He may not have a chauffeur and prefer to take the Tube to work but Ken Livingstone last night found himself embroiled in allegations of unnecessary luxury travel after a £260 taxi ride from Blackpool to London.
The cab fare was run up by the London mayor in the early hours of yesterday when he took a hire car home from the Labour Party conference after hosting a reception.
He arrived at his destination in Cricklewood, north-west London, shortly after 3am, following a 234-mile journey lasting four hours. The bill was paid by the Greater London Authority. It was the second time in a month that Mr Livingstone has called on the services of a Blackpool taxi firm, Premier Cabs, to shuttle him back from Lancashire to attend meetings in the capital.
After a reception at the Trades Union Congress conference last month, he travelled with several aides back to London. The GLA pointed out that the shared cost amounted to considerably less than the combined price of a return rail fare to Blackpool for all concerned – at £110 each.
But officials confirmed the latest journey, which followed the GLA reception at Blackpool's Hilton hotel, was made alone by Mr Livingstone, who spent £2,000 on taxis last year.
Critics of the early-hours dash from Lancashire in a people carrier asked why the mayor had not chosen instead to catch the 5.17am train from Blackpool, which would have arrived in London at 9.08am.
John Biggs, the Labour chairman of the Assembly's transport committee, said: "I think Ken has to explain why he felt the need to use a taxi."
The mayor, who left Blackpool at 11pm, had been anxious to be in London to deal with the concerns of Londoners about the Tube strike, due to start from 8pm last night. A spokesman said: "He has a fairly heavy schedule and he needed to be in town for first thing this morning."