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 Scotland “We didn’t listen” – Jim Murphy launches campaign with apology to the Scottish people

    “We didn’t listen” – Jim Murphy launches campaign with apology to the Scottish people

    Jim Murphy will officially launch his campaign for the Scottish Labour leadership with a speech in Edinburgh today. He will focus on the Party’s failure to listen to the public, leading to subsequent defeats in 2007 and 2011. Murphy will use the experiences from his 100 towns tour, where he spent 100 days going around Scotland holding street meetings to campaign for a No vote this summer, to talk about the appetite for change around the country. “I want to apologise […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Why Miliband’s plans to scrap the Lords should be welcomed

    Why Miliband’s plans to scrap the Lords should be welcomed

    Ed Miliband’s announcement of plans to replace the House of Lords with an elected Senate is welcome on two counts. Firstly, it’s good to see Labour committing once again to reforming the House of Lords after ducking the issue for reasons of low politics earlier in the parliament. Choosing to drive a wedge between the Lib Dems and the Tories on constitutional affairs may well have reaped dividends (not least, the abandonment of the gerrymandering bill), but it was sad […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Let’s meet London’s housing need

    Let’s meet London’s housing need

    Meeting London’s housing need – it sounds like a simple idea, but it hasn’t happened for decades. If there is one aim politicians of all parties should meet over the next 5 years, this must be it. It is the single biggest thing we can do to improve the lives of ordinary Londoners. And with political will, a good plan and leadership, it’s possible. As any Londoner knows, London is in the middle of a desperate housing crisis. Young Londoners […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Miliband announces plans to scrap the Lords – and introduce an elected Senate of Nations and Regions

    Miliband announces plans to scrap the Lords – and introduce an elected Senate of Nations and Regions

    In a speech to Labour’s North West regional conference in Manchester, Ed Miliband will announce that a Labour government would abolish the House of Lords and replace it with an elected Senate. That has (broadly speaking) been Labour policy for some time. But there’s a twist. Miliband wants this new Senate to be a representative body made up of those from all of Britain’s Nations and Regions, as part of a new constitutional settlement to be decided by a constitutional […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband speaks out on anti-semitic abuse targeted at Luciana Berger – and calls on social media companies to act

    Miliband speaks out on anti-semitic abuse targeted at Luciana Berger – and calls on social media companies to act

    As we reported last week, Labour MP and Shadow Minister Luciana Berger has been the victim of a sustained torrent of disgusting online anti-semtic abuse. Ed Miliband has hit out at Berger’s abusers today, calling on social media companies to be more proactive in tackling sustained, orchestrated abuse. He told Jewish News: “The anti-Semitic abuse that Luciana Berger has experienced over recent days is utterly appalling and has absolutely no place in our country. We must have no tolerance for this vile […]

    Read more →