London’s Mayoral Manifestos: Lib Dems put Transport and Rent Centre Stage

The Lib Dem Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon is not new to London politics. Leader of the Lib Dems in the London Assembly, Ms Pidgeon knows her way around City Hall. As the most experienced of the ‘underdogs’ in May’s election, she is likely to come third on 6th May; however her policies are in no way down at bronze medal standard.

“London is a great global city. We must strengthen and enhance its place as the capital city of the UK at the heart of Europe” she says, eluding to the Lib Dem stance on the EU referendum.

Housing

Like the other candidates, Ms Pidgeon has a clear emphasis on the housing crisis in London - something she seeks to tackle on the supply side. According to her manifesto, London is expected to have 1 million more residents by 2030. To address this growth and current shortage the Lib Dem candidate is proposing a “dramatic increase in the number of homes” in London. More specifically, she wants to build 200,000 new houses, 50,000 of which will be council homes to rent and the rest for private sale and rent. Her manifesto claims that 2.5% of Greater London, or in other words 3,745ha, is brownfield. This “Olympic effort to meet Londoners’ housing needs” will be achieved by constructing on these sites, and the new homes will funded by recommitting the Olympic Games precept to housing investment. The Lib Dem candidate also claims many people pay between 37% to 50% of their income on rent, and in what she calls a “bold objective”, she has said Londoners should not pay more than 30% of their income on rent. 25% of private renters are taken advantage of - through high prices and poor quality - by what Ms Pidgeon calls “rogue landlords” - something she would address through a regulated rental market.

Transport

Ms Pidgeon’s flagship policy here is her half price fares on the tube and rail before half past seven. This is to help those who work early hours and also encourage people to get into the office earlier, which should boost output (after a shot of espresso of course) and ease peak congestion.

Another policy of hers is to introduce a policy that the Lib Dems have been campaigning for since 2008: a one hour bus ticket so that Londoners will be able to change busses on a route without paying again each time they jump on a new bus.

Moreover, to cater for flexible working times and part time workers, she is proposing flexible travel cards that mean Londoners can buy a set number of days of travel each month and receive the same discount as monthly travelcard holders.

Slightly less relevant to most Londoners, yet still important, the cable car is something Pidgeon wants to “Oysterise” and incorporate it into the transport network.

Furthermore, she seeks to upgrade all of the tube lines and also extend some of them. The Bakerloo line for instance, she wants to extend south to Southwark and through to Lewisham and Bromley.

Welcome news for some, Ms Pidgeon wants the mayor’s office to “take over supervision of metro services” which in effect means “sacking current operators South West Trains, Southeastern Trains and Southern who continue to perform badly”. This should hopefully address the infamous journey conditions many commuters have to endure every day

Environment

The main aim is to reduce congestion and hence pollution in the city. She wants to tackle this by increasing the congestion charge to encourage greater use of busses and trains. The base congestion charge would be increased to £14 pounds under the Lib Dem mayor, and drivers would be charged an additional £6 for entering the city at peak times. The candidate also says in her manifesto that “all revenue will be ring-fenced to improve public transport.” This congestion charge, including a new zone around Heathrow airport, will be payable through a smartphone app, making it easier to pay and less excusable to miss the 24 hour deadline - something that will cost you £35 if Ms Pidgeon is mayor. This change in price is not permanent according to Ms Pidgeon’s manifesto which states the congestion charge will be increased annually “sufficiently at least to keep pace with the rise in fares on public transport, so ensuring fairness between private commuters and those using public transport.”

Another policy to reduce pollution in the city is switching London’s busses and taxis to fully electric and to help commercial vans make the same switch.

Policing and Crime

Ms Pidgeon aims to recruit an additional 3000 police officers to patrol the crime hotspots of London in a bid to tackle the crime in London which, according to her manifesto, is on the rise. More specifically, it claims that knife-crime rose by 51% in the last half of 2014.

She also wants to tackle knife-crime at the potential root of the cause through education programmes in schools and youth workers in A&E to break the cycle of gang violence.

Business

“Alongside the extreme wealth of the City live many people enduring some of the worst poverty and social deprivation in Britain. Go eight stops east on the Jubilee Line from Westminster and your life expectancy falls one year for every station. London is the most unequal region in the UK and the poverty rate is the highest (primarily due to high housing costs).”

This is quite a shocking statistic which the Lib Dem candidate seeks to address by campaigning to remain in the EU. She argues that under the last two mayors inequality has remained “a scandal” and is due to the 6.3% unemployment in the city which is over the national average. The Lib Dem candidate wants to pursue the central government that the prosperity of the whole nation is dependent on a “socially-just” capital. Unsuprisingly, Ms Pidgeon is campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU as this is a major attraction for international companies setting up in London. For instance, her manifesto claims that 100 of the top 250 companies in the world have chosen London as their global headquarters.

Ms Pidgeon wants to protect jobs and businesses by campaigning for a “remain vote” majority in the upcoming referendum as this will give them the best opportunity to grow - something that should ideally then help reduce unemployment.

Verdict

Ms Pidgeon’s policies are “fully-costed” and crafted to seem reasonable. Although the race is ultimately between red and blue, she has definitely made a pitch which could appeal to London’s core. If she manages to cut through the Goldsmith/Khan battle, in a city where public transport is key her policy for early commuters is one that will undoubtedly appeal to many voters.

Read Lib Dem manifesto here.

You can follow Carl Sacklen  on Twitter: @whatcarlthinks

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