London mayoral election 2024: Lib Dems drop pay-per-mile and focus on sexual violence in manifesto

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The Liberal Democrats propose hail-and-ride London buses but have ditched pay-per-mile roads charging.

The Liberal Democrats are the latest party to launch their London mayoral election manifesto, with a promise to clamp down on sexual offences in the capital.

Candidate Rob Blackie says a new Sexual Offences Unit within the Met Police will double the number of offenders caught in London, following Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s “shameful” record on the issue.

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Joined on Tuesday morning by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey in Lambeth, Mr Blackie said: “Under Sadiq Khan’s leadership the police are catching sexual offenders half as often as when he became Mayor.

“This record is shameful. Victims are denied justice. Survivors denied closure. And it’s the criminals who go on to offend again and again.”

According to Baroness Casey’s report into the Met last year, while 18% of sexual offences resulted in sanctions in 2015/16 – Boris Johnson’s last year as mayor – the clear-up rate had reduced to 9% by 2022/23.

Party leader Sir Ed said: “Rob’s determination to fix the Met Police and get on top of crime in the capital is essential…

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“The Liberal Democrats are on the up in London, while the Conservatives are in freefall. I know Rob is on course for a fantastic result and will challenge the mayor all the way.”

Mr Khan today pledged to fund a free, independent legal advice pilot service for survivors of rape and serious sexual offences, if re-elected, as part of a 10-point plan to tackle violence against women and girls.

London passport for EU citizens

The Lib Dem manifesto promises that Mr Blackie will “keep London welcoming, with a London passport for EU citizens”.

The party says the document would confirm EU citizens’ rights and help them protect themselves from the Home Office when it makes mistakes that could threaten them.

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Green energy

Another pledge is to incentivise Londoners to move to greener energy by making grants of up to £500 available for the installation of solar panels.

Mr Blackie said the grant would be repaid using the electricity generated, not cash from Londoners’ pockets.

Lib Dem mayoral candidate Rob Blackie speaking at the launch of his manifesto.Lib Dem mayoral candidate Rob Blackie speaking at the launch of his manifesto.
Lib Dem mayoral candidate Rob Blackie speaking at the launch of his manifesto. | Noah Vickers/Local Democracy Reporting Service

Transport

On transport, the manifesto suggests “running a trial to make buses hail-and-ride after 10pm, allowing you to flag down the next bus, even if you’re not at a stop, improving safety”

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A pilot scheme would meanwhile be put in place to make the Santander cycle hire scheme free to use every Sunday.

But the party has dropped proposals put forward by its 2021 candidate, Luisa Porritt, to “pioneer a smart, fair and privacy friendly pay-as-you-go road charging scheme”.

Mr Blackie said: “There’s been a lot of change for drivers recently in London, and I think the system’s really got too complex. So we just need what we have to bed in for now, and really it’s not the right time for it.”

Part of Ms Porritt’s rationale for introducing such a system was precisely because of the “complex web of road charging schemes”, which she argued could be simplified through pay-as-you-go charging.

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Pressed on this point, Mr Blackie said: “We’re not proposing it. It’s not the right time for it.”

He added: “Road user charging doesn’t help with the climate crisis. Switching people over to electric cars does. That’s why we’ve got a plan in there for more electric car-charging [points] so we can accelerate that.”

The issue of ‘pay-per-mile’ charging has been pushed up the agenda by Tory candidate Susan Hall, who insists that Mr Khan will introduce such a system if he is re-elected. The Labour mayor has strongly denied these claims, as well as promising not to tighten Ulez emissions standards to cover a larger number of vehicles if he wins a third term at City Hall.

London election

The Lib Dems have come fourth in the last three mayoral elections, losing their £10,000 deposit each time, as they failed to receive more than 5% of the vote.

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Asked what explains that performance, Mr Blackie said: “I’m running my own campaign and we seem to be doing very well right now.

“We’ve got a clear message about the mayor’s failures on crime and what we’ll do to fix it. I think we can leap forward at this election, with that message.”

He added: “The world was different back then [in the last three mayoral elections]. I think right now we’re running a great campaign. I’m very happy about how we’re doing.”

Neither Mr Khan nor Ms Hall have yet published their manifestos, with a little over two weeks until the election on Thursday May 2.

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