Free days out at the zoo if Livingstone is mayor

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The Independent Online
KEN LIVINGSTONE unveiled his personal manifesto for the job of Mayor of London yesterday with a call for greater tax-raising powers, more conductors on buses and free entry to Kew Gardens and London Zoo.

Twelve years since he last dominated London's politics, the former GLC leader outlined a vision that proved he had lost none of his populism or talent for upsetting the government of the day. A Livingstone mayoralty would levy a new Heathrow airport tax, pedestrianise key parts of the city and mastermind a task force to slash unemployment.

There would be no "holy war" against the car nor immediate Tube fare cuts, but improvements in public transport would be funded by congestion charges and taxes on parking spaces. Female Tube travellers would be made to feel safe again, with guards back on trains, Routemaster buses would be protected and the South Bank Centre would come under the mayor's control.

Clearly unimpressed by the aquarium now housed in his former office of County Hall, the newt-loving MP appealed to London's wildlife lobby with a proposal for a world-class aquarium run by London Zoo in Newham. "It is clearly ridiculous that the nation whose history has been most dependent on its maritime achievement has not got a world-class aquarium on the scale of Lisbon or Osaka."

Labour sources attacked Mr Livingstone's blueprint as a "disastrous" return to the tax-and-spend days of the GLC, but he said it was entirely in tune with the Government's devolution plans. "I do believe this will be the first step towards regional government for Britain. If we can get it right, it will spread right through the United Kingdom in Tony Blair's second term. This is a radical programme. All of it is achievable but I'm not going to lie. It does cost more money."

In his detailed response to the Government's own White Paper on the Greater London Authority and a directly elected mayor for 2000, the MP said it was unacceptable that London paid every year pounds 6bn more into Treasury coffers than it got back in public spending.

"That was fine when London was regarded as the most prosperous part of the UK but today it has some of the most deprived areas in Britain." However, Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, said few Londoners wanted to go back to the days when Mr Livingstone ruled County Hall.

"This manifesto has all his characteristic panache, but London is an expensive enough city as it is and we don't need this spectre of more and greater taxes. The mayor of London is not the Chancellor of the Exchequer."

Ken's Blueprint for the Capital

Tax on passengers travelling through Heathrow Airport to fund improvements to South Bank arts centre and free entry to London Zoo and Kew Gardens

Two-term limit for the mayor, with a personal pledge that if he won the mayoral race he would not stay in office for more than one four-year term

Jobs task force, using money from the City of London Corporation, to persuade councils and London Transport to take on the unemployed and train them for the private sector

Congestion charging and new tax on car parking spaces to fund improvements to public transport

"Proper" tax-raising powers once the Greater London Authority has won the confidence of Londoners

Pedestrianisation of key parts of capital such as Soho and Trafalgar Square

No mayoral limousine and no car pool for any of the members of the Greater London Assembly

Conductors back on buses and the retention of the famous Routemaster double-decker red buses. Guards back on tube trains

Zero tolerance policing to tackle petty crime, as in New York. New police authority with power to dismiss any officer who refuses to testify against a corrupt or racist colleague