Boris Johnson’s Mayoralty has cost London taxpayers at least £600 million of wasted money because of poor decisions, ideological dogma and vanity schemes.
Since first being elected as Mayor of London in 2008, Johnson has only ever been a part-time Mayor, as he has used City Hall as the launch pad for his own political ambitions.
And it has been ordinary Londoners who have suffered, whether through a lack of any proper, thought-through policies on infrastructure, Johnson’s stubborn refusal to negotiate public transport changes with the trades unions – causing transport misery for millions of commuters in the capital – or through the mismanagement of the city’s police resources.
“The Boris Johnson Mayoralty has been characterised by a series of scandals, wasting millions of pounds of Londoners’ money,” said Christian Wolmar, one of Labour’s short-listed candidates for selection to stand in next year’s London elections. “And yet he has got away with it by presenting himself as a friendly buffoon. He is nothing of the sort and should be made accountable for these terrible losses.”
Research by the Wolmar for London campaign team has uncovered a list of his worst excesses:
THE BORIS BUS: £300m
This has been a scandal from beginning to end.
London did not need an entirely new type of bus, especially with a back platform which meant that it would not be possible for the design to be used anywhere else in the world. The very concept of hop-on hop-off was misplaced and has now been all but abandoned for the bad idea that it was.
Last week, the London Assembly finally discovered that, despite pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into the Boris Bus’s development and design, taxpayers do not own the rights to the Mayor’s “iconic” New Routemaster.
Intellectual property rights for the bus remain with the manufacturers until Transport for London has ordered 1,000 vehicles. Ad TfL, having forked out for 800 of the vehicles, at a cost of more than £250 million, has no plans to buy any more.
Meanwhile, Londoners are still having to pay for Johnson’s expensive idea of having “customer assistants” on those routes which operate using the rear doors: each assistant costs around £30,000 per year to employ and support. They can’t operate as old-style bus conductors, of course, because London’s buses are now cash-less.
Boris’s “New Bus for London” was claimed to be “the greenest, cleanest” bus ever designed. Yet there are growing doubts about the difference between the bus’s performance trials data and the reality out on the roads of our city. Claims of the bus operating at 12 miles per gallon of fuel seem exaggerated, with some reports that in operation, the buses struggle to achieve half that figure – with all the expense that involves.
And there is a good reason why “the greenest, cleanest” bus is using more expensive and polluting fuel than Londoners had been lead to believe by the London Mayor.
The Boris Buses which were supposed to be environmentally friendly hybrids, operating off electric motors for much of the time. In fact, many have been operating solely in diesel mode, making them less clean than other buses, and regarded as a danger on the road by some drivers.
THE GARDEN BRIDGE: £30m
Johnson has promised at least £30m of public money towards the £175m project, to match £30m of Department for Transport funds, even though there is no transport logic behind it and very little public support. As opponents say, “it is neither a bridge, nor a garden”, but an expensive vanity project.
THE ESTUARY AIRPORT: £10m
Another Boris Johnson vanity project. The Mayor spent millions on a scheme which was never going to be viable and was rejected by the Davies Commission, as had widely been expected.
THE CABLEWAY: £24m
Another white elephant which even the usually supportive Evening Standard has reported has just four regular users of the cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. The scheme is unlikely to cover even its operational costs. As with much of what the Tory Mayor promised, there was supposed to be no public money, but TfL has admitted it contributed £24m.
OLYMPIC STADIUM: £230m
The 2012 Games showed London in the best possible light. The planning of the sporting infrastructure for future use has shown it at its worst. Not all the blame for the on-costs can be laid at Johnson’s door over this: it was his fellow Tory, Lord Coe, who advocated the original design, for what was effectively the world’s first $1 billion disposable stadium. But it has been on Johnson’s watch as London Mayor that £272 million has been spent, since the 2012 Games, on making the stadium fit for future, multi-sport use, and it has been under our Tory Mayor that one football club, which has a Tory peer as its chair, has been given a massive financial advantage over London’s other clubs, as West Ham will pay less-than-cost £2.5m in annual rent and contribute to the stadium’s reconfiguration costs of just £15m – or less than the price of a Championship striker. And once again, Boris has left the London tax-payer to pick up the bulk of the bill.
THE ‘NEW’ CRYSTAL PALACE: £4.5m
It is not just in spending money that Boris Johnson has been a costly Mayor. He has been very keen to “give away” public property to overseas developers who manage to appeal to his vanity, too. Take the Chinese scheme in south London, to rebuild Paxton’s Crystal Palace. Here, Johnson wanted to hand over more than one-third of a listed public park. The planning blight created by Johnson trying to inflict this hare-brained scheme cost the local council considerable sums to administer (estimated as at least £150,000), while local residents and park users saw years of their hard work as volunteers trampled over by the Mayor, and carefully negotiated Lottery funding schemes worth £4.5m for much-needed improvements in the park lost because of the uncertainty created.
DEVELOPER DEALS: Incalculable
This is impossible to quantify, but Johnson has repeatedly handed developers generous deals, often with public assets, while demanding very little to benefit the existing communities in return, and delivering very little affordable or social housing. He has also encouraged luxury developments that have used up land that would otherwise be used for social purposes. This has probably cost London hundreds of millions over the past seven years.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: Incalculable
There have been more strikes since Johnson took over because of his failure to negotiate with unions and his aggressive stance over ticket closures. The thinktank Cebr puts a conservative estimate on the cost to the London economy of £10m per day each time transport workers in the capital go on strike – and yet as London Mayor Boris Johnson has refused to meet with the trades unions to negotiate settlements to disputes. This has been reckless as well as irresponsible, but it is what we have come to endure of London’s part-time Mayor.