ASLEF slams government over London transport cuts

ASLEF has accused the government of “incompetence” after London mayor Sadiq Khan warned of a £493m budget shortfall over the next two years.

Sadiq Khan said the shortfall was the result of an unprecedented loss of business rates and council tax income, caused by coronavirus, saying: “Londoners did the right thing to tackle Covid-19 by following the rules, staying at home and helping to save lives. But now the government is punishing them with a new era of austerity.

“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on London’s public finances which were in great shape before the pandemic. TfL’s fares income has dropped by more than 90 per cent and local business rates and council tax income has fallen off a cliff. This is the worst possible time for a return to austerity – just when we need to invest in London’s recovery.

“Unless ministers act, the current number of police officers will need to be reduced and it will be impossible to tackle youth violence or make the changes to the London Fire Brigade that are desperately needed after the awful Grenfell Tower tragedy.

“I didn’t enter politics to administer government austerity, and I will do everything in my power to persuade ministers not to force another era of austerity on local and regional government.

“Whatever happens I will protect the frontline services that Londoners depend on as much as possible – and it’s only right that I should volunteer for an immediate pay cut in these extremely difficult circumstances and continue not to take any pension contributions. In addition, I have taken the decision to freeze the salaries of my political appointments at City Hall.”

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “London is not just Britain’s capital, but one of the world’s biggest and most exciting cities, with a public transport system essential for helping people move about for work and, when lockdown is lifted, play. It is also the only major metro system in the world with zero central funding. And that is a disgrace.”

ASLEF organiser on London Underground Finn Brennan said: “Deep cuts to essential public services in the capital are on the way. For months essential workers have been called ‘heroes’ but now they will have to fight to protect their jobs, their pay, and their conditions of employment.

“The London Mayor has decided to cut his own salary but public service workers and millions of others need better pay and working conditions not more cuts.

“Government incompetence has led to some of the worst public health outcomes in Europe, coupled with huge economic damage. But they still find no difficulty in organising a multi-billion pound quantitative easing programme that benefits those who are already wealthy.

“We don’t need applause for low-paid essential workers. We need strong and determined trade unions that will fight to defend them if the government is not prepared to properly fund our public services.”

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