Battle over school run

Tamsin Snow

Ken Livingstone is unlikely to get many votes in next week's election for London's mayor from parents who take their children to school in four-wheel drive vehicles. The Labour candidate told GMTV: "When you see someone trying to manoeuvre round the school gates, you have to think, 'You are a complete idiot'."

Tackling the school run is a hot topic among the London mayoral candidates.

Although the mayor has no direct power over education, Labour candidate Mr Livingstone has pledged free bus travel for full-time school and college students under the age of 18. He also aims to ensure every school has a travel plan, including a safe routes to school scheme, by 2009. Mr Livingstone, who trained as a teacher in 1973, may also extend the congestion charge zone to include more areas of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, if he is re-elected on June 10.

Conservative candidate Steve Norris plans to scrap the congestion charge and introduce free school buses for primary school children across the capital. He claims the scheme, at a cost of pound;2 million per borough, would eliminate 10 per cent of the city's morning peak-hour traffic.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat candidate, is proposing to pilot an American-style yellow bus system in four of the capital's boroughs. He says they would be a safe and efficient way of cutting air pollution and congestion. He also plans to examine the viability of making thousands of bicycles available at a nominal hire charge from up to 50 locations.

Green Party candidate Darren Johnson suggests a five-year fares freeze, a free travelcard scheme for unwaged and young people and a dedicated school bus service.

Housing is also a key issue, with Mr Livingstone aiming for half of all new homes to be affordable.

Mr Norris says targets should be set on a site-by-site basis but is proposing to set up a London Building Society, to help key workers get equity and a foot on the housing ladder.

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