The drip-feed of extensions to TfL’s funding from the government to keep transport running in London has been extended yet again after negotiations were unable to agree a formal settlement by today’s deadline.
In a statement this morning, TfL says that discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) in relation to its future funding requirements are ongoing and that TfL remains in a position to meet its operational and contractual obligations in the near term, whilst discussions conclude.
On 25 February 2022 TfL announced that a funding and financing package had been agreed between TfL and the Department for Transport to support transport services in London for the period from 26 February 2022 to 24 June 2022. This followed on from the package announced on 1 June 2021, which was subsequently extended to 25 February 2022.
TfL added that it continues to discuss funding requirements with DfT for the period beyond 24 June 2022 and said that it will provide an update in due course.
This morning’s confirmation that the negotiations were unable to agree to a funding deal before todays’s deadline follows an acrimonious war of words late last night between the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps with both accusing the other of leaking an early draft of a letter accusing the Mayor of London of misrepresenting the planned cuts to London’s bus services.
The early draft also said that the funding deal hadn’t been settled and that an extension for another couple of weeks was needed. However, that was leaked before it had been signed off, and an official letter published later in the evening had removed the details about the funding agreement, replacing it with a section accusing the Mayor of London’s office of leaking details before they were confirmed.
In the letter, Grant Shapps accused the Mayor of having “prematurely announced details of an extension before it was finalised with the department – is just the latest example of your desire to play politics, rather than working constructively with us”
However, the Mayor responded on Twitter accusing the DfT of leaking the letter to the media before sending it to him.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the sort of verbal mud-slinging that I wrote about recently that is holding London to ransom with both sides publically accusing the other of leaking letters and not negotiating in good faith. By all accounts, the discussions behind closed doors between officials are demanding but cordial, which is hopeful for a settlement that is good for London and the country.
Slightly worrying, if reading between the lines, is the sentence that the DfT remains “open to giving you a longer-term
capital settlement”, whereas it had been suggested in a GLA public meeting a few months back that a capital settlement was close to being agreed, and the negotiations were now more about the operational cost of keeping public transport running while it adapts to the post-pandemic world.
But the political rhetoric is putting a sensible funding settlement at risk, with both sides needing to win the war of words, even if it leaves both sides badly damaged.