Which do you think is the bigger challenge for London? The cost of your council tax bill, or the failure of the Mayor’s big investors and developers to tackle our housing crisis?
The Mayor, a firm believer in small government, clearly thinks it’s the council tax bill. He is proposing to cut council tax again to deliver his manifesto commitment of a 10% cut since 2012. This budget will save you an impressive £19 a year, but I doubt many people will notice a heavier wallet as fares and rents continue to rise.‘Boris has whittled City Hall down to little more than an open door for big developers, helping them to clear out settled communities to build new homes.’
Most of the Mayor’s cut comes from ending, as planned, the £12 a year we each contributed towards the Olympic and Paralympic Games. That was a small charge for a spectacular purpose.
But the legacy, impressive as the park is shaping up to be, is also imperfect. Too few homes built around Stratford are genuinely affordable. Most are being built very slowly by the same big developers, sold to investors and big corporates.
The Mayor broke his manifesto promise of a Community Land Trust in Chobham Manor. This would have kept ownership of the land in trust for the benefit of the local community, and provided homes that local people on average incomes could definitely afford to buy or rent. They would have stayed affordable for years to come.
He has also supported Newham Council’s plans to demolish the Carpenters Estate, tucked behind Stratford International station within the bounds of the Olympic legacy planning area.
Many of the homes have lain empty for years at a time, and some were briefly occupied by the Focus E15 mothers. Residents have tried in vain to shape the plans. Their nascent neighbourhood forum has received little or no support from this Mayor.
In our budget amendment for 2016-17, the Green Party Group proposes that we retain the share of the council tax precept allocated to the Olympic Legacy and create a People’s Housing Precept.
Borrowing against this income, we would set-up a £0.9 billion fund to unleash a people-led housing revolution in London.
Last year I set out opportunities for community-led projects to unlock 70,000 homes across the capital, including community-led estate regeneration for communities like the Carpenters Estate, building up on top of existing buildings, breaking up larger regeneration projects like Chobham Manor into smaller plots so smaller builders and self-builders get a look-in, making better use of small sites for them, and providing less car parking and so more homes.
In our amendment we have also set out proposals to counter the austerity cuts hitting youth services, which make it more difficult for the Met Police to tackle knife crime; and to scrap plans for the polluting Silvertown Tunnel and use that money instead to clean up our bus fleet.
As I, like Boris Johnson, prepare to retire from City Hall politics, our differences are more clearly drawn. He has whittled City Hall down to little more than an open door for big developers, helping them to clear out settled communities to build new homes.
I would hope that the new Mayor will ensure City Hall’s doors are flung open to the many bright and energetic Londoners who have their own ideas about providing homes, and use money we raise collectively through council tax for a spectacular new purpose – to solve our housing crisis together.