Monday, January 29, 2007

Livingstone's idea of a debate

As is painfully obvious, the mayor is keen to get his hands on ever more areas of the capital's life more properly dealt with by borough councils or the citizenry themselves. However, the attempted land grabs are quite mild compared to how he reacts if he thinks he might be undermined.

In his, or the press office's. words: "The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said today that he must retain the ability to guarantee free bus and tube travel to older and disabled Londoners, as London Councils stepped up their campaign to abolish the reserve scheme that allows the mayor to step in if there is no agreement on the funding for the Freedom Pass".

Showing just how open to a debate he is, note the following with its rather limited audience and the very loaded use of words: "The Mayor said that he would be inviting representatives of groups who benefit from the Freedom Pass to discuss the undermining of the free travel scheme".

And I'm sure theat the invitees will rise as one to declare that they are really not that bothered one way or another.

Oh, and two examples, from different organisations, make for 'a sustained attack': "There is now a sustained attack on free travel schemes in London. Late last year the deputy chair of the London Assembly transport committee proposed that free travel for children on our buses and trams should be abolished".

Not Contradictory?

Take these two statements:

  1. I am a classic liberal on this - I endorse completely John Stuart Mill's formula that you should be able to do anything you want as long as it does not interfere with others.
  2. But I am a socialist because I know without an escape from poverty, without healthcare, education, housing, and many other things, "freedom to chose" is a hollow sham.
Are they not mutually exclusive? Moreover, do these statements (especially the first) not clash with just about everything he has ever done?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The City that Embraces Globalisation

I read the following press release with a little curiosity.
As with London's other international achievements in the last period, such as winning the Olympic Games, London achieved this success by adopting a strategy of being the city that embraces globalisation.
How can the darling of the extreme left, make such statements? After all this is the man whose best friends are fighting hardest against globalisation, to say nothing of his previous comments:

The Taxpayers Alliance pointed out (Word Doc) that he gave £250.000 of our cash to:

The Forum, an international meeting for anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation groups
When running for mayor, the first time round, he had this to say:
"Global capitalism has been responsible for more deaths than the Second World War"
With Livingstone, the answer is never simple, but I think I have cracked it. When he says globalisation, he means something completely different from you or I:
Democratic Socialists cannot turn their backs on the global economy, but we can, and must, open the debate on how to bring its functioning under democratic control.
Trade is ok, but socialists must control it. Still someone should probably still tell Hugo.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Livingstone - Tram spotter

We do not see much of the Mayor in these parts, but he has developed a keen interest in Croydon's tram system:

New information has now come to light. In October last year, HMRI found Tramtrack Croydon Ltd to be in breach of both the Health and Safety at Work Act and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. As a result, Tramtrack Croydon Ltd was served with two Improvement Notices. These are legal notices informing the company that they have broken the law and that in order to avoid prosecution by HMRI, they must meet certain conditions within a set time limit. Tramtrack Croydon Ltd failed to inform TfL, as they are contractually obliged to do, of these notices". Source.

Ever the one to be in favour of upholding contracts, if Tramtrack are in breach then doubtless there will, and should be, consequences. However, guess who thinks it should go just a wee bit further:

"This leaves me no choice but to call for the directors of Tramtrack Croydon Ltd to resign and for the company to sack its entire management team. I would urge the banks and shareholders to hand the company over to Transport for London so it can be safely, efficiently and reliably managed, allowing those who live or work in Croydon to enjoy the service they deserve".

Showing a most selective use of facts, Livingstone notes that two of the three improvement notices issued to tram operators have been issued to Tramtrack Croydon Ltd. Given that are only a handful of tram systems in the UK, this is not that much of a shocker, frankly. A more useful comparison would be with rail operators, and lo and behold there are multiple repeat offenders among the othe rail companies. The Office of Rail Regulation has the details, complete with monetary figures marked against each offence. Given that the figures are variously ten pence and twenty pence, if they are fines I suspect the companies were not that concerned.

That Livingstone might have more on his mind than safety, efficiency and reliability of the network is suggested by the TFL site: " TfL is directed by a management board whose members are chosen for their understanding of transport matters and appointed by Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who chairs the Board".

Naturally there has never been a health / safety breach by the underground or bus network. Or has there? The HSE has ten pages worth...

(BTC continues to be Croydonian)

Anti Ken Petition

Our least favourite Mayor, is the subject of a petition.

Personally I prefer to campaign to get him voted out the usual way.

Tram Could Put up council tax by £315

Press Release from Hammersmith & Fulham Council
Campaigners against the West London Tram have warned that the project could leave Londoners with a bill of £315 for every household in the capital. The figures were revealed on the eve of a major Tram Summit, organised by the three councils affected, to rally opposition against the scheme.

The summit will be held on Wednesday 24th January, at 7pm in Shepherd's Bush Library. This is the first time all three directly affected councils - Ealing, Hillingdon and Hammersmith & Fulham - have come together to discuss ways to fight the scheme.

The councils fear that the Tram will cause gridlock in West London, whilst leaving taxpayers with a construction bill of £1bn. This is because new build trams, like the one in Sheffield, have never been able to recover their capital costs.

The Tram is also unpopular; a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Transport for London showed a majority of residents opposed the scheme. 53% do not believe they would derive any benefit at all from the Tram.

Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said,

"This tram will cause misery for commuters by effectively closing down Uxbridge Road. It is unpopular with residents and is likely to leave taxpayers massively out of pocket. We welcome investment in public transport but this scheme will only bring gridlock to our already congested roads."
Not that Ken Livingstone will care. Your income is nothing more than a resource for him to plunder.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Could Blogging Play a Major Role

London Salmon has an interesting post, on blogging and the Mayoral Election.
I think blogging has a lot to offer to upcoming Mayoral contest. For too long the London media have towed the Livingstone line, unwilling to question his policies and ideas, instead focusing on the personality flaws, and not covering any issue in any detail whatsoever.
I hope so.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Oyster Steals Stephen Pollard's Cash

Much has been said on the privacy implications of Oyster, but Stephen Pollard had a different problem.
The latest thing has been putting £40 cash on my Oystercard last night, getting on a bus this morning and having it record that I have only 90 pence on it. And when I then go back to the station where I put the money on, being told that it is not possible that I added £40 as the system cannot fail. In other words, I am a liar.
I have no idea how these things happen, but no system is foolproof, least of all one managed by the public sector.

A World Civilisation or Clash of Civilisations?

Another generous use of taxpayers cash, A World Civilisation or a Clash of Civilisations

Adloyada has a good sum up here, and Oliver Kamm's is here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Livingstone condems Big Brother whilst proving he has not watched it

The Mayor of London appears to have done a Tessa Jowell a la Brasseye Special and issued a statement condemning Big Brother within which lies proof that he has not actually watched the show. In his press release here, he says,
Ms Shetty has been subjected to sustained racism. Contestants have said: “You need elocution lessons."
In fact, it was Ms Shetty who said that to Jade Goody. Arguably she was right, and clearly Livingstone hasn't actually watched the programme he has condemned.

It should also be noted that Livingstone, had he genuinely been watching Big Brother, and genuinely was concerned about racism in all its forms, would be calling for Jermaine Jackson to be evicted after he said to Shetty earlier this week "these people are not like us.... they are not people of colour.. they are white trash".

I wonder if Livingstone wants a hand down of the bandwagon that he has so ably leaped upon?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Livingstone attempts another land grab

I do wonder how Livingstone finds the time to attempt to rebut just about anything The Standard, London Councils (individually and collectively) etc say about London, in between hob-nobbing with dictators, insulting ethnic minority Londoners and generally behaving in an odd way, but he does.

London Councils has put out a release noting that "when London boroughs’ recycling rates for 2005/6 are compared with similar large urban authorities in England , nine of the top ten performing authorities are London boroughs. London also sends less waste per head of population to landfill than the national average". In part this is due to there being less gardening related waste in London than elsewhere, unsurprisingly.

Anyway, the Livingstone media machine was electrified into action by this, and in a release dripping with bile (London Councils and research are both put in inverted commas) Livingstone or one of his homunculi, 'argues' "The London Councils 'research' has trawled through the available research on recycling and all they have managed to show is that half of London councils are recycling less than Barnsley. We cannot go on like this - we are the major global city in Western Europe and we should be at the cutting edge of recycling". There then follows a very selective laundry list of cities that recycle a higher percentage, although if this is a valid like for like comparison it is not explained. London (pop. 7.5m) is compared with Melbourne (pop 3.7m) and Seattle (pop 600,000), inter alia although not with Gay Paree, which with a population of 9.6m (city limits) or 11.1m (metro area) has at least as good a claim to be 'the major global city in Western Europe' .

Rather than greenery, what I consider Leninspart is really interested in is a land grab: "The only way to deal with the vast amount of waste we produce in this city is to have a London-wide body responsible". And I wonder who that would be answerable to? Answers on a postcard please. Perhaps the great lover of democracy might like to consider that once statutory obligations have been discharged, how councils choose to direct their time, energy and spending is an issue for the councils and their electorates, and wrapping oneself in a green shroud does not give him, or anyone else, such a unique moral authority that it trumps localism.

And there's more - London Councils have now responded to KL, "Environment minister Ben Bradshaw MP has written to all London council leaders to reject the Mayor of London’s calls for the creation of a single waste authority in the capital. He also warns that setting up a single waste authority would mean Londoners having to pay more through their council tax to deal with their waste – KPMG have estimated that the costs would total an extra £5.5 million per annum".

Quite the turf war.

(BTC is, in fact, Croydonian)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Council tax rise to plug Olympic shortfall?

Council taxes may go up soon.

Apparently Ken Livingstone will soon come under pressure regarding the £900m shortfall in funding the Olympics.

The original deal, as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding, is that any shortfall would be met either by the Lottery or council tax. However, the Big Lottery Fund has expressed its unwillingness to pay any extra.

Ken Livingstone has repeatedly vowed that he would not increase council taxes beyond 38p per week to pay for the games. The thing is, can we trust him to keep his word? Remember his promise to save the Routemaster? Remember his ancient promise to freeze tube fares in real terms for four years? Remember his promise not to raise the congestion charge for ten years?

Judging by his past record, don't expect Ken to keep this latest promise. Expect your council tax bill to go up. If it does not, I will be very surprised.

Monday, January 08, 2007

London without Livingstone?

Hammersmith and Fulham to become the torch bearer for a better deal for London Council Taxpayer.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Livingstone's words versus London's reality

In a letter in this morning's Telegraph, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone has said the "Ninety five per cent of Tube journeys in London are not paid for in cash." If this is true why is it that on average less than fifty per cent of the machines in stations are Oyster machines? If so many of us use Oyster cards why is Livingstone and TfL so actively promoting the use of cash still?

Livingstone goes on to say that his "policy remains to have the lowest possible fares for Londoners". If this is true why do we Londonders have the most expensive transport system of all the world's capital cities?