Tag: Boris Johnson

I’ve been a Green Party member, activist and officer at local, regional and national levels for ten years. But the honour and joy of working full-time for two Green politicians is a rare one in so small a party. So I thought I’d share some lessons from those seven years, things I would never have guessed before I stepped through the doors of City Hall to work in the London Assembly in September 2009. I imagine that there is nothing very special about my experiences here; that similar things could be said of members and politicians in the Labour Party, or Green MEPs. 1. Greens show remarkably little interest in their politicians Once a month members of the London Green Party can quiz their Assembly Members and MEP about their work. But when the opportunity arises, almost nobody asks them a question. Before I worked with them I knew very…

Read More Seven lessons from seven years in City Hall

In all the fuss about Natalie Bennett’s unfortunate media interviews, for which she has penned this very strong and courageous apology, we have seen this idea talking hold that governments can cost policies down to the last penny. The Green Party always puts forward broadly costed proposals, but the direction of travel is equally important and needs more attention. Read More False realism in costing policies

In April 2012 I joined 10,000 soggy cyclists in the rain to call for a big change to our streets, so whoever won the imminent Mayoral elections would ensure our streets would be safe and pleasant for cycling. In response to months of fantastic campaigning, and not wanting all the cycling votes going to the Green Party, Boris Johnson duly signed up, telling cyclists: “I am fully committed to meeting the three key tests of LCC’s ‘Love London, Go Dutch’ campaign”. Eight months later, TfL began to consult on the plans for Cycle Superhighway 5, from New Cross Gate to Victoria via Peckham, Camberwell and Oval. Here was a golden opportunity for Boris to “make sure all planned developments on are completed to Go Dutch standards, especially junctions”, one of those three key tests he signed up to. Months of consultation and roadworks later, this is what we got: Does…

Read More Super cycling in Peckham

Jim Gleeson has an interesting blog entry about the consequences of making a city more liveable. In short, there is a danger that making an area more liveable can price out lower income people. By reducing air pollution and generally improving the local environment in more deprived areas,  richer people will start to move in displacing the people who should have benefitted. His prescription is more housing supply to accompany environmental improvements. But we need to think a bit more carefully about this to get the medicine right for places like London. As he points out, the economic benefits of making an area more desirable will largely go to existing home owners and landlords as the value of the land, and therefore the rent they can charge, increases. Lower income people will be forced to move, presumably (according to Jim’s argument) to less liveable areas. Council and housing association tenants…

Read More Green doesn’t need to mean gentrification

Payday loans have been in the news today, with industry figureheads trying to persuade the public that they’re offering the punters a good service. Well, if you’re seriously stuck for cash you need or have loans you’re struggling to service, a much better place to start would be a credit union. London Mutual Credit Union, for example, is a not for profit organisation that provides ethical financial services to Southwark and Lambeth boroughs. These services include savings accounts, current accounts and loans to people who find themselves financially excluded from high street banks. They have no shareholders, and all their profits are returned to members. Unlike Wonga & co they are genuinely providing useful services without looking to make a very sizeable profit off the backs of the idiots and the vulnerable. Anyone struggling financially would also be best off seeking help from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and checking out the…

Read More Never mind Wonga, use a credit union

As another flurry of snow hits the office windows here at City Hall, we’ve put the finishing touches to a video by Darren Johnson investigating the future of insulation in London (and the reasons why over a million homes are still bleedin’ cold!)

Read More How are we going to insulate London?

February feels a distant memory. Back then, the Conservative Party released a report called Labour’s Two Nations, attacking Labour’s 13 year record on inequality. Britain had become (they suggested) a society of low taxation on the rich and high marginal rates on the poor; under Labour, risky personal lending inflating a housing fantasy replaced prudent saving and improving housing affordability. So do the Conservatives now care deeply about inequality? Darren Johnson put the London Assembly Conservatives to the test this week, proposing that the Mayor of London implement Cameron’s policy of a maximum 20:1 pay ratio in the Greater London Authority group. Here’s the response of the Conservatives: In case you’re fooled into thinking that Darren and the Greens are ignoring the low paid, read Darren’s arguments in The Guardian. If we’re all in this together, shouldn’t government bodies ensure that the lowest paid receive a living wage whilst preventing…

Read More Are the new new Right in this together?

Jenny Jones has produced a new report and this accompanying video, explaining why the Government and Mayor of London’s approach to affordable housing is fundamentally broken. It’s something that a growing number of people know, whether you’ve been priced out or you know someone who has by decades of massive house price rises. It is most severe in London and fancy rural communities, but is a growing problem across the country. I’m pretty proud of the work Jenny and I did on it!

Read More Priced out of buying a home?

Are free photos evil? I’m going to stick my neck out and defend the Greater London Authority for setting up a Flickr group where Londoners can submit photos to be used on the GLA web site. A few photographers are upset that anyone can now get decent photos for free from citizens who donate them. Shocker. These photographers want the GLA to use our taxes to pay them for their hard work. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain ridiculous. Should we condemn the GLA for using free software for their web site, instead of paying for a proprietary content management system? Dearie me. Look, the web has changed many creative industries and bust the business models of those few who were charging for stuff that lots of us will happily share quite freely. Get over it. This storm-in-a-lens-pouch has been picked up by the venerable Boris Watch and the Telegraph,…

Read More Boris the culture commie?

Halifax have published a great little fact sheet on some key housing trends over the last 50 years. The most dramatic is that the cost of buying a home has risen 273% above incomes over that period, with the sharpest rise during the 2000s when they rose by 63%. This is the increasing cost of housing adjusted for increases in income; or adjusting for inflation to state rises in real terms, for economists. Imagine if food or heating bills rose that quickly compared to incomes! Whilst the property-owning journalists hail this rise in house prices, more and more people are squeezed out of the market, or forced to sacrifice huge chunks of their salary to repay mortgages. Jenny Jones published a report on the housing crisis in London recently. She shows that over the past decade the cost of buying a home doubled in London, well above the national rise…

Read More The cost of housing doubles in London