Mayor pulls in the crowds
PUBLISHED: 16:25 12 November 2008 | UPDATED: 09:49 12 August 2010
SCORES of disappointed residents were denied the chance to grill London Mayor Boris Johnson after organisers issued too many tickets for a question time event
SCORES of disappointed residents were denied the chance to grill London Mayor Boris Johnson after organisers issued too many tickets for a question time event.
Organisers of Boris Johnson's first Mayoral People's Question Time (PQT) held at Bromley Civic Centre were criticised by residents and Assembly members after they issued 1,300 tickets for a venue which holds 650.
Despite warning that the tickets did not guarantee a place, hundreds of people were turned away at the door last Thursday as the venue was filled to capacity.
Labour Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, said: "If Boris can't even organise a simple event like People's Question Time what hope do we have for him running London?"
A post from 'Silver' on the Virtual Norwood forum website read: "I do realise that the tickets did not guarantee you a place but when hundreds of people with tickets are turned away, it does make you question the intelligence or the enthusiasm of those organising it."
A Greater London Assembly (GLA) spokesperson said: "The Mayor was delighted by the huge interest in PQT but was very disappointed that many failed to get in. It was hard to predict the high level of enthusiasm and to our regret between 50 to 100 people were not able to take part."
Those who managed to get a seat were treated, at the start, to an impromptu performance by a mystery guitar man who eventually got boo-ed off stage even though Boris took the surprise act all in his stride. (See Times diary)
When the real questioning began residents were told of some promising plans for Bromley residents including the extension of the Oyster card system to all Greater London overground rail and bus journeys by next year as well as 24-hour freedom passes for the elderly and the re-phasing of traffic lights across the borough.
It was Ravensbourne School sixth-former, Christopher Price, 17, who caught Boris out when he asked when travel would become free for 16 to 18-year-olds in full time education. Mr Johnson mistakenly replied: "It is."
Currently, all under-16s in London can travel free on buses and trams and at a child rate on the tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and rail services but young people aged 17 and 18 are only eligible for discounted travel.
Speaking about the Blackwall Tunnel, Mr Johnson said: "It's controversial but having just seized the reins of the Metropolitan Police Authority I intend to look at smoothing the traffic flow by restoring contraflow. I am aware that a lorry carrying butter could crash but I accept the risks."
The Mayor insisted that he knew nothing about possible plans to make Biggin Hill Airport a permanent base for police helicopters, adding that it 'was not on his radar'.
A member of the public asked whether there could be an orbital bus route between Bromley, Bexley and Croydon to which Mr Johnson replied: "We will look at ways of linking them up to alleviate traffic."
When the Times asked him who he would support as the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner after ecnouraging former chief Sir Ian Blair to leave the post last month, Mr Johnson made a reference to spoof sports film, Dodgeball, replying he would: "Dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge" the question.
He was equally elusive when asked by a pensioner from Crystal Palace how he would improve safety on the street, replying: "Like with banks, if we believe our money is safe then it will be. If we believe our streets are safe they will be."
He added that he had put more Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) on buses, will keep up stop-and-searches and is keen to do away with bureaucratic form-filling for police officers.
The Mayor fobbed off residents who are unhappy with plans by the London Development Agency to sell off land in Crystal Palace Park for housing development, saying the decision lies with Bromley council.
Speaking after the meeting, Crystal Palace Community Association member, Mike Warwick, said: "The whole thing was almost of comic proportions. He had some nice quips but we are incensed that he did not answer our question.
"If he does not know it is a question for him and not Bromley council then he is even more of a buffoon than I thought before."
On the subject of supermarkets, Mr Johnson said: "It reduces human beings to the depths of hypocrisy. We may prefer old shops but we shop at Tesco."
Later, the audience was asked to vote on whether he should use his planning powers to halt the building of any more superstores within the capital, with 58 per cent agreeing that he should and 41 per cent saying no.
Other ideas included making better use of the Thames as a highway and growing food on derelict land across the capital.
WHAT BORIS JOHNSON SAID ON:
-Keep Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs).
-Have more Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).
-Do away with bureaucracy of form-filling for officers, particularly stop on account forms
-Have more stop and searches.
-Extend the use of the Oyster card to all Greater London train stations by the end of next year.
-Improve traffic flow in the Blackwall Tunnel by reinstating contraflow.
-Have more PCSOs on transport, particularly Bromley buses.
-Keep prosecuting people for fare evasion on transport.
-Man train stations late at night.
-Shelve plans for a tram link in Crystal Palace due to a lack of funding.
-Re-phase traffic lights across the capital.
-Never have a £25 charge for fuel consuming vehicles.
-Priority trees to be planted in Penge.
-To consider using his planning powers to halt the building of big supermarkets in London.
-To use derelict land to grow food.
-He reassured the crowd there would be a cap on spending for the Olympics but London Olympics would be "better than Beijing for half the price".
-He is certain the Olympics will be beneficial to every Londoner and Briton.