Article by GLA Conservatives' Leader Susan Hall AM first published by City AM.
The immense challenges facing London are growing by the day, and meeting these requires not just a proactive national government but an effective administration at City Hall.
The political power of the capital’s own local government is so often underestimated, but there can be no doubt that the mayor of London has the money and the power to have a transformational impact on the lives of millions of Londoners.
The challenges facing our city are not new, but they are getting worse. Homeownership is an impossible dream for many, violence is a daily reality in some communities, and a question mark hangs over London’s future as a business mega-hub post-Brexit after years of dither and delay.
London desperately needs a City Hall that can build the homes we need, make our streets safe, and be optimistic enough to grasp the opportunities offered by our exit from the EU.
To some extent, our city has been a victim of its own success. London’s dominance in the UK has attracted talented people from across not only our country but the globe, creating immense demand for housing and public transport.
While levelling up the north is the right focus for Westminster and will ultimately benefit the whole country, London needs investment too, and I do not doubt that, as a past mayor of London himself, the Prime Minister understands this.
But Westminster can’t deliver for our city alone, and Londoners need City Hall to start stepping up too. Sadiq Khan likes to give the impression that he neither has the ability not the money to make a real impact, but in reality, he is the most powerful elected mayor in the country with an £18.5bn budget.
As a London Assembly Member, I get to look behind the press releases and social media to the reality of how City Hall is run, and I despair. Last month, my colleagues elected me as the leader of the Conservative Group in the London Assembly. Shaking up City Hall is my goal, and under my leadership, Conservatives in the London Assembly will continue to champion a new path for the capital.
We’ve set out a plan to put an extra 1,378 police officers on the beat by making savings at City Hall. By reversing Khan’s decision to spend £83m extra on bureaucrats, press officers, and cultural festivals, we can step up policing across London.
Nor is it only about numbers. We also need to ensure that any new officers are deployed effectively, which means embracing the use of both stop and search and Taser.
It’s also time that City Hall started to treat London’s housing problem as the crisis that it is. The mayor has £4.82bn from the government to build 116,000 new homes, yet after four years he has only started to build a third of those.
City Hall must start building with urgency, unlocking London’s brownfield land and providing for larger households by ending its obsession with those one-bed flats which will see more young families forced out of the capital.
Finally, we must put an end to the negativity and embrace the opportunities that Brexit provides for our country and our city. Outside of the EU, Britain will embark upon new trade deals, enter new markets, and introduce a points-based immigration system to welcome the world’s talent into our nation.
The capital is at the heart of that strategy. London is the UK’s global powerhouse, so Londoners can and should be optimistic about their city’s place a new global Britain.
London’s mayor has the power and the resources to deliver the change that its residents and businesses want to see. What is lacking is the political will. With the local and mayoral elections coming up in May, this is the year to shake up City Hall.