THE BLOG

Diane for London - Standing Up Against Tory Austerity

13/08/2015 15:58 BST | Updated 13/08/2016 10:59 BST

My own reasons for supporting Diane Abbott are clear - she is not only the anti-austerity candidate, but also the candidate who is articulating a clear vision of a positive and progressive alternative. For example, Diane is the only candidate seeking nomination as Labour's Mayoral candidate who has consistently spoken out and voted against the Conservative benefits cap which is forcing families out of the capital. In contrast, her vision is to maintain the diverse social mix which gives London its rich culture and heritage, saying "the government is saying that poor people should not live in zone 1 and 2. We will become like Paris where only the middle and upper class can live in the centre".

Furthermore, Diane is willing to take action to bring control to the excesses of the London property market which are making housing a struggle even for Londoners who have incomes that would be considered a fortune in the rest of Britain. Such a situation demands recognising the market has failed and calls out for radical solutions, such as rent controls, preventing new properties being marketed to overseas buyers as investments without even being offered to Londoners and ending the free for all which has allowed developers to dodge their duties to build social and intermediate housing.

And as a Labour Councillor in the Labour Borough of Camden, I realise that an incoming Labour Mayor will need to have a strong understanding of fragile local authority finances which stand on the edge of breaking point.

The extent of the crisis we may face is that the (now Conservative led) Local Government Association has argued that 'Further local government funding reductions over the next five years is not an option.' Meanwhile, Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Redbridge Councils have now launched a legal challenge to ensure fair funding for their services.

From 2010 to 2017 Camden's share of central government funding will have been cut by 50%. Since 2010, they have already made £20billion worth of savings nationally and if spending reductions continue many core services may disappear altogether. These cuts may equate to reduced budgets for essential services such as street cleaning, fewer grants for essential community organizations and cuts across the board in children and older peoples services to name just a few areas.

But this burden has not fallen evenly. Councillors such as myself know firsthand that Labour councils, especially here in London, have been hit the hardest, while some Tory shires have even received funding increases.

Alice Perry, elected to Labour's NEC for councillors last year on a platform of opposing further cuts to local government, has urged a strong, united campaign in her latest NEC report against these cuts across councils, the labour movement and beyond.

Labour's London Mayoral Candidate - to be selected this summer - will need to be at the forefront of such a campaign and, if elected, come up with creative policy solutions that can help defend communities and break the cuts consensus.

Working with public sector unions, in local government and others sectors such as health and education, we need to challenge the austerity and privatisation agenda which is doing so much damage to our communities. For this reason I and many other London Labour members joined the End Austerity now demonstration on June 20. Out of London Labour's Mayoral hopefuls, only Diane Abbott joined us.

Diane recently wrote that "as London's Mayor I would immediately use my office to invite all London councils - regardless of political persuasion - to a summit to set out a new vision for local government and map out a political strategy to win the funding we know we need."

Coming together to see how we can effectively lead a political struggle against further cuts to our communities couldn't be more important - please support Diane and help her stop the Conservatives' social cleansing of our city.