Thursday 21 May 2020 12:38 pm

Khan and Bailey clash over congestion charge hike

A row has erupted between Sadiq Khan and one of his challengers to be the next Mayor of London over the conditions of the government’s bailout of struggling Transport for London.

Yesterday, the Mayor said that the government had forced him to reinstate and expand the congestion charge as a condition of the £1.6bn rescue package.

Read more: Bailout shows the need for a TfL rethink

Under the new terms announced on Friday, the charge will rise by a third from 22 June and will apply every day between 7am and 10pm.

Speaking on GMB this morning, however, Khan admitted that the decision to raise the charge immediately had been his.

Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey had challenged the previous claim, saying that the government had only asked Khan to bring forward proposals to review the charges, not increase them immediately.

The dispute played out over Twitter, with both sides accusing the other of falsehood over the charges.

Bailey pointed to comments by Conservative minister for London Paul Scully, who told LBC radio that the government had not insisted Khan increase the charge.

The Mayor hit back, tweeting an extract from the terms of the deal, which says:

“11: This funding package is conditional on agreement from Transport for London that it will agree to the conditions below.

“H: The immediate reintroduction of the London congestion charge, LEZ and ULEZ, and urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and level of these charges, in accordance with the relevant legal powers and decision-making processes”.

Last week Khan warned that without a bailout London’s transport operator would be forced to cut services in the capital, with fare revenues having collapsed 90 per cent due to the coronavirus crisis.

The rescue package, which included review of TfL’s finances and government officials taking seats on the board that oversees the transport operator, was agreed late on Thursday evening.

In a subsequent statement to parliament on the deal, transport secretary Grant Shapps said that the “pre-existing poor condition” of TfL’s finances had been an important secondary factor in the need for a bailout.

Khan hit back at the claims, pointing to the fact that the operator’s deficit had been reduced 71 per cent over his four year term.

In a statement last night, a spokesman for the mayor said: “The government forced TfL to bring forward proposals to widen the level and scope of the congestion charge as a condition of the funding deal. 

Read more: Congestion charge set to rise 30 per cent after TfL bailout

“The Government term ‘widen’ clearly means ‘increase’ in this context. TfL developed the proposals for the exact details and the proposed £15 figure is what has come from their work to date. 

“The Mayor is required to take the decision based on their evidence, and it’s clear some action is needed to stop gridlock in central London as lockdown is eased”.