The following article, written by Susan Hall, a GLA Member and the Leader of GLA Conservatives, originally appeared in City AM
Londoners are struggling. Businesses are closed. Our city’s streets are empty. And yet, it’s during the worst recession for 300 years, that Sadiq Khan has chosen to ask Londoners to pay for his mistakes.
Khan’s whopping council tax rise couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Mayor wants to paint himself as the saviour of free travel for under-18s and concessionary travel for the over-60s. But, it was his mismanagement that put them at risk.
Coronavirus is not the sole reason for Transport for London’s money woes. Our city’s transport network went into this crisis limping. Years of Crossrail delays, extortionate waste, and Khan’s irresponsible fares freeze had left TfL crippled.
Under Khan, TfL is wasting millions of pounds on fripperies. In a normal year, £44 million is lost on a perk providing free travel for TfL staffs’ flatmates and lodgers. £8.7 million was paid to transport workers carrying out trade union duties last year. And despite Khan asking for two taxpayer bailouts, TfL still paid out and awarded £12 million worth of bonuses.
And when you delve deeper into the depths of TfL’s books, you can save hundreds of millions of pounds more. Fare dodging costs TfL £400 million in a normal year. Reforming TfL’s outdated, gold-plated pensions could save £100 million. And getting Crossrail done would bring in more than a billion pounds in fares revenue each year.
This isn’t small change, ‘what’s down the back of the sofa’ type stuff. Under Khan, TfL is losing Londoners cash hand over fist.
Khan is misleading Londoners by claiming he had no choice but to increase council tax. If the Mayor got a grip of TfL’s finances, he could save Londoners from this unwanted bill.
No doubt it would be tough for the Mayor. He would have to take responsibility, battle his trade union allies, and stop blaming others. But it would be the right thing to do – no politician should put up taxes because it’s the easier option.
Instead, Khan’s hoping that his manifesto promise to keep council tax as low as possible has been forgotten. Because for the fifth year in a row, he has put our city’s taxes up.
After the latest increase, Khan will have added nearly £90 to the average Londoners’ council tax bill since 2016. Compared with Boris Johnson’s administration, Khan’s City Hall costs Londoners 31% more. This is an eye-watering rise.
As we approach the mayoral election, Londoners should check their bank account to see if they can afford any more of Khan’s mistakes.