Mayoral candidates Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith have launched stinging attacks on each other this morning in a fiery exchange that sets the scene for an explosive final few weeks of the campaign to succeed Boris Johnson.
Khan’s flagship policy to freeze transport fares for four years was branded “financial illiteracy” by Goldsmith’s team as transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin waded into the debate, warning over the damage it could do to London’s transport network.
Meanwhile, the Labour candidate Khan accused the Conservatives' Goldsmith of running a “nasty and negative campaign”, just hours before the two sides go head-to-head at tonight’s City A.M. mayoral debate in the heart of the west end. “I want this election to be a battle of ideas for a better London - but Zac clearly isn’t interested,” Khan told City A.M.
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McLoughlin said in City A.M. today: “His [Khan's] transport promise - a four years fares policy - would cost £1.9bn to deliver, but he doesn't have a credible plan to pay for it.”
“There’s a very clear choice on transport at this election. It’s a choice between a network that’s able to grow, or a network that’s starved of investment,” he warned.
Hitting back at the transport secretary, Khan said: “I’ll freeze fares for four years, while Goldsmith, McLoughlin and Osborne will increase the amount you pay by 17 per cent.”
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Goldsmith and McLoughlin both accused Khan of planning to hike council taxes in order to fund the pledge.
Goldsmith told City A.M: “You can only deal with transport congestion, build houses and improve London if you keep the economy strong. That’s why the Khan-Corbyn experiment, with the promise of council tax hikes and a £1.9bn black hole, would be so damaging to London."
However, a spokesperson for Khan’s campaign said: “Sadiq does not support raising council tax. His manifesto is clear that he’ll keep council tax as low as possible.”
Labour claims the policy to freeze transport fares would cost £450m, not the £1.9bn which caused uproar in February when Mike Brown, transport commissioner at Transport for London (TfL), cited the figure.
Khan’s campaign also denies that a fare freeze would hit investment in the TfL network, saying they will raise the money to cover the cost by halving TfL’s use of contractors and agency staff from its current level of £383m, reforming procurement and helping TfL win contracts to run transport in other global cities.
Business group London First said “both candidates have been more than a little vague” over how they will plug what it called TfL’s “substantial unfunded investment needs”.