Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Poorer People Don't Have Cars, Says Mayor; Congestion Charge: 19 Days to Go: Livingstone Accused of Being out of Touch after Shock Claim in Radio Interview

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Poorer People Don't Have Cars, Says Mayor; Congestion Charge: 19 Days to Go: Livingstone Accused of Being out of Touch after Shock Claim in Radio Interview

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMS

IT WAS the moment Ken Livingstone revealed the latest rationale for congestion charging - poorer people don't have cars.

He explained his belief that people on lower incomes would not be affected by charging because they don't drive into London.

But his comments during a radio interview sparked outrage from the less well-off, who claimed they not only do drive in to work but will also be hit harder by the charge than wealthier motorists.

The Mayor was attacked as "out of touch" by the RAC Foundation, which said thousands of low-paid workers depended more heavily on cars than the well-off. A spokesman said: "Poorer people tend to be those who do shift work at unsocial hours, when public transport is least available.

"It is a complete oversimplification to suggest that poorer people don't have cars - and shows that Ken is out of touch with the realities of life in London."

Mark Toogood, director of meat firm JF Edwards at Smithfield market, attacked the Mayor's comments as "insulting", claiming that a car was vital to the 1,000 market workers, many of whom earned around u15,000 a year - well short of the London average of u34,447.

Mr Livingstone made his remarks during an interview on LBC 97.3 after presenter Nick Ferrari said that low-paid workers would not be able to afford the u1,200a-year charge which begins on 17 February.

Asked if he was introducing a "wheel-bound poll tax", Mr Livingstone replied: "Poorer people don't have cars". When asked to explain this, the Mayor said that 85 per cent of people who commuted into central London were "totally dependent"on public transport. Transport for London (TfL) later explained that this figure applied to those earning less than u20,000 a year.

Mr Livingstone emphasised in the interview: "The poorest people in London are totally dependent on public transport. This is not like the poll tax, which was a shift of wealth massively from the poorest to the richest - this is actually a shift of wealth that's progressive."

While his claims were backed by some, they appeared to be contradicted by figures from the National Office for Statistics. …

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