Mayor's Oral Update

MQT on 2011-10-12
Session date: 
October 12, 2011
Question By: 
Jennette Arnold OBE
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Let me just begin by saying that since we last met we are making fast progress, I am pleased to say, on the taskforces to help the regeneration in Tottenham and Croydon, working hand in glove with the local authorities, I am pleased to say, Sir Stuart Lipton is joining the Tottenham Taskforce; Julian Metcalfe who was the entrepreneur behind Pret A Manager and Itsu is helping with Croydon. The objective here is to help to set out plans to improve transport infrastructure, to buy up and rebuild properties that were damaged and to help fund business rate relief and generally to set out a plan for the regeneration of both those areas. I am very pleased by some of the progress that is being made.

In Manchester I made a speech in which I made a couple of points that are of relevance and that I think the Assembly wish to ask me about. The first was that it is our intention to look at another 25 leadership academies in secondary schools across London. I am much attracted to the discipline, the self-confidence that young people get from such leadership academies and we are looking to see if we can help expand those in secondary schools in other parts of London.

I also spoke about police numbers and I said that it was my strong view that we should not allow police numbers in London to fall below a level which I think is safe or acceptable for a great city in the run up to the Olympics and beyond. I made that point very clear. I think London faces particular pressures from the Olympics, from public order, the maintenance of public order and I believe that numbers are an important element in maintain confidence and in keeping the fight going against crime. There is no doubt at all that the police have been very successful over the last few years, crime down about 9% over the period of the Mayoralty. They are down very substantially in some areas in particular. We are pleased with that; we want to continue the fight against crime. It is an absolute prerequisite for a great city that it should be a safe city.

Quite rightly you have asked me about decision over the last couple of days in relation to the stadium. Let me just say there that what we are doing is ending the faffing around that was going on because of a great number of legal anxieties that had crept into the decision to go with West Ham. We will now go to, I think, a very sensible solution from the point of view of the taxpayer and the public purse in that we keep the stadium as an asset within the Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC). We work with Newham and we make sure that we get good value from whichever football team it may be that comes forward to rent it. I note that already at least a couple are showing interest and we will, thereby, deliver not just a football legacy from the stadium, which I think was always a great thing to achieve, but also an athletics legacy as well.

Finally, on the cable car I am very please to confirm what Members will have seen, which is that we have secured a very substantial sponsorship deal for the cable car of £36 million, which will enable this project to go ahead, either at no expense to the public purse, which is still I think possible, or at very little expense to the public purse. I think that is it. That is a considerable achievement. I know how strong the support for the cable car was amongst Labour members, although they did not offer any means of funding it themselves. I notice that they always deprecate any kind of private involvement. They would not have got a penny from the private sector themselves. I note their support for it. I note, by the way, I seem to remember that some of my Labour friends over there on my right actually pledged to vote for me in the event that the cable car was built. Do you remember that? I remember, so I not only look forward to delivering the cable car with either no or very little public support, I think an extraordinary achievement in these circumstances, and I look forward very much to receiving the votes of the Labour Members. I think the record will relate, Jennette, that there was a pledge made in this place by the Member concerned and look forward to him making good on that pledge.


Answer for Mayor's Oral Update

Answer for Mayor's Oral Update

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Darren Johnson (AM): On the stadium, now that the West Ham bid has collapsed, can you give assurances today that under no circumstances whatsoever will the Olympics Stadium be demolished and that its future it will be modified rather than be demolished.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Of course that has to be right, Darren. We went around the argument several times and I think that the stadium is a substantial investment by the public purse. As everybody who has now seen, it is a great stadium. It was designed, specified, as people will remember, so that it could incorporate athletics a long time ago. Those specifications were very difficult, when I became Mayor, to unscramble because the thing was very far down the track, to use an appropriate metaphor. I think what we are securing is a legacy for the stadium that is commonsensical; it keeps it in the public domain but allows us to cover the costs of running the stadium by renting to out to a football team. It will also of course be available for other uses for the community, for Newham, it will be available for athletics and it will be a significant resource for Londoners. I think that is the way it should be.

Darren Johnson (AM): This all sounds a bright rosy future for the stadium, why didn't you pursue this option in the first place?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is a fair question. The answer to that is that in tough financial times it is always sensible to look at whether you can privatise, unload the whole thing onto the private sector. It was not an irrational thing to do. I think the difficulty was that if you build a stadium with taxpayers' money you are obviously going to invoke state aid issues in the disposal of that stadium to a private sector body. There are inevitably going to be complications. The difficulty was that the complications and the legal challenges, not just by Spurs but also this issue about West Ham state aids, threatened to become so protracted that there was a real question in our minds about whether we would be able to get it open for 2014. We want it to be open as soon as possible for the benefit of the City. I think we have come up with a good solution. We have taken the action I think was necessary, cut the Gordian knot and we will get on with it.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, this in fact is not a good deal for the taxpayer. London taxpayers are going to be left with a large bill and uncertainty, and this is on your watch. I understand that you actually encouraged Spurs to bid for the Olympics Stadium, so a lot of the faffing around that has ensued perhaps can be laid at your door. Do you regret that? Is it now not time for Spurs to commit itself once and for all to staying in Tottenham?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): There is no doubt at all that Spurs were very keen to get hold of the Olympic Stadium and I said to them that if they were interested they should certainly bid.

Joanne McCartney (AM): So you encouraged them.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I did not go to Spurs and say, 'I say, Spurs, there is an Olympics Stadium you might be interested in'. No, on the contrary, they were very keen to bid for it and I said that if they wanted to bid for the Olympics Stadium I saw no harm in that. Indeed, I think that was completely the right thing to do because it would have been absolutely mad to get into a situation which we had no competition whatever. If you really believe it would have been better to have a significant London asset simply being flogged off for the lowest price without any competition at all I think you would not have been doing justice to the interests of London taxpayers. What will happen now is that there will be a process and I have no doubt that interested football clubs will want to enter and we will see what happens.

Joanne McCartney (AM): You are encouraging Spurs to stay in Tottenham, are you, and not to bid for the stadium?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, sorry, on that point, Joanne, if you remember the decision went against Spurs. We decided that it would be much better if West Ham took it over. The Olympic Park Legacy Committee (OPLC) decided that. I have always made it clear that I think it would be good for Spurs and good for Tottenham, that decision having been made against them, if they regenerated the stadium at White Hart Lane and led the regeneration of Tottenham. We are working with them, as you know, to achieve that and there is fantastic potential, by the way, in that part of London. As everybody knows there is a great deal on the table for Spurs to grasp. I hope that that they do. I know that millions of people around London hope they do as well.

Andrew Boff (AM): Mr Mayor, the stadium was designed in the time of your predecessor. What was it designed for?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, Andrew, as you know, and I have read some of your remarks on this and of course you are completely right that the stadium was designed as an athletics venue, which made it allegedly technically difficult for some football teams. They said that they did not like the sight lines, they did not like the way it was configured, for football. Other teams, other sides do not seem to have that objection. We are confident that the mixed-use solution that we have come up with will be suitable both for football and for athletics.

Andrew Boff (AM): Are you saying, Mr Mayor, that the original use that was designed under your predecessor is not now considered viable for a sustainable and viable use, that is an athletics only venue?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As soon as I became Mayor, if you remember, I took a view that it was not really sensible to have an athletics only solution. It struck me that wonderful though it is, important though it is to encourage athletics in London, athletics alone in that stadium would not give it the usage it needed. What I wanted from the very beginning was a mixed use solution. It is not just football, it is not just athletics, what you can do with the stadium, if you think about the success of the Dome [O2 Arena, formerly the Millennium Dome] had, this could be a fantastic venue for all sorts of things. Going back to the point that Joanne was making, when you consider what has happened to the Dome and the potential for developing it for entertainment events of all kinds this could be a big money spinner. I think that the logic of keeping it within the MDC is actually very compelling.

Andrew Boff (AM): Thank you, sir. Would you do me a favour and provide the Assembly with a list of all the Premiership League standard clubs in the world that have lasted for a period of more than ten years also accommodating an athletics track.*

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Andrew, I cannot provide --

Jennette Arnold (Chair): No, not at all. I believe that is going to be a short list, because I think there is only about two stadia in the world.

Andrew Boff (AM): I want that list.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): He is going to give you the list. I want to move on.

Andrew Boff (AM): Thank you.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): I was saying to you it is only going to have about two names on it.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Mr Mayor, on the cable car, I am troubled about the finances, because let me just remind you what you promised, 'A construction of the scheme entirely funded from private finance', and you could not even keep a straight face this morning when you said that that was still possible.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What you saw was gloating. I was gloating; that was my gloating expression. I was gloating at the humiliation and embarrassment of my Labour friends.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): The construction cost is £60 million; currently that is the estimate. The Emirates deal is 'worth' £36 million over ten years.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Let me explain.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Is that hard cash, and when will we get the actual hard cash out?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The £36 million is £36 million and it does not matter over what period it is. I would also point out to you that negotiations continue with the European Union and there are other sources of income that will accrue to this venture that will very substantially cover the entire cost. By the way, the £60 million, just so people understand this, there is £44 million to £45 million which we will almost entirely cover through the sponsorship and we hope through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as you know. Of the £60 million, quite a lot of that is contingency and then there is the possibility, as you all know, of other revenues. Even if all the contingency were to be used, and even if there were no other revenues, which I very much doubt, the maximum cost to the taxpayer now of a new river crossing, capable of bringing 3,000 people an hour, the first new river crossing overland east of Tower Bridge for a very long time is about £10 million or £15 million. I think that is a bargain.

I think that is a great achievement and I think it is mealy-mouthed, mealy-mouthed of people in this chamber not to acknowledge that achievement and what I would like instead of this --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): I just want you to be straight. I want you to be straight with Londoners. You promised it would be entirely private funded. You have now told us that you are thinking it is going to be £10 million, £15 million cost --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, I did not say that. You did not listen to my answer. I said it is possible --

Jennette Arnold (Chair): No, can I just say to the two of you, no one can understand anything you are saying. Can we have the question? Mr Mayor, can I just get the answer to the question.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Is it not a fact that if you pay out £60 million now, and you do not get the £36 million until the end you have to finance that for ten years, which dramatically increases the cost. Is it not a fact that you have not yet been clear with Londoners how much they will have to pay to cross, even though you have sold the rights to put this on the Tube map? Are there not a lot of questions that Londoners have in the rush to get this in before the election, effectively, before the Olympics as you call it, that Londoners will end up footing the bill after the polling day?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Listen, Mike, can I just make a general point. I appreciate it is your duty to ask tough questions, and you are right and obviously the fare structure is something that we will have to publicise in due course.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Come clean to Londoners on it.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We do not have the answers to that yet and frankly they have not been gone through at all. What I can say to you is that because of the sponsorship deal, which I think most fair minded people would agree, in very tough economic times, is an extraordinary contribution to London. I do not remember, by the way, reading much about private sector sponsorships of anything for the benefit of Londoners during the previous mayoralty.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): Mr Mayor, you are not answering the question.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): I just want to stick to the sponsorship, thank you, Chair.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): Can you give an answer to the sponsorship?

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Is the £36 million hard cash?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is £36 million; whether, if you bit it, your teeth would leave an imprint I cannot say.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Just say yes or no.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): That is such a ridiculous answer.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Just say yes or no, because most sponsorship deals -- - Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Look, it is £36 million of sponsorship, which will substantially defray, absorb the cost of the construction.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): All right. OK.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I said to you, we are hopeful that we will be successful in negotiations with the ERDF who, by the way, see the important regeneration advantages of the cable car, as indeed to be fair a few other people around this chamber. Could I say that sponsorship is very substantially --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): Thank you, Chair. I have some questions I will write to the Mayor about that.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): OK. Thank you, Assembly Member Cleverly. We have a question now, if you could find an answer to that.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Jennette, I did find an answer to that.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): You did not.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I did. I did.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You are a Labour Member but I think you have to be fair.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): No. I want you to answer the question. It is a matter of record that the Mayor uses every opportunity to avoid answering questions.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, I gave you --

Jennette Arnold (Chair): No. I am able to say that from my position as Chair.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): I would also like Assembly Members to ask straightforward questions so that we can get answers. Assembly Member Cleverly, can I have your question please?

James Cleverly (AM): I am obliged, Madam Chairman. Mr Mayor, can we ensure that once the fare package and the usage terms and conditions are established for the cable car that, at least during the period of the London Triathlon, bicycles will be allowed to be taken onto the cable car, so we can avoid the annual debacle of international athletes being told they cannot take their bicycles on public transport to the world's largest triathlon?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, James, amongst the many other virtues of this cable car is that it is fully disabled friendly, it has access for bicycles and indeed I look forward to taking a bicycle on it myself, in the company of my friends from the Labour Group who once they have tended their votes in my favour.

James Cleverly (AM): Thank you very much.

John Biggs (AM): Could you answer a very simple question? I reckon even you could answer this. Would I be able to drive my car on to the cable car?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No.

John Biggs (AM): No, okay, that's pretty straightforward, because I think --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It depends what kind of car you have got. If you have a very, very small car you might be able to.

John Biggs (AM): I am happy to confess to the Assembly that I made a big mistake, which was believing you, as Mike Tuffrey did, when you said that you would be able to build this at no expense to the public purse. It is clearly not the case. Can I clarify something with you. AC Milan, their shirts are sponsored by Emirates, £52 million over four years. The Emirates Stadium, Arsenal's Football Ground is £100 million over 15 years. Do you think you got a good deal out of Emirates?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think in the current circumstances we got an extremely good deal.

John Biggs (AM): Did you have lots of other bidders?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not going to go into the bidding process, but we got an extremely good deal.

John Biggs (AM): We do not know whether we had any bidders; there is no transparency here. Did anyone else come to meet you, offer you any inducements, any other logos?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, we've got a very good deal. There was a competitive bidding process and I think in the current climate to get the cost of constructing a new river crossing for London very, very substantially defrayed by the private sector is a very good achievement for Londoners.

John Biggs (AM): It was a competitive process but you are not prepared to tell us who else competed, or whether anyone else competed?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): The honest answer is, John, the details of the process I cannot recite off the top of my head, but I happen to know that Emirates were some way out in front.

John Biggs (AM): You should know this. This is such a key scheme for you I would have thought you would have your fingers on the detail.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, there was a competitive process. I am happy to see whether we can legally tell you all the details of the process. If it is possible for us to tell you what happened then I have no problem with that at all.

John Biggs (AM): How many? Was it one, was it two? Did you have to meet them and encourage them?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, I would be perfectly happy to go over the details and the process, which was conducted by Transport for London (TfL), and if you really want the details of the bidding then I am more than happy. You have not asked me to provide those details now. If you want the details of the bidding process I am more than happy to see whether it is legally possible for us to give them to you and then we will do it.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): They will be provided. Do you have another question, Mr Biggs?

John Biggs (AM): This is called Mayor's Questions and I think we do expect answers. Would you agree with me that the most appropriate logo for these cable cars would be something like a naked blond man holding a fig leaf with the word Emirates written on it, because that is essentially what has happened?

Jennette Arnold (Chair): That is not an appropriate question. Can I move on? Assembly Member McCartney.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I will move on to your conference speech, in which you made two announcements; if I could firstly deal with your 25 boot camps or otherwise known as leadership academies?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I just want to ask about that because you made a similar announcement before the last election, saying you were going to set up these boot camps, 'respect academies', as you called them at the time. They did not get off the ground and when I asked you about this you said, and I am quoting directly,

'There are a huge number of organisations across London that are making a difference to kids. What I do not think we should be trying to do is trying, as the GLA, to be reinventing the wheel and rolling out our own boot camps and respect academies.'

Can I ask why is this back on the agenda and how and where is the money coming from?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will tell you why. It is very, very simple, Joanne. Anybody who saw what was happening in early August will understand the very strong views of millions of people in this City that too many kids are growing up without boundaries, without discipline and without respect. I do think it is very difficult for us to be providers of services. It is very hard for us to do that kind of thing. That is why I spoke as I did. When you look at what happened and you look at the scale of the problem I do think that it is right that we should try to expand this kind of leadership academy. I think there will be different models in different places but when you consider the scale of the problem it will be completely wrong of us not to have a crack at it.

Joanne McCartney (AM): You said, when you gave your update, that you are going to, 'See if we can' expand, which links to the question I asked about where is the money coming from because it will obviously depend about where you are getting the money from. Do you have any firm commitment for that money at the moment?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No. I do not want to go into the details of the financing. We may fund it from the GLA. There may be private contributions. We will have to see how we go with that, but obviously you will be kept informed.

Joanne McCartney (AM): OK. Last week the Evening Standard carried an interview with Ray Lewis, your Mentoring Ambassador, who said that he expected to bid to run some of these schools. Can I ask, is that appropriate and not a conflict of interest that someone who is so closely associated with you then has the chance to bid for these schools?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): There would be a process, I cannot comment on who will be successful in bidding for them, in getting the right to run them.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Are you happy with one of your close associates and ambassadors from this building actually bidding for those?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not see any particular conflict of interest I have to say, because Ray, in my view, does a very good job as our Ambassador for Mentoring. I think that his ideas, the kind of discipline that he promotes, the respect academy that he runs I think is inspirational and I know that it is controversial, I know that people dislike it and I understand that, but in my view he does a great deal of good. If he wants to bid let him bid, whether or not he will be successful is another matter.

Joanne McCartney (AM): At conference you said that police numbers in London, you wanted an acceptable level to maintain safety, yet we know that when you came into office you inherited the last Mayor's budget and policing plan which saw numbers rise to 33,260. Your policing plan has a reduction of 1,800 officers by 2014. Half of those have been made already. Can I ask do you accept that those plans have been made on your watch? What do you consider to be an acceptable level to maintain safety?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. As I have said to you many times, and as I said at the conference, I think you have to keep police numbers in London. It is vital for the health and the security of the City that people feel that it is policed by a large number of officers. That is why I said that I wanted to see it at or around the 32,500 mark. We can do that. The discussions we are having with Government now, as I have said to you repeatedly, are with a view to protracting that beyond the Olympics. I think that is the right thing to do. Actually I think it has been an amazing achievement of this Mayoralty to keep police number high when they have been so dramatically cut in other parts of the country. Actually I was looking at some blog on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) about a kind of London versus the rest of the country apartheid on police numbers. I think it is a tribute to the way the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), on which I think you sit, has managed the police budgets. I pay tribute to Kit Malthouse [Deputy Mayor for Policing] for his work there in moving sums around to keep numbers of warranted officers high and to keep the numbers of frontline officers high as well. That is very tough to do when budgets are being cut around the country. I think the MPA and Kit have done a very, very good job.

Steve O'Connell (AM): On the same subject of the leadership academies, which speaking for Croydon is something I very much welcome after the events of a month ago. To me there is a clear gap in the market. There is an absolute need for some sort of formalised structure to support young people in their wish to improve their leadership skills and their responsibilities. In early August, I do not think I overstate it to say in essence the world changed in that piece of work. I think it is important that we have a new emphasis on that. Very briefly, Mr Mayor, and I know we are in the process, what sort of outcomes would you want to see if these leadership academies were to be successful?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I want to see kids who are growing up without the changes that other kids get having someone who listens to them, but also who gives them not just encouragement but discipline and the love that they need, in the sense that it is there to give them boundaries and self respect and to understand what it means to be an adult human being and how to behave. I am afraid the tragedy is that so many kids in London do not get that. If we can do a little bit to start fostering that I think it would be a great thing for the City.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Connected to that clearly is your campaign around mentoring, Deputy Mayor Malthouse to increase the number of mentors, particularly under the leadership of the aforementioned Ray Lewis as your Ambassador.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it is very important, even if we are not the biggest providers of mentors in London, what we are doing is showing that it matters, showing that this is something that is important for London. That is why what we are doing with Team London I think is important, in trying to mobilise people who want to volunteer to mentor young kids, or just to read to young kids in schools is an important way forward for our City. I think it is right that we should be showing a lead.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Would you not agree with me that it is a significant achievement of your mayoralty under the ambassadorship of Ray Lewis that you have increased under that scheme the numbers of mentors from a zero base to something like 2,200 mentors as we speak?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. The numbers will go up and down. We will have to make sure that we have the right mentors, but it is something that I think Londoners want to see. They appreciate that there are children growing up who do not have someone sitting them down and telling them what life is all about. If we can help stimulate that, and I know that there are many, many mentoring groups around London already. There are many people who are doing fantastic work. We are not trying to substitute or duplicate, we are trying to recognise and encourage. I think what Ray is doing is very important.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you.

*NB. A briefing on the stadia worldwide accommodating football and athletics was provided by the Mayor to Members on 19 October 2011. The briefing and follow-up information is attached as an appendix to the transcript.