Livingstone defends his legacy

Election 2008, LondonUnlockedEditor

Ken Livingstone defends his record as Mayor in the FT, relying heavily on his impact on transport in London.

Writing in response to Philip Stephens' call in the same paper for Londoners to take a risk and vote for Boris Johnson over Mr Livingstone in the upcoming election, the Mayor launches staunch defence of his record in power:

The high density of business development in central London can only be sustained by public transport. I have not only improved this - for example, achieving 1.5m extra journeys a day on the buses - but introduced the congestion charge, which is now being copied by cities such as New York.

Whilst the Mayor's riposte is technically correct, it is also slightly disingenuous: more people are taking buses in London, due in no small part to the introduction of the Congestion Charge, but the average journey time has gone up significantly and overcrowding is rife. Perhaps the key element in getting people onto buses has been the introduction of relatively low fares - however, these are only made possible by the £212 per household annual subsidy granted to the bus network (for a fuller picture, read this report by the Bow Group).

With regards to the Congestion Charge, it is true that other countries and cities have studied the system we have, but London has yet to find a partner city in the UK to take up the scheme, and those which are considering charging plan to introduce significantly different (and cheaper than £330m per year to run) schemes than the one we have. New York, amongst others, plans a quite different system with far lower admin costs and which will act as less of a blunt instrument in getting people out of their cars.

All of this plays out against the electoral battle currently underway and the announcement, below, of the next ten year spending plan. LondonUnlocked remains an impartial site, but for Mr Livingstone to be so disingenuous with his record is disappointing to us. He has achieved plenty in his time as Mayor, and the debate should not just be on the future, but on his legacy.

London deserves that debate.