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London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has accused Boris Johnson of telling a “blatant lie” to the House of Commons after the prime minister accused him of bankrupting Transport for London.
The mayor is seeking a £4.9bn settlement for the next 18 months to keep the capital’s tube and bus services going with revenues collapsed because of Covid.
Attacking Khan in the House of Commons, Johnson told MPs: “It was the Labour mayor of London who bankrupted TfL’s finances,” going on to say that any plans to increase fares or extend the congestion charge zone were “entirely down to him”.
But Khan accused of him of lying and trying to impose a “triple whammy” of “punitive” charges on Londoners when the “sole cause” of TfL’s financial problems was the pandemic.
TfL said passenger numbers and revenue were down 70% year-on-year because of the pandemic.
The clash also came as TfL confirmed the latest death of a bus driver from coronavirus, which has brought the number of fatalities among workers during the pandemic to 45.
In a statement, Khan also accused Johnson of trying to claw back losses through an increase in tube and bus fares, an extension of the congestion charge and higher council tax in exchange for rescue funding. This was “punitive”, he said.
“London’s net contribution to the Treasury of £38.8bn last year means that Londoners and the capital’s businesses are not only paying for transport services in the capital but heavily subsidising those in the rest of the country too.”
It is a repeat of the political clash during lockdown when the government withheld a £1.6bn rescue package until the mayor agreed an increase in the congestion charge and an extension of the ultra-low emission zone charge to the weekend.
Khan said Johnson’s attack was a “vindictive” political stunt aimed at weakening Labour in London before next year’s mayoral elections.
He told a Transport for London board meeting: “Now is not the time for the government to play party political games or be vindictive towards London.
“This is far too serious a matter. We need to do what’s right for the city and the people of the city who have endured so much during this crisis.”
This month the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, wrote to Khan setting out a long list of conditions before agreeing a six-month bailout.
According to a letter seen by the Financial Times, he threatened to seize control of TfL and to run it from Whitehall. “We will be taking reserve legislative powers allowing us if necessary to direct TfL,” Shapps wrote.
The threat to undermine the London mayor is seen in some quarters as part of an attempt to cut Labour city leaders out of Covid planning.
The shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, said: “It’s extremely worrying that despite repeated requests, the government is offering only a papering-over-the-cracks funding package for Transport for London, with such punitive conditions.”
Khan called on ministers to reconsider their “ill-advised and draconian” proposals.
A spokesman for Johnson said TfL’s debt stood at £12bn and it was now spending £400m a year on debt interest, making it “effectively bankrupt”.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sadiq Khan accuses Boris Johnson of ‘blatant lie’ over TfL | Politics