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Sadiq Khan’s office has blasted Boris Johnson’s claim that he left Transport for London’s “coffers full”, saying it is “simply not true”.
The prime minister alleged on Tuesday that when he was Mayor of London he left TfL with a “considerable sum of money”.
He went on to tell an official Downing Street press conference on coronavirus that he “left the coffers full” when he stepped down in 2016.
However, Khan’s team hit back, saying it was “simply not true” and that the overwhelming majority of TfL’s borrowing was incurred under the previous mayoralty.
They went on to say the only reason TfL is in a difficult financial position now is because of stay at home guidance during the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “It is simply not true that the previous Mayor ‘left the coffers full’ at TfL.
“The overwhelming majority of TfL’s borrowing was incurred under the previous mayoralty, throughout which TfL accumulated £7billion of debt – vastly more than in all other years of TfL’s existence combined - so most of the interest that TfL is currently paying results from borrowing when the current prime minister was Mayor of London.”
According to City Hall figures, most of TfL’s borrowing was incurred between 2008/09 and 2015/16, when TfL accrued around £7billion of debt.
Johnson’s predecessor Ken Livingstone borrowed £2billion over his mayoralty while Khan has borrowed over £2billion.
The Mayor’s spokesperson said that prior to the pandemic, Khan was on track to reach a net operating surplus.
But they said a decline in footfall caused by the pandemic “decimated” TfL’s income and while other train operating companies got a “blank cheque” of emergency funding, TfL got only “piecemeal extensions” to their current funding deal or deals with “draconian conditions attached”.
TfL, Downing Street and the Department for Transport were all approached to comment.
A government source said they had “repeatedly shown” their commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic by providing more than £4billion in emergency funding.
They also said this year’s spending review settlement for the capital provided over a billion pounds of capital investment per year, in line with previous funding: “At a time of significant pressure on national finances.”
It is the latest in a row between the government and the Mayor of London over funding for the capital’s transport service.
Last year the prime minister alleged in the House of Commons that Khan “effectively bankrupted” TfL before covid.
TfL has managed to secure a last-minute extension on its latest bailout to keep Tube and bus services running until February.
Khan has warned he is considering major cuts to services, including the closure of an entire Tube line, in a bid to balance the books.
On Tuesday, the prime minister was asked: “As a former Mayor of London will you push for a long-term sustainable funding deal for Transport for London to help the city to recover?”
He replied: “Never forget that it was left with a very considerable sum of money by the previous mayor who left the coffers full and not least Crossrail and everything else.
“However, we are where we are and it is vital that our great capital city has got to be able to move around.
“Of course, ridership has been down because of the pandemic. But I know you and I and the current mayor devoutly hope that ridership will come back and one day we’ll come back without masks on, we hope, and our capital city will be buzzing again.
“So it’s vital that London is properly provided for but what it also requires is a mayor who’s going to institute a sensible and pragmatic fares policy and not the retrograde one that we saw the early stage of the current mayor’s term. So that’s what we’re looking to achieve.”
TfL and Downing Street declined to comment.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.