January 2019 report to Londoners
January 18th, 2019
Here is my latest report back about my work at City Hall and around London. If you’d like me to speak at a local Labour Party meeting, or if you’d like a tour of City Hall, please email me.
42% of council homes sold under Right to Buy in London now rented out by private landlords
New research I’ve published reveals that 42% of homes sold off under Right to Buy in London are now being rented out by private landlords at market rates – up from 36% in 2014.
That’s at least 11,000 more council homes in the hands of private landlords than there were five years ago, a shocking transfer of wealth from the many to the few.
My report also reveals that councils in London are spending at least £22 million a year renting back their former council homes to house homeless families. These were homes they were forced to sell at a discount that they now have to pay market rates to rent back.
This is ludicrous, and the blame lies squarely with national government policies.
Many Labour councils across London are building new council homes again for the first time in a generation. But we risk treading water or even going backwards if we continue to lose precious existing homes to Right to Buy.
That’s why I’m asking you to take action by signing this petition demanding that Theresa May ends Right to Buy in London and across England. The Scottish and Welsh governments have already done so.
I’ve been appointed to chair a new London Assembly working group which will continue our investigation into Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge project, which has cost the taxpayer up to £46 million. In early 2018 I secured the release of the Garden Bridge Trust’s (GBT) board minutes, which have shed crucial light on how the trustees pushed forward the project in the face of escalating risks. We will now be investigating the role of the Charity Commission as regulator, as well as the TfL officers who attended GBT board meetings.
The GBT recently demanded an additional £5 million to pay for winding up costs. I have written to Transport Commissioner Mike Brown asking him to explore every legal avenue to withhold this payment. If you agree that no more public money should be spent on this vanity project then please sign the petition here.
Tell the government to reverse their cuts to sexual health services in London
Cuts to sexual health budgets are hitting clinics just as demand for testing is rising. In December the London Assembly unanimously called on the Mayor of London to work with boroughs to support sexual health services in London. But we need the government to reverse their damaging £600 million cuts to public health budgets, with another £85 million cuts planned. Please show how your support for reversing these cuts by signing my petition.
Last year the government consulted on longer tenancies for private tenants. In my response I called for open-ended tenancies, an end to no fault eviction and caps on rent rises. You can read my response here.
More than a quarter of Londoners now rent from private landlords, but do you know what your rights as a tenant are? Take the quiz to find out.
It was a pleasure to talk to Tom Burgess for the Real Agenda podcast about one of my favourite subjects: Land Value Tax (LVT). LVT is the fairest and most efficient way of raising tax, and at the same time discourages developers from land banking or keeping homes empty. We talk a lot about rates of income tax in the Labour Party, but if we really want to redistribute wealth we need to tax land. Land values in the UK have risen by 544% since 1995. We should be capturing some of that rise to fund infrastructure and housing. In 2016 I led an investigation for the London Assembly looking at LVT. My report recommended that the Mayor should be given the power to trial it in London.
Short-term lets: an international approach
Concern about the abuse of short-term lettings platforms such as Airbnb by people turning homes into hotels by the back door has been growing internationally. Last year I published a report “Morebnb: short-term lets in London’s housing crisis” which examined the issue in London and made a number of recommendations, including data sharing between short-term lettings platforms and local authorities. In November I spoke about the impact of short-term lettings platforms on London at an international conference in New York which is looking at ways to better regulate the sector (though via Skype, not in person, sadly!)
This month the London Assembly reiterated its support for a People’s Vote, or final say, on the terms of Brexit.
I believe that the British people have a right to change their mind about whether we leave with a deal or remain in the European Union, particularly in light of the total mess the Government has made of handling Brexit. It’s my firm view that the best deal is the one we have now: membership of the EU.