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PQT 4 March - Report of the proceedings 1
Tony Arbour (Chair, Assembly Member)
I am Tony Arbour. I represent the boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow on the Assembly. Welcome to the Richmond Theatre, the home of drama, tragedy, farce and pantomime. I am not sure what tonight is going to be. This is the 16th People’s Question Time, and it is the first time it has been in South West London, so clearly we have saved the best until last. The Mayor, as you know, has very rarely visited South West London. He has been too busy but he will have plenty of time after 1 May.
The function of People’s Question Time is to give people an opportunity to come and give us a hard time. I look forward to you giving the Mayor a hard time. We have a programme for the evening that gives information about the beautiful people who are behind me here and what their responsibilities are. The evening has been broken up into topics which are listed on the back of your programme. I would insist, please, that you simply ask questions and not make a speech. The same also applies to the Mayor and the Members. I think we can take it for granted that the Mayor will want to tell you what a wonderful job he has done on every topic. Let us assume you have already done that Mr Mayor.
We have had about 200 questions sent in advance. One question has been picked out for each subject area to start us off. You will then need to put your hand up if you want to ask a question and wait for the roaming microphone before you speak. Neither the Mayor nor the Members have any advance notice of the questions which are to be asked and I will direct the questions either to the Mayor or to an Assembly Member.
Technology has reached Richmond and each of you should have an electronic voting pad. To make the evening even more interesting, you will have the chance to vote on a question on each of the topics by using the voting pads.
As there are so many people here tonight we will not have time to take everyone’s question, but everyone who asks a question or who wants to ask a question which they have submitted in writing will receive a written answer within six weeks. I will now ask the Mayor to introduce himself briefly.
Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London
Thank you very much Tony. I have to say that I do get down here quite frequently because, as I recall, of the 14 Assembly districts in London, this one in South West London was one kind enough to give me my second highest vote at the last election. So I am just here to say thank you and hope it is habit forming.
I have to say that this close to an election it could all get a bit silly, but if you actually look at what is about to happen to the mayoral system and the Greater London Authority a sign of the confidence of Parliament is that more powers are being transferred to the GLA. These mainly come into effect in April, just a couple of weeks before the election, so it will be the newly elected Mayor who exercises those. Whereas most people are fairly aware of what we have been doing around the transport area and issues like Crossrail, the Congestion Charge, and the £25 charge for gas guzzling vehicles and so on, I do not think most people have yet taken on board that from the next Mayor we will be in a position of spending £4 billion that the Government is allocating for the next three years to have a real drive to create proper levels of affordable housing. The Government is giving the newly elected Mayor enough money to build 50,000 affordable homes in three years. Getting that right is going to be crucial. Far too much of the affordable housing in the last few years has been one and two person units, and we want to make sure we get lots of three, four and five bedroom properties, and make sure that those are of really good, high quality and environmentally sustainable. All of that will be crucial. That comes after 25 years in which we have had nothing like the levels of affordable housing we should have had.
The other big issue is that the Government has recognised that the skills training in this city has been deficient. The Mayor’s office will therefore take control of the skills and training strategy. This is a real chance to reach those people who have been failed by the education system and give them a second chance. On the back of the Olympics and everything else we will be targeting those quarter of a million people in London who are fairly consistently out of work, in casual work, or in the lowest paid part time work. Of course, perhaps the most controversial will be the ability of the Mayor to call in major strategic planning applications. Tony (Arbour) and I have been debating the balance of forces here for several years. In a sense, the mayoral system is about to get bigger, and I think that is a good thing because whatever you think of whoever the Mayor is and their decisions, they are almost certainly going to be better ones than an anonymous civil servant’s sitting in Whitehall because you can get rid of the person responsible for them.
Thank you very much.
Sally Hamwee is a local girl and Chair of the Assembly and similarly she will say a few introductory words.
Sally Hamwee (Chair of London Assembly)
Thank you Tony. Thanks for the ‘girl’! If I appear to be cosying up to the Mayor it is because there is a table leg in the way.
I bet you say that to all the boys!
The Assembly’s job is to investigate matters which are important to London and to hold the Mayor to account, which probably means shedding light on issues and asking questions to get information into the public domain. We do not have the power to require the Mayor to do anything or to block the Mayor from doing anything.
Thank you for coming tonight; it is a very impressive turn out. It is your meeting. The Government created a strong Mayoral model and is consulting about community engagement. I know, as Tony (Arbour) knows, that community engagement in this part of London is very strong and very productive.
Thank you very much. We will go directly to the first question, which is related to policing. We will be spending 20 minutes on the subject of policing London.
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