After years of blaming Boris for rising fares and poor value from Transport for London, I’m afraid readers will now have to reserve some of their ire for me.
By selfishly insisting on knowing how much Barclays has paid so far for the Cycle Hire scheme, I’ve enfeebled and emasculated TfL to such an extent that it’s no longer able “to secure best value for any future tenders”.
All contracts TfL enters into after December 19th 2012 will deliver worse value, and it’s my fault.
I was warned.
In August TfL told me that as “disclosure of this information would be likely to affect TfL’s bargaining power with present or future sponsors and therefore hinder its ability to obtain best value it is considered that the public interest favours the use of the exemption.”
And yet I still insisted on knowing.
If it’s no longer able to deliver value for money, it’s no longer fit for purpose. I’ve broken TfL.
Could we fix the damage by employing new negotiators? Or would it be better if Boris begins preparations to put the fatally weakened TfL out of its misery by disbanding it?
Personally I think we should harness the generosity of the season and find it in ourselves to give TfL a chance to prove it’s not quite as useless as it claimed it would be.
To conflate the giving and receiving of Christmas with the New Year tradition of making resolutions of self-improvement, we’d be entitled to ask TfL for something in return.
My ask is two-fold.
First, it’s past time for TfL to stop pretending that transparency will have the same effect on its capabilities as Kryponite does on Superman’s.
Secondly, it should stop using the guy who came up with the legend of woe and destruction should the Ravens flee the Tower to knock up its FOI responses.
Hyperbolic claims of commercial impotence look even sillier then they initially did when you finally release the ‘unreleasable’ information.
If you work at TfL but you don’t like answering to the public, you’re in the wrong job and the New Year would be a good time to look for employment elsewhere. Consider your change of career to be an act of service in helping the Mayor meet his cost reduction targets.
And on the subject of Mayors I wanted to belatedly address a question I get asked on a regular basis.
No, TfL aren’t unhelpful and secretive because Boris and his team tells them to be, they’ve always been that way. They have gotten worse in recent years but that’s simply because they’ve gotten away with it for so long that they feel ever emboldened.
After six months of being fobbed off, I only got an answer to another FOI request when Boris’s transport Deputy Isabel Dedring intervened on my behalf.
As much as I valued her help, I found it embarrassing having to ask for it. I suspect TfL felt no such embarrassment at forcing me to step outside the process and approach her.
A recent London Assembly report accused TfL of hindering its scrutiny of the Mayor’s 2013/14 budget by refusing to provide sufficient information about fare increases.
Like all formal Assembly reports, the final text of this one was agreed by all parties.
That a public body could create such strong and unified bad will among politicians from four parties that they accuse it of hampering their statutory role is a testament to something but I don’t think it’s anything good.
Unless the next Mayor makes reforming TfL his or her number one priority they’ll find themselves hearing all the same complaints that Boris and Ken before him have.