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12 March 2012

Only Ken offers relief for the fare payer

Boris Johnson has taken more money out of Londoners' pockets than he needed to.

By Simon Fletcher

With one week to go to the start of the ‘official’ Mayoral election period, Labour’s campaign has opened up a major offensive over the issue of fares, building on Ed Miliband’s message last week that the election offered the opportunity of a referendum on the fares.

It comes as documents from Moody’s credit rating agency published on the Transport for London website blew a hole in the Tory case that Boris Johnson has not presided over surpluses in his transport budget.

Moody’s reveals: “Rising demand, coupled with the effects of the January 2011 fare increase, has contributed to an increase of 9.7% of TfL’s 2010/11 income from fares compared to the previous fiscal year, 5.9% ahead of the budgeted revenues.”

They confirm Ken Livingstone’s argument that the transport budget has seen both rising fares revenues and lower than expected operating spending: “Operating expenditure for the fiscal year 2010/11 has been 8.4% below the previous year expenditure, and 8.0% below budget.”

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The fact is, Boris Johnson has taken more money out of Londoners’ pockets than he needed to.

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And in another document also published on the Mayor’s own transport website Moody’s warns that international comparisons on fares are a now a challenge for London: “Over the long-term, the share of internally generated revenues is expected to climb to levels of operating income that are high compared to those of other major urban transport authorities internationally, which may be difficult to sustain politically.” Quite.

The Conservative transport policy offers no relief for the fare payer. Cutting fares has become a live issue. So Ken Livingstone’s campaign is escalating its Fare Deal action today across our field, digital and media operations.

Combined with a new video explaining the principles of the Fare Deal in an accessible way, the campaign has published a comprehensive analysis of the Tory Mayor’s handling of the transport finances, demonstrating how the fares can be cut. Over one million tabloid newspapers – ‘Ken’s Fare Deal’ – are being delivered now across London, with Ken’s pledge that he will quit if he doesn’t cut fares on or by October 7th this year; and hundreds of thousands of direct mail postcards are hitting the doormat. A response ad to the Conservatives’ scare campaign against Ken has been deployed on political websites to put the positive case for the Fare Deal.

In just over a week we will be in the official campaign period, and Labour will rally supporters for the Fare Deal on Monday night before the formal kick-off.

Fares now offer a key choice in this election. Londoners are in the unusual position of being able to vote to determine what fares they pay for the next four years. It brings accountability to a part of our daily lives that’s too often been associated with grim resignation.

The Fare Deal stands for a way of doing politics that involves real change. In contrast the Tory campaign is about making sure no one does anything about rising fares or the wider squeeze on living standards.

The job of the progressive wing of London politics is to make sure every person living in this city understands they can vote to make a change. Labour’s new push to reach millions of Londoners with the Fare Deal prepares the ground for the even more intense period of the official campaign, now just over a week away.

Simon Fletcher is the Chief of Staff for the Ken Livingstone campaign.