In May I will have been a London Assembly Member for three years. In that time, I have grilled the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on dozens of occasions, so I have a pretty good measure of the man.
My overriding impression of Sadiq Khan is that he is simply incapable of listening to anyone – from Assembly Members (of all political parties) to local residents. Politicians need to possess a certain degree of stubbornness, but we need to counterbalance this with an ability to listen to criticism and a willingness to change course when it would benefit those we represent. While the Mayor certainly has the former attribute, he lacks the latter.
This obstinate attitude now pervades most parts of the Mayor’s empire – especially TfL, which Khan Chairs. I have seen this first hand having campaigned to stop bus cuts across West London and reduce tube noise in parts of Westminster.
Readers will be aware that over the past few years our bus network in West London has been quietly hacked away at by this Mayor – despite pledging in his 2016 manifesto that he wouldn’t cut bus services. Much loved routes which have been used by residents for years, such as the number 10, 11 and 19, have all but disappeared. Many changes have been made without any public consultation whatsoever, demonstrating just what TfL thinks of the views of West Londoners.
I and others have raised time and again how concerned we are about the impact of these cuts on the most vulnerable. These changes mean that passengers would have to change busses more, which could pose significant challenges to our elderly and disabled residents and visitors. For many of these people, having to change bus multiple times might be a step too far and discourage them from getting out of the house and travelling around our great city. The Mayor and TfL have been told repeatedly that these bus cuts will have a devastating impact, but they simply aren’t listening.
Whether it be the big cross-borough issues like bus cuts or the hyper-local problems such as tube noise, TfL’s pig-headed approach is almost always the same.
One of the long-running problems I have been dealing with since I was elected an Assembly Member is tube noise in Pimlico. This problem has had a terrible impact on residents; it not only disturbs their sleep, but some have even reported constant headaches and hearing damage.
Over the past three years I have been trying to work with TfL to resolve this problem. Progress has been glacially slow, but we at least had regular contact. Now, TfL appear to have resorted to trying to simply ignore residents – they refuse to meet us and will not even reveal the current level of Underground noise for properties in Pimlico without written permission from every single resident. TfL is sighting data protection laws to obstruct moving matters forward.
As Sadiq Khan and TfL becomes more obstinate, I will shout louder on behalf of my residents. When it comes to the mayoral election in 2020, I hope that Londoners across our city will recognise that we need a new Mayor who doesn’t have such an aversion to really listening to those he represents.
This piece was graciously submitted by Tony Devenish, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea Assembly Member