And we’re off again, ASLEF have set another strike date giving management three weeks to start taking us seriously and start negotiating about how Night Tube will be implemented rather than keep offering us money to accept their current proposals. The first meeting at ACAS will be today and I’ll be keeping a close eye on Our Man Finn’s twitter feed hoping for good news. Oh for those of you who don’t get the pop culture reference think 1966 James Bond parody starring James Coburn.
Finn made a very good point in the Observer on Sunday, last November when YouGov conducted a survey on what Londoners wanted from the Tube cheaper fares came on top with 49% while longer opening hours lagged behind on 16% and more frequent services only got 9%. Indeed a spot of Googling reveals that cheaper fares have been at the top of the list for a long time and transport was the key issue for Londoners until April last year when housing took the lead.
This year Boris had the option of keeping fares down or cutting his share of council tax and as with every other year he chose to reduce council tax, reducing our bills by an average of £40 per household per year. This is perfectly understandable, like all good Tories Boris is happier reducing tax and putting the cost of services onto the users but he is inconsistent. Night Tube will lose £19.6m in the first year and isn’t expected to break even until the 2030s so it seems that in this case Boris is happy for the cost to be borne by the tax payer rather than those that will benefit.
This isn’t the only example of Boris’s inconsistency, he’s happy to throw £30m of taxpayers money on Joanna Lumley’s Garden Bridge and pay the £3.5m annual running costs out of TfL’s budget despite promising he wouldn’t. He spent £65m of taxpayers money on the cable car having promised that it would be completely funded by private investment and he’s signed us up to paying for the Borisbus until they fall apart because Arriva and the other bus companies refused to take them on themselves.
When it comes to things that would be useful and popular - like keeping fares low - Boris is a true neo-liberal but when it’s something dramatic that he will be able to point to in future years as a legacy of his two terms as Mayor of London - such as Night Tube or the Boris Bus – he seems perfectly happy to let the taxpayer carry the burden. Every time Boris has been questioned about the strike he’s insisted that it’s politically motivated but perhaps rather than the strike it is Night Tube itself that’s political.