Monday, December 31, 2007

Hylands Ward Christmas Dinner


We had a post Christmas dinner for Hylands Ward at the Harrow Lodge indoor bowls club, on Saturday night. Despite the difficult date 77 people attended and the venue was excellent. Hylands Ward will be part of the Romford constituency at the next general election, following the latest round of boundary changes.


The picture shows Hornchurch MP James Brokenshire, Leader Of Havering Cllr Michael White, myself, and Romford MP Andrew Rosindell. In the front row are Paul and Sharon Clifford who organised an excellent evening.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Resolutions

I'm back from my Christmas week with the family in Yorkshire. This was a good year and I got to see many of my relatives and their friends, including my nephew Joe, who is learning to talk. Next time I see him I will probably be able to hold a full blown conversation.

Now my attention is turning to those New Year resolutions. Scientific research has shown that men are more likely to keep them if they set themselves targets, so resolutions need to be quantifiable. I guess mine will be along the lines of:

Losing weight / getting fit
Getting re-elected in May
Writing and publishing a sequel to my novel, Gremal Quest
Saving more money and spending less
Visiting my cousin in Cornwall
Going abroad on holiday in the Summer

Any other suggestions would be welcome. I would also be interested to know what my readers' resolutions will be for 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas


To all my readers. this Christmas tree is at Havering town hall and is one of the best on the patch. Thank you for sticking with me through another year.

Cop Out

The Mayor has found a new way to avoid answering questions:

Graham Tope: How much has the MPS spent on hire cars in each financial year since 2000/01 to date? What additional costs have been incurred in each of these years for failure to return vehicles in time, damages and any other penalties?

Ken Livingstone: Your question does not directly relate to the exercise of Mayoral statutory functions. In accordance with my letter to the Chair of the Assembly of 5 December 2007, I therefore suggest that you refer your question to the relevant authority or agency.

This standard response is given to a number of written questions, however the MPS budget is the single largest component of Livingstone's precept. It is set by the Mayor and he spends a lot of time boasting about falling crime rates and new initiatives, so it is surprising that he classes it as 'not directly related to the exercise of Mayoral functions'.

There will be more question ducking as the election approaches.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Golden Buses

My latest question about the new generation of hydrogen buses shows more money splashed around carelessly:

Roger Evans: What is the unit cost of each bus?

Ken Livingstone: TfL is procuring 10 vehicles at a cost of £9.65m, the bulk of which is made up of capital cost of the vehicles. However since the contract also includes procurement and maintenance costs and fuel cell replacement during the first five years of operation, it is not possible to provide an exact cost per bus.

Unlike the bendy buses, they won't be calling these the 'free buses'.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Under 18 Bus Passes


The latest costs for the controversial scheme are revealed in a reply from November's Question Time:

Richard Barnes: What is the latest lost revenue estimate for both the under 18 and under 16 free bus pass scheme.

Ken Livingstone: I replied to Andrew Pelling a few months ago that free bus travel for the under 16s was estimated to have reduced fares revenue by around £35m p.a. and free bus travel for 16/17s by £20m p.a. The estimated revenue reduction remains in line with these figures.

So that is a total cost of £55m.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Long Walk Home


Yesterday morning Chris Wilson from the Redbridge Pensioners' Forum took me to see the subway under the A12 near his home. This one is at the top of Somerville Road and it looks pretty uninviting. I'm going to try to get TfL to clean it up and improve security, because Chris and other older people have to use it to get to the Post Office on the North side of the A12, since their local office was closed.


It astounds me that the Peoples' Post Office went ahead with this closure after being shown the subway that their customers would have to use. Recently the Taxpayers' Alliance published their public sector rich list, which highlighted Post Office chief executive Adam Crozier as the highest paid public sector employee in the country, earning well over £1 million per annum, and making TfL look like a stingy employer.


I wonder if Mr Crozier would care to collect a months pay in cash then walk home through here on a dark November afternoon...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Auditors go in

Yesterday the Assembly voted to advise the Mayor to call the auditors in for a full investigation of the recent grants controversy. Let's see if he takes our advice...

Meanwhile there was another auditor's report on the agenda. Who remembers Bob Kiley and his consultancy contract? It was a short report but it made some sound points:

the nature of the services provided by Mr Kiley has been such that there is no written documentation available to demonstrate that value for money has been received. TfL has not requested written reports from Mr Kiley, rather advice has been taken in meetings between the Mayor and the Commissioner and Mr Kiley. The consultancy agreement requires Mr Kiley to provide details of days spent performing the services to TfL. TfL has not to date requested such details from Mr Kiley or put in place any other monitoring arrangements. Whilst we understand that the consultancy was set up on a retainer basis, the absence of a documented monitoring process is, in our view, a weakness.

There's a familiar theme here...

And on the subject of the agreement itself:

We also note that the terms of TfL's remuneration committee have since been amended so that the remuneration committee is now required to agree to the terms of any compromise agreements with senior officers. However, the Chair of TfL is also the Chair of the remuneration committee. This, in our view, is an unusual situation. The Combined Code on Corporate Governance (which applies to listed companies) states that the members of the remuneration committee should be independent non executive directors.

TfL's response is that their Chair is unpaid, so that makes him independent...

And on the money paid:

from our discussions I understand that TfL does not intend to make payments to Mr Kiley while he is ill and not available to provide services to TfL. Specifically, if Mr Kiley submits an invoice for the payment due on the contract date of 1 July 2007 this will not be paid while Mr Kiley is unwell and not able to work. TfL should also consider whether any part of the payment made on 1 January 2007 for the six months commencing on that date should be allocated to future services provided, as Mr Kiley has not been available to provide advice since late March 2007.

TfL respond that it is 'not considered appropriate to seek reimbursement.'

So the curtain falls on another Labour scandal involving poor financial controls and waste of public money. Nothing more to see here - it's time to move on...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Question Time Alert

It's the monthly Mayor's Question Time tomorrow morning. I suspect that the matter of financial controls at the LDA will feature prominently, after the Mayor came out fighting at his press conference this morning. He has secured the support of several community figures - Sir Herman Ouseley, Richard Taylor, Rev Nims Obunge and Dawn Butler MP.

A motion for urgent debate has just been circulated by the Lib Dems:

In light of the articles in last week's Evening Standard, and the allegations levelled in those articles about some of the London Development Agency's processes and the role played by one of the Mayor's advisers, this Assembly calls on the Mayor to refer these allegations to the District Auditors of the GLA and the LDA and asks that the District Auditors investigate and report back their findings in as short a time frame as is possible.

Given the political balance, this or something quite like it is probably going to be approved. We will then see if the Mayor is willing to comply.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Costly Caracas

A recent question about the Mayor's obsession with Venezuela revealed the following:

Angie Bray: When will the GLA office in Caracas be open for business? Can the Mayor detail how many staff from the GLA family will be seconded there, and what will the annual running costs be?

Ken Livingstone: A 12 month lease was completed on an office in Caracas at the end of July. It is currently being set up.

No staff from the GLA will be seconded there.

Running costs for 12 months are estimated to be £77,200.

So an office was leased in July but is still not in use...

There may be no GLA staff on site, but two locals will be employed at the office and they are being recruited.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Night in Romford


It's getting very festive in Romford town centre. Tonight I was out meeting the street pastors who do a vital job looking out for people in what can be a hostile and intimidating situation. Safety has improved greatly in recent years with the introduction of live CCTV and close working between police and nightclub security staff.

Here we are outside the newly opened Liquid Nightclub in South Street. Standing at the back is General Manager, Colin Goodwin. In the yellow jacket is hard working Romford MP, Andrew Rosindell. I'm the one in the unusual but fashionable headgear.

Now I'm back at home, but outside the party has just started!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

West London Waste

The West London Tram is dead, killed by the determined opposition of local residents and their councillors - but the cost lingers on...

Roger Evans: Can the Mayor confirm how much money was spent on the West London Tram?

Ken Livingstone: The expenditure to mid October 2007 was in the order of £34.8 million. This was necessary to meet the level of detail required for a Transport and Works Act application. The money funded work including engineering, transport modelling, consultations, legal advice, scheme drawings and the Environmental Impact Assessment. Recent expenditure has focussed on closing down the project.

Much of the work already carried out by Transport for London on the tram project will assist in the planning of any new public transport solution for local journeys in west London.

Is that the sound of 'bendies' approaching?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Boris Demands Answers

Today's Standard carried a number of disturbing allegations about grant funding in Livingstone's administration. Local television is picking the story up and running with it. Boris has issued the following statement:

If these reports are true, huge sums of money have not been getting through to community groups who need and deserve support. That is a scandal.

There will be volunteers across London who will be appalled to learn that all this money has been wasted or simply trousered - when it could have been used to give life changing opportunities to kids across the city.

We need to know urgently what the Mayor knew and when and what action he proposes to take. Londoners are paying more and more for the current Labour Mayor - and yet he seems determined to treat the taxpayer with contempt.

Today I have written to the Mayor to demand answers on this issue. I am still waiting for the Mayor to explain what he knew about the serious allegations of fraud in the Metropolitan Police expense accounts.

Livingstone's in tray is filling up...

To be fair, the Mayor's response to the Standard story is here:

www.london.gov.uk/view_press_release.jsp?releaseid=14798

Full to Bursting


Yesterday, Boris joked that desks were being sawn in half at City Hall to create space for all the bureaucrats. A humourous exaggeration perhaps, but based on reality, as the following exchange shows:

Richard Barnes: Further to your answer to 2381/2007, rather than a minimum estimate based on desk numbers and people, how many people in City Hall actually hot desk?


Ken Livingstone: As was previously stated in question 2381/2007 City Hall currently has 691 desks which accommodate 732 people of all categories, this excludes staff such as security and mail room who do not need a desk to perform their duties. By virtue of these numbers, this means that at least 41 staff share desks, which is equivalent to 5.6%.


We do not currently hold data on the precise number of staff who actually hot desk; this information will only be known to the individual teams. However, as part of the accommodation strategy review process we are seeking this information.
Lest we forget, City Hall was originally designed for a lean, strategic authority, with 400 employees.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

May the Boris be With You


Boris Johnson hosted his Christmas party at the Star Wars exhibition last night. The next Mayor of London gave a rousing speech, urging supporters to prepare for government. Those attending went way beyond the party faithful and included leading journalists and figures from the London establishment.
I got to wield a light sabre but the picture is slightly blurred, perhaps the photographer was a bit nervous. Could do with keeping it to enforce the Assembly whip...
Go Boris - Use the Force!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ongoing = Not Known

An interesting exchange about the Blackwall Tunnel maintenance works:

John Biggs: Thank you for your informative and thorough reply to my question 2348/2007. When ongoing maintenance works necessitate regular and routine closures, please could you ask TfL to display the end date of their works on the www/tfl.gov.uk/trafficnews website to "ongoing" which is more reassuring to motorists than "not known".

Ken Livingstone: TfL appreciates your feedback and has confirmed that its traffic news page is being updated so that the Blackwall Tunnel works are described as "ongoing".

So that's reassuring - Labour are such experts at the use of language...

Christmas at Havering Park


An excellent dinner last night to celebrate Christmas with Havering Park Ward. Featured in the picture are, from left to right; local activist Billy Taylor, guest speaker David Amess MP, Councillor Sandra Binion, myself, Andrew Rosindell MP,and Councillor Geoff Starns.

David Amess provided an entertaining speech, complete with ringing denunciation of the current government - which is not difficult. There were getting on for 80 guests, which is excellent for just one ward.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Transport Questions Alert


Wednesday morning will see the annual Assembly question time with Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy. Subjects for discussion include the Metronet fiasco, fare rises, fare evasion and crime on the buses.

Two hours isn't really long enough to cover all the issues, but any suggestions of points to raise are welcome...

Friday, November 30, 2007

TfL's Press Office Costs

Roger Evans: Can the Mayor provide a year by year breakdown from 2000 to date of the total cost of TfL's press officers?

Ken Livingstone:

2003/04 £858,990

2004/05 £1,695,430

2005/06 £1,904,069

2006/07 £2,270,672

2007/08 £2,491,226

In mid 2004 TfL took over responsibility for London Underground, which probably explains the doubling of the budget. However things seem to have got out of hand since then with a further increase of just under £800K in four years.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Fire Station for Havering

The good news is that it finally looks like the new fire station for Havering will go ahead.

In May 2000 there were plans to withdraw a fire engine from Hornchurch and local residents organised strong protests. The various mayoral candidates visited and pledged to reverse the decision. The eventual winner broke his promise and the fire engine was withdrawn, along with half a dozen others in outer London boroughs.

Some months later the space at Hornchurch was filled by a specialist vehicle designed to attend road accidents. This proved very useful on the A12, A127 and A13.

When the new fire safety plan and model were adopted in 2005, the decision was taken to return the fire engines to the outer London boroughs, but the Hornchurch engine could not be accommodated, as its space was taken. This left Havering with the slowest fire attendance times in London. As a Fire Authority member I have been pushing for the return of our engine ever since.

In 2006 the brigade decided that the only solution was to build a new fire station to provide the necessary bays. This would also provide the opportunity to site the facility closer to the main routes at Gallows Corner. The decision has now been taken to use part of the Falcon Business Centre, which also houses a police facility, allowing for better coordination of emergency services.

Val Shawcross, the Fire Authority Chair, has joked that the new facility should be named the Roger Evans Memorial Fire Station - I just hope it won't take that long to build!

The Nanny State

Some politicians can't stop interfering:

Jenny Jones: Would you support a ban on the sale of fois gras in London?

Ken Livingstone: I have no powers to ban foie gras or any other food.

And a good thing too! I have never eaten fois gras or hunted foxes and I don't smoke, but I support the rights of those who do...

Jennettte Arnold: What action would the Mayor propose taking to ensure that the law protects all bus users from the harmful effects of second hand smoke while waiting at stops?

Ken Livingstone: As you are aware the recent legislation applies only to structures that are more than 50% enclosed and is applied to all bus stations in London, and also the 660 bus stops fitted with shelters that meet the criteria. The law is enforced by officials from the London boroughs.

Better carry a tape measure to check that shelters meet the criteria before lighting up, or indeed before complaining about someone else lighting up. It may be good for public health, it will certainly be good for the lawyers...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Politics Show After Action Report

The debate on theatres was tame compared to what followed. We all agreed that something needed to be done to bring our venues up to date. I stumbled when the interviewer suggested that some of the theatres should be allowed to close if they can't pay their way - my free market instincts agree, but I love our city and can't bear to see us lose good things. I also argued in favour of subsidising the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch earlier this year, so I wanted to be consistent. Perhaps I'm mellowing with age...

Then there was a discussion about the Mayor's £750k trip to India, which featured some trenchant condemnation from Brian Coleman. Livingstone claims that they will get the money back if it creates just 6 jobs, which sounds like more dodgy maths. At over £100k per job the lucky recipients will be able to afford plenty of his 53p travelcards.

They wound up with a discussion about the Metropolitan Police Authority, featuring deputy chair Cindy Butts. Cindy passionately argued that the MPA's support for embattled police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, demonstrates their political independence. As all but one of the non elected members voted in favour of the commissioner, I suggest it proves the opposite.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Politics Show Alert

You can see me on the Politics Show (London edition) tomorrow, talking about theatres of all things. The Assembly is doing a review of the condition of London theatres - which in many cases are outdated and tired - and possible ways to invest in our capital's attractions. A £1 levy on all theatre tickets is just one of the ideas under consideration...

East Thurrock & South Basildon Dinner

On Friday night I attended the fund raising dinner for mt good friend Steve Metcalfe, the candidate for East Thurrock & South Basildon, a seat which we should pick up at the next election.

Guest speaker was Iain Duncan Smith, who talked about his social policy work. I have known Iain since he was selected for Chingford in 1991 and I think he is more at ease than I have ever seen him. He clearly cares passionately about helping the communities he has met in the most deprived areas and he articulates his vision convincingly.

In the auction I bought two bottles of 'Gordon Brown Ale - Zero Strength' for £200, which in hindsight seems a lot - still, the money is going to a good cause, which is more than can be said for my end of year tax demand...

Talking of which, on the way there the taxi driver was telling me how worried he was about the security of his personal details, now that the government have mislaid them. When people without an interest in politics express such concerns, you know it is bad news for those in power. Several years ago I went to a pantomime which was full of jokes about David Blunkett - it was obvious the minister was doomed, and this feels the same.

December Londoner

The Christmas / Winterval edition of the Londoner wings its way to the capital's doormats. Highlights to look out for include:

Single Fare Price Freeze - Front page
Great 2 for 1 theatre and food offers with Oyster - pg2
Free travel for Londoners on New Year's Eve - pg3
Crime in London down to lowest in ten years -pg5
London's fares freeze - pg5
Bus passes made easy - pg5
New police teams 'are making London's buses and trains safer' - pg6&7
Make sure you get home safely during Christmas party season, Met says - pg9
Car free shopping is back - pg19

The usual TfL advertising takes up full pages at 4, 16 and 20. The Mayor's London Schools and the Black Child conference is advertised on pg6. The recycling campaign is advertised on pg12.

For the first time there is a special London assembly feature at the bottom of pg8.

And on pg9 there is the opportunity to win a two week cruise around the Indian Ocean. You just need to answer the question - In which Indian region is the city of Cochin? So you can follow in the Mayor's recent footsteps, but you won't be allowed to take 80 people with you...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Disorder on the Buses

Tomorrow the Transport Committee will be taking evidence from the police, London Buses and a bus operator.

This follows on from our meeting last month where passenger groups raised a number of concerns, and from our visit to observe enforcement at first hand in Stratford last week. I contributed an article about this to Conservative Home on Friday and you can read it at: www.Conservativehome.blogs.com/parliament/2007/11/roger-evans-am.html .

Friday, November 16, 2007

Livingstonomics

So how can the lowest price be 80p but the average be 53p?

Was it because fare evaders were included - as suggested by Weggis and Andrew Gilligan? No...

Was it because free travel was included as suspected by me in the last post? No...

The Mayor has explained, very swiftly, by press release! The full text is here:

www.London.gov.uk/view_press_release.jsp?releaseid=14532

Amidst the hyperbole, the key paragraph tells us:

The reason the average is lower than the cheapest single fare is that many people travel using period tickets such as Travelcards or weekly bus passes. In these cases the cost per journey is less as the passenger makes more trips. For example the average number of trips per week on a weekly bus pass is 28.25. For a cost of £13 this is 46p.

Well, yes. What if the average number of trips rises? The average cost per trip then falls, but can the Mayor use the new lower figure to claim that he has cut fares? Because that is how the average figure has been used.

Can a passenger who only uses the card 10 times a week get a rebate????

To illustrate the way this works:

Example 1: Mayor Truthful promises to freeze fares for a year and does so. However an economic downturn reduces the number of journeys made on public transport. The average fare per journey goes up and Mayor Truthful decides not to press release it - because it will mislead people.

Example 2: Mayor Untruthful promises to pin fares to inflation but after the election he breaks his promise and imposes inflation busting increases over three years, only desisting as the next election looms. Over the same period the number of journeys increases as London is doing well. The average fare per journey therefore falls and Mayor Untruthful decides to press release it - because it will mislead people.

Neither of these examples is intended to resemble any living person - however for an official view of the truthfulness of TfL advertising, see the following from the Advertising Standards Agency:

www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/public/TF_ADJ_43472.htm

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bus Fare Calculations

An interesting exchange at yesterday's Mayor's Questions.

Me: Following the latest increases, what is the cheapest ticket you can buy?

The Mayor: 80p

Me: And what is the average bus fare?

The Mayor: 53p

Me: So the average fare is 27p less than the cheapest fare - that's a novel concept...

I suspect that TfL includes some of its free tickets in the calculation, which undermines the veracity of the figure, because it creates an 'average fare' which can't be paid by anyone. It certainly makes the result of fare increases look rosier than it actually is.

TfL will be coming to see me to explain how they arrive at this figure and what they use it for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I've Been Awarded a Certificate

For completing the Capital Ring!

I didn't know that such a thing was available, but Gordon Clarke from TfL has been in touch after reading about my efforts on Barkingside21's blog. He also tells me that Walk London are organising a weekend of guided walks around the strategic network for 17 - 18 November. I prefer to walk on my own but for anyone who wishes to join a group, details are available at www.walklondon.org.uk .

This will be the first non academic certificate I have received since I passed my cycling proficiency test...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Public Sector Rich List

The Taxpayers' Alliance have published their own 'rich list' of public sector employees. With the help of Freedom of Information requests and annual reports they have pieced together the top earners in public bodies for 2006/07. London is an expensive city so no surprise that our public bodies feature in the top 100:

The Olympic Development Authority has three employees in the top 100 - Chief Executive, David Higgins, Director of Finance, Dennis Hone, and of course, Jack Lemley, the former Chairman who stood down halfway through the year.

Sister body, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, features twice with Chairman, Lord Coe and Chief Executive, Paul Deighton.

Transport for London has its own high earners, Commissioner, Peter Hendy, MD of London Underground, Tim O'Toole, MD of Surface Transport, David Brown, and General Counsel, Howard Carter.

And controversial Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair is also in the top 100.

The National Health Service has many high earners but the only local manager in the top 100 is Norman Lindsay, Director of Turnaround at Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust. Mr Lindsay ceased his employment at the end of the financial year. I have not met him, but I know Whipps Cross and I imagine it was a tough job.


The full list, including rankings and actual pay is available at www.taxpayersalliance.com .

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bendy Bus Investigation

Following the disclosure of worrying accident statistics at the recent public question time in Ilford, the transport committee will be reviewing the record of these controversial vehicles. Complaints about the buses include:

Safety - are they prone to more accidents?

Fare evasion - up to four times the level found on other buses.

Shortage of seats - good news for buggies and wheelchairs but bad news for older passengers and pregnant women.

Unsuitability for narrow, crowded streets - particularly in the centre of town.

Ilford North MP Lee Scott has welcomed the review, saying 'These numbers are at an unacceptable level and are not to be tolerated. I want to see a far bigger analysis as some roads simply cannot cope with them.'

I hope that passengers and bus drivers will let us have their views on the buses. Contact me at roger.evans@london.gov.uk .

The full story is carried by the Ilford Recorder, www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Commissioner Faces Assembly

Tomorrow morning the Assembly will be questioning Sir Ian Blair, the Met Police Commissioner. It looks like being a lively session which will probably make the headlines in the evening.

we are also questioning the new Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson, for the first time. I expect he will get a comparatively easy ride...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Radio Alert - Link FM

Tomorrow morning I'm the guest on our very own community radio station, Link FM. Appearing from 10:00 am, I will be talking about the London Assembly, transport in London, my role at Havering Council and, of course my newly published novel, Gremalquest.

Last time I was on Link we got into a discussion about my own broadcasting efforts on Radio Skerne, twenty years ago. This was the Darlington hospital radio which transmitted late in the evenings from a room in the basement next to the morgue. Keeping up a cheerful patter for a couple of hours all on your own, with a room full of corpses to walk through, was quite a challenge.

You can enjoy Link FM on line at www.linkfm.net .

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Any Suggestions?

There is a competition running at City Hall this week - the task is to choose a title for the Mayor's next Olympics publication.

The document is due to be published in early November and will set out the five commitments the Mayor is making in relation to the 2012 games.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

'Award Winning' Londoner to go Cross Party

Well, one page anyway. Today the GLA Business Management & Appointments Committee (BMAC) approved proposals to give over one page of the Londoner each month to Assembly stories. The report states:

The London Assembly will contribute a regular column for page 8 of The Londoner. The column would be a maximum of 420 words, or 350 plus a picture, either vertically aligned on the left side of the page or horizontally across the bottom of the page. There would be no charge to the Assembly for the column.

So we know which page everyone will turn to in future...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cycle Lane Consultation A127 to M25

TfL and Havering Council have revealed plans for a dedicated cycle route which will follow the Southend Arterial Road (A127) from Gallows Corner to junction 29 on the M25. this will form part of the London Cycle Network.

They are consulting on this proposal until 16th November, responses please to www.tfl.gov.uk/cycles or leave a comment on this thread.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Security on Transport

Tomorrow our Transport Committee launches its review of security on London's public transport. In particular we will be considering the buses - following the Mayor's introduction of free travel for under 18s - and also the major interchanges, for example the bus and train stations at Stratford.

Are police on buses effective?

How about the CCTV?

Would you like to see conductors brought back?

Do you feel safe on our trains and buses?

We are interested in your views and experiences, so please email me at Roger.Evans@London.gov.uk or write to me at City Hall, The Queens Walk, LONDON, SE1 2AA.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Peoples' Question Time

The big moment arrived last night. Nearly six hundred people crammed into Ilford Town Hall to raise local issues with the Mayor and assembly Members. It was a lively and good natured meeting with several public votes taking place. These snapshots showed:

66% of the audience felt no safer on the streets despite a visible increase in police numbers.

75% were opposed to congestion charging in Ilford.

75% felt that Redbridge didn't need any more housing.

66% were still pleased we were hosting the 2012 Olympics. Although there was a lot of dissatisfaction about the spiralling budget.

Those are rough figures and the audience was self selecting, so perhaps not representative of the wider electorate.

Serious reservations were raised about bendy buses following the tragic accident that occurred recently in Ilford.

Users of the Eastway Cycle Circuit turned up to demand a venue closer than the one they have to use at Hillingdon whilst the Olympic Velodrome is being constructed.

There were a large number of younger people in the crowd, which is encouraging. One girl was upset that she got fined when she left her Oystercard at home, but there wasn't much sympathy, perhaps because the same rule applies to everyone - it's called responsibility so get used to it...

And my newly selected Labour opponent was there. I made a point of congratulating her on being chosen. Her reply - Who are you? - was either the best put down in history or reveals a steep learning curve.

The next PQT is in six months time at Richmond Theatre.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Petition Presented

Following on from the Mayor's refusal to reinstate the footbridge over the A12 at Mawney Road, I presented a petition from local residents at the Assembly plenary meeting today. Four of the lead petitioners turned up to make their point:

They don't want a crossing at road level which will force pedestrians to race the lights - the other main junctions on the A12 all have either bridges or subways.

The original bridge (removed by TfL) had wheelchair ramps - a fact seemingly lost on TfL who claim that there is no space for a bridge with ramps to be built...

Have ramps got longer in the last two years?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Final Call for PQT

A last reminder that Peoples' Question Time is taking place at Ilford Town Hall on Thursday night. Come along and question Mayor Livingstone and other Assembly Members about their plans for our area. Tickets are going fast but there is still time to grab a place - just click on the top link on the right...

See you there...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Transport Select Committee Investigates PPP

In what I think is a first for the London Assembly, I will be giving evidence before the Transport Select Committee tomorrow.

The committee are investigating the circumstances around the collapse of Metronet and they will also be taking evidence from the PPP arbiter, the tube unions and the other PPP company, Tubelines.

The whole episode will be available to enjoy on the Parliamentary Channel.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Redbridge Pensioners' Forum

I've just got in from a meeting with the Forum, answering questions about transport issues. There were 76 people there - a fantastic turnout. The main issues were:

Bendy buses - very unpopular, because of fare evasion, accidents etc.

Under 18s Free Travel - also unpopular, because of anti social behaviour, the buses seen as no go areas when the schools finish.

Bad Driving - still a problem and the wheelchair ramps aren't being used.

Passenger Behaviour - need to get passengers to be more considerate, take feet off seats, give up seats for older people, fold buggies, take litter home.

Freedom Pass - cross party support for keeping it, despite the Mayor issuing scare stories about a mythical threat.

I have also agreed to visit Havering Gardens to see the issues around the extended 499 bus route.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ilford South Supper Club

I was the guest speaker at the Ilford South Conservatives' supper club on Friday evening. this was my third visit to them so instead of telling them about London government - again - I spoke about 'a day in my life'. The speech provoked a lively discussion about the fate of bendy buses and the chances of Boris beating Ken...

I'm speaking at the Redbridge Pensioners' Forum on Monday.

You can book me to speak for a group by calling the office on 0207 983 4359 or emailing me at Roger.Evans@London.gov.uk .

Friday, October 12, 2007

Still Some Seats...

Available for Peoples' Question Time on 25th October at Ilford Town Hall. Come along and pose questions to the Mayor and Assembly Members.

Booking a place is easy - just click on the first of my links, down on the right.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Olympic Newts Are Coming

According to the BBC:

A colony of endangered newts is being relocated for the 2012 Olympics, it has emerged. About £450 - the equivalent of renting a double room for a month in the area - will be spent on moving each newt to make way for a new circuit.

The great crested newts will be placed in a safe area within the new facility at Hog Hill, Redbridge, east London. The LDA had to ensure the newts' safety as the creatures are protected by law. The new circuit will replace the Eastway Cycle Circuit in Stratford, which will become the Olympic Velopark.

So now we know what Redbridge is getting from the games...

UPDATE: According to the BBC again (featured on www.barkingside21.blogspot.com ) the newts are already on site and are just being moved locally, so we will have to keep asking what Redbridge is getting...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

New Links Added

I have added new links to Barkingside 21, The Greater London Authority, Havering and Redbridge Councils and of course, Boris Johnson's campaign site.

Wherever you are going, it is now a bit easier to get there...

Crossrail to go Ahead

I have issued the following statement as Transport Committee Chairman:

Crossrail is long overdue and will make a major contribution to strengthening London's position as the key financial centre of the 21st century. It will link up the four powerhouses of the City, Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow - and will improve the quality of life of Londoners and regenerate the capital. All parties must work together to ensure that the delivery of this vital project does not slip further.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Temporary Staff at City Hall

No doubt because of the high turnover rate, we also have a high spend on temporary staff:

Sally Hamwee: What was the total spend on temporary staff recruited through agencies in 2006/07 by the core GLA?

Ken Livingstone: The total spend on agency staff for the GLA in 2006/07 was £2 million.

There's a good chance that Boris could identify some savings here...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Back from Conference

A good few days in Blackpool with some rousing speeches. The party is in the mood for an election, but who can tell...

I took a trip on the tram to Fleetwood (the home of Fisherman's Friends), just to see if we could learn anything for London's transport. The system is good fun, but not really suitable for carrying loads of commuters - especially the open topped trams made to look like boats.

I stayed at the Norbreck Castle Hotel, which was friendly, but two miles from the conference centre at the Winter Gardens. I also discovered that the door to my room didn't lock, when a strange bespectacled man burst in at two in the morning. I'm not sure which of us was most surprised, but he apologised profusely and departed. The receptionist smiled nicely and told me that there is a special way to lock the door - keys work pretty well in other hotels...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

IT'S BORIS !!

Crikey!!

The result was pretty conclusive, with Boris getting some 79% of the vote. Even more conclusive than the 77% that Steve Norris achieved against me last time around. Victoria Borwick came second and good for her, with an effort that improved at every hustings meeting. Andrew Boff came third with his call for greater democracy. Warwick Lightfoot came fourth after his well informed and thoughtful contributions.

A fine effort from all the candidates and I hope room can be found for their talents in Boris's Big Tent.

Now let's get stuck into Livingstone...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Result Imminent!

The long process of selecting the candidate to fight Livingstone will conclude today. It has been a ground breaking exercise in encouraging wider involvement and has certainly created more media coverage. I hope we will keep the basic process for future selections, although no doubt improvements can be made.

Following an overnight count, the result will be announced tomorrow morning at a London venue.

Then we can all get behind the candidate and move forward in our effort to place City Hall under new - and much better - management.

And don't forget - Livingstone comes to Redbridge to face the public on 25th October in the evening. You can get free tickets from www.london.gov.uk .

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Graffiti on the North Circular

Roger Evans: There has been graffiti on the pedestrian footway ramp near the A406 below Elmhurst Gardens for over two weeks. Transport for London is responsible for its removal and have stated that it falls under the category of graffiti that will be removed within 28 days. Does the Mayor believe that it is acceptable for TfL to take this long?

Ken Livingstone: TfL has defined cleansing targets, once reported, as:

- Removal of offensive, obscene or racist graffiti within 24 hours.
- Removal of graffiti which is not offensive or racist incorporated into a planned programme of works, or attended to during any non routine fault repair operation within a maximum of 28 days.

This is a practical, proportional response to addressing the problems of graffiti and will ensure that TfL's financial commitment is containable.

So who decides if graffiti is 'offensive' within these terms? What criteria are considered? Perhaps I'm old fashioned or intolerant about this but in my view ALL graffiti is offensive.

(Including the 2012 'logo')

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Missing Bridge

For some time now, a footbridge over the A12 has been missing since TfL decided to remove it. Local residents want it back and have started a petition:

Roger Evans: Transport for London has taken down a footbridge over the A12 at the junction with North Street in Havering. This has led directly to a lady receiving serious injuries in trying to cross this busy road and concerned residents have launched a campaign to have the bridge replaced.

Can the Mayor assure residents that this footbridge will be replaced before its absence causes any further accidents?

Ken Livingstone: I was very concerned to hear about this accident and the serious injuries received by this lady.

The footbridge referred to was struck by an over height vehicle in 2005. It had to be removed on safety grounds. The footbridge had been in service for many years, and due to changing legislation during this time, cannot be replaced on a like for like basis. To replace it with a bridge to current standards would require land acquisition to accommodate a much larger structure. Additionally, because of the difficulties that footbridges can cause for those with mobility impairments and pushchairs, TfL's preference is to provide a signalised 'at grade' crossing at this location. a design for this is in hand and TfL aim to implement it in the next financial year. In the meantime, pedestrians are able to use an existing signalised crossing to the west of the junction.

I will be presenting the petition to TfL at a meeting in October.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Bridge at Fairlop

Roger Evans: Following the latest incident in which an over height lorry struck the bridge which carries the Central Line over Forest Road at Fairlop Station, local residents have once again expressed their concern about the potential danger to road users and tube passengers. What is being done to assess the risk posed at this location and to prevent further incidents? Will London Underground now make a commitment to fund the necessary safety improvements and to work with Redbridge Council to prevent a possible future tragedy?

Ken Livingstone: LU is satisfied that the bridge itself has been adequately strengthened and that the Tube service and track are unlikely to be impacted by any bridge strike.

(So that's all right, then).

The London Borough of Redbridge who are the responsible authority, are considering the development of a new signage scheme for lorries in the area.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gants Hill Subway Flooding

Written answers from the latest Mayor's Question Time are now available, including:

Roger Evans: The subways at Gants Hill Station have been closed at least 6 times over the last 3 months due to flooding. This has been a huge inconvenience to residents. Who is responsible for the condition of the ticket hall, subways and street level exits and what is being done to prevent further incidents of flooding?

Ken Livingstone: London Borough of Redbridge owns the subways that lead into Gants Hill ticket hall. At times of heavy rain, the water from the subways rushes into the station ticket hall and causes flooding. London Underground has approached the council several times to commission an appropriate drainage system, but without success thus far.

So over to the council...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Livingstone on Crow

At question time I raised the RMT strike, seeking assurances that TfL would have plans in place to deal with any more stoppages. I didn't get any joy, but Livingstone did have some pithy comments on the union, which featured in the Standard's 'Inside City Hall' column:

Ken Livingstone: I think the strike was more about the RMT trying to upstage the other transport unions in the hope of stealing members. The RMT executive are rather more like a protection racket than a proper trade union.

For once I agree with him...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Peoples' Question Time

Hot on the heels of Andrew, Boris, Victoria and Warwick, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone will be visiting Redbridge to answer questions along with those Assembly Members who can find their way from Tower Bridge.

The event will take place at 7.00pm on 25th October at Ilford Town Hall, in the big room this time. Once again I will be chairing the event (wonder if there's a career in this).

Although entry is free you need to obtain a ticket. You can do this online at www.london.gov.uk/gla/pqt/20071025/tickets.jsp or apply by email at peoplesquestions@london.gov.uk . Places can also be booked by phone on 020 7983 4762.

The event will focus on policing and safety, transport, environment and the 2012 Olympics, so if you have questions here is the opportunity to get the answers from the horses mouth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm Number Two

Yesterday the Conservative group at the Assembly elected me their deputy leader. For now I'm also retaining my business manager and transport chairman posts.

And today sees the first Mayor's Question Time following the summer break. Answers will be blogged in a few days.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The London Loop

With the Capital Ring completed I have found a new walking challenge - the London Loop. The guidebook tells me that it is around 140 miles in length (twice as long as the Ring), starting at Erith and ending at Purfleet, with the final section within my home borough of Havering.

The stages are longer than the Ring, between eight and thirteen miles, but it is all accessed by public transport. If I start now, this should be good training for the London elections next year...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Get Back To Work

As day one of the three day RMT strike continues, the mayor's office have released the text of a letter from Metronet and the PPP Administrator to Bob Crowof the RMT, which gave the assurances that the union claim to be seeking. The letter is dated 31st August and was good enough to persuade two more moderate unions to call off their action. I don't often agree with Livingstone but in this case he correctly describes the strike as 'pointless'. The letter includes the following:

We can confirm that the guarantees provided to members of the TFL Pension Fund under the Greater London Authority Act and the London Transport Pension Arrangements Order 2000, will remain and be abided to by Metronet Rail BCV, Metronet Rail SSL, the PPP administrator, and that the Metronet business will be transferred to the subsequent employer on this basis, as part of a full Scheme Rescue and ongoingly.

The effect of this is that the terms of the John Prescott letter dated 14th September 1999 still apply.

Which looks like a pretty clear reassurance, and provides for better security than most of the passengers enjoy in their employment.

The RMT should return to work and stop holding our city to ransom.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Congratulations

To Phil Briscoe, who was selected last night as our candidate for the London Assembly constituency of City & East. Phil put up a strong performance in front of quite a large audience at the East Ham Conservative Club. He beat Jane Archer who also put in a very good effort and is certainly 'one to watch' for future selections.

Both Phil and Jane are hard working activists who are local to the seat. It is fair to say that City & East is quite a challenging proposition for us.

This means that the Conservative slate for the first past the post element of the London Assembly is very nearly complete. Does anyone know if any Labour or Lib Dem candidates have been selected yet?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Havering's Newest Councillor

Is my good friend Lynden Thorpe, who tonight won the hotly contested Squirrel's Heath by election. The Conservative campaign was well planned, well supported and extremely hard work, which paid off with the following result:

Conservative 1,828
Residents 310
Labour 210
National Liberals 170
UKIP 134
Spoiled papers 5

On a low turnout in a strong ward, this still represented a swing to us from the residents and Labour. The Labour result was particularly poor.

I am looking forward to working with Cllr Thorpe, who will be a great member of our authority.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

September Londoner

Has just hit my doormat. This is the second 'bus fare cut' edition following last month's 'award winning' production. Typical - you wait three and a half years for a mention of fares, then two come along at once...

This time you can enjoy:

Bus fares down by 10% from the end of September Front page (pretty similar to August's front page)

Using Oyster slashes the cost of travel Pg2

Have your say on charging heavy polluters Pg3

Safer transport patrols in all 21 of capital's outer boroughs Pg5

Half price bus fares for Londoners on income support Pg6

Builders given green light on Olympic site Pg7

Freedom passes are a 'lifeline for over 60s' Pg9

The challenge facing the Met Pg10, double page interview with Sir Ian Blair

Pg13 features a picture of clowns gathering for a meeting - add your own caption.

This latest 'low fares' edition was sponsored by advertising from TfL (pg4), the Liberty Festival (pg6), Summer of Sport (pg12), TfL (pg16), and TfL, with the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela !! (back page).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Mayoral Hustings Comes to Redbridge

And I'm going to be chairing it!

The date is 11th September, the venue is the Lambourne Room at Ilford Town Hall. Hustings begin at 7.30pm and will provide an opportunity for all 4 Conservative nominees to lay out their proposals in front of a local audience.

The four candidates are:

Andrew Boff, former leader of Hillingdon Council and former Hackney Councillor.

Victoria Borwick, Kensington & Chelsea Councillor.

Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and newspaper columnist.

Warwick Lightfoot, former Mayor of Kensington & Chelsea.

To attend you need to register by contacting emma.gold@conservatives.com or you can ring Emma direct on 020 7984 8152.

We want a packed audience to put them (and me) through their paces...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Clearing my Desk

Just for summer, so don't anyone get too excited...

In one of the drawers I unearthed a plastic pass card with my picture on it. Unremarkable, until I realised that it had been issued on a visit to the World Trade Centre, dated 2 February 2001. Some members were visiting New York to see what Bob Kiley had done for their subway system - little did we know how the world would change in just a few months. Some quotes from New Yorkers we met have remained with me:

When I heard there were English people here, I just had to drop by to thank you for the way you have always stood by our country in difficult times - a senior official at the World Trade Centre made this prophetic comment.

Not every fare evader is a criminal, but every criminal is a fare evader -The subway police chief talks about their policy of following up the police files of ticket dodgers.

Giuliani only gets elected because the white European immigrants support him - One of many democrats we met who complained about the mayor being right wing, and popular.

There was this stretch of road in Queens where we had a lot of pedestrians being run over, so we deployed our police and prosecuted people for jay walking - One of the Mayor's transport advisors explained their approach to road safety.

We really loved your Margaret Thatcher - A senior representative of the subway workers union, clearly out of step with our own RMT.

And best of all, when we got back home:

He's made a much better job of your Tube than he did of ours - A New York tourist visiting London (Kiley was due to take up his post as London Transport Commissioner several months later)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

London is a Region - and that's Official

Another gem from the July decision list. the Mayor has agreed to the GLA becoming a member of the English Regions Network (whatever that is):

The annual membership fee agreed between the GLA and the English Regions Network has been established at £10,000 per annum. The first year membership fee will cover the period until the end of March 2007, costs of which will be met from the 2007/08 Borough Liaison Programme budget.

The date suggests that we have paid retrospectively for last year, let's hope it's a typo. The English Regions Network is pretty low profile - they should be paying us to join them...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lights, Cameras, Inaction!

The Mayor's decision list is out for July, making interesting reading. There's lots of spending - obviously summer is an expensive time at City Hall. An example is the approval of a video for the launch of the draft Mayor's Housing Strategy:

The estimated cost of producing the video to the GLA is £32,000 and will be met from the housing & homelessness programme budget.

The GLA doesn't build any homes, but it provides something to watch - and this is just the draft strategy. Whatever will the video for the adopted strategy cost?

Capital Ring - Beckton to Woolwich

Completed the last stage this morning. Unfortunately the final river walk is closed off for development works (and has been for over two years) and the alternative is a less interesting walk along a road past the airport. Hopefully TfL and the LDA will sort this section out soon.

My next project will be the much longer London Loop.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

August Londoner

The latest edition of the 'award winning' Londoner is landing on doormats around town. Highlights include:

Bus fares to be cut by ten per cent (front page)

New powers will ease the cost of housing for all of the capital's families (pg2)

Nelson Mandela's statue to be unveiled later this month (pg3)

Cheaper bus fares for London (Mayor's column pg5)

Cleaners' victory against supporters of poverty pay (pg6)

Londoners on income support to get half price bus fares next month (Chavez deal pg7)

Londoners say keep the Freedom Pass (pg9)

This low bus fares edition was sponsored by full page advertising from TfL on pages 4,16 and 20. I don't recall seeing any articles in the Londoner when bus fares went up by more than inflation for three years in a row...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Another Black Day at Blackwall

TfL have just announced further changes to the operation of the Blackwall Tunnel, effective from Sunday 19th August. To summarise, between the hours of 0100 and 0800 on every Sunday morning one bore of the tunnel will be closed for maintenance. We can't have contraflow in the other tunnel any more because it is deemed to be 'dangerous' (although it is 'safe' all the time in the Rotherhithe Tunnel), so the following will apply (in their own words):

1. Northbound traffic will use the southbound tunnel.

2. Southbound traffic will be diverted via Central London and the Dartford Crossings.

3. The 108 bus will not be diverted but southbound services will be individually escorted through the tunnel while northbound traffic is held at a red signal.

There's not a lot of traffic about early on a Sunday, but those drivers who are around are likely to be more than a little confused and frustrated, particularly given the lack of wider consultation, yet again.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Capital Ring, Stoke Newington to Beckton

Completed another stretch today - some 8.5 miles, in very pleasant weather, defying the promise of heavy rain. The first section follows the Lea Navigation, one of East London's best kept secrets and well worth a look. The second half along the top of the Northern Outfall Sewer is a bit bleak but still interesting.

Only the last stretch to North Woolwich left now and at less than 4 miles I should be able to complete it before breakfast one day soon. Then I will be looking for another walking project.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Congratulations to Andrew

Good news from the reshuffle. My MP, Andrew Rosindell, has been made a shadow home office minister in the reshuffle. One of his responsibilities will be animal welfare, an issue which I know he cares about passionately. Animals may not have votes but now they have a genuine champion who will pursue their interests.

Together with James Brokenshire, MP for Hornchurch, Havering now has two shadow home office ministers. Perhaps this will help us get the police resources that we need (particularly on a Saturday night). Upminster MP, Angela Watkinson, is a whip for the opposition so all the borough's MPs are on the front bench.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Twenty Years - and Counting

This week, or thereabouts, marks an important anniversary in my calendar. It is twenty years since I arrived in London.

In early July 1987 I got off the train at King's Cross with a very heavy suitcase and a promise of a job at Post Office Headquarters, then located in Grosvenor Place. I made my way to the Montagu Hotel near Russell Square, where they were putting me up until I could find somewhere more permanent.

I intended to stay for a couple of years and then move back 'Up North', but I could never tear myself away. I lived in South Woodford (one year), Leytonstone (14 years) and Romford (for the last five).

And I did things I never expected I would - became a school governor, stood for the council, got called to The Bar, won a seat on the Assembly, nearly became a candidate for Mayor, had three girlfriends, learned the value of my own company.

It's been - on the whole - a fantastic experience which I wouldn't have missed. So here's to London, a place that changes people....

Saturday, June 16, 2007

You're Fired!

Livingstone has announced that he will not be sanctioning the appointment of Conservative or Lib Dem members to the Fire Authority this year.

Ostensibly this is because we - for I am included - are male, and he wants more women members. However he has reappointed the Labour and Green men to the board. Last year he lost political control of the authority and we overturned some of his wackier proposals, including the forced contribution of Fire Brigade money to his 'award winning' free sheet, The Londoner.

So the real minorities Livingstone is trying to protect are his own supporters. And democracy comes a poor second to political correctness in the Mayor's office.

Blackwall Tunnel

The tidal flow arrangement was ceased and thousands of drivers inconvenienced because of alleged dangerous driving by some individuals. But had other options been considered? The following exchange is illuminating:

Bob Neill: How many prosecutions have been launched in pursuit of those who drive dangerously in the Blackwall Tunnel since 2005?

Ken Livingstone: I have been informed by the MPS that there were NO incidents recorded for the offence of dangerous driving. The MPS did however record 2 incidents since 2005; one of which was an offence for a dangerous load and the other a speeding and document offence.

Other incidents relate primarily to damage only collisions, the majority of which are self reported and resulted in no further action as no offences were disclosed or verified.

And the dangerous load offence was dismissed at court...

Friday, June 15, 2007

More Logo Fun

This came from a paper approved at yesterday's budget committee:

Develop a London Brand

The long term goal for the sponsorship function, particularly in the lead up to the 2012 Games, is to develop a consolidated London brand, in which all of the GLA group are stakeholders, similar in scale to the New York brand example.

Let's hope the result is better than the recent 2012 effort and that it is the product of a genuine consultation rather than the choice of the usual suspects.

Does the GLA need a brand?
What should it look like?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tube Ticket Office Closures

London Underground have revealed a plan to remove ticket office staff at forty of the less busy stations on the network. The redeployment of staff to platform duties is a consequence of Oyster card introduction and this is a matter for London Underground but the actual closure of offices has not been raised before. We can expect to see local campaigns at some locations. Proposed ticket machine only stations are:

Barkingside, Becontree, Boston Manor, Buckhurst Hill.
Canons Park, Cannon Street, Chesham, Chiswick Park, Chorleywood, Croxley.
Debden.
East Putney.
Fairlop.
Hornchurch.
Goldhawk Road.
Ickenham.
Latimer Road.
Mansion House, Mill Hill East, Moor Park.
North Ealing, North Harrow, Northwood Hills.
Park Royal, Perivale.
Ravenscourt Park, Regent's Park, Royal Oak, Ruislip, Ruislip Gardens.
South Ruislip, Sudbury Hill.
Temple, Totteridge & Whetstone.
Upney.
West Acton, West Finchley, West Harrow, West Ruislip, Wimbledon Park.

The proposals are subject to consultation and agreement with the unions but are planned for March 2008 - three months before the Mayor faces re-election...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Blackwall Tunnel Tidal Flow

The London Assembly Transport Committee will be considering TfL's decision to end the morning tidal flow at the Blackwall Tunnel. At the meeting on 7th June at City Hall, representatives of TfL and the Met Police will be explaining their decision and the lack of consultation. There will also be evidence from borough councils affected by the extra traffic and congestion which have resulted.

The committee has no power to change the Mayor's decision but we will be exploring the consultation process, possible alternative measures and the future plans for both the Blackwall and Rotherhithe Tunnels.

Olympics 2012 Logo

We've all seen it by now. I'm not going to offer an opinion but it says something when even the Mayor reserves his support. Perhaps we won't be seeing much more of it, because it allegedly triggers epilepsy - although there are other good reasons too...

Capital Ring - South Kenton to Highgate

11 miles completed in the sun on Sunday. This is a pleasant walk through suburbs and green space in North London. High points included the Welsh Harp Reservoir and the final section through Highgate Wood and Queen's Wood. I also stopped off for a bagel in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Not so good was the signage particularly in Barnet, where many were missing, making a straightforward walk more confusing than it needed to be.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lib Dem GLA List Selected

There's a great story over at Iain Dale's Diary about the Lib Dem list selection. Their members have been getting stirred up about a bias in favour of South West London, which they say has been perpetuated by the selection system. It's certainly true with the present members:

Lord Tope - Sutton
Baroness Hamwee - Richmond
Mike Tuffrey - Lambeth
Dee Doocey - Richmond
Geoff Pope - Richmond

Not sure where the two new candidates come from, but I can make a wild guess...

Lib Dems are also unhappy with the lack of ethnic minority candidates on the list.

And they make some rather cruel comments about the performance of the incumbents...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Greenford to South Kenton

Only five and a half miles of the Capital Ring this Sunday, as I was feeling tired after Saturday night.

This is one of the hilliest sections of the ring with fine views from Horsenden Hill, followed by a long slog up to Harrow On The Hill. Was surprised to see that someone has dug up a section of the path on the Harrow School playing fields - let's hope they put it back. Also a bit confusing round the back of Northwick Park Hospital where a new golf course interrupts the route - some signs would not go amiss here, if anyone from TfL reads this.

Gordon Brown - Live

Last week I was invited to the CBI annual dinner where the guest speaker was Gordon Brown, soon to be Prime Minister. I hadn't seen him 'live' before and it provided an interesting opportunity to assess the new opponent. His speech broke into three sections:

First, some anecdotes to get the audience warmed up. GB seemed highly uncomfortable, although the material itself was sound, and there was a lot of touching the face and hair. Very closed and introverted hand gestures.

Second, the economic stuff, delivered in a long monologue without full stops, capital letters or any change of tone. This makes it difficult to follow his argument and sounds a bit like someone reading out the Yellow Pages. Some people clearly thought he must be very clever, because they couldn't understand what he was saying!

Finally, some stuff on training and raising skills, which he delivered with passion and commitment. Obviously this is the subject that motivates him and keeps him in politics. We can expect plenty more of this.

But on the whole, he appeared uncomfortable speaking to a large audience. This was not helped by his trademark decision to wear a lounge suit when we were all in black tie, as if he had some sort of 'statement' to make. Tony Blair or Ken Livingstone would have been more charismatic and engaging - I could have done it better myself....

I pointed this out to a fellow guest. He's a lot better than he was last time he spoke, was the response.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

MQT Alert

There was no Question Time in April and it seems like ages since we quizzed the Mayor, so there will be plenty to catch up on next week. Question Time will take place on Wednesday 23rd May at 10:00am.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Victory!

In the Chingford Green by election:

This was caused by the sad death of Cllr Derek Arnold, a good friend who was the group whip at Waltham Forest back in my days on the council. The new Cllr, Andrew Hemsted, is a great young guy and a tireless campaigner. We spent a most productive morning on the trail last Saturday and things looked very positive. The result was:

Conservative (Andrew Hemsted) 1694
Lib Dem (Graham Woolnough) 1022
Labour (?) 208
UKIP (Bob Brock) 143

Labour's vote collapsed which does not bode well for them on Thursday.

We are already looking forward to the next local by election, which will take place in St Andrew's Ward, Havering.

Congratulations Andy!!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Capital Ring - Richmond to Greenford

I continued my circumnavigation of the city on Sunday with this relatively easy nine mile stretch. Perhaps the most unusual sight was the community of wild parakeets at Hanwell. Walking through woods surrounded by the exotic calls of these beautiful creatures, I could have been in the tropics.

Later I got put in my place when a bearded man, probably in his sixties, strode past. He asked where I was going.

'I'll probably stop at Greenford.' I responded with some pride.

'Oh, I'm going to Stoke Newington.' and he went on his way, which was more than three times the length of the walk I was doing...

British Association of Removers

When I was asked to address the BAR conference I thought it must have something to do with my legal past. Wrong - the British Association of Removers represents removal firms throughout Britain. I spoke to their annual meeting on Friday morning.

They wanted to know all about the Mayor's plans for a low emission zone and they were very concerned. Removal vans are only replaced after long intervals because their mileage is usually quite low. A new vehicle can cost as much as £110,000. The Mayor wants to charge older, more polluting, vehicles £200 per day to enter London. Fine for a large company with a national fleet to choose from but potentially catastrophic for smaller firms with a lot of business in the capital.

Of course a tax on business pretty soon becomes a tax on the customer, as the cost is passed on. Moving home in London is about to become even more expensive, as the Mayor takes a slice of stealth tax, on top of those imposed by Gordon Brown.

Barkingside 21

Interesting meeting last week, when I spoke at the AGM of Barkingside 21 and answered questions. I always enjoy doing this and there were some unusual questions, including one about my motivation to enter politics - which, perhaps surprisingly, I've never had before.

Barkingside 21 also have a blog at http://www.barkingside21.blogspot.com/ which should be of interest to residents of Redbridge. They come here quite often and it was one such visit that led to my invitation to speak.

See you again soon guys.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Capital Ring

I just got back from a 13 mile walk! Today all eyes were on the marathon but I was completing the third stage of the Capital Ring, a 78 mile walk which circles London, starting and ending at Woolwich. Today's stretch was from Streatham Common to Richmond Bridge, a delightful walk, particularly the second half which crosses Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. At times you could be out in the country, if you ignore the distant drone of traffic and the planes passing overhead.

The Capital Ring is signposted by TfL and there is a guidebook available, but not many people seem to know about it, which is a shame as it provides a good introduction to some of the further flung parts of London.

Off to soak my feet now...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Holding Back the Tide

Yesterday TfL announced that they were ceasing the tidal flow which has operated in the Blackwall Tunnel during the morning rush hour for the past 29 years. No consultation, no room for doubt - that's your lot! Widespread congestion is predicted south of the river as traffic backs up along the A2. In TfL's words:

Under normal circumstances,the traffic managers of the boroughs whose networks are more likely to be affected by this change in operation would have been issued a notification under the terms of the Traffic Management Act 2004. Such is the concern expressed by the Metropolitan Police however, that we are foregoing the process and taking action in as short a timescale as possible. Traffic modelling tends to demonstrate that traffic will dissipate and the effects will be minimised over a period of weeks. We will be reviewing modelling and operational experience, however, in order to optimise signal timings to reduce the impact of this measure.

So this will be a surprise to neighbouring boroughs.

Coincidentally, Greenwich Council recently carried out a public consultation on a road charging proposal for the area. Perhaps the Mayor has decided to create more congestion so that he can introduce a charge for it...

And this morning the BBC are reporting worse queues than usual south of the tunnel.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hustings Alert

Havering Conservative Future have arranged a hustings for would be Conservative mayoral candidates. The good news is that 9 hopefuls have volunteered to attend and take questions from the audience - I will be chairing and keeping things under control.

The meeting takes place at 7.30pm on Friday 20th April, at St Michael's Church, Gidea Park. Tickets can be reserved by contacting Sarah Mackintosh at www.haveringcf.blogspot.com .

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'll Be Back....

It's been over a month, and I return to dust down the blog. Some of you have missed me - no reason but plenty of excuses:

1. My diary has been very busy.

2. I'm not comfortable with this new blogger format. In particular it has proved difficult to post comments. Why can't they leave things alone?

3. I got a new widescreen TV last month and I've been staring into that rather than the computer screen.

More later...

Thursday, March 08, 2007

PQT After Action Report

Thank you to everyone who turned out at Tottenham last night. I will try to give more notice next time but even so, there was a group from Redbridge and several contingents from more distant boroughs, making up a good natured audience that refused to let the Mayor have it all his own way. several on the spot poles were taken and the rough results were:

80 / 20 Against arming all police officers
70 / 30 Predict that the Olympics will benefit London
60 / 40 In favour of free travel for Under 18s
45 / 55 Against a £15 environment tax on air tickets
25 / 75 Against Livingstone standing down after two terms (ho hum)

I also got the chance to set the record straight over the Freedom Pass, quoting a motion passed by the Assembly - cross party - in 2003, and proposed by Conservative members Andrew Pelling and Tony Arbour:

That this Assembly does not support the Government's Commission for Integrated Transport's recommendation that an end be made to the Pensioners' Freedom Pass.

Which I hope reassured some worried people and put that rumour to rest.