The leader of a London borough where almost half of the children live in poverty has accused Boris Johnson’s Government of “bringing a sledgehammer” to negotiations with cash-strapped Transport for London.
Greenwich leader Dan Thorpe also said the Government had “finished with Manchester” and was “coming for us”, following the latest round of negotiations over future funding for cash-strapped TfL.
It comes as the latest conditions being considered by the Government – included higher council taxes, an expanded congestion charge zone and a hike in Tube and bus fares – were described by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a “triple whammy”.
And while a proposal to cut free bus travels for children has been postponed until next year, Cllr Thorpe said the potential new measures would still “punish” struggling Londoners.
“Basically, this is absolutely devastating news for us in Greenwich – they are bringing a sledgehammer to our borough and our city in an attempt to score political points,” the Labour council leader said on Wednesday.
“They’ve finished in Manchester and now they are coming for us. Playing politics in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a complete and utter disgrace.”
Among the conditions being considered is extending the congestion charge to include the south circular – meaning any Greenwich resident driving in it would face a £15 fee.
“There’s also been no discussion on the congestion charge and clearly this would not only have massive implications in terms of cost but also threatens gridlock as people seek to avoid any charge,” Cllr Thorpe said.
He said the changes came against a backdrop of growing poverty in Greenwich, where 43 per cent of children already live in poverty, while another 600 have become eligible for free school meals in the last month.
In response, Greenwich Opposition and Tory leader Nigel Fletcher said a “fair” funding solution should be found, adding “it would be wrong” for the Tory government to force decisions upon TfL.
“TfL’s finances have clearly been hit hard by Covid and it is right for the Government to bail them out,” he told the local democracy reporting service.
“In my view decisions on funding priorities should be made solely by the Mayor, who is accountable for those hard choices.
“It would be wrong for the government to make those decisions for him, and I hope a fair deal can be reached on that basis to keep London moving. Political posturing on this issue will not serve Londoners well.”
TfL have appealed to the Government for a £5.7b package to prop up services for the next 18 months.
The Government previously granted an emergency £1.6b bail-out in May after the Covid-19 lockdown saw passenger numbers and revenues nose-dive.
Wednesday also saw Boris Johnson tell the Commons the current Mayor of London had “effectively bankrupted Transport for London before coronavirus even hit” after Mr Khan hit out at the Government’s “draconian” proposals.