Biggest Regret

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 2nd August 2022.

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Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Being Mayor of London is the greatest job in the world and I am proud of my achievements during my time in office so far. We have started almost 13,000 new City Hall‑funded council homes in London since 2018 and exceeded our affordable homes target yet again last year. We have reduced violence, with violent crime down since before the pandemic and since I became Mayor. We have reduced toxic air in central London by nearly half and we are going further to replicate this across more of the city. We have helped 200,000 people access free skills training last year alone and we have put £44 million into my academies programme to help Londoners into good jobs. This year we are investing £80 million to help Londoners with the cost of living.

However, there is one major area where we are struggling in London, and that is transport funding. I regret not being able to convince the Government that investing in public transport rather than insisting on politically motivated cuts is the right thing for London and for our country. At the heart of many of the issues we are currently facing, including the widespread industrial action, is the Government’s woeful approach to transport across the country. We saw this again last week, when we were given another sticking plaster extension to the TfL funding deal.

Prior to the pandemic London was the third most visited city on the planet, with a thriving tourism sector accounting for as many as one in five jobs. Our Let’s Do London campaign is seeking to bring back tourists to our city, but without a properly funded transport network to help these people get around London will be a much less attractive place to visit. London makes a net contribution of £36 billion a year to the Treasury, money that is spent elsewhere in the country. This contribution to the UK economy depends on a transport network that works for Londoners, visitors and businesses, and we are asking for a fraction of that contribution to keep London’s transport running to support London’s recovery and the UK economy. We have made this case again and again to Ministers but [the Rt Hon] Grant Shapps [MP, Secretary of State for Transport] will still not meet with me, despite saying he wants to reset our relationship.

Without a long‑term deal, TfL will be forced into a managed decline scenario. That would mean much more significant cuts to the bus network, Tube cuts equivalent to the loss of an entire line, future improvement plans scrapped and the current network falling into disrepair.

Photo of Emma Best Emma Best Conservative

Thank you, Mr Mayor. You have been in charge of TfL for six years now. Before lockdown, TfL had a record high debt of £13 billion and 22 out of 26 major capital projects had been delayed or cancelled. You regularly omit that you have had a very generous business rates devolution agreement of £1.9 billion to fund capital projects and just this year we have seen that you have underspent on TfL capital funding by eight times the amount of last time, underspending £400 million. Most look at this situation and just want a resolution and want everyone at the table to act like grown‑ups. Do you think that the narrative that you have very little to regret is helpful or do you think that some humility would perhaps help in getting people back around the table and getting London moving?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Let us deal with the issue of debt. Ken Livingstone [former Mayor of London] borrowed £2 billion, [the Rt Hon] Boris Johnson [MP, former Mayor of London] £8 billion, and I have had to borrow £2 billion since I have become Mayor. The deficit I inherited when I became Mayor had been reduced by more than 71% before the pandemic. The cash reserves I inherited before I became Mayor had been built up by more than 13%. We have managed to reduce year‑on‑year operating costs of TfL since 2016, something never achieved from 2000 to 2016, so it is £1 billion less than in 2016. At the same time, before the pandemic we cut the cost of transport for Londoners by freezing fares for five years and introduced a Hopper fare. The previous Mayor could not bring in the Night Tube; we did it within five months of me becoming Mayor, with the Night Overground as well.

The only reason for TfL’s challenges is the pandemic. We were asked to keep it running because key workers needed to get around, but we reduced almost all of our fares revenue. Due to the deal made between Boris Johnson [MP, former Mayor of London] and [the Rt Hon] George Osborne [former Chancellor of the Exchequer], we now receive no revenue support from the Government. That is why TfL has challenges. I am not humble enough to say it is the Government’s fault.