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No-one seems to know if Ken Livingstone's 7% fare cut is achievable. But it's still good politics

By Mike Pollitt
31 January 2012, 10:50

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Here’s Ken Livingstone giving an “absolute guarantee” that if he doesn’t cut fares by 7% in October he will resign.

Well it’s certainly bold. But can he do it? And more importantly, can he convince voters that he can do it?

Channel 4’s Fact Check blog, which is well respected, thinks he can’t.

“Mr Livingstone is wrong to claim there’s a £729m surplus that’s sitting in the bank, and there is no separate budget for investment projects. If he cuts fares, TfL would expect to lose £1.12bn in income from fares – and that’s a hole he wouldn’t be able to plug without hitting the day-to-day funding for London’s transport or taking money from investment projects.”

So that’s that then. But wait, because another well respected independent factchecker, Fullfact, disagrees:

“…it seems to become a question of priority. TfL’s analysis, and Channel 4’s conclusion, appears to be that any potential funds which it fails to extract from customers is money wasted. Mr Livingstone’s approach appears to be that these funds would be best left in the hands of customers.”

When even the well respected independent factcheckers can’t agree on an issue, it’s a fair bet that voters have better things to do than try to work it out for themselves.

So what matters is the message. And the message coming loud and clear from all of this is: Ken Livingstone = lower fares. There are some caveats, and there are some doubts. But there’s no way that message isn’t going to help him with voters who use public transport.

Channel 4 Fact Check – Can Ken Livingstone deliver a ‘fare deal’ for London?
Fullfact – Is TfL ‘cooking the books’? Or is Ken miscounting the costs?

Mike Pollitt
Mike Pollitt is the editor of The Metropolis.

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