor described it in his December appearance before the transport committee?
- Does the Mayor’s office accept the briefing materials from Crossrail make it quite clear the line would not open in December 2018? Or is a 10% chance of opening in February or March of 2019 – as Crossrail described – the same thing as a 100% chance of opening in December 2018 in their eyes?
- What was Khan’s response to being told his marquee project would not open on time?
- Who decided that Sir Terry Morgan would resign as Chair of Crossrail Ltd after the delay became a PR nightmare? And how was that decision made?
I don’t mean to bore you with any of this detail, but this is the stuff of local government. It’s not leading the parade at anti-Brexit marches, or traveling around Europe, it’s about keeping your eye on the ball and making sure things get done on your patch.
We’ll also be looking for some reassurances on cost, because ultimately it’s Londoners who will be footing the bill for Crossrail’s delays:
- Is Crossrail now fully funded and able to be completed?
- How confident are you that the new budget will not be overspent?
- Has the scope of Crossrail been reduced in order to save money? If so, how?
- What will be the impact on London businesses be with respect to the tax increases required to cover the project cost?
- Have the chances of Crossrail 2 being approved gone down considering Crossrail 1’s budget increases and years-delayed delivery?
Part of serving people is giving them a better understanding of local issues. I hope this update has given you an appreciation of the hard work we all do – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, and UKIP – on the London Assembly.
So please tune in this morning to see if we get answers from Sir Terry Morgan or the Mayor’s staff…