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UPDATE 1-Britain says London mayor 'bankrupted' the capital, demands cost cuts

Wed, 21st Oct 2020 08:42

(Adds background)

LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Britain is looking to force the
body responsible for running London to sell off land and cut
running costs as part of a fractious financial COVID-19 bailout
designed to keep the capital's transport system running.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, from the opposition Labour Party,
has called for a 5.7 billion pound ($7.4 billion) package for
Transport for London (TfL) after commuters deserted public
trains and busses during the pandemic.

Khan says in return the government is insisting on higher
fares and a raft of other revenue raising mechanisms such as
increasing the size of the congestion zone which requires
drivers to pay a fee to drive in the city.

"There has to be a resolution with him," Housing minister
Robert Jenrick told LBC Radio. "It can be for example.. selling
off TfL land so we get homes built in parts of London, there's a
lot of opportunity to do that. It can also mean bearing down on
some of the costs."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is locked in
negotiations with several city mayors over how businesses should
be compensated when they are forced to close during lockdowns
and how public services can continue.

Khan, who had frozen the cost of single fares, said in a
statement the government's proposals would deter Londoners from
travelling, further damaging any economic recovery.

He said the government had previously given a much more
supportive bailout to private national train operators which
have suffered a similar drop in income.

Jenrick said it had "to resolve the fact that the mayor has
bankrupted TfL and the Greater London Authority."

"We've already given multiple billions of pounds to him over
the last few years to bail him out," he said. "How do we take
this forwards. Well, I'm afraid it can't keep falling back to
the taxpayers of the whole of the United Kingdom."
($1 = 0.7687 pounds)
(Reporting by Kate Holton and Sarah Young; editing by Guy

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