Boris quietly announces 100% rise in bike fares

Bike hike.

A good day to bury bad news. With the eyes of the media fixed on the US, Boris Johnson has quietly released a statement: the cost of using "Boris Bikes" is to double in 2013, accompanying a 4.2 per cent rise for bus and tube fares.

Hiring a bike will now cost £2, buses will be £2.40, and Oyster rates are jumping to £1.40. But Boris claims that he has fought back possibilities of even higher prices, winning £96 m government funding for transport in London.

The funding will go towards expanding travel services - with 600 new buses and 400 new hybrid buses as well as work on the Crossrail system.

Boris Johnson said in a statement: "Before the end of the year I will spell out further investment on the transport network that will help us to provide faster, more frequent and reliable journeys for Londoners; and is crucial to the economic development and growth that is so vital to our great city."

"This fares package is hugely important to our millions of passengers and I am very pleased to have secured nearly £100m that will help to keep fares as low as possible, and protect the important concessions that we offer the most vulnerable Londoners."

 

Boris Johnson announces bike price hike. Photograph: Getty Images
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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.