There’s been a very important and welcome development in the ongoing efforts to secure publication of whatever advice Transport for London provided to Mayor Sadiq Khan so that he knew his fares freeze was affordable and deliverable.
The City Hall FOI team have been in touch and, while they persist with the line that no advice is held by City Hall relating to the freeze, they say “formal advice” will be published “later in the year when the Mayor finalises his Fares Decision for 2017/18.”
We’re still entitled to be surprised that Sadiq apparently made a £640m spending commitment without receiving any prior advice from TfL – especially given TfL’s May 12th email in which one of Sadiq’s most senior aides was told:
“A paper is coming over to you ASAP on the fares freeze to show how it can be funded”
and in light of the discussion, revealed by subsequent FOI request, on how to limit the answer to my original request so that only a media briefing and related internal emails were released.
Why discuss how not to release something which doesn’t exist? Why not just say it doesn’t exist? But if it doesn’t, why did TfL offer to provide it?
All these questions will ultimately have to be answered.
One possible explanation may be that Sadiq learnt one very important lesson from Boris who, in the final months of Mayoralty, publicly admitted that his pledge to maintain police numbers “at or around 32,000” was really a way of forcing the Met to make back office savings rather than cope with their reduced budget by slashing away at the front line.
Perhaps the new Mayor, aware of just how much waste there is in TfL, spurned attempts to brief him and insisted TfL immediately implement the freeze to ensure the organisation devoted serious effort to cutting its own back office costs?
If so that’s to be applauded but why not just say so?
Otherwise it just seems very odd that officials promised advice which then wasn’t delivered. Why would you risk annoying your new boss by doing that? And why else would a Mayor proceed with a £640m freeze without knowing whether enacting it would adversely impact services?
On the other hand, perhaps TfL really did forget not only to send the advice but to even draw it up? That would at least explain why the London Assembly says the agency has no idea how to fund the policy.
Predictably, I have asked TfL and City Hall for a copy of the document referred to in the May 12th email and look forward to their responses.
But while we wait, it’s right that we welcome Sadiq’s clear commitment to publish his next fares decision and the Transport for London briefing which will support it.
Boris only eventually did so after a Labour AM secured an Information Commissioner’s ruling that Londoners’ right to know how the annual decision was made outweighed his right to keep TfL’s advice secret.
By making it clear that he’ll continue putting the information in the public domain, Sadiq ensures none of the current AMs need to waste more taxpayer time and money securing a further ruling.
Taken alongside his pledge to publish the full Hodge report into the Garden Bridge and the thought which I know has gone into how the maximum amount of Lord Harris’s forthcoming report into the blue light services can be published without jeopardising the public, this new – though slightly belated – commitment is an important downpayment on Sadiq’s pledge to lead the most transparent City Hall administration yet.