My parents fled Apartheid South Africa in the ‘70s to find a fairer society in Britain. They settled and raised a family in North London. Growing up in London, there was the sense that things were improving for BAME communities. Like many Labour members, I feel we’re losing that progress. Under nine years of Tory austerity and since the referendum, London has become a less tolerant place and a more hostile environment for everyone who isn’t wealthy.
In these difficult times, we need visible and vocal BAME representatives to defend the diverse and open boroughs we have created in Waltham Forest, Islington and Hackney. We need to build a society based on our shared Labour values, truly for the many and not the few.
I’ve been a Labour member and activist for almost 20 years and I have served two terms as a councillor, driven to join and make a difference to the community I live in.
And I get results: in Hackney, I introduced landlord licensing to extend renters’ rights to 34,000 households in privately-rented homes, persuading three large housing associations to give 3-year tenancies to their tenants and stabilise rents, offering thousands of families stability and security without the fear of becoming homeless.
I have delivered a municipal housing company, entirely owned and managed by the Council, to provide London Living Rent homes for local people at a third of average local wages and protected from the asset stripping that is Right to Buy.
I’m lobbying the Government hard on rent controls in the private rented sector, and want to bring this experience to City Hall. Under my leadership, Hackney has developed and is applying policy so that tenants’ rents are affordable, providing a lifeline for ordinary working people on low to middle income.
I know the North East London constituency because it’s my home: I used to live in Islington and I help housing associations to build social housing in the borough. I live in Hackney, I was the chair of Hackney South CLP and I’m a councillor and cabinet member there. And I worked for several years in Waltham Forest and my mum and sister live there now.
As your Assembly Member, I will work with the Mayor to undo the damage done by the Tories, delivering on the issues that matter to Londoners.
A NORTH EAST LONDON OPEN TO ALL
I am proud to be born and raised in London, one of the most tolerant, diverse and vibrant cities in the world. As your Assembly Member I will fight to keep it that way.
For too long, communities and families have suffered under the Tories’ hostile environment. Most recently, the EU referendum has threatened the futures of people who have made Islington, Hackney and Waltham Forest their home, in turn threatening investment in our schools, public services and infrastructure.
As your assembly member, I will stand up for our migrant communities in the face of horrible rhetoric and policy from the Conservative government. Our diversity is London’s greatest strength, and I will do everything I can to defend it.
Tackling London’s housing crisis
We are in the middle of a shocking housing crisis in London, with almost 8,500 people in emergency homeless accommodation every night across Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
As a seasoned housing campaigner, I welcomed Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s investment in council housing this year. I will work with Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to fund genuinely affordable Council homes, extend private renters’ rights and improve conditions in social housing.
In the absence of government funding to build new Council homes, Councils will need to find new and innovative ways of funding that construction. Waltham Forest Council plans to deliver 2,000 new Council homes over the next five years by redeveloping council-owned sites, which is the same principle as Hackney’s housing supply programme. Islington’s Council home building programme is the biggest scheme in Islington for a generation.
Last year, building was started on more homes at social rents in London than ever before (3,991), 1,916 of which were council homes – more than in any year since 1984/85.
Over the next three years, Sadiq is investing £1 billion into building 14,700 new council homes, which includes 11,000 social rented homes. He has secured a total of £4.8 billion from the Government to start building 116,000 new homes in London by 2022.
I will push us to be even more ambitious in funding new council homes, but it’s not just about funding:
- let’s build home-building capacity in local government, so that councils can build their own council homes
- Sadiq has promised to release all the GLA surplus land for development, to help meet London’s housing needs. I’ll push for that to happen in a way that allows as many council homes to be built for social rents as possible, as quickly as possible.
And building new Council homes is only part of the way in which we need to tackle the housing crisis in London.
Two and a half million Londoners now rent their homes from private landlords. They have minimal rights and no control over rent increases. Many privately rented homes are well maintained and affordable but the very worst housing conditions – and the highest levels of poverty – are found in the private rented sector, where landlords encounter little enforceable regulation yet enjoy huge profits.
Here are a few things I would do in the London Assembly to tackle the dysfunction of private rented sector housing:
- encourage rent stabilisation, moving towards capping rents
- persuade landlords to offer longer tenancies, so people can feel secure in their homes (i.e., security of tenure)
- support local housing licensing schemes to improve housing quality and ensure that landlords treat renters fairly, particularly by ensuring that those schemes are effectively enforced
- lobby Government to end section 21 “no fault” evictions, reform universal credit and fund improvements to “temporary” accommodation for homeless households
- incentivise private landlords to charge the London Living Rent (an amount based on how much money a renter needs to live on (to buy food and cover other essential living costs) after they have paid their rent)
- put pressure on the Government to increase Local Housing Allowance – otherwise known as Housing Benefit. This is well below market rents, which means that private renters on low incomes try to make up the shortfall, to avoid eviction and homelessness, and are being pushed into poverty, without enough money to meet other basic needs.
- encourage the establishment of mutual models, such as housing co-operatives, where possible
- encourage private developers to meet the Decent Homes Standard (as originally introduced by the Labour Government in 2000)
Decarbonising the economy
We face an unprecedented global climate emergency and we need radical action to avoid a climate catastrophe.
Here in London, we have begun to make a difference, but we need to do more, urgently.
Transport is the biggest source of carbon emissions as a sector of the economy. Transport for London (“TfL”) and the Mayor of London, working with councils, can and must lead on reducing those emissions, to avoid catastrophic climate change but also to make our air less toxic and more breathable. A large part of that work is encouraging people to ditch their cars and to travel more sustainably – by walking, cycling and using public transport. Waltham Forest, working with TfL, has introduced its “Mini-Holland” scheme to make the borough safer for walking and cycling. In Hackney, we’ve taken a very different approach, one which has led to the borough having more residents who cycle to work than in any other part of the country. Islington Council has installed more than 100 bike hangars across the borough. And, in the London Assembly, I will work with Councils to build on these initiatives.
TfL has been electrifying its bus fleet, using its taxi licensing powers to speed the transition to electric vehicles, promoting the installation of super-fast charging points and using its powers to regulate roads to reduce traffic speeds and remove pollution. So, we’ve made a good start but I will work with Sadiq to go faster to achieve zero carbon emissions in London’s public and private transport as soon possible into this new decade.
Seeking a review of the Silvertown Tunnel will be a priority if I am elected to the London Assembly.
The second biggest emitter of carbon in our economy is energy generation. This town fizzes and buzzes with energy. It’s in our bustling high streets, in the wind that whistles past our tall buildings and in the sunlight that warms us from above. We can harness that energy and we should be radical in finding new ways to do so.
At the London Assembly, I will push for more energy to be generated locally on GLA buildings. The GLA must also use its planning powers to make all new buildings in London much more energy efficient, with energy generation and storage designed in. In addition, the London Assembly should support boroughs in innovating with municipal energy companies, like Angelic Energy in Islington, More Like More Power in Hackney and Waltham Forest’s ambitious solar installation and energy storage plans.
Through the Mayor of London’s new energy company, London Power, we can drive “distributed generation” (generating electricity on homes, industrial buildings and offices) by actively seeking out power purchasing agreements with property owners, like businesses, and councils, and by supporting residents to form cooperatives to generate electricity on their homes for use locally.
Let’s take this opportunity for transformative politics, by which we shape the economic structures of the energy sector, to democratise this vital area of the economy, add impetus to our emerging municipal socialism and to truly put power in the hands of the people.
Now, we’re on the cusp of a new era of municipal energy companies that have the potential not just to drive decarbonisation but also to encourage our fellow citizens to engage with their communities by part-owning this vital economic input. Generating electricity on our homes, public buildings and workplaces will cut costs and generating on our estates may liberate our Council tenants from costly energy bills.
To bring these measures together, the GLA must capitalise on the roll-out of two-way smart meters and improvements in battery technology to create local, smart energy grids to optimise and – ultimately – reduce our use of electricity.
Decarbonising our economy also means finding different sources of heating for our homes and workplaces. Heat pumps, heat from the Tube and district heating schemes are just some of sources of carbon emission-free heating that London will need to explore over the next decade.
In a few years from now, London will be carbon emission-free. The task of the next London Assembly will be to bring that about as quickly as we can, while minimising disruption for Londoners. We need to remove London as a problem in the climate emergency and make it a big part of the solution of avoiding climate catastrophe.
Transport for all
We need to promote sustainable forms of transport, whether that is protecting bus routes, making cycling safer, or making it easier to get around by foot.
Public transport should be affordable for Londoners on low incomes, while ensuring that we continue to invest in an excellent public transport system that serves inner and outer London equally well.
Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington have been hit by bus cuts, affecting the poorest, older people and those with mobility issues. Losing the 277 and 48 buses has been a big blow. I will stand up for protecting bus routes serving North East London, including frequency of buses.
Buses are a lifeline for Londoners on low incomes and those with work patterns that see them work from very early in the morning or until late into the night. And in much of North East London, particularly in Hackney and Waltham Forest, people rely on buses in the absence of nearby Underground and Overground stations. I’ll push to protect bus routes and the frequency of buses across North East London.
Train links in Waltham Forest are overcrowded and too dependent on the Victoria line and trains going into Liverpool Street. Train capacity needs to increase in line with new homes. That’s why I would push to re-open the disused line from Chingford to Stratford.
We must also make our public transport system accessible for all. There are only a handful of Tube stations that are fully wheelchair accessible and the chances of the one you are leaving from and the one you are headed to being fully accessible is remote. This means that many wheelchair users avoid the Tube altogether or have to plan their journeys intricately.
In 2018, TfL announced that it would invest in fully step-free access at Walthamstow Central and, more recently, at Hackney Downs station, but far too many of our stations still can’t be used by wheelchair users (like Dalston Kingsland).
That’s not acceptable and, if I am your London Assembly Member, I will work hard for fully step-free stations across our network, for staff to have the time and resources to help wheelchair users at stations where rolling off trains is not possible, for lifts that are brought back into service quickly when they break and, when stations are temporarily wheelchair-inaccessible, for an app with reliable information about viable, alternative routes. Clearly, new stations must be designed with wheelchair users, visually-impaired commuters and commuters with mobility issues in mind.
Those are just a baseline for our public transport system. We should be constantly on the look-out for new ways to make our stations truly accessible, like a well-functioning Turn Up & Go system, more dedicated assistance staff, free travel for carers and assistants, beacons at bus stops and platforms to guide visually and cognitively impaired passengers, visual and verbal announcements on all transport, and taxis provided where an accessible route is prohibitively longer.
Policing and crime
I have seen first hand the damage that youth violence and knife crime can have on a community. Cuts to police budgets have put even more pressure on councils’ budgets and Londoners’ safety.
I will work with the Mayor of London on his public health approach to knife crime and youth violence on our estates and in our streets, work that has started in the ward I proudly represent in Hackney.
The causes of youth violence are complex and include family, social, and economic factors.
The Mayor of London’s public health approach reflects Hackney’s approach. Tackling violence means looking at violence not as isolated incidents or solely a police enforcement problem. Instead, this approach looks at violence as a preventable consequence of a range of factors, such as adverse early-life experiences, or harmful social or community experiences and influences.