July 23, 2019 / 2:20 PM / 3 months ago

Factbox: Incoming PM Johnson's record as London mayor

LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Johnson has referred to his record as Mayor of London as a pointer to what he could achieve when he replaces Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and British prime minister.

FILE PHOTO: London Mayor Boris Johnson poses for selfies during campaigning for the local parliamentary seat in Uxbridge, west London, Britain, April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

He says during his eight years in charge of the British capital he cut crime, exceeded house-building targets and was at the center of the London 2012 Olympics.

Critics say his time as mayor reflected his political failings - pushing through costly, self-serving projects, which included the world’s most expensive cable car and footbridge.

As mayor from 2008 to 2016, Johnson had responsibility for issues such as policing, transport and housing.

In a BBC radio interview in June, Johnson said of his London achievements: “We built more affordable homes than under Labour. When you talk about the Tube we increased capacity on the Tube by about 30%. The biggest investment in infrastructure that I think the city has seen.

“I pledged to reduce crime. We reduced crime by about 20%. We reduced the murder rate which is a statistic that is very difficult to fudge, we reduced it by 50%.”

“When I began we had four of the six poorest boroughs in London in the UK... When I ended in London, there were none of the poorest 20 boroughs in the whole of the UK.”

CRIME

The mayor’s office took over responsibility for oversight of the Metropolitan Police in 2012, with operational decisions remaining the remit of the London Commissioner.

Crime and the number of murders fell dramatically during Johnson’s tenure, a trend echoed across the country. Crime in London and nationally had begun to rise by the end of his mayoralty.

In London, the homicide rate - murder, manslaughter and infanticide - fell 50% from 163 in 2007/8 to 109 in 2015/16. The number of homicides in England and Wales fell from 763 in 2007/8 to 534 in 2014/15 but rose to 571 in 2015/16, an overall fall of about 34%.

HOUSING

Johnson said more than 100,000 affordable homes were built during his time as mayor. According to figures from the Greater London Authority, 94,001 affordable homes were built between April 2008 and March 2016.

    He is correct in saying more affordable homes were built during his two terms than during the time of his Labour Party predecessor, however critics point out that the definition of affordable housing was broadened in 2011 making it hard to compare the figures. Housing campaigners have questioned whether the homes were really affordable to those on low incomes.

TRANSPORT

LONDON UNDERGROUND: Under Johnson, use of the London Underground increased to record levels with upgrades to many of the lines and more frequent services. It now carries 1.35 billion passengers a year, up from 970 million in 2001.

However Johnson’s push for a night service faced opposition from unions. It finally came into operation after he left office, a year later than planned.

In his 2008 manifesto, Johnson promised to halt ticket office closures and ensure every station had a staffed office. In 2013, it was announced all ticket offices would be closed.

BUSES: In 2008, Johnson promised to bring back Routemaster buses - the distinctive, snub-nosed, open-backed double-deckers which allowed passengers to jump on and off and were popular with tourists. He scrapped long, so-called bendy buses, which he said were unsuitable for London and aided fare evasion.

Designing and building the new environmentally-friendly bus cost 11 million pounds. There were many complaints that the new Routemasters were unbearably hot. Later batches were altered to provide windows and the open rear platform began to disappear as it required a second crew member.

Opponents said the cost of the fleet of Johnson’s buses was millions more than a conventional double-decker bus.

The publicly-funded Transport for London (TfL) eventually ordered 1,000 to secure the procurement rights to the design which it said had allowed the last 200 to be purchased for 319,000 pounds each, still more than a standard hybrid.

Opponents said under Johnson, bus fares rose 47%.

CABLE CAR: In 2012, Johnson opened Britain’s first urban cable car which transports passengers from north Greenwich, close to the O2 arena, across the River Thames to the Royal Victoria Dock.

Johnson said the cost, 60 million pounds, would be privately funded. Emirates airline paid 36 million pounds for a 10-year sponsorship deal. It also received 8 million pounds of funding from the European Union.

However, about 15 million pounds was funded by TfL. The operator says its annual costs are 5.9 million pounds and revenue figures indicate this is covered by fares.

Passenger numbers have declined slightly since 2012 with 1.3 million people using it in the year up to June 2019.

New London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he might close the project.

BORIS BIKES: Johnson, a keen cyclist, put cycling at the heart of his transport policy after winning the 2008 election, building designated cycle superhighways.

A fleet of 6,000 bicycles for hire launched in July 2010 with 400 bicycle “docking stations” and Johnson promised it would come at no cost to the taxpayer.

The scheme, originally mooted by Johnson’s Labour predecessor, has proved a success and is popular. Critics say it is mainly used by rich, middle-aged men.

In 2015, TfL announced that Santander would replace Barclays bank as sponsor for the next seven years, providing 44 million pounds. Figures released by TfL show it had spent more than 60 million pounds on operating the scheme since 2010, while a freedom of information request last year showed total net expenditure was almost 200 million pounds.

RIVER THAMES GARDEN BRIDGE

The idea for a pedestrian bridge with trees and flowers spanning the River Thames was mooted in 1998. It gained momentum in 2012 and Johnson backed it in 2013 and promised TfL would support it while then finance minister George Osborne also said he would back what would have been the world’s most expensive footbridge.

Costs rose from an early estimate of 60 million pounds to more than 200 million pounds. The scheme was ditched in 2017 after an independent review concluded escalating costs meant it made more sense to end the project. The failed scheme cost 53 million pounds according to a TfL inquiry with 43 million pounds coming from the taxpayer.

FILE PHOTO: A combination photograph shows London Mayor Boris Johnson shooting and scoring with his back to the basket, as player Pops Mensah-Bonsu applauds, in London April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/File Photo

OLYMPICS

Johnson helped oversee the hugely successful 2012 London Olympic Games, but was criticized for the legacy of the Olympic stadium where Premier League soccer side West Ham United now play their games, although it can still be used for athletics.

A 2017 independent review showed the transformation costs after the Olympics rose to 323 million pounds from a budget estimate of 190 million pounds.

West Ham pay rent of 2.5 million pounds per season but the review projected annual losses of about 20 million pounds.

Reporting by Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Janet Lawrence

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