Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has issued his New Year message to Londoners at the start of a year which will see the capital hold the third GLA elections and become Host City for the next Olympic Games:
“2008 will be a special year for London. In August we will officially become the Host City for the next Olympic Games. For the next four years London will receive international exposure on a scale even it has never received before.
And what a story London has to tell the world. The incredible 700,000 turn out for the New Year fireworks saw Londoners bursting with pride in our city.
London has overtaken even New York as the international business capital of the world. But wealth is a means not an end. Most important of all are the steps taken to try to ensure every Londoner shares in that success. And that London’s success is sustainable in the long run through tackling climate change and the environment. The world will therefore see a London that is not only incredibly successful but one that does not rely on the illusion of automatic ‘trickle down’ to make sure Londoners benefit from it. A city that takes every measure to ensure all its citizens benefit from its success.
London’s public services are being rebuilt from the squalor of the 1990s. Two million extra passengers a day are caried on the bus system. Tube ridership is at record levels and tube modernisation has begun at last. The £16 billion funding to build Crossrail has been secured. Cycling has almost doubled. Free travel on the buses for under 18s has been introduced as well as half price bus travel for those on income support. The policy has been introduced that 50 per cent of all new housing must be affordable housing.
The Olympic Games will both regenerate East London and boost London’s West End shopping and entertainment district. London has the most vibrant cultural life of any city in the world with not only great historical institutions but the last word in diversity and modernity . A campaign for a London living wage has been introduced to aid the lowest paid Londoners. Police numbers are at record levels and both non-violent and violent crime are falling as a result. £70 million has been allocated to deal with youth provision and the most resistant crime problem – young people and gun and knife crime.
On climate change London has put forward, in the London Climate Change Action Plan, the most advanced programme for any city in the world. The congestion charge is not only a transport but an environmental policy that has had a worldwide impact with other cities such as New York now following. In 2008 London becomes a Low Emission zone. Consultation is taking place on London imposing a £25 a day charge for using the most gas guzzling cars and exempting low polluting cars from the congestion charge. London is the only major city in the world to see a shift into public transport from the car. All this is recognised internationally in London being asked to chair the C40 group of global cities fighting climate change.
There is still very much to do. The economic waters for 2008 may be more choppy than last year but London, as it enters the Olympics spotlight, can show itself as not only leading the world in international economic success but, even more important, in social and environmental responsibility.”