“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”
The TfL Board on 22nd September is going to be asked to approve an extension of the Cycle Hire Scheme. By how much we will probably not know as TfL are now hiding behind commercial confidentiality to obscure the true cost of the scheme from Londoners. Apart from the fact that this project is now suffering from a severe lack of financial transparency, the business case produced by TfL shows it to be a poor investment. It is inconceivable that the Mayor’s political appointees to the board will have the courage to stand to up to him. It requires that the more independent members of the board take a stand and call a halt to the extension of this wasteful project and stop digging an even bigger black hole.
We saw a significant regression of public accountability at TfL this week. The board papers for the Finance Committee were published with a significant ommission. The currently approved project authority for the Cycle Hire Scheme has miraculously disappeared from the documents. Now you see it [p.7], now you don’t [again p.7]. Given the lack of information here its difficult to know what to make of that. However I think its safe to assume that this now been increased beyond the £81.7M that was previously in there. If it hasn’t why would there be a need to redact the current budget which can be seen in a number of other documents? A rise in the cost of the project would not be a surprise. We know that there are elements of the scheme that are now seriously dysfunctional. Re-circulation of bikes has become a major task and, without casual users on the scheme, this is set to continue to be a problem. The operational problems are not going away either with an unfortunate user recently being overcharged £900.
In a commercial organisation it would be highly irregular for any scheme with this many problems to be extended at this point. You’d look to solidify your current offering and not make the problem worse. TfL, no doubt driven on by the Mayor’s Office, are however proposing such an extension at the board meeting on the 22nd. How much extra is that going to cost you ask? That I’m afraid you can’t know now and I’m assuming at the same will apply at the board meeting itself. TfL have redacted all information concerning the budget uplift.
There can be no justification for this. Cycle Hire has become highly controversial due to the shambolic nature of the rollout and it is not acceptable for TfL to be hiding behind commercial confidentiality to obscure changes in the budget now or in the future. I have no confidence that the Mayor’s political acolytes (Steve Norris, Daniel Moylan) will do anything other than just wave this through. There are however more independent voices on the TfL Board that should take this opportunity to speak out. Can the representatives of the Cab and minicab trade on the board (and the trade unions) really justify progressing this scheme to their members? It’s time the TfL board stood up for Londoners and told the Mayor to stick his shovel, stop digging and take a lesson in transparency. Maybe this chap could give them a few pointers:
I believe Londoners should have a greater say on how their city is run, more information on how decisions are made and details on how City Hall money is spent. [...] I will aim to create a different style of government at City Hall by introducing a series of measures designed to make my Mayoralty more accountable, and spending more transparent [My bold].