Sadiq Khan’s fares and housing policies have come under renewed attack by Tory mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith who says his rival is peddling “fantasy plans” which would do nothing to help Londoners.
The Labour candidate and current frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson has promised to freeze fares for the full four year mayoral term, a policy he’s repeatedly claimed would cost around £450m.
However on Friday BBC London revealed that Transport for London’s internal figures show the pledge would cost the agency £1.9bn, a loss Mr Goldsmith says would mean “serious cuts to essential programmes like the tube upgrades”.
Figures seen by the BBC suggest Mr Khan’s campaign failed to factor in fares from Crossrail, which opens during the next mayoral term, when calculating the impact of his fare freeze. When this revenue is included TfL says the full cost of his pledge would be almost four times the sum he’s budgeted for.
The Labour candidate’s sums had already been called into question after he mistakenly claimed the Thames cable car cost Londoners £5m a year to run when it in fact generates a £1m annual surplus.
Khan modified his original pledge to axe the transport link and visitor attraction after it emerged that doing so would cost Londoners £20m, wiping out savings he claimed could be used to help fund his fares freeze.
Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Mr Khan dismissed suggestions that he’d gotten his sums wrong and repeatedly denied that TfL had contradicted his figures.
However Mr Goldsmith said TfL’s intervention proved “Khan’s fares plans are pure fantasy,” adding: “They simply don’t add up”.
Goldsmith has been joined in his attack on Mr Khan’s fares pledge by current Mayor Boris Johnson who endorsed TfL’s £1,9bn figure and said the loss “would make it impossible to deliver some of the big-ticket transport improvements” currently being planned.
Mr Johnson claimed his would-be successor would need to plug the gaps in TfL’s income “by whacking up council tax or putting in new congestion charges”.
A number of the network extensions currently planned by TfL, including extending the London Overground to Barking Riverside, are intended to serve as the catalyst for the building of thousands of new homes.
Both Goldsmith and Johnson say these homes would be jeopardised if TfL were forced to scale back its plans in the face of lower than expected fares income.
Tories also say Mr Khan would be unable to work alongside the Government to unlock the money needed to secure the new homes and so help Londoners onto the property ladder unlike, they say, Mr Goldsmith who Prime Minister David Cameron has credited with the government’s recent decision to double the amount it lends to Londoners to buy a new home.
Goldsmith has also been credited for securing amendments to the Housing Bill to ensure that two new homes are built for each council house sold to fund an expansion of the Right to Buy scheme to Housing Association tenants.
Mr Khan and Labour oppose expanding Right to Buy, arguing that doing so will reduce the number of homes available to Londoners on lower incomes.
Critics, including Mr Khan, say the new homes are not a like-for-like replacement as there’s no guarantee they’ll be built in the same area as those sold and won’t be made available at social or affordable rents.
Labour’s candidate has warned the policy would be “catastrophic” for the capital and would “see rents and house prices rise and a steep decline in the number of affordable properties.”
Last week Mr Khan used a hustings debate to claim Goldsmith believed homes worth “£450,000” were affordable but the Tory candidate today said he was committed to delivering “homes that Londoners on average incomes will be able to afford.”
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, who will today join Mr Goldsmith on the campaign trail, has claimed Mr Khan and party leader Jeremy Corbyn “are simply not interested in helping people who aspire to own their own home.”
“They oppose Londoners in social housing getting the right to buy their home, and they oppose the help we are giving Londoners on average salaries to get a foot on the housing ladder.”
He added: “This is a big point of difference at the mayoral election on 5th May – between Zac Goldsmith who can work with Government to deliver more homes that people can afford to own and Corbyn’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, who cannot work with Government and stands against measures to help Londoners into home ownership.”