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London Mayoral Candidates take questions from Citizens UK

Roar writer Shaheena Uddin reports on the Citizens UK Mayoral Assembly in which Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey were grilled on the issues that matter most to Londoners

On April 28, the grassroots organisation Citizens UK held a Mayoral Assembly to question candidates in the upcoming London Mayoral Election. The event brought together over 5,000 people from across London including 227 member institutions, 100+ faith groups, 60 community groups along with over 50 schools, 11 universities and student unions.

Citizens UK is working to mobilise several faith and social groups across London to increase their collective influence and fight for social justice. The aim of the event was to question the two major candidates for the next London Mayoral Election to see how they would address Citizen UK’s main action campaigns. The slogan for the night, “#Together we can”, reflected the idea of Londoners coming together to transform their city for the better.

Roar reported on the responses given by Labour Party candidate and incumbent Mayor Sadiq Khan and Conservative Party candidate Shaun Bailey.

Rod Green, a Vicar from St Peters in Harrow asks “What is your vision for London? Will you meet with London citizens twice a year?”

Bailey: “London Citizens, any new activity you have in London is about coming together and representing the weakest parts of our community that really need that help. The places that, without organised community groups, the government would never get to, the Mayor would never get to. So what we need to do is make sure we support the work you’re doing. So when you say, will I meet you twice a year? Let’s call it three times a year. You have to meet as a politician. How you learn things is by meeting the people doing the work.”

Mr Bailey added that his proposed plan would include setting up forums to air issues and concerns, so that the “the Office of the Mayor of London will always be there, the air will be open, they will always get a listening, welcoming hand, because the issues that you’ve raised are unbelievable that they still exist in London today.”

Khan: “You asked if I would meet London Citizens twice a year. I say, we can do better than that. Over the last five years, myself, my deputy Mayors and my City Hall staff have met with Citizens UK on a regular basis and I see no reason why we should reduce the engagement in a second term.”

“I believe this election is about how we can build an even better London after the pandemic, than before. In 1945 Londoners rebuilt, and renewed, working together to shape a more equal society for everyone…And I believe it’s our turn to work together with that same vigour for London, to tackle the inequalities that still scar our society, and to build a city that’s fairer, greener and safer…I want every Londoner to have the chance to fulfil their potential, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or class. I love London. And I think our best days lay ahead.”

The Assembly was then divided into Citizen’s UK five action campaigns: Welcome and Sanctuary, Climate (Green jobs), Living Wage, Youth Safety and Housing & Homelessness. Both candidates had to respond to each of the demands for these areas.

Welcome & Sanctuary

Citizens UK’s “Welcome & Sanctuary” demands

Khan: “I began the campaign, ‘London is open’. Many Londoners who were from a different colour, were being persecuted and discriminated against… Yes, Yes, Yes to all three of your asks. I’m the child of immigrants, this is personal to me…”

“I’m the Mayor that after 10 years of cuts from the central government has invested record sums in ESOL (English as a Second Language) classes…In the last five years alone, we’ve invested £700,000 to help Londoners who need that assistance, a separate £20,000 for the Windrush generation, a separate £25,000 for those groups that need our help, a specific set of money for justice together and then £10,000. I want to build on that going forward.”

“I’m also the Mayor who stood up to the government when they’ve told rough sleeping charities… NHS staff…key workers to report to the board of authority, The Border Force, when somebody has not got documented status. I said no, I’ve made sure every person we help gets that help from City Hall… I’ve been a Mayor who supports Londoners, to unite us.”

Bailey: “I absolutely commit to opening a website, but more importantly staffing it as well… In London, we’ve seen a huge spike in crime, in knife crime, in sexual attacks and hate crime as well. It’s really important to direct the police to give them the resources to follow these things up, but also to direct them to make sure these cases don’t sit un-investigated. We need to create a welcoming city…The more officers we can have doing this work properly, then the better results, we will get.”

“I think the funding should be raised, because there’s a number of Londoners who are in limbo, who need that help, and I’m of the opinion, it’s cruel to keep people in that situation. Let’s help people move forward.”

“I am the son of immigrants, I understand the impact that can have in the community, my grandparents who were, Windrush [generation]… Third-party reporting, where people are more comfortable in a safe space…can come forward…and make that representation to the police. I think it will be a vital link to forming London.”

You can find out more about the Welcome & Sanctuary campaign by watching an introductory video here.

Climate (Green jobs)

Citizens UK’s “Climate (Green jobs)” demands

Bailey: “We need to take away the sources of that poor air quality. So the buses and cabs are the number one and two… boilers as well. So we do a renewed London board scheme, a cashback scheme, to get these old boilers, out of circulation, and of course that does two things that means a warmer home and less emissions, as well.”

“I actually have a plan to create 924,000 jobs…The real thing here is to give Londoners the opportunity to get jobs back. Since we’ve had lockdowns, the unemployment rate in London has raised to 7.2%. And it’s been young people who’ve been mostly affected by that. So we need a new economy to give those young people a new chance.”

“One barge on the Thames removes 50 lorries from the roads of London, it’s these kinds of innovations that lower the traffic, lower the poor air quality and make London a more breathable, better place. It means that people are more likely to walk and cycle, A) be safer and B) more pleasant to not have big lorries speeding by every two minutes.”

“We also have to be careful that we don’t pass on the costs to the poorest Londoners…we need to be careful about zones we are putting… we have to participate in this green revolution. We mustn’t attach the word green to cost.”

Khan: “The issue of air quality and climate change is an issue of social justice… It is the poorest Londoners who most likely to suffer from a whole host of health issues from asthma to cancer to heart disease and other issues linked with the poor quality air…As the Mayor of London for the last five years, I am the the first global leader to declare the climate emergency with a plan to meet the Paris Climate Accord, that’s been confirmed by the C-40 group of cities. I’ve got a plan to get to us zero carbon by 2030.”

“I’ve already got together a team across London as part of another Recovery Board, and we have a Green New Deal, worth 50 million pounds over the next two years, which will be invested in green jobs… This will mean green academies in creative, digital, health and social care to make sure our young Londoners have the skills for these future proof jobs. We can either be the last generation not to get it, or the first generation to get it, and address these problems.”

“We’ve been doing lots of work around retrofitting and some of the ways we’re going to create jobs going forward… is in retrofitting… My commitment to you tonight, is as the Mayor for the next three years at least, I’m going to build on that progress to retrofit even more homes in London. The last five years we’ve done almost 30,000, we’re going to build on that going forward.”

Khan was also asked if City Hall would publish the number of green jobs created in London each year

Khan: “Not each year, I’ll do each quarter. I think that one of the things I’ve been as Mayor, is the most transparent Mayor in London’s history. I want to build on that by making sure we regularly publish the amount of jobs that we’re creating so Londoners, can see the progress being made, and also the great work of the new Green Academy, we are going to set up as well. It’s really important we give young Londoners the skills for the jobs of tomorrow.”

You can find out more about the Climate (Green jobs) campaign by watching an introductory video here.

The Living Wage

Citizens UK’s “Living Wage” demands

Khan: “Five years ago, when I was with you at the common box, the London living wage was £9.15 an hour. It’s now £10.85 an hour. But also over the last five years with me as Mayor, we’ve increased by more than 150% to more than 2000 employers… the number of businesses, now paying the London living wage. That’s because leadership from the top matters.”

“And that roughly equates to almost 900,000 Londoners now receiving the living wage, and we’re keen to make sure we build on that progress going forward. So I can guarantee with me as your Mayor, we will carry on working side by side, to persuade more employers to be living wage employers… I want City Hall to be leading by example, to be a beacon around the world, where if you do a hard day’s work, you get a decent day’s pay.”

“I love the living wage foundation as you know, but I think you’ve got to be a bit careful…By chasing the numbers, you might be signing up employers who already are paying the living wage. The real prize is making those employers who aren’t paying the living wage, pay the living wage and signing them up. We want to address the issue of poverty pay, rather than ticking a box.”

“And my final commitment to you… is to set up a steering group, look into how we can accelerate the numbers of employees by paying the London living wage. So more Londoners, in the words of St Anthony’s children, can live in dignity.”

Bailey: “This is a pledge that I will willingly make, gladly make, because I think we can make a real difference to many, many Londoners. Because of course you could sign up a million people, and actually I think you just keep going, you’re never stop with this, because when you allow a family to have a decent income you don’t just give that one individual dignity, you don’t just make that one individual safe, you make the whole family safe.”

“We should also as well look at controlling the cost of living in London, any bill that we can reduce from City Hall we should be reduced, because of course it is your outgoings that really cripple you as a family.”

“What we need to do is make more of the companies who do the right thing, that pay the living wage, and make even more companies who don’t. We need to make the living wage in London the norm… The companies who can afford it, big companies who are not making this step, let’s bring them into the fold, let’s sit them down and explain to them why they should be doing it. If they can’t do it, we should say something to them publicly.”

“With the outbreak of COVID, communities like mine had suffered such bad health outcomes… I’ve worked on many “zero hour” contracts and it just means one week you have some money, the next week, you don’t have any food. We’ve got to break that cycle as well. We’ve got to make people be involved in constant, regular income, so their lives are sustainable, and they have much better social and health outcomes for all our families in London.”

You can find out more about the Living Wage campaign by watching this introductory video here.

Youth Safety

Citizens UK’s “Youth Safety” demands

Bailey: “When you talk about all of the pledges, yes, yes and yes again, and yes twice over….Unfortunately there have very steep rises in knife crime…robberies have gone up 86% as well…A real pressure for the black community at the minute is, as a black Londoner, we are four times more likely to be murdered than our neighbours, so we have to make the streets of London safe.”

“As a youth worker one of the most powerful pieces of work I did was when we did family liaison, and to see those parents be able to be given the skills to take charge of the future of their children was incredible. And it was a gift that kept giving…I have two young children at home, and my son in particular is approaching the age where he’ll be allowed out on his own. I’m a little bit worried about that and I really wish I didn’t have to worry, in that way.”

“When you talk about a round table for school-led interventions, some of the work I have been doing now, dealing with young people I mentor, is around exclusions in their community, from schools. Again, I think if we can get these exclusion numbers down, if we can support young people in the correct way, we can have multiple positive effects on young people.”

“Just the other day, a young man that I’ve been working with said to me ‘we live with murders in our midst’ and it absolutely broke my heart because he meant what he said. We were talking about ‘should he carry a weapon or not’ and obviously I was trying to convince him not to. But his push back was that. We must make the streets of London safe for our young people so they can concentrate on building the future that they want to build and not spend their time trying to keep themselves safe. Because we, as the adults, we as parents, can keep him safe.”

Khan: “This is the one issue that keeps me up at night time… I’ve met too many bereaved families who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one, and too many victims of knife crime but also too many young people…who’ve been on the receiving end of a bad experience from the police in relation to stop and search. In the safety of Londoners, whether from the pandemic, whether from a terrorist, or whether from violent crime is one of the most important issues that a Mayor has to worry about.”

“And there are complex causes for the increase in crime: deprivation, education, or lack of opportunity, inequalities and I’m afraid 11 years of cuts don’t help. Cuts do have consequences – losing police officers, youth clubs closing down, public services being cut as well. Over the last five years, in the face of that austerity, we’ve invested records sums to have more police officers who are in the community, but also invested record sums giving young people, constructive things to do.”

“And the action plan we have arose, not just from the experience you’ve heard, but from the brutal murder of George Floyd last year in Minnesota, Minneapolis. We know the issue of racism against black people isn’t unique to America. It also happens in this country…trust and confidence is an issue.”

“We’ve published an action plan…the community are now involved in training our police officers…scrutinising our police officers. The community can now see the body-worn videos, that I paid for when I first became Mayor to roll out, so the interaction between the police and the member of the public stop and search is recorded.”

You can find out more about the Youth Safety campaign by watching this introductory video here.

Housing & Homelessness

Citizens UK’s “Housing & Homelessness” demands

Khan: “But for the council estate, my father who was a bus driver and my mom who used to do piecework, wouldn’t have had security of tenure, or a roof over the head, they could afford to live in.”

“When I became Mayor I discovered, in the year before, there were zero, new council homes begun, and three homes which payed a social rent. So there were no foundations for me to build on…We began building more Council homes in any year since 1983. The year before more council homes than in any year since 1934. Over the last three years we started building record numbers of homes. Three years ago, 12,500, that’s a record by the way. The next year 14,500. Last year 17,200. And the good news is, 7000 of those are with a social rent, but also we started to build our community land trust homes which is a really, another example of the pioneering work of London, Citizens.”

“We promised we’d have 1000 community land trusts in the pipeline by 2021. We’ve beaten that we’ve got 1200 plus, in the pipeline. We also set up a community land hub with millions of pounds behind it which supporting developments across our city…We’ve got more than 11,000 rough sleepers off the road. 80% are still off the road, they’re in proper homes. We’ve also within the last 15 months during the pandemic helped 2300 people off the road. 86% are still indoors…we’re lobbying the government to do more prevention work to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.”

“Look, you see over the last five years the progress we’ve made laying the foundations to finally fix this housing crisis, the housing crisis made worse by successive governments, you’ve seen, all we can do together, shoulder to shoulder, side by side. Not so much ‘Together we can’ but ‘Together we Khan’.”

Bailey: “I was homeless through most of my 20s… I had times where I was moving two, three times a month because I was relying on people to have a place to put me. The one thing we know, to help our housing crisis in London, we have to build more.”

“So what I’ll be doing is creating a city hall backed and controlled housing developer with one goal to produce appropriate housing for London… We have to build across the piece so that people can move up and leave space at the bottom for people to move in.”

“I used to be the chair of my housing association…you really want to do the work but you do have to have the expertise, because the values of the properties are so high, so I think we need to give more money to that process and give more smaller groups that ability to … have those sites… expertise as well, so they can make the best of it for the people around them.”

“We talked about rough sleeping… we can get more information centrally held at City Hall, so that people can find those places much more easily… So for all of your pledges I think they are, so heading in the right direction, but ultimately in London we need to build more and that’s my plan to build more affordable homes in London.”

You can find out more about the Housing & Homelessness campaign by watching this introductory video here.

All British and Commonwealth citizens can vote in the upcoming London Mayoral Elections on May 6. Don’t forget to have your voice heard!

English BA Student. Cat person. Tea addict.

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