It is now time to sign off after an incredibly busy year. The London Assembly Committees have been working flat out to finish off their many different projects – this year alone we have produced 20 reports covering topics addressing issues as diverse as night-time policing, support for private renters, motorcycle safety and childcare provision, while maintaining a laser like focus on the Mayor’s programmes and spending priorities.
In particular, the Police and Crime Committee and the Transport Committee have produced some notable and important work. A substantial investigation looking at crime on public transport has assessed the police response to the 32 per cent rise in sexual assaults and also considered the potential impact on crime of the night tube. And the Transport Committee recently published a valuable consideration of the case for devolving further National Rail franchises to London.
Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) remains a focus for Assembly Members to get detailed answers to questions on the Mayor’s actions and to raise issues of concern from constituents. It’s always a well-attended and lively session! The final #MQT was held on Wednesday 16 March and the Mayor fielded questions on hot topics from knife crime and cybercrime to his housing legacy.
This year much of our detailed work has focused on supporting vulnerable groups of people. Important work anywhere, but especially in London with its diverse communities and its contrasts of wealth and poverty. We’ve reviewed work to protect vulnerable children, to tackle youth re-offending, sought ways to improve access to healthcare services for d/Deaf people, and assessed how best to support the mental health and wellbeing of young Londoners from minority backgrounds. One of our final publications this term will be a piece of work assessing the use of public transport for those with a sensory impairment.
I, like all Assembly Members, spend a lot of our time out and about – meeting Londoners and hearing their concerns and priorities. But perhaps my most memorable visit took me abroad to Auschwitz-Birkenau, as a guest of the Holocaust Educational Trust. The trip formed part of their Lessons from Auschwitz project which we commemorated at our annual Holocaust Memorial Day.
Looking back over this term, I am particularly proud of the work of the Education Panel, which I chair, and which has provided oversight of the Mayoralty’s growing influence on the education sector. London’s primary and secondary schools are now the best performing region in the country but with school funding likely to be cut over the next four years the challenges are clear.
Our work has therefore created a very clear set of objectives for the next Mayor: including how to use strategic planning powers to ensure we have enough school places for our growing population and how the London School Excellence Fund could be better used to support schools that are struggling to provide the quality education all our children and young people deserve.
But there are other strategic challenges that a future Mayor will need to face; in particular addressing the looming teacher recruitment crisis and helping to shape the Further Education sector so that it can better meet the rapidly changing needs of students and employers.
Finally the next Mayor must review the support we can provide to those children that need additional help such as those in care or with special education needs. Young people have so much talent to give to this great city, and the next Mayor must work tirelessly to ensure they all have access to the very best educational opportunities we can provide.
For those Assembly Member’s seeking re-election the next few weeks will be incredibly busy. For those leaving City Hall – this is my chance to say farewell and to thank them on behalf of Londoners for their public service.