The former mayor turned future candidate has announced that if he wins back his seat in City Hall he won’t re-introduce the western extension of the congestion charge.
Boris Johnson scrapped the controversial charge last Christmas – a move welcomed by many but condemned by environmental groups, one of whom threatened a legal challenge. The decision was also criticised at the time by Ken Livingstone; ‘Cutting £50m-£70m in revenue a time when public services are under severe pressure makes no financial sense, and with Boris Johnson’s own estimates that the removal of the western extension will increase traffic, it makes no sense in terms of traffic flow or pollution either.’ Given that the congestion charge was originally intended to deter traffic from entering central London thus reducing congestion and pollution, it appears that even its creator now seems to view it as a revenue-raiser. Boris Johnson’s office struck back with the statement; 'It is the same Ken Livingstone, playing politics and deliberately not being clear to Londoners. In one interview he hints at one thing while on his campaign website he promises another. We'll only ever know his actual plans after the election - he's already admitted that.’
It’s not all good news though – Ken still plans to resurrect the £25 charge for larger vehicles, infuriatingly and inaccurately labelled as the ‘gas-guzzler charge’, a policy which Boris Johnson binned almost the moment he became mayor. As Dave Hill’s London blog notes, Ken certainly seems to be making a point of making election promises which refute wide-held criticisms of some of his previous decisions while Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph questions the financial viability of Ken's pledges.
We’re not sure that mayoral candidates simply going public with the threat of reinstating or removing each other’s policies is a convincing strategy, especially as Boris Johnson has discovered that cost-cutting and pre-election promises don’t necessarily mix.