London assembly for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

Today, I launch the report, Falling Further Behind, which looks at the impact the cost-of-living-crisis is having on vulnerable people across London, and those protected by the Equality Act 2010.

The report finds that, despite being one of the wealthiest cities in the world, the most vulnerable people in London are falling further behind the rest: 9 out of 10 disabled Londoners are concerned about how to meet the rising costs of their energy bills; 92% of BAME Londoners worry about affording their travel expenses; and 75% of young people across our capital find it hard to pay their rent.

It’s unacceptable that vulnerable Londoners are bearing the brunt of the policies of the Mayor and the Government at Westminster. Boris is wrong to believe that inequality is natural or essential and this report gives firm recommendations that he can take to close the inequality gap in London.

Today’s report is a rebuttal to the Mayor’s ludicrous claim that vulnerable people in society are ‘cornflakes’ that require inequality and envy to ‘shake’ them to the top. This report outlines just how misguided his ‘cornflake economics’ is and it is he that needs to be shaken into action. On Wednesday, the government will present its budget, four years in to their term, and the truth is stark, as we already know, we are not ‘all in this together’. This report shows that it is those already marginalised who have been hit the hardest by the cuts.

Rest assured, I will continue to challenge the Mayor, as I have always done, to address the inherent inequality across London and this report provides an excellent tool through which to continue the fight.

I would like to thank Areeq Chowdhury and Abena Oppong-Asare in the Labour Group at City Hall for their tremendous work in writing this report, and you can access a full copy of the report by clicking here.

Today, I and my Labour Assembly Member colleagues challenged the Mayor of London on the delivery of affordable housing at the Olympic Park.

The Mayor, as chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) appeared before the London Assembly at City Hall. There are concerns that the affordable housing will be undermined by the introduction of expensive service charges and that the larger, family-sized, properties will be targeted at the private sector.

As lead Labour Assembly Member on Regeneration, I am deeply concerned that the promises made for affordable housing at the Olympic Park will not be delivered. There is a desperate shortage of affordable housing in London, but particularly affordable family homes. To be a long-term success and truly become a new London neighbourhood we need mixed communities and that includes family housing as well. The last thing we want to see is families on modest incomes priced out of the Olympic Park and for it to become an enclave of the rich.

The Olympics and Paralympics were a huge success and showed modern Britain at its very best with the world looking on with envy. We cannot forget the promises made to local residents who had to deal with a long construction phase and disruption. Other Olympic cities have failed to deliver any meaningful legacy with their stadiums and athletes’ villages becoming white elephants. London is poised to deliver for local residents, but the housing has to be affordable and that includes for local families.

The Mayor must deliver on promises that have been made, and this is something that I will be monitoring very closely.

Sulivan Primary School, which is facing closure by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, was chosen as the only non-selective school in that borough to receive membership to the Mayor of London’s elite ‘gold club’ of schools.

This came only weeks after the Mayor described the plans to bulldoze Sulivan School as “terrific” (video link).

Sulivan Primary School was chosen as one of 108 London schools to be classed as exceptional by the Mayor and included in his list of ‘Gold Club’ schools. Yet, the school still faces closure by Hammersmith & Fulham Council, despite being oversubscribed in its early year’s provision, and all at a time when we have a school places crisis across London.

I congratulate Sulivan’s teachers and pupils on achieving the Mayor’s Gold status, but unfortunately the Mayor’s right hand doesn’t seem to know what his left hand is doing. One week he wants to support his friends in Hammersmith & Fulham who want to bulldoze the school to make way for a Free School, and the next he awards that same school membership of his prestigious Gold Club.

The Mayor claims that he has no influence over education in London, but when he chooses to hand out awards to schools it is clear that he is committed to getting involved in education in the capital. By failing to act, he is letting down the children, parents and teachers of Sulivan Primary School.

The pressure is mounting on the Mayor to act after his Deputy Mayor for Policing and former leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, opposed the move, and with Sulivan Primary’s campaign reaching the House of Commons last week.

I repeat my call for the Mayor to stop dithering and intervene to prevent the unnecessary closure of this outstanding school in Hammersmith and Fulham. He needs to speak up for Londoners in this area and pledge to do everything in his power to support Sulivan Primary.

You can read the article in the Daily Mirror on this story here.

On Tuesday, I tried with my Labour Assembly Member colleagues to block the Mayor’s changes to the London Plan. Unfortunately, we could not secure the two-thirds majority we needed to do so.

The Mayor’s changes will now mean that new ‘affordable’ housing will be set at up to 80 per cent of the market rate in London. This will lead to many new properties in London meant for people on low and modest incomes becoming totally unaffordable.

Yesterday was an historic opportunity for the Assembly to reject a Mayoral strategy but a two-thirds majority could not be secured. This was the first time new powers granted to the Assembly under the Localism Act have been used.

In Hackney Borough, for example, where the household median income is £26,788, tenants would need to have a gross household income of £33,720 to afford a two-bed property at 80 per cent of market rent.

And, in Islington Borough, the median income is £31,560, but to afford a two-bed property at 80 per cent of market rent, a household would need to earn £67,600.

Yesterday’s vote is a hammer blow and signals the death of new truly affordable housing in London. It is a complete travesty that this has happened. Hackney and Islington Borough Councils are against the Mayor’s plan as well as other boroughs of all political persuasions.

The Mayor’s changes will make London’s housing crisis even worse. They will now push affordable housing out of the reach of many Londoners on low, and in some areas, modest incomes. This will also drive up rent, increase land prices and further distort London’s housing market. Boris should have accepted the recommendations of the Independent Planning Inspector, listened to local authorities and revised his London Plan.

Combined with the welfare reforms the Mayor’s changes will make huge swathes of inner London even more unaffordable than they already are. Yesterday’s vote will contribute to the ghettoization of our city and put intolerable strain on a range of already overburdened local services in outer London. This is effectively giving up on ordinary Londoners on modest incomes by making it harder for them to find a home that is affordable.