Labour mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone has been accused of “comic ineptitude" and "muddled economics” by a senior Conservative councilor.
This attack came at a Deputy Mayoral debate organized by Central London Forward on Wednesday afternoon. Conservative Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse had to pull out at the last minute and was replaced by James Cleverly, leader of the Conservatives in the London Assembly.
Labour’s Val Shawcross declared that she would cut fares on London transport, while continuing to spend on transport upgrades. She explained that it was because of unused financial surpluses in the London transport system:
“The numbers [of commuters] are rising, usership is rising. There are under-spends in TFL. It is high time we started looking for opportunities to use Londoner’s money better for investing in infrastructure”
Shawcross added that reducing fares was the “biggest lever the Mayor has for putting money back in Londoners’ pockets”.
However, Cleverly strongly disagreed with Shawcross’ claim that there was money to spare in the transport budget.
“There is no big magic pot of mystery invisible pixie money that you can use to simultaneously bring down fares and keep infrastructure going.
"You cannot spend the same money twice. It’s already earmarked for future investment. If you’re going to spend that money, you’ve got to specify which services are going to be cut,” he said.
“If there was 300m sloshing around, do you not think Boris would have noticed? [You’re] claiming no-one noticed the 350m burning a hole in their pocket. It’s completely incredible.”
Shawcross said that Boris Johnson didn’t know about the surplus when she had asked him. She claimed that TFL has £4.5bn in reserves, adding: “Not all of that money is earmarked for future projects. Our plan is achievable and manageable”.
Cleverly mounted a fierce attack on other Labour policies. He claimed that Livingstone wouldn’t get more government funding for London projects than Johnson did. “If people think they could have secured a better deal than Boris, they need a check-up from the neck-up” he said.
Labour’s plans to bring back the EMA for London students were met with fierce criticism from Cleverly. He suggested that Labour’s plans had not been thought through, saying:
“Bring back EMA? Really – with whose money? I might as well say I’m going to buy you all a solid gold throne and do it with Val’s money. See how she likes it! We need a credible economic policy, which [Labour] don’t have”.
LibDem Caroline Pidgeon said that the two main parties had let down voters. She was skeptical about her opponents’ ability to keep their promises. “They’re throwing envelopes of money at anyone they can think of… it is Monopoly money!” she said.