London’s Mayoral Manifestos: Social and Environmental Sustainability are the Greens’ Main Factors
After winning the internal election for Green party mayoral candidate in September, Sian Berry is once again in the race to be London mayor. In the 2008 mayoral election she came fourth place, with 3.15% of voters listing her as their first preference and an additional 13.5% putting her down as second preference. Her policies are left-wing with sustainability, both socially and environmentally, being the main factor.
Central to Ms Berry’s manifesto is that London is suffering from a housing crisis: “A city that is affordable only for the very well off is a broken city.” Just like her Lib Dem opponent, to confront this problem Ms Berry wants to build target the supply side of the problem by also building 200,000 new homes. Her manifesto claims that “leaving housing to the big developers and investors clearly isn’t working.” Her answer is to create a not-for-profit housing company which she claims will allow smaller companies and self-builders to be involved in the “development of the vast amount of public land under City Hall’s control”. The candidate plans to fund this by replacing the Olympic Precept with a People’s Housing Precept and increasing council tax. The goal is to fund “community-led housing projects”.
Ms Berry is also proposing a Renter’s Union that could lobby the mayor reforms such as granting him or her the power to defy market forces and bring in rent controls. The Union could also, the manifesto states, “set up a Londonwide [sic] landlord register” that could eventually evolve into mandatory licensing of landlords and blacklisting of rogue landlords.
Ms Berry wants to introduce “fair fares for commuters”. What this means is having a flat fare for all of London by 2025 and essentially incorporating all the zones into one big zone. The flat rate can be achieved, according to the manifesto, by freezing fares from outer London and letting the other fares “rise in line with inflation”.
Moreover, similar to her yellow counterpart, the Green candidate wants to introduce fares that mean you pay for where you are going, not how many changes you’ve made on the way. Currently, commuters have to pay a new fare each time they have to change bus for instance. This change is often an essential part of the commute and the Greens feel this can leave many feeling priced out.
Ms Berry also wants to renew the congestion charge that the manifesto refers to as “creaking”. She wants to reward drivers who avoid rush hour and congested roads. Beyond the parameters of vehicle, road, time, and distance, the manifesto fails to explain how exactly this would be implemented or work in practice.
The delivery process will be revolutionised under a Green mayor who would go back to the old methods of delivery such as canals and bikes in order to free up the roads.
Ms Berry also wants to hike parking prices in inner London and reduce them in outer London. This, the manifesto claims, will discourage inner city driving and instead encourage the use of public transport and black cabs which “provide a well-regulated, quality service” that the Greens “value”.
There will also be a bigger focus on cycling and walking. Under a Green mayor there will be projects all over the city in order to make it more “people friendly” and pedestrianising big roads like Oxford Street and building bridges solely for cyclists and walkers.
Following on from her transport policies, Ms Berry is also proposing several other policies to protect the environment - a goal that is core to the party’s founding principles and motivations.
Ms Berry wants to bring pollution back down again below legal limits in order to “end the crisis of filthy air”. Creating a “Very Low Emission Zone” will be done by cranking up the congestion charge for all but the very greenest cars. The manifesto claims this will mean Londoners “never bring polluting cars into London”.
Replacing the entire fleet of diesel busses in London with vehicles that have the “latest technologies” is an ambitious and expensive aim, but a manifesto promise from the Greens nonetheless.
Ms Berry is standing by those affected by high pollution and is proposing legal action against car manufacturers that cheat emissions tests and misled the public.
A major policy is the proposal for City Airport to be closed and converted into additional housing. This is suggested in the manifesto alongside the opposition of “all road and airport expansion”. These transport infrastructures are already under strain, so it will be interesting to see how they will cope with removal of one of the airports. Moreover, the Greens are also promoting a not-for-profit energy company that they say will compete with ‘the Big 6’ and also power Crossrail.
Ms Berry is pushing for a “Bank for London”. The manifesto claims the “idea is long overdue for London”, stating that such regional banks are already common in places all over the world. The manifesto claims that such a policy will support small businesses and local economies. Furthermore, according to the manifesto, 1 in 5 Londoners are still payed less than the London Living Wage, something that a Green mayor would change and fight for a minimum pay for everyone.
Policing and Crime
If there was a Green mayor, there would be a greater focus on community policing and at the same time “preserving public order while maintaining free speech and the right to protest, and the use of force”. The manifesto also states that the mayor would push for reduced use of police cars, moving those officers onto bikes or foot in order to establish greater presence.
There would also be a push to work with communities to tackle gang violence. This would involve a replacement of the “flawed” Operation Shield and instead an effort by police, family and communities to approach those “at risk of exploitation by violent criminals”.
Another major policy is the campaign for decriminalisation of “all drugs” and the legalisation of “less harmful drugs like cannabis”. The manifesto argues that this will undermine the dangerous criminals currency running the illegal drug trade.
The success of the Green Party (and lack thereof) in the 2015 General Election should not be used to predict the result of this election. Quite the opposite in fact. Sian Berry has done relatively well in previous elections with surprising vote shares: her manifesto is written with these voters in mind.
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