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Inequality Has Hit Our City's Youth the Hardest - We Must Make Sure No Child Slips Through the Cracks

06/07/2015 17:13 BST | Updated 06/07/2016 10:59 BST

This blog is a written response to Kenny Imafidon's recent HuffPost Young Voices blog, 'Open Letter to All Potential Mayoral Candidates (A Response Would Be Nice)', which can be read here

Dear Kenny,

Thank you for your letter and apologies for not replying sooner - it was only brought to my attention on Twitter this week.

You're absolutely correct. From the housing crisis, to the spiralling cost of living, to the growing chasm between the richest and poorest, our city faces a range of issues that urgently need addressing.

You've raised a lot of points, but I'll try to be succinct and focus on my solutions; I believe in details and action, not political rhetoric.

Housing

It's a travesty that only 40 council homes were built in London last year, especially while our city's broken housing market continues to shut out more and more Londoners. That's why the Mayor needs to play a much more hands-on role, rather than just relying on private developers. If I'm elected, I will issue £10billion of London Housing Bonds to fund 30,000 new social homes for Londoners

I will begin building on brownfield land immediately, but it's delusional to think that's enough land to accommodate all the new homes we need. In fact, brownfield land in London can only provide a third of the homes we so urgently need. I've said we have to be honest and admit the need to look again at some parts of the greenbelt that don't live up to the name, protecting parks, playing fields and woodlands while turning a small fraction of the car parks, wasteland and disused industrial sites into new homes.

I'll also ensure the homes we are building are built according to the needs of Londoners, by introducing a London Value Tax on wealthy overseas buyers who purchase London homes as an investment and then leave them empty.

Meanwhile, for renters, I will make affordable rents genuinely affordable, redefining affordability to mean a maximum of 50% of market value rather than the current 80%. I'll also link rents to local earnings to make sure they are always in reach of local people.

Lastly, I will continue to campaign for a system of rent controls to prevent private rents spiralling further out of hand, and introduce London-wide compulsory landlord registration to protect renters against poor housing standards and exploitative practices.

Cost of living

The average private tenant in London pays almost half their income in rent, so building the homes our city needs and assisting private renters will substantially help Londoners pay for bills, food, and other everyday expenses, but it's only a start.

First, let's look at how the rising cost of public transport - up over 50% under the current Mayor - can be tackled.

I will rework the current fares system to make transport more affordable for commuters in London, who currently bear the brunt of rising fares.

A single bus fare now costs £1.50, but so often commuters have to change buses at least once, and pay twice for one journey. That's why I will introduce an hourly bus ticket so commuters can change routes as many times as they need to get to their destination.

I will also simplify TfL systems to make it easier for all Londoners to understand the complex information regarding fares, so everyone can purchase the cheapest ticket to meet their daily, weekly, or monthly commuting needs.

I agree that fares have risen out of control and I'll take action to address that, but I won't be dishonest and promise a blanket fares freeze because I know how important it is to continue to invest in our transport system as our city speeds towards a population of 10 million. Anyone who promises you a complete fares freeze has a duty to explain how they'd fund the Bakerloo Line extension, the Northern Line extension, the Piccadilly Line upgrade, increased bus capacity, and crucially, better disabled access at Tube stations. It's not good enough that more than three quarters of underground stations are completely inaccessible to the thousands of Londoners in wheelchairs or with other restricted mobility - and a blanket fares freeze will mean vital access improvements have to be shelved.

To help Londoners with rising utility bills, I will also establish a London Energy Co-operative, allowing the Mayor to provide cheaper gas and electricity for millions of Londoners. I hope you'll see that across the three biggest areas of cost for Londoners - housing, transport and energy - I 've got a plan for making London a more affordable city.

Poverty

Reducing transport costs, tackling the cost of living, and providing Londoners with cheaper rent will go a long way to reducing the poverty in our city. But there's much more that needs to be done.

As you pointed out, there are many working families that are still unable to climb above the poverty line. It's alarming, and is why I've spent years calling for a London Minimum Wage that is higher than the national minimum wage in order to account for the greater expenses incurred by living here. It's why I launched my Fairness in Football campaign to successfully persuade London's Premier League clubs to pay their staff the Living Wage. And it's why, as Mayor, I will double the number of employers paying the Living Wage in London, and ensure that no GLA contract is awarded to companies that refuse to pay it.

In the long term, the solution to this problem is creating new jobs for Londoners: not just more low-paid work that doesn't allow people to make use of their talents and abilities, but well-paid, skilled jobs in new sectors of the economy like tech, science and the creative industries.

Inequality has hit our city's children the hardest. It's for this reason that I have called, and will continue to call, for it to be mandatory for every local council to provide Youth Services, helping ensure no child slips through the cracks.

Thank you again for your letter, Kenny, and I hope my plan for London will convince you to give me your vote when we choose Labour's candidate for Mayor next month. From cyclist deaths to policing cuts, childcare costs to air pollution, there are many, many more issues affecting our city, but I believe I'm the only candidate with the bold solutions and drive for action needed to address them. You can find out more on my website at lammyformayor.com.

All the best,

David

David Lammy is the Labour MP for Tottenham, and is seeking nomination to be Labour's London Mayoral candidate in 2016