September at City Hall seems like a new school year
07 September, 2018
• AFTER a long summer break September at City Hall feels like a new school year. There’s no better time to think about new priorities for the coming months.
I want to set out what just some of my priorities are and how I plan to hold Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to account on behalf of my constituents.
• It is no secret that the state of Transport for London’s finances is dire. By pursuing reckless policies such as his partial fares freeze, the mayor has blown an almost £1billion black hole in the transport budget. Last week’s announcement that the opening of Crossrail will be delayed by nine months will only make this deficit even bigger.
Sadiq Khan is desperately trying the plug this hole in any way he can, including through bus cuts, which would affect inner London particularly badly, and by removing the congestion charge exemption from private hire vehicles. My constituents rely heavily on our brilliant bus network and private hire vehicles and I will fight any move which makes it harder for residents to travel around the city.
• Housing is a perennial problem in our city and it’s only getting worse. Buying a flat, let alone a family home, in any of my three boroughs is an impossible dream for many people. To change this unacceptable situation, we need to build more high-quality homes and on this score the mayor is once again falling short.
The most recent housing statistics show that the mayor is way off his targets – with only 1,097 affordable homes built between June and April this year, despite his target being 3,500 for this period.
There is huge potential to build new homes on vacant industrial land owned by TfL, but Sadiq Khan’s regulations make this virtually impossible. He needs to look again at the rules around development and cut red tape.
• With violent crime on the up, Londoners are starting to feel less safe on our streets. Despite the government increasing the amount of funding allocated to the police, the mayor has cut the number of cops while spending more on his own bureaucrats at City Hall.
Sadiq Khan is very keen to pass the buck and blame the government for his own failings on crime, but it’s time for him to take some responsibility. In the short term the mayor could cut the waste and get more bobbies on the beat.
In the long term he needs to be looking at investing in cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) for the Met. Evidence from across the globe shows that using AI can save police forces millions – money that could be spent on employing more front-line officers.
• Along with the big, London-wide, issues which my colleagues and I deal with daily I have several local campaigns which I will continue to pursue.
Getting the plans for the part pedestrianisation of Oxford Street right is vitally important. We must balance the need for modernisation with a solution which works for residents and businesses.
The proposed Cycle Superhighway 11, due to run from Swiss Cottage to the West End, needs looking at again. The public consultation was a sham and Westminster Council was right to seek a judicial review to halt the construction of the scheme.
So there’s plenty to be getting on with.
TONY DEVENISH AM
Conservative, West Central
Follow me on Twitter @tony_devenish