Boris Johnson criticised over claims taxpayers will foot bill for London cable car


Assembly members scrutinised the Mayor over fears Londoners will have to cover a £60million bill.


By Jon Waring

Boris Johnson faced scrutiny from assembly members last week over claims that taxpayers will end up footing the bill for London’s first cable car.

Although a 10-year, £36million sponsorship deal has been announced with Emirates, the remainder of the £60million project cost is currently unaccounted for.

Negotiations with the European Union continue over a £9million grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) but even with this a further £15million is required.

Councillors Mike Tuffrey (Lib Dem) and John Biggs (Labour) raised fears that this money will come from taxpayer’s pockets even though the Mayor had previously said it would not.

Cllr Tuffrey said: “Is it not a fact that you haven’t yet been clear with Londoners about how much they will have to pay?”

In response, Mr Johnson said other funding revenues are being explored, but defended the amount taxpayers may have to give.

“I think that it is a bargain, that it is a great achievement, and I think it is mealy-mouthed of people in this chamber not to acknowledge that,” he said.

Transport for London initially estimated the cost of the O2 Arena to Excel Centre link to be £25million – and to be fully covered by private finance.

This number has now risen to £60million leaving taxpayers unhappy at the prospect of having to cover a quarter of the cost.

Wandsworth resident Matthew Davis, 28, said: “I don’t think it’s fair the taxpayer has to pay for it now especially after Boris said we wouldn’t.”

At the meeting Cllr Tuffrey analysed the sponsorship deal agreed with Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, which also sponsors Arsenal football club.

He said: “Is the £36million hard cash and when will we actually get the hard cash out of it?

Mr Johnson replied: “It is 36 million pounds and if you bit it your teeth would leave an imprint.

“Most fair minded people would agree that in very tough economic times it is an extraordinary contribution to London.”

Assembly member Biggs also expressed doubt over the validity of the bidding process and suggested Emirates had negotiated an extremely favourable deal.

He highlighted the company’s sponsorship deals with AC Milan FC (worth £52million over four years) and Arsenal (£100million over 15 years) as being more client-favourable.

Mr Johnson was quick to discourage notions of unfair tendering.

“I’m not going to go into the bidding process but we got an extremely good deal,” he said.

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