Ask many Londoners what concerns them most, they are likely to mention the lack of affordable housing, and due to a rapidly expanding population, the difficulty of accessing important local services such as school places and appointments with GPs. Access to basic amenities and the lack of housing are fundamentally connected. The more housing we build, the more infrastructure is needed to support those developments. The planning system anticipates this, and through mechanisms such as section 106, local authorities attempt to leverage the funding to support the necessary social infrastructure that is needed to accompany new housing.
But are London decision makers utilising planning powers to the full extent? Especially when it comes to the lack of access to health services?
To demonstrate, London's population is set to grow by approximately one million over the next decade as the Mayor of London aims to build 420,000 new homes. I recently published a report (Health Appreciation, Investing in Health Facilities from New Developments) that found up to 550 new GPs will be needed over the next ten years to keep up with increasing demands. Many boroughs are already below the England average in relation to GP numbers, as recommended by the NHS. In the constituency I represent for example, Sutton was found to have 7.2 GP's per 10,000 people, compared to the England average of 7.6 per 10,000 people.
Many boroughs are failing to prioritise health infrastructure, this is after they have received funding through the avenue of 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy contributions from housing developers.
I have asked the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to use his position to attempt to influence the boroughs and ask them to direct money towards investment in expanding GP numbers in areas where there is below average coverage. I have also recommended that boroughs monitor and publish the number of health facilities it pays for with existing developer contributions.
It is worth noting that in the present squeeze on local government finances, there has been an increase recently in this area, so a commitment to direct adequate funding to the health sector doesn't have to translate to another sector missing out.
It is my belief that by leveraging the maximum funding for GP services, we can build a better future for London and its residents. We cannot have new homes and then neglect the social amenities that underpin new communities. To make London a decent place to live and work, we must adopt an holistic approach.