Spotted on a Croydon Tram last week was the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, accompanied by a beaming Croydon councillor (and London Assembly member) Steve “the £118,000 allowances man” O’Connell.
This could in no way be a party political stunt for the Conservatives, since O’Connell and Boris were accompanied on their trip to an over-50s centre in New Addington by a Croydon council-funded photographer (thanks for flagging this up on Twitter @YourCroydon – £660,000 per year very well spent).
O’Connell and Boris were off to Fieldway to meet Barbara Windsor, who is some kind of “ambassador” for street parties ahead of the (yawn) Royal Wedding.
Many Londoners hold the stereotypical view of Boris as an over-ambitious Old Etonian buffoon; but he now seems to believe that ordinary Londoners are “right Cocker-nees”, who shout things like “Get outta my pub!”, and say things like “apples and pears”, while always ready to get their tits out whenever the script demands it.
Sadly for London, it is the former that is much nearer to the truth.
Nearly six months after Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate in the London mayoral elections in 2012, announced that if re-elected he would reinstate his original plans to extend the Tramlink system from Croydon to Crystal Palace, and hey presto… along comes Boris in Croydon last week to announce that that is exactly what he plans to do, too!
It must be a vote-winner if both candidates are proposing it. Indeed, last time the Crystal Palace Tram extension was mooted, the scheme was backed by 4 out of every 5 Croydon residents. Extending the Trams to Crystal Palace is an even more shrewd idea now, with the football club seriously looking to move its home ground to the park at the foot of Anerley Hill.
But let’s just recall what it was that Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said in 2008 when he cut the money needed to build such an extension:
“I will not continue with the former Mayor’s unrealistic and hollow promises” (our italics).
Then, Boris derided the Tram extension and other schemes that had been proposed, saying that the commitments “amounted to billions of pounds worth of schemes that London could simply never afford”. Now, of course, London is awash with money for public transport schemes. Not.
The absolute lack of any detail in Boris’s announcement was noticeable. Boris has a well-earned reputation for the broad brush approach to running London, leaving tricky details like paying for his grand schemes to his minions.
O’Connell, though, was keen to claim the credit for lobbying for the Tram extension (why did he not do so when Boris axed it in the first place?). “I am delighted Boris has approved the extension,” said O’Connell. “He has made the announcement and it is now up to people to get on with it.”
Zone 1 Mayor?
Ken has acknowledged that he was too much of a “Zone 1” Mayor in his second spell at City Hall, and has pledged to correct that and do more for outer London boroughs such as Croydon. Now Boris, alert to the threat in areas where he is reliant on support, is starting to promise to throw money our way. Whether any serious funding actually arrives in Croydon before the May 2012 elections must be doubtful, though.
In last week’s Budget, Chancellor Gideon Osborne announced the revival – albeit in somewhat watered down form – of the Thatcherite Enterprise Zones. Which part of London got the immediate nod, with the prospect of, according to Boris, “thousands of new jobs”?
Yep: Docklands yet again, as if Canary Wharf and the past three decades of developments had never happened, and the thick end of £9 billion has not been spent on the nearby Olympic Park. But Boris, being Boris, then assured outer London residents in Croydon that, if he gets the chance, he would really like to let us have an Enterprise Zone, too. Believe it when we see it, BoJo!
Whenever any real money is made available for business or work creation by this Mayor, it rarely seems to trickle down “Sarf of the River”, as Babs Windsor might say.
Also last week, Mayor Boris was boasting of having cut a deal with central government for £14 million of investment in training, apprenticeships and job creation schemes linked to the Olympic Games.
The funding is linked to the winding up of the London Development Agency. According to City Hall, the funding will be split between three projects, and spread over three years.
In his statement announcing the deal, Boris said: “The mix of employment and skills projects that we have safeguarded will go a long way in helping us to ensure that people from all over London, particularly those in the host boroughs, can capitalise on the huge opportunities that the 2012 Games present.” Our italics.
And once Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney have divvied up their share of the £14 million, how much will be left to benefit Croydon and other outer London boroughs?
Not very much: over the past five years, Olympics-linked skills schemes have found work for 25,000 unemployed Londoners and created 400 apprenticeships, while 100,000 have been given training places or received employment support. In a city of 6 million.
For outer London boroughs like Croydon, it always seems to be jam the day after tomorrow with Boris.