Sian Berry’s work on the Assembly year by year: 2017

On the London Assembly since 2016, Sian has worked in City Hall with Caroline Russell to challenge the Mayor to bring in policies from the Green manifesto and to take action on the issues that matter to grassroots and forgotten Londoners.

From May 2017,  Sian became chair of the Housing Committee and deputy chair of the Police and Crime Committee, as well as sitting on the GLA Oversight Committee and the Budget and Performance Committee, scrutinising the work of the Mayor and the GLA across a wide range of issues. Each month, AMs also get the chance to ask written questions to the Mayor and to challenge him in person at Mayor’s Question Time.

Here are some highlights of what Sian got done in 2017:

January 2017

Sian’s first major reports detailing the cuts to London’s youth services showed that councils had taken more than a third of funding away from youth work between 2011 and the end of 2016.

Sian questioned the Mayor at MQT about what he could do to help but his answers were disappointing and cautious, even though he had a small amount of headroom available in the council tax which he could raise and put into this very good preventive measure for keeping young people safe.

Sian asked Londoners to contact the Mayor to ask him to put more money in through his budget and hundreds did so.

February 2017

The Mayor’s final budget did not take up our proposal to raise a small amount extra from Londoners to help fund struggling youth services.

However, the London Assembly voted through Sian’s motion for the Mayor’s budget to support community-led housing groups with a City Hall hub. The hub is now up and running and supporting more than 100 new community housing groups across London.

Sian brought estate campaigners together in City Hall to plan how to change the Mayor’s ballots policy together and save their homes from demolition.

The Assembly also voted unanimously for Sian’s motion supporting a national HIV/AIDS memorial in London.

March 2017

Letting them get away with it - coverLetting them get away with it, Sian’s new report on private renting showed that rules for letting agents are being routinely flouted, with rogue agents enjoying a very low risk of facing any penalties from councils in London.

The results of information requests to councils show that less than one third of complaints made about letting agents were acted upon. Sian called for a complete ban on letting fees to tenants and more help for councils to take action.

Letting agent enforcement results chart

Better ways to do regeneration: Sian’s response to the Mayor’s draft estate regeneration guidance says it is worse than useless – it rips up the Mayor’s manifesto promise that ‘estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support’ and does nothing to ensure residents on estates can block demolition of their homes. Sian also worked with key campaigners like Demolition Watch, and local estate campaigns, to get as many responses as possible sent from London citizens to the Mayor’s consultation.

Read the response here, and see Sian’s proposals for a better process for deciding what happens to estates:

April 2017

Sian found huge differences in the length of time CCTV on public transport is retained – she urged victims of crime to report before evidence is lost, and asked the Mayor to raise awareness of the short time limits to collect the evidence from transport companies.

June 2017

As the causes of the Grenfell Tower disaster became clear, Sian highlighted how the Assembly had previously looked at problems with cladding and fire checks, in a report jointly published by Jenny Jones and Labour AM Nicky Gavron in 2015 after a fatal fire in Camberwell.

We believe that London should not be a marketplace for human rights abuses, and Sian got the Mayor to condemn the DSEI arms fair being held at Excel centre.

July 2017

Sian worked hard with local Greens to improve the humanitarian response to Grenfell, by listening to the local community and survivors on the ground in the following weeks, and bringing their needs to the Mayor’s team and emergency responders.

Watch Sian talking about these problems on Newsnight:

August 2017

Sian exposed the discriminatory use of spit hoods in police custody – black women were far more likely to be hooded by police according to initial pilot data.

The number of new council homes funded by GLA programmes since the Mayor took over in 2016 was revealed to be zero by Sian’s work on the Housing Committee, and she took the Mayor to task for his slow progress in MQT:

September 2017

The Mayor’s draft Housing Strategy came under fire from the Greens after it continued to include dodgy definitions of ‘affordable’ housing at up to 80 per cent of market rents and rolled back on any efforts to secure rent control powers for London.

The first major report published by the Housing Committee with Sian as chair looked at hidden homelessness across London and estimated that 13 times as many people are hidden and homeless, on sofas, floors, public transport and other places out of sight, than are sleeping rough on the streets making this a huge hidden problem. Many of them are young, female or LGBT and are excluded from help from councils or face barriers to getting support.

See the report launch on BBC TV:

October 2017

At MQT Sian challenged the Mayor about the loopholes in his draft Housing Strategy, leaving in the dodgy definition at 80 per cent of market rents, which developers will use to avoid providing truly affordable housing.

November 2017

Sian joined Caroline to propose a motion asking for a 20 mph speed limit by default on all Transport for London roads that go where people walk, shop and live. Disgracefully, Labour abstained on the vote and the motion was voted down by the Conservatives.

Watch Sian’s speech supporting the motion, saying “We shouldn’t be making anyone stand next to 40mph roads in the middle of our city”

December 2017

Halt the privatisation of public spaceSian won an Assembly motion to make sure any police carrying tasers also have body-worn cameras – no tasers should be used on Londoners without accountability.

Preventing private control of public spaces: the Mayor promised new policies to prevent the spread of privately controlled public spaces across London after the Assembly backed proposals by Sian in a motion in September – another of our 2016 manifesto policies successfully adopted by the Mayor!

Ballots win assembly support: London Assembly Members unanimously backed Sian’s motion calling on the Mayor to give ballots to estate residents.

At the final Assembly meeting of the year AMs said the Mayor should hear Londoner’s voices and give them the power to decide how any regeneration takes place.

More about Sian’s work: