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Wednesday 7 October 2020

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Transport for London funding crunch: 'It's time to stand up to the Tories'

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee today called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to stand up to the Tory government and refuse to carry out any more cuts as a new funding crisis faces the city's Transport for London (TfL) authority.

TUSC, co-founded in 2010 by the general secretary of the RMT transport workers' union the late Bob Crow, has consistently argued that local authorities have the potential power to compel the Westminster government to provide the necessary funding for decent public services. And sitting at the centre of the city's arteries there is no more powerful local authority than TfL led by the London Mayor - if only there was the political will to fight.

The TUSC national chairperson Dave Nellist, a Labour MP from 1983-1992 and a former backbench colleague of Jeremy Corbyn, said:

"The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduced TfL's finances but not society's need for a reliable, accessible and safe public transport system for London. For example, TfL transports a quarter of a million children to school every day - how would the city function without that service?"

"In May the government provided emergency funding for TfL but that runs out on 17 October. Now TfL is saying that it needs £1.83 billion to cover fares revenue losses and other costs to maintain safe, socially-distanced services to March next year, and a further £2.94 billion for 2021-22".

"TUSC supports the call for the government to fully fund TfL. It is an outrage that, because TfL no longer receives a regular operating grant from central government, it has become more reliant on fares income than any other major transport authority in the world".

"But lessons must be learnt from the deal agreed in May. Then, unfortunately, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan blinked first, suspending the Zip Card allowing free or discounted travel for under-18s; use of the elderly's Freedom Pass at busy times; and hiking fare rises above inflation. This time he must stand firm for funding without any strings".

RMT national executive committee member Jared Wood, representing London Transport workers on the union's governing body, said:

"Our union's policy is clear. We are calling on the government to fully fund TfL and London Underground. Passengers should not suffer a cut to services. Those who rely on free travel should not pay for the crisis in TfL funding. The aim of improving the accessibility of public transport in London must not be sacrificed either".

"And workers who have kept the tube and other transport services in London moving throughout the Covid pandemic must also not be made to pay for the crisis through attacks on their jobs and conditions".

Dave Nellist concluded:

"TUSC's analysis of the TfL accounts shows that, like other authorities, it has the ability to maintain spending through using borrowing powers while fighting for proper government funding. The Mayor has a choice. He does not have to accept government demands for cuts or fare rises to keep the tubes and buses running".

"Following the replacement of Jeremy Corbyn by Keir Starmer as Labour leader, TUSC has agreed to resume contesting elections against Labour politicians who go along with austerity measures".

"It's time for them to stand up to the Tories - or face the prospect of a challenge at the ballot box by those that will".

An RMT petition calling on the government to fully fund TfL and London Underground can be signed online at https://rmtlondoncalling.org.uk/content/statement-rmt-calls-government-fully-fund-tfl-and-london-underground


Information

1. TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow, the RMT transport workers' union leader. Along with the RMT, a constituent organisation of TUSC, its national steering committee involves leading trade unionists from other unions together with the Socialist Party and independent socialists.

2. TUSC stood sufficient candidates in the 2015 general election to qualify for a UK-wide party election broadcast, which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcEMrCTVRdg. It recalibrated its electoral activity following Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader, a development which it warmly welcomed. Consequently TUSC did not contest either the 2017 or 2019 general elections and only stood in other elections against those Labour candidates who opposed Jeremy Corbyn and were carrying out austerity policies. But with Keir Starmer's election as leader TUSC is resuming standing candidates, starting in the contests scheduled for May 2021 (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17410/04-09-2020/back-at-work-tusc-to-stand-in-elections-again-against-pro-austerity-politicians).

3. TUSC has produced regular information on local authority finances including a comprehensive briefing document - Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget (2016) - detailing how councils' reserves and borrowing powers could be used to produce an arguably legally-compliant no cuts budgets (available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/355.pdf). With an average debt maturity profile of 18 years and identifiable future revenue streams in a post-Covid landscape, TfL is well placed to use its 'unsupported borrowing' powers to maintain a statutorily-required balanced budget and avert a possible Section 114 'technical insolvency' notice while negotiating for government support. Cuts are not inevitable. The London Mayor has a choice.