After four years of excuses and failure, Londoners will be asking: what is the point of Sadiq Khan?
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
I almost feel sorry for the Labour politicians trapped in City Hall with Sadiq Khan at the helm. The Mayor expects them to be his cheerleaders - but they know his record is appalling so they can only utter fake praise through gritted teeth.
That's why it's no surprise that Labour prefers to twist the London Assembly into an attack mechanism focused on the previous Mayor Boris Johnson. If Khan's administration at City Hall has proven one thing in the past four years, it is that they are experts in passing blame and deploying smoke screens to hide the Mayor's mistakes.
As Mayor, Khan has faced a crisis in each of his three crucial areas of responsibility: a violent crime emergency, the ongoing housing shortage, and now the collapse of Transport for London's finances. And in each crisis, he has offered an appalling response which has deepened the challenges facing London.
Until coronavirus, which has temporarily reduced some crimes in London, Sadiq Khan bungled City Hall's efforts to keep London safe for four years. As crime rose, Khan cut stop and search. As police officer numbers dwindled, the Mayor wasted millions of pounds on fripperies.
On Khan's watch, murder rose to an 11-year high, and knife crime reached an all-time high. A whole host of other crimes soared such as robbery, which rocketed by 73% and theft, which rose by 53%. This is an eye-watering record of failure which has cost our city dearly.
The Mayor claims he doesn't have the power or resources to keep Londoners safe, but his predecessor showed City Hall could cut crime and keep it down. Boris Johnson successfully halved the murder rate and reduced crime by 20%, with £2 billion less than Sadiq Khan now has as Mayor.
Instead of keeping Londoners safe, the Mayor chose to increase City Hall's staffing costs by 82%, waste a record £44 million on free travel for TfL staff's flatmates, and has nearly doubled his culture budget. In his last budget, he rejected a Conservative plan which would have funded an additional 1,598 police officers.
To solve London's housing shortage, the Mayor was given an unprecedented £4.82 billion government grant to start building 116,000 affordable homes by April 2022. After four years, Khan hasn't even started half of these homes, and it's unlikely he will meet the target.
Worse still, only about 12,000 of these homes have been completed, so Londoners aren't feeling the benefit of the government's investment due to Khan's appalling delivery.
Not only is his housing programme sluggish at best, but he has also broken his housing promises. He failed to build 10,000 homes on Transport for London land by 2020. He abandoned his pledge to ensure housing associations build 80,000 homes a year. And he scrapped City Hall's target for family-sized homes despite 360,000 children living in overcrowded conditions in London.
And that brings us to Khan's latest crisis which he helped author - the collapse of TfL's finances and City Hall's appalling handling of the coronavirus crisis.
In the past four years, the Mayor has pursued transport policies which he knew TfL could not afford. His partial fares freeze, which benefited tourists while Londoners saw the cost of their travelcards rise, cost our city at least £640 million. The delay to Crossrail, a vital project which was on time and budget when Khan inherited it, has cost an extra £3.65 billion and £1.35 billion in lost revenue.
The consequences of Khan's incompetent handling of TfL's finances have been clear for a while. Twenty-one major transport projects have been delayed or cancelled, and TfL's debt has soared to a record £13 billion this year. And now, in the face of the coronavirus crisis, TfL has folded and required a vast £1.6 billion government bailout.
Even if Transport for London were in tip-top condition, it would have required a bailout to survive the coronavirus outbreak. However, it went into this unprecedented crisis in a mess and has come out worse as a result.
Now Sadiq Khan is attempting to use the bailout to hide the cost of his appalling decisions. The Mayor has blamed the deal for his fares freeze ending, even though he had already stated in his most recent business plan – released long before the Covid outbreak - that fares would have to increase, and he's used the agreement to hike up and extend the Congestion Charge whilst trying to avoid responsibility.
After four years of excuses and blame, and another year of failure on the way, Londoners will be asking themselves: what is the point of Sadiq Khan? He appears to have no power, no money, and no ability to positively influence the outcome of anything, despite holding the most powerful directly-elected role in the country. He has squandered a golden opportunity to deliver for the capital which any other London politician would have bitten your arm off to have.
Londoners were due to give their verdict on Sadiq Khan's failed mayoralty on the 7th May, but due to the coronavirus, the Mayor's eviction was delayed. However, Khan's extra year in office has already given Londoners yet more reasons to kick him out when they finally get the chance.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by The Telegraph.