Cllr John Moss is a councillor in Waltham Forest and Political Deputy Chairman in Chingford & Woodford Green
In January, I said that Zac Goldsmith needed to do “more of the same” on Housing and Transport. So here is a quick update on what’s been going on locally.
We know from thousands of surveys returned by local residents that continuing to invest in public transport is one of the key things people want to see from the next London Mayor. Hammering home the risks from Sadiq Khan’s “fare-freeze” gimmick is one part of this and Zac and his team have certainly done that.
A visit to Waltham Forest in February saw him at Chingford station with Sam Malik, our London Assembly candidate, and Iain Duncan Smith MP – plus a couple of dozen local councillors and activists – greeting returning commuters. The message is getting across because it is linked to specific local improvements which are under threat.
That perhaps is how best to play this across London. “£1.95 billion of cuts” is a headline which might not be believed by a public sceptical of all political pronouncements. Highlighting the specific local projects which might be under threat, and guaranteeing they will go ahead under a Goldsmith Mayoralty, is a second level of detail which can be delivered locally by GLA candidates in the local media and by councillors and activists on the doorstep.
The big battleground remains housing. Almost everybody agrees we need more homes to provide for a growing London population, but few see the developments of the Livingstone and Johnson eras as the sort of homes they want to see built near them. Too many high-rise apartment buildings and too few family homes have been built and prices and rents are rising inexorably on the back of London’s economic success.
Now is the time for some detail. Set out where homes will be built under a Goldsmith London Plan and what they will look like. Zac is a big fan of the work of Create Streets who have done something remarkable. They’ve demonstrated that development can be popular if it is well designed and appropriate for the area where is it to be built. That is the key to delivering more homes, not just pledges of double ham and eggs where people are not really that enamoured with the ham and eggs already on offer.
And here again, Khan has boxed himself in with a populist pledge aimed at Labour voters. His opposition to re-building post-war council estates effectively cuts him off from a significant source of more homes, more affordable homes, and improved homes for those who live there now. There are a lot of proposals coming down the line from councils of all political colours. Will Khan really stop them, leaving the supporters he purports to be “protecting” living on poorly designed estates in expensive to heat homes where crime is higher and they know their kids have poorer life chances?
That second level local message: telling people Labour won’t give you that new home; won’t remove that blight from your community; and because they won’t do that will have to build higher elsewhere – or out in to the Green Belt – to make their numbers stack up; is another strong message for us on the doorsteps. But again it needs to be localised. It is your estate regeneration that you’ve been working on for years that’s being abandoned, it is this piece of locally loved green space which is under threat.
So, work with local councillors, activists and GLA candidates, identify the local hooks for the core messages and get those messages out there!