By Nicky Gavron AM, Labour’s Housing and Planning Spokesperson on the London Assembly.
The coalition government has slashed London’s housing budget by 60 per cent, although you wouldn’t know it from the press release. Under the cover of giving new powers to City Hall, a budget of £3 billion has been spun to mask the huge cutsLondon faces.
Boris Johnson described Eric Pickles’ £3 billion settlement as “excellent”. But it is nothing of the sort.
Not a penny of Pickles’ money is new. It was all previously within existing London budgets, including:
- Money the government pledged to the Olympic Park Legacy Company (which soon becomes the new Mayoral Development Corporation); and
- £1.4 million of the now axed London Development Agency’s staffing budget.
The budget trumpeted most by the Mayor – £1.9 billion for housing – is a 60 per cent cut on the amount given to London in 2008 by the previous Labour government.
The Labour settlement gave London more money over three years than the Tories are now giving the whole country over four.
Could anyone take this spin as anything other than an attempt to mask the huge cuts to housing and regeneration inLondon?
With this reduced budget settlement for London come a host of new powers and responsibilities. The Mayor accurately describes the new powers as a “landmark” for the city. We agree. Labour has always supported more housing and regeneration powers for City Hall, especially when we are in the grip of a housing crisis.
Rents are rocketing and supply is plummeting across all sectors. But, faced with these challenges, what is the Mayor doing with his new powers?
He does not have a single policy to deal with extortionate private sector rents – believing it should be left completely to the market. And on the supply of affordable homes even he admits his policy is completely unsustainable. Housing associations will be forced to make up the shortfall left by government cuts by borrowing excessively – a policy that threatens their long-term viability.
When seeking election the Mayor said there was capacity to build 40,000 homes on land under City Hall’s control. In typical Johnson style he promised to “put his land where his mouth is”.
But this pledge has gone unmet. Housing completions on land he controls have plummeted to less than half the number Ken Livingstone delivered.
Under Boris Johnson London has more powers but things are going backwards. We urgently need a Mayor with a real plan who can use all the levers now at City Hall’s disposal to tackleLondon’s housing crisis.
Nicky Gavron can be followed on twitter @nickygavron and at nickygavron.wordpress.com
London Labour Housing Group can be followed on twitter @fairdealldnhsg and on the Fair Deal for London Housing Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/FairDealforLondonHousing/