Congestion Charge

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 11th June 2021.

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Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

In December 2020 your Deputy Mayor for Transport told the Budget and Performance Committee that “in the TfL budget the planning assumption… is that the temporary changes to the Congestion Charge would remain in place for the whole of the financial year 2021/22.” Is that still your working assumption?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Thank you, Chair. The Government required me to bring forward proposals to change the level and scope of the Congestion Charge urgently as a condition of the first emergency tier for funding agreement in May [2020] when Government support was urgently needed because of the impact of the pandemic on TfL’s finances. In October [2020] TfL’s second funding deal from the Government required us to keep in place the current temporary changes to the Congestion Charge as a continued response to the pandemic. This condition was rolled over into the two subsequent extensions to the Funding Bill. The temporary changes have been designed to discourage unnecessary car journeys and make it easier for people who need to travel in central London to do so. This supports wider, temporary changes to the transport network to enable more people to walk and cycle while public transport capacity is constrained by social distancing requirements. TfL is working faster than ever before to deliver safe, segregated cycle routes to provide more space for pedestrians and to enable the bus network to run as efficiently and smoothly as possible. TfL’s 2021/2022 budget does assume, for planning purposes only, that the temporary changes to the Congestion Charge are retained on the basis that they will still be required as an emergency response to the transport challenges arising from the pandemic and we are not currently able to predict when this will change. TfL is keeping the temporary changes under constant review, especially as we move through the Government’s roadmap for ease and restrictions. Ultimately, as I have said many times, a long-term funding deal for TfL is essential for London and for the national economy. I have been clear that I will keep fighting for what is best for Londoners in negotiations with the Government. That includes what the optimal congestion charging arrangements are to support London’s economic recovery, ensuring it is a green and sustainable one.

Tony Devenish AM: Mr Mayor, that is not actually what you told LBC talk radio about a week or so before the election. My highlight of the entire election campaign was when you U-turned on this policy and you said you wanted to go back to what it was before, ie five days a week on weekdays. To be clear, are you now saying that you will be pushing, as per your commitment on the LBC interview, to go back to what the Congestion Charge was before?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I am quite clear that the reason that people are paying a £15 Congestion Charge, seven days a week, up to 10pm is because the Government attaches a condition to the funding deal of those terms. I want us to be back in charge of what the Congestion Charge should be. That autonomy means we could decide what works for our city rather than the Secretary of State, a No.10 adviser, civil servants in Whitehall or the DfT. We should be deciding what the Congestion Charge would be. You will be aware of my record; before the Government intervened, we kept it to £11.50, we kept it to the times you had before, five days a week. The record of my mayoralty is not increasing it to £15 a week, unless forced to by the Government, or seven days a week or until 10pm. Londoners want me in charge of setting the level rather than the Government.

Tony Devenish AM: So when are you going to reduce it back to what it was?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

We are currently speaking to the Government about the next funding deal. As I said in answer to previous questions, it is probably not sensible for me to give a running commentary on the deal with the Government, should we reach one. The key thing is for the Government to recognise that in the short term we all need support from the Government, particularly with the fares revenue not being anywhere near what it was before the pandemic. In the medium to long term, we will need to make sure TfL is on a sustainable financial footing. It is important for us to work together, the Government and TfL, to make sure we get a good deal for TfL, which is a good deal for London, which is then a good deal for the country.

Tony Devenish AM: When you make that change - and I hope you will make the change, you did promise to on LBC - will you also reintroduce the residents discount, please?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Some of these things we are discussing with the Government. If you have any influence over either [The Rt Hon] Grant Shapps [MP, Secretary of State for Transport], the Government, the No. 10 adviser, even the Prime Minister, now is the time to use it.

Tony Devenish AM: Well, you are the Mayor of London, Mr Mayor, and as you have a mandate, I am hoping you will do what you said a week or so before the election because LBC listeners will be listening. I will leave it there, Chair.