Thursday, 29 January 2009

London Assembly: Lib Dems teach Tories a lesson on value for money

There was a certain tension among the Tories yesterday at Mayor’s Question Time in London: In a change to the usual format, the London Assembly were considering the Mayor’s Draft Budget.

Naturally, value for money was being debated, and who better to champion it than Conservative Assembly Member Brian Coleman, he of the expensive taxi habit.

He was keen to question the Mayor on value for money - Boris seemed surprised that this was coming from Coleman’s direction, so inserted a little put-down later on – when it came to the discussion on how to encourage an increase in cycling, Boris said that all members would support such a thing, “with the possible exception of Brian.”

Adam Bienkov has also blogged at Tory Troll about Coleman’s keenness to get the best value – at least for himself:
At a meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority that he chairs, Coleman voted for an additional £7,564.91 (plus SR allowances) to be paid to authority members who are also on the London Assembly.

Coleman, who under a recent change in the law, already receives this allowance plus £25,612.50 for chairing the authority, was joined in the vote by his fellow Conservative Assembly members Roger Evans and Tony Arbour.

Currently, Assembly Members who are on the authority are expected to do the work as part of their basic £50,582 salary.

I wonder what the groups of students in the gallery made of all this; as usual, Jeanette Arnold, Chair of the London Assembly introduced each visiting college by name, and explained to Boris that they were all studying politics.

“There’s no politics here,” replied the Mayor, “It’s just pure common sense.”

Ok Boris, here’s a common-sense amendment to your budget (courtesy of the Lib Dem Group): giving bus passengers the option of buying “One Hour” tickets (as in Paris and other continental cities) valid for any number of bus journeys within an hour.

As Caroline Pidgeon has said, “If you can switch from tube to tube on the same ticket surely it makes sense to allow people to do the same with buses. At present people are penalised for using more than one bus on any journey. This is both unfair and in some cases a deterrent to people even using the bus. Other European cities recognise the benefits of time limited bus tickets and it is time the idea was adopted in London.”

Boris Johnson agreed yesterday to examine this proposal, along with others put forward by the Liberal Democrats.

The Mayor’s final Budget will be presented to the London Assembly next month.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

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