The branch has been very active recently, hence the dearth of posts on the website! Amongst campaigns to stop building on green belt and covenant land and discussions with other local pressure groups about what matters to local people, we had the chance to go to London and ask questions of the current London Mayor, Boris Johnson. We met with London activist Ben Weald outside the Commons on a particularly fine early summer’s evening.
In conjunction with London Radio Station LBC, Talk London was an event where the people of the capital could put their questions to Boris about any item that affected them or their community. Hosted by LBC talk show host Nick Ferrari (Pictured above with Boris), ordinary Londoners were given free access to the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster on 2nd June to air their views.
The numbers allowed in were limited, so we were advised to be there early – Seven PM was the start time, but the queue was back around the building when the doors opened at six!
Methodist Central Hall
A large screen and two podiums were set up at the front of the hall, and a video was running showing the activities that had been put on by the Greater London Assembly (GLA) during the past year prior to the debate.
I was interested to see that as part of the GLA sponsored ‘Championing London’ events, there were images of the St Patrick’s Day parade, Eid in the Square and also a Vaisakhi event to celebrate Sikh new year which had pictures of Ealing & Hillingdon assembly member Richard Barnes joining in. Whilst these are popular events and deserve a celebration, it was interesting to note that there was no mention of a St George’s Day event, and none is sponsored by the authority – Am I the only one that finds it strange that we can celebrate cultural events in London from around the world, but not the national day of our own patron saint?
There were also videos of the GLA mentoring programme for assisting young people in risk of offending, and Boris talking about global warming and how the capital has to prepare for it (A bit strange I thought, as scientists are still not in agreement about how advanced climate change is and how it is going to manifest itself)
Nick Ferrari gave an introduction to the debate peppered with the kind of witticisms that are his trademark as an accomplished radio presenter before Boris took to the platform (Above)
Many of the most common issues for Londoners were aired such as crime, transport, The Olympics and housing.
The whole debate can be viewed on the link below, I managed to get a question in on behalf of the south of the borough at around 1-39-55 on the video
Questions from the floor
Boris took a number of questions regarding the cost of transport from the audience. He defended concessions for the elderly (The Freedom Pass for over 60’s) and children’s concessions, in my view quite rightly. He did seem to be a bit out of touch with pricing for London’s buses, however, saying that the average fare is 60p – It costs £2.20 for a single from Cowley High Street to Uxbridge on a 222, or £1.20 if you use Oyster. Nick Ferrari also pointed out that the cost of a zone 1 travel pass in Paris is the equivalent of £14 per week, £22 per week in Berlin yet £27.50 in London, all statistics that the Mayor passed off as being part of the system that he inherited.
This led in to discussions about the cost of tube drivers and their constant demands for pay increases. Statistics were quoted by members of the public that pointed to tube drivers getting a pay increase of 10% whilst other public sector workers were seeing pay freezes and redundancies, and annual wages of forty thousand were mentioned. Boris refused to answer questions regarding pay negotiations for the tube drivers, as he claimed that these were delicate negotiations that could not be put in to the public domain.
Questions from the London Cab Drivers
The RMT union were handing out leaflets before the event to the queue outside regarding an increase in assaults down to unlicensed cab drivers, and the United Cabbies Group posed the question to the Mayor during the debate. The Mayor insisted that these kind of assaults were decreasing, but a member of the group called Jonathan quoted Tranport for London figures disputing this. The figures went unanswered, as did the question from the floor concerning the closure of front desk facilities at many of London’s Police stations – The mayor said he had not heard about this, despite it being a feature issue on LBC the day before and being in national press columns.
The Lack of Affordable housing in London
Regular visitors to this site will know that housing, or the lack of, is one of the issues that regularly features and is one of the key concerns that has been raised with me by Hillingdon residents.
Imogen Hammond from the Tideway Village in London (A houseboat community) raised the issue of homes alongside the Thames now being predominently owned by foreign nationals as second and third homes, and how the subsequent price increases in property had forced local Londoners out. Boris replied that you can’t stop this kind of thing in a ‘free market economy’. I brought up the housing benefit cap later on and asked what his answer will be to the mass of people being driven from central London to the outlying boroughs by the rising costs of housing in central areas, and as you can see from the answer I received on the link he was talking of fifty thousand new affordable and social house places being available since he came to office.
Unfortunately, Mr Mayor, the Coalition government last week gave settlement rights to over one hundred and fifty thousand asylum seekers who had been in the system so long that they could no longer be deported – Add that to the three hundred thousand already on the housing list in London and we are looking at a major problem that will not go away. Your election promise of 35% of all new builds being affordable or social housing were shown up by figures that pointed to just 10% built during your time in office meeting the criteria.
The Greater London Assembly
The GLA was initially envisaged to give Londoners a voice via the Mayor and his assembly members to make London a better place.
The initial cost estimated, as quoted by one of the people firing questions at the meeting, was less than £20 million per year – Equivalent to 3p per week or £1.56 per year for a Londoner living in a Band ‘D’ property as rated by their local council.
The figures now show that the GLA costs a Band ‘D’ resident FOUR HUNDRED POUNDS PER YEAR – You have to ask what we are getting for this bearing in mind the questions posed during the Talk London event?
GLA Elections 2012
The assembly elections take place every four years, and are due next year just before the Olympics.
If you want to have your say on how London goes forward, let us know via the website so we can take in to account what you want your area to be when putting together our team to contest these places.
The English Democrats will be running a full campaign for 2012, and believe that with the support of ordinary Londoners who care about their community than WE CAN make a difference. The old parties and the old politics have failed for Hillingdon, for London and for England – It is time to embrace real change with the only party that represents the interests of all the people of our country
For full details on The English Democrats GLA2012 campaign, please get in touch via the contact section on the website.