Today was the first big budget meeting since Caroline and I were elected last May. This is where the Assembly can vote to amend the Mayor’s budget for London, including transport, policing, fire and emergencies and housing.
This year, like previous Green AMs, we put forward an amendment from our group that made positive and constructive proposals to improve the Mayor’s budget and do more to help Londoners.
Our plans were all about fairness and building a better future, helping to plug gaps in stretched council budgets for youth services, spreading the reach of new community-led homes to a wider range of citizens, speeding up the Mayor’s green energy company, and cancelling road projects to invest in healthy streets instead.
Watch me here proposing the motion:
The four ideas in our plans would:
1. Increase funding for community-led housing by £1 million
To support more homes for London’s hard-pressed workers, we put forward a timely boost in funding from the Mayor.
Community-led housing is a real chance for Londoners to help tackle the housing crisis by working together.
Our amendment asked the Mayor to double his current plans for supporting community-led housing to £2 million per year, with the extra funding specifically to expand the reach of his work to a wider range of people and to help councils work more effectively on these new models of providing housing Londoners can afford.
Teachers, emergency service workers and NHS staff are the ideal people to be getting together to form housing co-ops or community land trusts. The extra funding I’ve proposed within the Mayor’s housing budget would involve more Londoners in these plans and enable his team act as an effective hub to help councils co-ordinate their work on this vital new idea.
2. Support London’s youth services and defend them against cuts
When asked by the Mayor, young people have specifically asked for investment from him in youth clubs and services, and with more than 30 youth centres closed in London since 2011, it’s critical that he steps in with help from his budget.
Our proposal would involve raising an extra £4.3 million to support council youth services, by increasing council tax by a further 0.5% on top of the increase already proposed by the Mayor (taking us up to the overall limit imposed by the Government). The average household would pay an extra £1.49 per year – less than 3p per week.
3. Speed up the formation of London’s energy company with £1.5 million of extra funding
A £1.5 million boost to set up a low-carbon energy company for Londoners was also a key part of our proposals.
We asked the Mayor to challenge the dominance of the ‘big six’ and mirror investment made by Nottingham Council, who allocated around £1.5 million to set up a similar not-for-profit Robin Hood Energy Company.
In contrast to these other cities, the Mayor has so far only confirmed £120,000 of funding for his plans for an energy company for London, and this needs to increase.
4. Invest in healthy streets and travel in outer London, not road-building
The Mayor recently praised Caroline Russell’s report ‘Prioritising People – how to deliver healthy streets’ and this part of our amendment would make sure that funding for cycling and walking is increased to make sure any borough that wants a ‘mini Holland’ type scheme can have one.
The funds for new healthy streets projects would come from cancelling the Silvertown road tunnel, a scheme which will cost £17 million during 2017/18.
The amendment also asks the Mayor to fund a study into the real needs of East London for transport links, broadening ideas out from river crossing and considering radial links into the city, by public transport, walking and cycling.
“Investing in greener energy and making our streets people-friendly, safer and more convenient has a two-fold effect of cleaning up our air and enabling more local journeys on foot and by bike.”
After debate no parties supported each other’s amendments this year, which is a shame, but Caroline did also put a cross-party motion to make transport charging fairer with the sole LibDem on the Assembly, Caroline Pidgeon.
Even though that amendment wasn’t passed either, it was great for us to be able to team up and argue for better transport and less traffic, and talk about more ideas the Mayor should take up from the AMs.