Like many Londoners, I wasn’t born here. I moved to London to study and stayed to live, work and raise a family in the world’s greatest city. And one reason London is so great is that it offers so much opportunity to anyone, irrespective of race, religion or background.
Nevertheless, despite the opportunities that exist for people to thrive in London, I’ve also seen first-hand just how easy it can be to get left behind. I’ve endured the frustration of renting in a city where rent can consume 72% of people’s income and where the average property price is now twelve times more than median earnings.
We have also seen how, despite record high levels of employment in the capital, 27% of Londoners are still classified as living in poverty after housing costs. Meanwhile, more than half of disadvantaged children in London have witnessed violence or drug taking in their school holidays whilst 65% fear being attacked by gangs.
For the last two years I have worked at the Centre for Social Justice as the Director of Impact. A key part of my job was making the case for policies and proposals that would significantly expand opportunity to those who lacked it. If I am lucky enough to be elected London’s Mayor, I would make expanding opportunity absolutely central to my Mayoralty.
Crucial to this would be fixing London’s broken housing market. London benefits hugely from attracting some of the most talented people from the UK and from around the world to live, study and work in our city and it is crucial to our future prosperity that we continue to be a city of opportunity. The recent news that a record proportion of London homeowners are selling up and moving to the North or the Midlands was worrying enough, but there are many more who cannot even get on the housing ladder. London will struggle to be a city of opportunity if bright, young, talented, innovative Londoners feel they have no choice but to move away in order to find somewhere affordable to live.
Ultimately, fixing this means building a lot more houses. It means working with London’s boroughs to establish a full audit of publicly-owned land that could be used for housing. It means ensuring new housing is attractive so that local residents are far more likely to support it being built. It means cracking down on land banking so that large developers cannot simply sit on land that is needed for new houses now. It means working with the insurance industry to establish a new product to replace deposits and it means working with institutional investors like pension funds to increase the supply of high quality, secure accommodation.
Housing is just one part of the jigsaw, however. Without reversing the rise in crime we’ve seen under the current Mayor, far too many Londoners will fail to realise their potential. Under my Mayoralty London would utilise the successful Glasgow approach, with targeted stop and search and community-led interventions to reduce violence on our streets. I would seek to break the cycle in which young people carry knives for “self-defence” by supporting - with funding where necessary - grassroots charities such as Gangs United and Cracked It and installing knife arches to confiscate weapons.
The third side of the triangle means building on fantastic voluntary work that is already happening. London plays host to the world’s largest companies, we have one of the world’s largest financial centres and the city is home to some of the best, brightest and most innovative minds from across the world. It is by harnessing those advantages, by putting rocket boosters under mentoring programmes and by operating as a facilitator to help connect people who want to help with those who need it I believe the Mayor could make a real difference. We also have to look at offering genuine incentives to the companies that make their talent available to help in London’s communities.
As Mayor, I want to unleash this tremendous potential and spread opportunity across every corner of our City, with a relentless focus on our most deprived communities who’ve been left behind. If I’m selected to be my Party’s candidate for London Mayor then I’ll be spending the next year and a half seeking to persuade Londoners to give me the opportunity to do just that with a positive, upbeat and optimistic vision for our city.