On the record: What has Livingstone done for London?

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Indy Politics

Ken Livingstone yesterday praised Tony Blair for "having the guts" to back his return to the Labour Party after nearly four years in exile. The London Mayor, who was readmitted to the fold on Tuesday, hoped his return would help him win more Government investment in the capital, and insisted he would not clash with Treasury over his spending plans.

On welcoming Mr Livingstone back, the Prime Minister highlighted the achievements of the congestion charge. Here The Independent looks at progress in other key areas since his appointment.

BUSES: The expanded bus system, under which often empty buses travel archaic routes, is thought to be the biggest single reason behind the projected black hole in the Mayor's future finances. Mr Livingstone says at least 20 per cent more people are using buses since his appointment in the sole example of an "integrated transport policy at work" in Britain. But critics say that in 2000 the system was subsidised by £100m which will rise to £560m this year and £1bn by 2008. It is believed the taxpayer is subsidising passengers by £3 a ride and on some routes it would be far cheaper to run subsidised taxis.

VERDICT: Benefit of the doubt. Despite the costs, London's buses are an example to the terrible state of services elsewhere in the country.

COUNCIL TAX: The Mayor proposes to raise London's council tax precept by 12 per cent, which would take the increase since he came into office above 100 per cent. Much of the expenditure on the precept, the element of the capital's tax bills that is used to fund the Greater London Authority, has gone towards 3,480 extra police officers and firefighters to deal with the threat of terrorism.

VERDICT: He has been profligate. Because they pay taxes to the boroughs, Londoners do not always realise the costs mounting at the GLA

CONGESTION CHARGE: Applauded by the Prime Minister, it has succeeded in reducing traffic levels by 10 to 15 per cent with future revenues to be reinvested in public transport. Opposed by Steven Norris for the alleged damage it is doing to central London retailers. It is opposed by the London Chamber of Commerce and Confederation of British Industry and John Lewis recently started an independent inquiry after revealing takings at its Oxford Street store were down by 10 per cent as a result. Plans to expand the charging zone westwards to include Kensington and Chelsea should be ditched in favour of schemes targeted at hotspots such as Ealing, say opponents.

VERDICT: A success almost certain to be repeated elsewhere in the country. Needs to convince sceptics revenue will be spent on public transport.

CRONIES: His opponents say many of the top jobs in the Livingstone administration have gone to loyalists from the GLC and trades unionists. Steve Norris says Transport for London, responsible for buses, tubes and roads and with a turnover of £4bn, lacks "serious players" and points to a TfL board of four trades union officials. The appointments smack of the "same old Ken" and there is not enough board-level experience from industry and commerce, the Tories say.

VERDICT: Guilty. Better to bring in fresh faces and ideas, especially from the private sector.

SPIN DOCTORS: No one complains if the Mayor uses an estimated annual publicity budget of £1.5m to promote new bus services or recycling measures. He has been accused of dipping into that to further his re-election campaign. Recent charges of profligacy have centred on The London Conference at the QE2 centre in Westminster which critics said was ill-suited to the average Londoner and was more a political rally.

The GLA's in-house newspaper The Londoner costs £1m a year but opponents say it has too many pictures of a smiling Mayor. Mr Livingstone also employs 27 press officers, more than Downing Street does.

VERDICT: Should stop promoting himself and spend more on frontline services. There is a fine line between information and propaganda.

CRIME: Mr Livingstone will increase police numbers to 30,000 over the next two years. His aim is to give every neighbourhood in London six officers who will never be withdrawn for other duties. But sceptics say Londoners feel no safer. The Conservatives would crack down on graffiti, abandoned cars and vandalism and expand the use of CCTV.

VERDICT: Under GLC, he was attacked for undue political interference in the Met which is not evident now. A good record, acknowledged by Mr Blair

TUBE: The Public Private Partnership hands control of the infrastructure, such as track and tunnels, to private companies so Mr Livingstone's role is diminished. He threatened legal action to prevent PPP but abandoned litigation when it became obvious the Government was determined to press ahead. His main objection was that it was expensive, unsafe and too complicated. He is likely to seize any opportunity to dismantle the structure.

VERDICT:Should move on from attacking the Government's decision to adopt PPP and push for better daily services

ENVIRONMENT: Although backing the congestion charge, the Green Party is critical of the Mayor's record on the environment. They claim he has betrayed them over the "outrageous" building of the six-lane Thames Gateway Bridge in east London, yesterday backed by £200m of Government funding. The Greens have also attacked developments at Spitalfields Market and his "failure" to protect Erith Marshes in Bexley.

VERDICT: The congestion charge should bring long-lasting improvements for air pollution.

PLANNING: The Mayor pledged to create an extra 25,000 "affordable" homes for London but so far planning permission and grants have been approved for only 15,000.

VERDICT:Has done well to ensure that the areas surrounding the Dome have not been dominated by executive developments. Needs to speed to meet goals.

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