Tory mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith says rival Sadiq Khan must “front up to voters” and explain how he’ll pay for a four year fares freeze which Transport for London says would cost £1.5bn more than the Labour candidate claims.
Last month BBC London revealed that TfL’s in-house figures put the cost of Mr Khan’s flagship policy at £1.9bn, four-times more than his figure of £450m.
Mr Khan has repeatedly denied that TfL has put such a high price tag on his pledge, last week telling ITV: ”They don’t say that. They don’t say that. I’ve spoken to TfL on a regular basis. TfL don’t say that.”
On Monday Mr Khan again denied the agency had commented on the cost of his pledge before losing his temper when corrected by the BBC’s transport correspondent.
The gulf between Khan’s figures and TfL’s undermines Labour’s claims of putting forward a “fully costed” policy and has been seized on by Mr Goldsmith’s team who believes it strengthens their central message that a Khan mayoralty would be a “dangerous experiment” for the capital.
Today the Tory candidate published a list of schemes and services he says Khan would need to scale back or cut in order to plug the “black hole” in his finances.
These include taking the axe to TfL’s discretionary travel concessions for over 60’s as well as cancelling “essential tube improvements”, delaying station upgrades at Victoria, Finsbury Park, Bank, Holborn and Camden or scrapping investment on road and rail regeneration.
Goldsmith’s campaign say the only alternative would be to expand the congestion charge to raise more money from motorists, cut funding for the police or put up council tax, although an increase of 2% or more in the non-policing element of the mayor’s share of council tax would require City Hall to hold a referendum.
The Tory candidate is yet to announce any fares cut or freeze and has previously claimed that any significant fall in TfL’s income would threaten not just the proposed upgrades and network expansions but the new homes which are expected to be built around the new transport links.
Speaking today, Mr Goldsmith said: “London is just too important to be used as a four year experiment by Khan and Corbyn. Khan’s £1.9 billion black hole can only be paid for by cancelling essential tube improvements, hiking Council Tax to new levels, or cutting the police budget to the bone.
“Khan needs to front up to voters and explain which taxes he will raise, and which improvements he will cancel. I am standing up for Londoners who want to see better services delivered, rather than undermined by unworkable and reckless promises.”
However Mr Khan has hit back, saying his opponent’s attack means he accepts TfL’s budgeted fares increases which would see the cost of a zone 1-4 travelcard increase by 17% over the next mayoral term, rising from £178.60 this year to £209.72 in 2020.
In response to suggestions that he could drive up council tax, Mr Khan pointed out that he’s spoken in support of Mayor Boris Johnson’s final budget which saw City Hall’s share of the council tax fall.
Mr Khan said: “I supported Boris Johnson’s tax cut because it was the right thing for London, but Zac Goldsmith has now admitted that he will charge Londoners an extra £862.08 in fares.
“That is a significant hike that will damage the living standard of millions of Londoners on middle incomes. The choice has never been clearer – a fully funded fare freeze under my Mayoralty, or £862.08 more under Zac Goldsmith.”