Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Greater London Assembly’

Boris Just Doesn’t Get Buses

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 29th December, 2009

London Mayor Boris Johnson has blown a giant raspberry at the campaign for one-hour bus tickets, spearheaded by the LibDem GLA transport chair, Caroline Pidgeon — which only goes to show how far out of touch he is with the lives of ordinary Londoners, including those based in the suburbs. Under the scheme, bus passengers would have ben able to change buses within a one hour period without having to buy another ticket. It’s a system that works brilliantly in a number of continental cities and it makes a lot of sense, particularly for young mums with kids or shopping who do not have a single direct bus route to where they need to be. Caroline Pidgeon’s campaign — which I was happy to support publicly when it was launched a few months ago — won the backing of members of all the main political groups within the Greater London Asembly. But the Mayor has still dismised it out of hand. The problem is that the Mayor seems to think — rather like Mrs Thatcher — that anyone who needs to take public transport is somehow one of life’s failures. The reality is that most Londoners do rely on public transport and Boris should be encouraging more people to use it with incentive schemes such as the one hoour bus ticket, rather than perpetuating a system whereby it is sometimes cheaper to take the car (for those who have one).

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Ryanair-style Public Services? No thanks!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 28th August, 2009

Barnet logoThe spectre of Britain under the Tories if the radical right gets its way loomed today, as the story broke about Barnet borough council in London adopting the business model of low cost airlines: offering no frills services, which would mean that some services now taken for granted in most local authorities would have to be individually paid for as surcharges. Fine and dandy for the affluent inhabitants of Mill Hill, maybe, but a dire prospect for the poor, especially needy elderly. Barnet Council — one of whose own spokesmen has informally dubbed the approach ‘EasyCouncil’, as a bow to EasyJet — says this is all part of its ‘relentless drive for efficiency’. Rather as with Ryanair — which reportedly investigated the possiblity of putting passengers in the hold, if only they could find some way of stopping them freezing to death — Barnet’s relentless drive could lead to some very uncomfortable as well as unfair outcomes.

Barnet is the borough which spawned the inimitable Brian Coleman, now ensconced in the Greater London Assenbly. But the new bete noire for opponents of Barnet-style Conservatism is the current Council leader, Mike Freer, who cheerfully told the Guardian, ‘Going back to the Ryanair example, some things will be cheap and cheerful and in other areas we will provide complete services.’ The interesting thing to watch will be David Cameron’s reactions to all this. Will the supposed Prime Minister-in-waiting hail Mr Freer and his colleagues as visionaries, who have provided a template for a future Conservative government’s approach to public services? Or will he realise that the model is about as appealing as a sandwich with no filling and is therefore an electoral liability?

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Has Brian Coleman No Shame?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 7th July, 2009

Brian ColemanAccording to London’s Evening Standard, Barnet and Camden’s Tory member of the Great London Assembly (GLA) Brian Coleman is the one and only Assembly member who has not vountarily itemised details of his expenses. Only the ‘mad, bad and the sad’ would be interested in the minutiae of his taxi bills, he is reported as saying, with characteristic arrogance. The minutiae — if leaked reports are true — include some taxi bills running into hundreds od pounds, apparently caused by keeping taxis waiting for him for hours while he was attending functions. One can understand why the taxi drivers of London might love him, but why should we London taxpayers have to foot the bill? ‘It’s none of the public’s business,’ Brian Coleman protests, ‘They are not entitled to drool over our personal lives.’ I have not the slightest wish to know anything about BC’s personal life. The very thought makes me queasy. But raking up expenses on the public purse is not ‘personal life’. Or if the events were indeed personal, he should not be charging them to GLA expenses. David Cameron has rightly been taking a hard line with his MPs, about half of whom have so far had to return money to the exchequer. Meanwhile, Coleman has become the Widow Twankey of London politics and it is about time that Boris Johnson and David Cameron booed him off the stage.

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Pidgeon Takes Pot-Shots at Boris

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd June, 2009

Caroline Pidgeon 2Holding the Mayor to account is about all that members of the Great London Assembly (GLA) can do, but that role is itself essential in a system in which the anointed one (Boris Johnson for the moment) has a great deal of power and an ability to accrue even more. Assiduous Assembly members can indeed take the Mayor to task if they work at it. And just as Lynne Featherstone (now LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green) got her teeth into Ken Livingstone on transport issues when she was on the GLA, so now Caroline Pidgeon, holding the same brief for the party, is scoring hit after hit on BoJo. In a speech to the lively Lewisham LibDem supper club at a Turkish restaurant in Lewisham Way this evening, Caroline highlighted how the Mayor has been slashing transport infrastructure projects across the capital — such as the cross-river tram and the further extension of the DLR — while demanding that local councils in boroughs badly affected by these cuts still meet targets for affordable house-builds. Presumably he expects the prospective inhabitants to cycle everywhere. Meanwhile he has trumpeted his desire to dispose of bendy buses (at vast cost), even though that will be contractually impossible in the short-term and they are the most practical form of public transport on long, straight routes. Cuts will be the leitmotif of Boris’s second year in office, Caroline warned — maybe a taste of what is to come if people are foolish enough to vote a Conservative government into power with an outright majority at the general election.

Links: www.carolinepidgeon.org and www.lewishamlibdems.org.uk

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Learning from European Best Practice

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 22nd April, 2009

one-hour-bus-ticket-campaignEarly this morning I was at Vauxhall bus station in the London borough of Lambeth, alongside Caroline Pidgeon (Member of the Greater London Assembly), Tom Brake MP (Carshalton and Wallington) and the target parliamentary seat LibDem PPCs, Chris Nicholson (Streatham) and Bridget Fox (Islington South). We were launching a campaign to introduce cheap one-hour bus tickets in London, which would enable bus passengers to transfer from one route to another within the space of 60 minutes, without having to buy a separate ticket for each section of their journey. Such timed transfer-type tickets are common in several continental cities and it’s amazing that this still isn’t the case in a cosmopolitan metropolis like London. But it is never too late to learn from our EU’s partners’ best practice!

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Caroline Pidgeon’s First Outing

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 19th June, 2008

The newly-elected LibDem member of the Greater London Assembly (GLA), Caroline Pidgeon, did her first local party members’ briefing last night, when she went to Beckenham. Hailed by the Evening Standard as ‘someone to watch’, Caroline has been given the plum transport brief, which is the one that Lynne Featherstone used so effectively before moving onwards and upwards to become an MP. But as Caroline lamented, GLA members have no real power, unlike her role as deputy leader of Southwark Council. Instead, their job is to scrutinise the Mayor. There have been two Mayoral question times already, and Caroline has been pressing Boris Johnson on his pledge to bring in a Routemaster Mark II bus, as well as on trams and other issues of concern. Oddly, unlike his predecessor Ken Livingstone, Boris did not go round City Hall meeting and greeting GLA members straight after his election, and Caroline is not alone in wondering if he will get bored with all his mayoral resposibilities after a while. But as he seems to be busy appointing unelected people to do most of the real work, perhaps that won’t matter.

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