Inflation and fares (Supplementary) [3]

Session date: 
September 9, 2009
Question By: 
John Biggs
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

I think Londoners are aware that you have not yet been able to confirm that you have ever used a bus under your mayoralty, and I think more seasoned observers would be aware --

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for Inflation and fares (Supplementary) [3]

Answer for Inflation and fares (Supplementary) [3]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Are we having a completely demented Question Time? Demented.

John Biggs (AM): -- that, under your mayoralty, you have a policy of basically a sound bite every day, and you are saying that today --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What do you mean, I have not had a -- nonsense.

John Biggs (AM): -- is not the day for your fares sound bite. So I think we appreciate that there is a bit of news manipulation here, but can I remind you of what you said to the Assembly's Budget and Performance Committee earlier this year where you, basically, blasted into your predecessor and said that he had been cynical and opportunistic in electioneering by not following the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1% formula and that you would never stoop to such a level and that you would be bound by it. You said, very clearly, RPI plus 1% was the driver. You used that as the shroud to justify your 6% increase, I think it was, last year. I asked you whether you might change the decision on RPI plus 1% and you said, 'No'. You said, 'In view of the fact that RPI is likely to be lower in 2009 than it was in 2008 that reduction will, of course, be fully reflected in the fare package'.

Are you telling us that you are minded to follow the RPI plus 1% formula or that you are retreating from that and you are going to find another justification for a fares increase for Londoners?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think this is really a repeat of Caroline's [Pidgeon] question --

John Biggs (AM): I want your answer.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- and the answer is that this is not the time or the place for me to announce the fares package for January 2010 and I am not going to do that. There are, as everybody accepts, very, very considerable pressures on the TfL budget. You, yourself, in your Assembly report admitted that the fall in ridership is putting considerable pressures. We had the disastrous collapse of Metronet. We had Tube Lines racking up bills. We have very, very serious pressures on the TfL budget. That is why, as you can imagine, I am ensuring that a fantastic amount of work is being done by TfL to strip out whatever costs we can in order to deliver, as I said right at the beginning in my answer to Caroline [Pidgeon], an affordable solution for Londoners that maintains our competitive fare structure compared to other cities in this country --

John Biggs (AM): OK. Do you recall that at that meeting in this room you stated, very clearly, that, in your view, the previous Mayor had been cynical in his electioneering in refusing to follow the RPI plus 1% formula?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well if you remember what happened was that the real tragedy for TfL finances was that there were repeated cynical electioneering - exactly right - attempts to hold down the fares below what the delivery of the service actually required. That created massive long-term pressures in TfL finances which are still with us today. Yes, frankly, it is true that we are still paying the price for those decisions.

John Biggs (AM): Right. But you justify your decision that RPI plus 1% was the formula negotiated with Government and that you would be bound by that?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not believe there is a formula negotiated with Government. All I said was that I thought that the decision chronically to --

John Biggs (AM): I will remind you if you like. There is a formula negotiated with Government about the funding of Crossrail which was based on fare revenue being linked to RPI plus 1% --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): There was a chronic refusal by the previous administration to be brave enough to give TfL the funding it needed through the fares package. I do think that was cynical, I do think that was electioneering and it did leave long-term problems with the TfL budget. There is no question about it.

John Biggs (AM): OK. Well if I was an ordinary Londoner I would say you have had about six opportunities to confirm that you will continue with your policy of RPI plus 1% which would imply a fares reduction this year - you have refused to bind yourself to that - and that, therefore, they should expect a fares increase. Is that a reasonable conclusion?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): John [Biggs] and Caroline [Pidgeon], what you can certainly conclude is that there are real pressures on the TfL finances. These are, very largely, chronic and historic pressures that have been built up by repeated refusals to deal with the necessity to charge a reasonable price for the service in the last ten years. That has left real problems with TfL finances.

But I am not now, today, going to reveal what we are doing with the January package because now is not the time.

John Biggs (AM): OK. So it would be fair to say then that every popular decision crowns you in glory and every unpopular decision is someone else's fault. Is that a fair summation?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No. I am more than happy and more than willing to take unpopular decisions. The sad thing is that the previous inhabitant of this office did not take those unpopular decisions and did not do the right thing with the fares package when he had the opportunity.