Remember Mayor Ken's deal with Venezuela? He agreed to share expertise in areas like public transport and tourism - in return for a 20% discount on fuel bought for London's buses, which he then used to subsidise bus fares for thousands of Londoners on Income Support to 50p.
During the election campaign, Boris Johnson referred to the deal wryly as "completely Caracas" and questioned the maths behind the whole thing. Now in post, there was therefore never any doubt that Mayor Boris would cancel the arrangement. But would he continue to fund cheaper travel for Londoners in poverty? If so, how would he fund it without Chavez's help? Afterall, there are only so many publications you can cancel...
Well, now we know at least some of the answer. A press release he put out today* announces that the deal will come to a halt in August. Commitments to Londoners on Income Support will be honoured for a further six months as long as they get applications in by then. There is no sign of any help for those that apply for Income Support after August - and no sign if there will be any help for by February 09 when bus fares for the poorest Londoners will double to match those paid by their salaried counterparts.
Former Mayor Ken is still around and clearly is very much playing BorisWatch - keeping tabs on what his successor gets up to. He decried the move as ideologically-driven and "a direct attack on the poorest Londoners" as his successor had not found any other way to fund the welfare scheme.
Now - the press release doesn't actually rule out finding the funding for this in future. If Boris discovers the money down the back of the Mayoral sofa a few months hence when he gets his head around all of his budgets, then he might decide to keep it going. That said, it's not likely. In February, the poorest Londoners will pay the same as the rest of us - which does not strike Londonist as particularly fair.
While the whole Venezuelan deal did feel odd, with Venezuelan logos popping up on bus stop adverts next to Transport for London's, we didn't know that the deal was effectively a variant of one with New York - and we don't see Bloomberg trying to cancel that in a hurry.
* Just a thought, but isn't putting out a press release on Bank Holiday Sunday a good way to 'bury bad news'? Or is it just a sign of a very hard-working press office? Answers on a postcard, preferably delivered by bus...
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