The Thick of It


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

South West Trains to accept Oyster pay as you go after all

After much wrangling and feet dragging, I note with pleasure that South West Trains has finally agreed to accept Oyster pay-as-you-go. As someone who frequently travels from North East London to South West I've often been delayed by having to break my journey at Vauxhall or Waterloo to buy another ticket. Long queues and additional costs add to the inconvenience. This has taken far too long and clearly wasn't something that Stagecoach SWT were keen to adopt, even though Transport for London has picked up the £40m bill.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cross River Tram

Boris Johnson doesn't think the Cross River Tram is worth investing in. Funding for any infrastructure projects won't be easy in the current financial climate. However, investing in the future will help London become more prosperous in the long term. London did this in the 1930s and for those of us who agree with Gordon Brown that doing so again, missing out on a project that had already been heavily invested in seems at best a waste and worst a missed opportunity.

Southwark Council has been vocal in opposition to Johnson's decision to scrap the project. Johnson come into office claiming to be a mayor who would listen to the boroughs rather than dictate to them as he claimed Ken Livingstone did. Southwark's Lib Dem leader Nick Stanton claims that Johnson failed to consult with his council when he planned to scrap it.

Stanton is seeking support from other affected councils. I don't expect the Department for Transport to provide capital funding without the crucial TfL contribution from the mayor, or private funding. I expect Stanton's worthy fight to fail because the mayor isn't interested.

Perhaps spending valuable funds on the unnecessary Boris Bus might have allowed the mayor to contribute to the Cross River Tram. However, he has shown little appetite for funding projects that benefit those who voted for Livingstone, as Southwark, Lambeth and Camden (the areas to benefit most from the scheme) all did.

Read more:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

WASP councillors?

The Local Government Chronicle reports today that the average age of councillors in England is now 59.

In their 2008 annual National Census of Local Authority Councillors the Local Government Association asked our locally elected representatives a range of profiling questions. The results reveal a clearly defined image of England's councillors:
  • 97% are white
  • 87% are over 45
  • 68% are male
It is not surprising that our town halls are run by older, white men. That doesn't make it right. Turnout for local elections is typically very low, at around 35%. Engagement in local politics isn't exciting for many busy people. However Local politics can never enthuse voters if it doesn't both change it's image and start to look more like the communities it represents.

I like to think that my pitch that as a young man I could offer representation of young people in the place of experience, at the 2006 local elections, helped me to significantly increase the Labour vote.

All of the major parties need to ensure their candidates look like the people they will represent. We need more young people, more women, more different people. I hope that I won't look at the same survey in ten years and see the same results.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

How do you spell Isllygnton?

As one who is frequently irritated with the poor use of grammar and punctuation on pubilc signage, this news from Islington amused me. Hazellville Road in the borough appears with different spellings on street signs, bus stops and council improvement notices. If only the sign writers could have added extra apostrophes it would have been complete...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bendy buses

Having used a 149 bus last night from Seven Sisters to get to White Hart Lane and suffered the crowds I was reminded of the reason they were introduced int he first place. Bendys have the largest capacity of any passenger bus on the market. They were introduced on the routes with the highest demand, like the 29, 38, 73 and 129.

Boris Johnson was elected stating he wanted to rid London's streets of bendys. He was also elected stating he wanted to give Londoner's "more bang for (their) buck." Scrapping the bendys was meant to make London's streets safer for cyclists, however, when pressed by the London Assembly, Johnson was forced to admit that bendys had killed no cyclists on London's streets. It now transpires that not only will scrapping the bendys not make London's streets noticably safer, the replacements will also cost Londoners more (thanks Boris Watch).

The new buses will be smaller, there will be more of them on the roads causing more congestions and they will cost more, with no discernable safety benefit. Is this the "common sense" politics we were promised by the mayor?

Further reading recommended at the Tory Troll.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Can a recession ever be a good thing? Part 2

Boris Johnson and the Evening Standard have now got in on the act of trying to cheer us all up about the recession. In an article headlined "Mayor: London can benefit from recession"Johnson outlines what he perceives to be the benefits of a recession:

●The fall in house prices would mean London's £5billion housing budget, which will help homeowners avoid recession by taking temporary equity stakes in their property, would go further.

●Tourism and exports would be boosted by the fall of the pound with London representing greater value for money for foreign visitors and investors.

●The brightest graduates, especially scientists, who might otherwise have gone to work in the City, could look for work in the public sector, particularly teaching.

●Workers with more time on their hands because of the downturn could help tackle knife and gun crime among young people by volunteering.

I spoke on this subject in December for BBC Radio Five Live's Richard Bacon show. My premise then and now is that whatever "benefit" side-effects of a recession may bring, it is inherantly a bad thing.

Our market economy is based on work. Work pays for food and shelter and to keep the rest of the economy going by allowing people to buy goods and services. Without work this collapses.

I'd prefer my mayor to be talking about what he plans to do to help Londoners through tough economic times, rather than telling them not to worry. Can't afford to go on holiday any more? Don't worry, you can look at all the tourists in London instead, taking advantage of the cheap pound. Great.

Johnson must be wrapping himself in a coocoon if he believes a recession will help tackle crim by providing more volunteers. Basic sociological theory suggests that unemployment leads to poverty and poverty is a drving force behind increasing crime.

If johnson is to really show that he intends to govern for all Londoners then he needs to start showing that he understands the stresses and pressures most of us are under. He isn't doing that. I don't expect him to do that. He doesn't know how.

Boost your worker productivity

New Portable Sewing Machine Lets Sweatshop Employees Work On The Go

Monday, January 05, 2009

Blog returns no thanks to BT

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