The Bow Group report versus Mayor of London's spin doctors

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The right of centre think tank, the Bow Group has produced a report detailing some of the Ken Livingstone failings and broken promises made as Mayor of London.

London Under Livingstone (.pdf)

by Christopher Mahon & Alastair Sloan

London Under Livingstone An evaluation of Labour's Mayor A new report from the Bow Group examines the track record of Ken Livingstone as London Mayor and uncovers rising taxes and worse public services. The research, released today, sees council taxes £300 higher in London than elsewhere in the UK driven by a 174% increase in the Mayor’s GLA precept. Meanwhile buses, tubes and violent crime have all deteriorated since Ken Livingstone took control.

The report claims that, including Transport for London, the Mayor of London has some 173 press officers on his payroll.

These media spinners have responded in a very NuLabour propaganda like manner, simply repeating their carefully chosen misleading statistics, some of which have been anticipated by the authors of the this report.

Press Release - Mayor's response to the Bow Group report 7-9-2007 546

e.g. on the notorious Congestion Charge

The aim of the charge was never to raise money.

We were promised at least £60 million a year "profit" which could be plouighed back into improving public transport - that was when the charge was "only" £5 a day - it is now £8 a day.

Far from costing London £930m, the first full three years of operation in the central zone produced an income of £591.7 million with an operating cost of £288.6million - giving a net operating income of £303.1million.

Note the misleading spin weasel words "net operating income".

The actual figure quoted in the Bow Group report is a measly £10 million which is available to invest in improving public transport.

That is not even £10 million a year, that is £10 million in total since the inception of the scheme.

Table 4: The finances of the Congestion Charge
All figures are £m's
 2001 - 022002 - 032003 - 042004 - 05 2005 - 062006 - 07Total to date
Revenue 18.5186.7218.1254.1252.4 929.8
Operating costs
Toll Facilities
 58.2120.9 120.8143.5130.1 573.5
Traffic Management
Other costs414.418.50.3 3.932.974.0
Net operating
(4)(58)45.3 96.4106.389275
Capital costs (162)   (103)(265)
Cumulative profit      10

In reality the scheme has proven hugely expensive. First there is the very generous contract with Capita. "Toll facilities", of which the bulk is the Capita contract, has taken 62% of the total revenue of the scheme. Secondly there is significant TfL overhead, which takes another 9% of the revenue. And finally there is the significant capital outlay representing 28% of the revenue so far.

This final part TfL is notoriously reluctant to admit, but the truth has recently emerged in a letter to Ealing councillor Phil Taylor

All in all the net profit since inception is just £10m.

Why the difference to the Mayor's claims of £123m profit in one year alone?

The Mayor's claims omit the capital costs. With a capital intensive project like the Congestion Charge it is hugely misleading to quote figures excluding the initial outlay. This reflects either reflects very poorly on the probity of the Mayor or on his understanding of the operation.

The Mayor's claims omit the full extent of the overheads. Much of the overheads for the project are charged to the TfL general account, such as marketing. In the Mayor's figures the profit is quoted without picking these figures up. Again this smacks of creative accounting and the Mayor not being straight with Londoners.

In total this means that while the total takings of the scheme has been some £930m, taking all the costs into account, TfL's net profit over 5 years has been £10m. That is just 1% of the total that Londoners have paid TfL over that time. In short his is probably the most inefficient tax ever devised.

The Bow Group report also challenges the Mayor's propaganda figures for the Metropolitan Police, again pointing out that the extra "Police numbers" are mostly not actual Police Officers, but are mostly civilian staff and Police Community Support Officers, who whilst costing two thirds the cost of a Police Constable each, do not have the training or legal powers to be allowed out on their own, and so must go around in pairs,


Finally, we are getting somwhere in exposing the useless, duplicitous idiot that is ken Livingstone. How is it possible that a city as magnificent as London should be saddled with someone like this. It is utterly saddening. This man lies [albeit through the machinery of his press office] with impunity, cares only for his own ideological views without a care for the interests of your average Londoner. We have a chance to get rid of him. Let's do it. Surely London deserves this chance to change this mess before it is too late.

Ken has not changed - he is still a communist without a clue on how to spend money sensibly - let's not forget the mess that was the GLC and the GLA will undoubtedly end up in much the same mess before long - especially if it carries on spending like this.

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