The announcement over the weekend that London’s fleet of Boris Buses are to have windows retro-fitted to their upper decks, because the air-conditioning in the £350,000-a-time Roastmasters has never worked, offers as good a reason as any for our Transport Correspondent, REG VARNISH, to look into other instances of how Bullingdon Club member Boris Johnson (that’s him in his student days, bottom right in the picture above) has made a right pig’s ear of spending public money during his eight years as the part-time Tory Mayor of London
Boris Johnson’s Mayoralty has cost London taxpayers at least £600 million of wasted money because of poor decisions, ideological dogma and vanity schemes.
Since first being elected as Mayor of London in 2008, Johnson has only ever been a part-time Mayor, as he has used City Hall as the launch pad for his own political ambitions.
Here’s just some of the financial catastrophes which the Conservative Mayor has inflicted on London, and Croydon:
THE BORIS BUS: £302m
This has been a scandal from beginning to end.
London did not need an entirely new type of bus, especially with a back platform which meant that it would not be possible for the design to be used anywhere else in the world. The very concept of hop-on hop-off was misplaced and has now been all but abandoned for the bad idea that it was.
Last month, the London Assembly finally discovered that, despite pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into the Boris Bus’s development and design, taxpayers do not even own the rights to the Mayor’s “iconic” New Routemaster.
Intellectual property rights for the bus remain with the manufacturers until Transport for London has ordered 1,000 vehicles. And TfL, having forked out for 800 of the vehicles, at a cost of more than £250 million, has no plans to buy any more.
Meanwhile, Londoners are still having to pay for Johnson’s expensive idea of having “customer assistants” on those routes which operate using the rear doors: each assistant costs around £30,000 per year to employ and support. They can’t operate as old-style bus conductors, of course, because London’s buses are now cash-less.
Boris’s “New Bus for London” was claimed to be “the greenest, cleanest” bus ever designed. Yet there are growing doubts about the difference between the bus’s performance trials data and the reality out on the roads of our city. Claims of the bus operating at 12 miles per gallon of fuel seem exaggerated, with some reports that in operation, the buses struggle to achieve half that figure – with all the expense that involves.
And there is a good reason why “the greenest, cleanest” bus is using more expensive and polluting fuel than Londoners had been lead to believe by the London Mayor.
The Boris Buses which were supposed to be environmentally friendly hybrids, operating off electric motors for much of the time. In fact, many have been operating solely in diesel mode, making them less clean than other buses, and regarded as a danger on the road by drivers.
And now, TfL is having to spend a further £2 million to retro-fit windows on the upper decks of the Roastmasters. That’s more money that London’s Council Tax-payers are having to cough up tfor a Boris vanity project.
THE GARDEN BRIDGE: £30m
There are two important problems with the proposed Garden Bridge proposed to cross the Thames between Waterloo and the Law Courts: it is neither a garden, nor will it function as a bridge.
But Tory Mayor Boris Johnson has promised at least £30 million of public money towards the £175 million project, to match £30 million of Department for Transport funds, even though there is no transport logic behind it and very little public support.
It amounts to another over-expensive vanity project, with large sums of public money going to the private interests of some of Boris’s absolutely fabulous friends.
THE ESTUARY AIRPORT: £10m
This pig-in-a-poke of a project won’t even get to take-off, yet Boris Johnson managed to commission work on it that has cost Londoners £10 million.
The Estuary Airport was rejected by the Davies Commission this summer, just as had widely been expected. Johnson had long been told that there was more chance that pigs might fly, but as the Mayor was only spending other people’s money, he continued to pursue the hare-brained scheme.
THE DANGLEWAY: £24m
Another white elephant which even the usually supportive Evening Boris has reported has just four regular users of the cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. The scheme is unlikely to cover even its operational costs. As with much of what the Tory Mayor promised, there was supposed to be no public money, but TfL has admitted it contributed £24m.
OLYMPIC STADIUM: £230m
The 2012 Games showed London in the best possible light. The planning of the sporting infrastructure for future use has shown it at its worst.
Only the on-costs can be laid at Johnson’s door over this: it was his fellow Tory, Lord Coe, who advocated the original design, for what effectively would have been the world’s first $1billion disposable stadium.
It has been on Johnson’s watch as London Mayor that £272 million has been spent, since the 2012 Games, on making the stadium fit for future, multi-sport use, and it has been under our Tory Mayor that one football club, which has a Tory peer as its chairwoman, has been given a massive financial advantage over London’s other clubs, as West Ham will pay less-than-cost £2.5m in annual rent and contribute to the reconfiguration costs with just £15m – or less than the price of a Championship striker.
Once again, Boris has left the London tax-payer to pick up the bulk of the bill.
THE ‘NEW’ CRYSTAL PALACE: £4.5m
It is not just in spending money that Boris Johnson has been a costly Mayor. He has been very keen to “give away” public property to overseas developers who manage to appeal to his vanity, too.
Take the Chinese scheme in south London, to rebuild Paxton’s Crystal Palace.
Here, Johnson wanted to hand over more than one-third of a listed public park. The planning blight created by Johnson trying to inflict this scheme cost the local council considerable sums to administer (estimated as at least £150,000), while local residents and park users saw years of their hard work as volunteers trampled over by the Mayor, and carefully negotiated Lottery funding schemes worth £4.5 million for much-needed improvements in the park lost because of the uncertainty created.
THE WONKY WATER CANNON: £300,000-plus
Mayor Johnson’s answer to the riots of 2011 is not to deal with the many social issues in our city which contributed to the widespread rioting and looting which wrecked so many lives and livelihoods four years ago. It is not even to look at increasing the manpower of the Metropolitan Police, so that they might be better capable of dealing with such civil unrest. Oh no, not Boris.
Mayor Johnson went out and spent another chunk of public money on some second-hand German water cannons, without checking whether he would ever get permission to use them on the streets of our city. His own Conservative Party Home Secretary refused to licence the vehicles, leaving the people of London feeling pig-sick at having to pay the bill.
CRYSTAL PALACE TRAM EXTENSION: Incalculable
Three times – when seeking election in 2008 and 2012, and again ahead of the 2014 local elections – Boris Johnson has promised that he would see through the plans of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, and get an extension of the Tramlink network built between Croydon and Crystal Palace.
And three times Mayor Johnson has broken what he called his “gold-plated” promises. Other extension schemes – taking trams to Sutton or Purley – have similarly been sidelined, demonstrating that Boris’s promises are in fact made of a base metal, such as pig-iron.
As the Tramlink network has shown in its 15 years existence, the economic benefits of good public transport links across south London, from Beckenham Junction to Wimbledon have been massive. The environmental benefits, by discouraging private car use, have also been helpful.
But recent TfL plans for Croydon as the Mayor readies himself to leave City Hall, including more than £100 million in road-building schemes, all give precedence to cars over the tram or other public transport schemes.
DEVELOPER DEALS: Incalculable
This is impossible to quantify, but Johnson has repeatedly handed developers generous deals, often with public assets, while demanding very little to benefit the existing communities in return, and delivering very little affordable or social housing. Cane Hill in Coulsdon has seen public land handed over by Johnson to Barratt’s, who are building large, expensive family houses, which provide big profit margins but offer little help to Croydon’s chronic homelessness problem.
Similar schemes elsewhere in the city have probably cost London hundreds of millions over the past seven years.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: Incalculable
There have been more strikes since Johnson took over as London Mayor because of his failure to negotiate with unions and his aggressive stance over ticket closures.
The thinktank Cebr puts a conservative estimate on the cost to the London economy of £10 million per day each time transport workers in the capital go on strike – and yet Johnson has refused to meet with the trades unions to negotiate settlements to disputes. This has been reckless as well as irresponsible, but it is what we have come to endure of London’s part-time Mayor.
In all, what Boris Johnson’s part-time Mayoralty has demonstrated over eight wasted years is that Tories don’t have to have their snouts in the trough to end up costing ordinary tax-payers millions – possibly even billions – of pounds.
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