Following in the footsteps of Ken Livingstone and Oona King, Boris Johnson is hoping to capitalise on the success and popularity of the Freedom Pass with a promise that it’s safe under his Mayoralty.
In comments to the London Assembly, and repeated on his 2012 campaign website, the Mayor says “The Freedom Pass is 100% guaranteed with us. 1,000% guaranteed.”
As I explained at great length last June when Labour’s wannabe Mayoral hopefuls were busy scaring some of the capital’s most deserving transport users, the Freedom Pass isn’t a Mayoral scheme and neither the Mayor or Transport for London administer or fund it.
According to figures provided to me by London Councils last year, the total cost of the Freedom Pass for the current financial year is £265,987,000 of which “£28,090,000 is from a government grant and the rest is paid for by the boroughs.”
Boris often claims great hurt when accused by Assembly Members of not being straight in his dealings with them, yet in seeking to make capital out of the safety of a scheme no Mayor could axe he’s playing fast and loose with the facts.
The single area where Boris has played a part in making the scheme safer is in dropping his ill-considered promise to give away the Mayor’s ‘reserve powers’ which allow him to impose a funding settlement on the boroughs who actually run the scheme.
It’s clear that the issue of ‘cuts’ will be a major theme of the coming Mayoral contest but there’s no excuse for scaring people with false claims and implications that a valuable, and for many vital, scheme is under threat.
Both ‘main’ candidates and their campaign teams should leave the Freedom Pass out of their battle – Boris could start by having his campaign team remove the ‘promise’ from his website.
Update: Given the London Assembly intends to assume the responsibilities of London TravelWatch, it’s concerning that no AMs at the meeting were sufficiently aware of the facts to point out the Mayor’s lack of responsibility for the Freedom Pass.