Monday 29 March 2021 6:20 pm

Lib Dem mayoral candidate blames 'toxic' Sadiq Khan for failure to get long term TfL funding deal

Transport for London (TfL) has failed to get a long term funding settlement over the past year due to Sadiq Khan’s “toxic” relationship with central government, according to Liberal Democrat mayoral election candidate Luisa Porritt.

Porritt, the Liberal Democrat leader in Camden council, told City A.M. in a wide ranging interview that the government’s willingness to give large deals to other transport providers and not TfL was a sign of the mayor’s failure in negotiations.

TfL has been given a series of rolling funding deals to keep it afloat since the first England lockdown last March saw its revenues plummet by more than 90 per cent.

Khan has tried to get a long-term cash settlement with the government for TfL, like the country’s private rail providers have received, as passenger numbers are unlikely to rebound any time soon.

Earlier this month transport secretary Grant Shapps gave TfL another £260m to continue to operate until May, after giving the transport body almost £3bn last year.

Porritt said Khan and the government had turned the funding negotiations into “a political football”.

“That’s partly because the mayor has such a toxic relationship with the government that those negotiations have been very adversarial from the outset and we’ve only seen short term funding agreements put in place,” she said.

“On the other hand, the government has stepped in and provided guarantees to private rail companies outside of London for 18 months as a result of the way they’ve been hit.”

She also said she would introduce a new “pay as you go road pricing scheme” to boost TfL revenues, which would see road users taxed according to a number of factors such as how often they drive.

Porritt will run against Khan, Tory candidate Shaun Bailey and Green Party candidate Sian Berry in the 6 May mayor of London election.

She currently sits equal third in the latest polling, along with Berry, on around 7 per cent of the vote.

Pollsters and bookmakers are expecting Khan to win in a landslide, with the incumbent on 53 per cent in the latest polling – a 25-point lead over second-placed Bailey.

Porritt said she was the “best placed candidate” to overtake Bailey and become the mayor’s best biggest challenger in the election.

“Bailey has proven time after time he is not fit to be mayor of London based on the comments he’s been coming out with – we are an outward looking, forward thinking city and we need better than that,” she said

The former MEP has made housing affordability a key part of her campaign, pledging to turn empty office buildings in the City into housing if elected.

“There is certainly a risk to leaving areas across London to languish if there isn’t a proper plan for the recovery,” she said.

“I think with the change in home working we have a once in a generation opportunity to fix our housing crisis.

“That’s not just housing or Central London. We have a real opportunity to make our High Street fit for the future and make them thriving places at the heart of our communities again and reshape them so they meet the needs of our local communities across London with services people want and need, from shared working places to childcare to places to socialise after work.”

Responding to Porritt’s comments about Khan, a London Labour spokesperson said: “Sadiq makes no apologies for standing up for Londoners against this Tory Government who are determined to punish our city.

“The election on May 6 is a two-horse race between Sadiq, who is standing up for London, and the Tory candidate, who is in the pocket of Tory ministers and talks London down. A vote for anyone else will just help the Tories win.”