In July, Forest Gate North Labour party held a meeting open to all local Labour party members, friends and supporters, to an event at Coffee7 called ‘Changing London’. Based on the book, and blog, put together by local residents David Robinson and Will Horowitz, this was a discussion event that enabled local people to share their thoughts and ideas about what we want from the next London Mayor.
As a result of those discussions, we have written the following letter, which we hope reflects the ideas people brought and shared, and gives a flavour of the kind of Mayor we want, and the kind of London we want to create.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CANDIDATES FOR LONDON MAYOR 2016
Dear Mayoral Candidates,
Our leaders regularly describe London as ‘the greatest city in the world’. But for many Londoners living in poverty and deprivation that claim can sound hollow. So in July 2015 Forest Gate North Ward Labour Party, inspired by the book/website Changing London: a rough guide for the next London mayor, hosted an open meeting for local residents to share their ideas on how the next Mayor could tackle growing inequality in London. Below, we outline our ideas in seven key areas.
While the Mayor of London’s formal powers may be limited, he/she has great influence and can play a key role to play in making London a better place to live for all of us. We ask the next Mayor to use both their powers and influence to champion a fairer, more equal, less divided, greener and safer city. We need a pro-active and collaborative Mayor who can develop a strategic cross-London vision, co-ordinating the work of all 32 boroughs and the City of London to promote economic and social development, address poverty, health inequality, and radically improve the environment and air quality.
We want the new Mayor to …
1 Gain greater control over revenues and raise more funding for London:
• develop a plan for devolution of tax and revenue raising powers, and vigorously argue the case with central Government
• set up an investment vehicle whereby Londoners can buy bonds to help finance infrastructure
2 Produce a housing strategy to alleviate rather than exacerbate the housing crisis:
• work with local authorities to learn from and scale up schemes to increase the supply of genuinely affordable homes
• commission a feasibility study into and argue for replacing council tax with a progressive property tax or land value tax to reduce housing market volatility, prevent property speculation driving up prices and make it too expensive for properties to stay vacant for long periods
• oppose government changes that reduce the ability of councils and Housing Associations to provide social housing, eg the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap
• promote Community Land Trusts and housing co-operatives to provide affordable homes for local people especially in high value areas
• crack down on manipulation of viability reports allowing developers to avoid including affordable homes in new developments
• ban selling off plan directly to foreign buyers
• strengthen and encourage the use of powers to take over empty properties
• tackle exploitation in the private rental sector
• lower VAT for housing renovation
3 Encourage good business practice:
• purchase a share in the largest businesses in London giving him/her the right to speak at AGMs pushing the case for living wage, apprenticeships, curbs on high pay, fair and honest tax contributions etc
• use procurement policies to encourage payment of the living wage
• lobby central Government to allow the Mayor to set a London Living Wage
4 Make sure that Londoners have the right skills for employment, and reduce youth unemployment:
• work with businesses and charities to set up apprenticeships and paid internships
• set up a scheme similar to Labour’s ‘baby bonds’ so every young person has access to a pot of savings at 18 to be used e.g. for further education or training or set up a business
5 Improve the environment
• develop strategies to support community solar energy schemes
• phase out use of diesel fuel for transport in favour of electric buses
• prioritise walking and cycling over other means of transport
6 Tackle crime, poverty and exploitation:
• support the police in prosecuting white collar crime, which undermines responsible business practice, just as much as they do ‘poor’ crime
• expand credit unions so people have an alternative to loan sharks
• restore the homelessness safety net and improve support for non-priority older single homeless people
• ban the use of Public Space Protection Orders which potentially criminalize (persistent) rough sleepers
7 Bring back healthy high streets:
• Reform planning laws to enable councils to block gambling shops, chicken shops and pawnbrokers from taking over our high streets
If reading this sounds like your kind of London too, please do consider getting involved in your local Labour party. We are always keen to welcome new members. You can join online here. We would love to have you.