Labour must get tough on Tory housing policy in London

September 9, 2013 1:34 pm

Interested in housing issues and Labour’s housing strategy? Come join LabourList for a breakfast event at the Conference Fringe on Monday 23rd September, at 8.30am in the Mercure Coast View Room 1. For an invitation contact events@labourlist.org  

Thousands of young people flock to London every year for the dream of opportunity and to start a new, better life for themselves and their families. But for many of those young people, the London dream swiftly becomes a nightmare. The stagnant jobs market; a rigged housing market; and a cost of living crisis make paying essential outgoings like energy bills and transport fares simply unbearable.

London is often described as a ‘Labour city’. With 44 MPs from a possible 74, and 12 London Assembly members from a 25, it you can see why. But  Boris Johnson’s re-election in 2012, and seemingly endless popularity, should have served as a wake-up call to those in Labour HQ. How do we beat Boris or his Tory successor in 2016? How do we turn those forty something MPs into fifty or sixty and take a majority in the LA?

Yes, the candidates are important, and the team that London Labour is putting together for 2015 looks noticeably different and more representative. Candidates like Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) and Sarah Sackman (Finchley & Golders Green) show that Labour continues to be the only party serious about redressing the gender imbalance in parliament and focusing on equality in our selections process.

But we can’t just hope that the diversity of our candidates will see us home in London in the next three years of elections. The message in the capital needs to be clearer than ever. Labour needs to offer a real and radical alternative to Londoners, then start thinking about achieving those goals from 2015 onwards. We need to be clear that when we talk about the cost of living, the cost of the Coalition and the cost of Cameron, we are actually talking about the economy. An economy that has flatlined for three years, and Coalition policies that have contributed to Wonga reporting record figures this year and zero-hour contracts becoming the workplace norm. The most important thing we can do for Londoners struggling on lower and middle incomes is to fix the most important thing in their lives: the roof over their head.

On housing, we can start by forcing the Government to scrap the failing ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. Lauded in the Budget as a helping hand for first-time buyers, in reality it threatens to further ramp up house prices and cut out those on lower and middle incomes. The only solution is a commitment to building more houses. We made a start in the summer by speaking out against ‘landbanking’ but we need to do more to encourage local authorities to get on with building. Until we start that housing construction project, more and more people will be left stranded in the never-ending cycle of paying inflated rents to private landlords for poor quality housing stock.

Boris Johnson launched his ‘Housing Covenant’ a few months ago, calling it “a simple concept based on fairness” and a serious piece of work designed to take on rogue landlords. But if you look at research compiled by charities like Shelter and pressure groups like Priced Out, it’s fairly obvious that he’s failed on both counts.

Tighter regulation is needed to stop Londoners getting ripped off by unchecked letting agents and it’s important that Jack Dromney has lead the way on this. In a recent survey from Labour, 94% of letting agents impose additional charges on tenants on top of the tenancy deposit and rent in advance. In London new tenants have to find more than £1,700 on average upfront, just to get a foot in the door of their new flat. We can’t just let the market go on exploiting people like this. It isn’t the Labour way.

London, the world’s favourite city after New York, has always counted on its residents’ resilience as its greatest attribute. That resilience has been built up over time from exposure to variety, change and new thinking. London survived the plague, the fire and the Luftwaffe; it’ll survive Boris Johnson and David Cameron. But now more than ever, Labour needs to show that it is on the side of everyday Londoners. The challenge is not to convince people that David Cameron is out of touch with them and that the cost of living crisis is real. The challenge is to convince them that Labour can do something about it.

Latest

  • News Labour MP urges fellow MPs to back bill to curb zero hours contracts tomorrow

    Labour MP urges fellow MPs to back bill to curb zero hours contracts tomorrow

    Tomorrow Clive Efford’s, isn’t the only Private Members Bill that’ll have it’s second reading in the Commons. Another will be the Zero Hours Contract Bill, put forward by Labour MP Ian Mearns. The bill aims to limit the use of zero hours contacts – much in line with Miliband’s speech last week. Mearns has written to his colleagues, urging all who are present for Clive Efford’s NHS bill to stay afterwards and support his bill. He points out that since […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Labour to vote against Tory-backed devolution motion

    Labour to vote against Tory-backed devolution motion

    Today, as campaigners and voters are out in force in Rochester and Strood for the by-election, a vote will take place in the House of Commons on the motion brought forward by Tory MP Dominic Raab. The motion is about devolution following the Scottish referendum – it proposes a review of the Barnett formula, and says it will ‘address the West Lothian question’. Although the motion is co-signed by Labour MPs such as Frank Field, Kate Hoey and John Cryer […]

    Read more →
  • News Video This is how Boris Johnson speaks to those who dare to question him

    This is how Boris Johnson speaks to those who dare to question him

    Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that Boris Johnson was considering 90% funding cuts to youth and education schemes. Understandably, Labour Assembly Members wanted to question the Mayor on this, so Andrew Dismore put him on the spot. Boris did not take it well… This man wants to be Prime Minister. He’ll have to get much better at being scrutinised than this…

    Read more →
  • Comment Unlike under this government, there will be no targets for benefit sanctions under Labour

    Unlike under this government, there will be no targets for benefit sanctions under Labour

    This post is written by Rachel Reeves and Stephen Timms This week’s report from Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the Church of England and The Trussell Trust makes shocking reading for anyone who believes our welfare state is there to ensure nobody in our society falls into extreme want or deprivation. The Trussell Trust has previously reported that 913,138 people were given three days emergency food and support in 2013-14 – more than ten times as many as in 2009-10. This […]

    Read more →
  • News London PPCs ask Tories and Lib Dems to support NHS bill tomorrow

    London PPCs ask Tories and Lib Dems to support NHS bill tomorrow

    The private members bill, put forward by Clive Efford, which hopes to “halt the rush to privatisation and put patients rather than profits at the heart of our NHS” will be voted on by MPs tomorrow in the House of Commons. Ahead of this vote, the 38 Labour parliamentary candidates in London seats  have written an open letter (the full text of which can be found below) asking the Tory and Lib Dem MPs holding the seats they’re hoping to […]

    Read more →