The Labour Party has selected its candidate, voting is on-going for the Tories, and down in Bournemouth, where the FibDems annual conference is being staged in a telephone box, Caroline Pidgeon is rehearsing her pitch for London Mayor.
The General Election left the third party with just a single MP in London. When it came to picking a Mayoral candidate, the FibDems could find only one willing to offer themselves for a 21st century version of human sacrifice, with Assembly Member Pidgeon willing to stand.
The paucity of choice of viable candidates aside, like the Greens (who have chosen Sian Berry, who we will profile later this week), the FibDems have been reasonably astute in nominating someone for the Mayoral vote who will also be on their list for election to City Hall as a London Assembly Member. With campaign funds tight, they get two bangs for their buck. And both parties have managed to select candidates who do actually know something about how City Hall works.
The London election constituencies next May will be two-horse races, Tory v Labour. The list system provides other parties some representation at City Hall. Thus, Pidgeon has been an Assembly Member since 2008, having been a Southwark councillor until 2010.
In her time at City Hall, Pidgeon has championed the one-hour bus ticket, a policy now embraced by Labour’s Sadiq Khan and so with a possibility of being introduced, to the particular benefit of Londoners who live outside Zone 1.
According to Mayorwatch, Pidgeon’s campaign “is expected to focus on tackling air pollution”.
In common with the soundbytes issued by Tory and Labour candidates, Pidgeon is very concerned about the housing crisis. “We need to end the scandal of too many young people struggling to rent, let alone buy a property. Unless we tackle these barriers London will continue to be a city that serves the few, not the many.”
Unlike Labour’s Khan and the Tories’ likely candidate, Zac Goldsmith, both of them MPs immersed in Westminster politics, Pidgeon’s City Hall experience makes her much more aware of the realities of what can – and what cannot – be achieved with the London Mayor’s relatively limited powers.
Thus Pidgeon proposes a “housing precept” for Council Tax-payers in the capital by amending the Olympic precept: “Not cutting the GLA council precept for Council Tax-payers when the Olympic bill is ended, but instead turning the Olympic precept into a housing precept. Boris Johnson has already proposed a reduction in the Band D precept in 2016-2017 of £19, of which £12 would arise from a planned reduction in the GLA’s contribution to the cost of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“It is assumed that the remaining element (£8) of the ‘Olympic precept’ would then be removed in 2017-2018 when London’s commitment to contribute £625 million to the public sector funding package for the Games would have been achieved.
“While the need to finance London’s Olympic Games may have passed, the social and economic imperative to address the current shortage of affordable housing in London remains, which more than justifies freezing the GLA’s share of council tax at its current level – in effect creating a new ‘housing precept’.”
Under Pidgeon’s scheme, there would be an additional £10.5 million for home building in 2015-2016, £60.6 million the next year and £94.9 million from 2017-2018 onwards, providing a house-building fund for the GLA similar to that which the GLC and old LCC used to have.
“Back in April 2012 the Mayor became the largest public sector landowner in London, inheriting over 600 hectares of land from the former quangos such as the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and London Development Agency (LDA),” Pidgeon said.
“Yet despite these immense powers fewer than 2,000 homes have been built on land owned by the Mayor of London since 2012. The current Mayor has been far too reluctant to release surplus land and ineffective at building partnerships with those who want to develop new homes.”
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