London Mayoral Debate - Boris Johnson, Ken Livingston and Brian Paddick 19.04.12
ANY QUOTES USED MUST BE ATTRIBUTED TO SKY NEWS
ANNA BOTTING: One city, 5.8 million voters, two weeks to decide who gets to run an economy the size of a small European country with a budget of fourteen and a half billion pounds. We’re live for the next two hours from the tallest building in the City of London, Heron Tower. In our first hour, three of the candidates who want to be London Mayor will face questions from the Londoners who get to decide and at nine o’clock we’ll speak to other candidates and get reaction from the City and local communities, together with experts who know what makes London tick. So welcome to the London Debate. So let’s hear straight away then from the candidates, we’ve drawn lots and Brian Paddick goes first, followed by Boris Johnson and then Ken Livingstone. You have one minute each gentlemen, Brian Paddick.
BRIAN PADDICK: Increasingly this election is about who you can trust. I was a police officer for over 30 years, I’m not a professional politician. I would love to be able to say to you I can introduce an across the board significant decrease in fares on public transport but I wouldn’t be honest with you if I did say that but what I can promise you is that we will keep fares as low as we possibly can and we will target fare reductions on those who can least afford to travel. I would like to be able to promise you that there would be a significant reduction in council tax if I were Mayor of London but that wouldn’t be honest either. What I can promise you is that we will freeze council tax for the next four years. I’m not like these other guys, I’m a professional politician [sic] and that’s why I’m going to give it to you straight.
AB: Brian Paddick, thank you very much indeed. Boris Johnson, your minute starts now.
BORIS JOHNSON: In tough times you’ve got to be honest with Londoners about where the money is coming from and how you are going to spend it and that’s why we have a fully costed, fully funded, nine point plan to continue taking out unnecessary expenditure and putting the money where Londoners want to see it, cutting our share of council tax by 10%, getting 1000 more officers on the street than there were when I was elected and now putting another 2000 in the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, keep driving down crime whilst investing in the crucial transport investments, crucial transport infrastructure that will together with our housing investments and regeneration schemes will create 200,000 jobs over the next four years. Above all, I want to stop London lurching back to the arrogance, the waste and the broken promises of the past, I want to lead London out of recession, get real value from the Olympics and lengthen London’s lead as the greatest city on earth and I hope I can count on your support on May 3rd.
AB: Boris Johnson, thank you. Ken Livingstone.
KEN LIVINGSTONE: The central issue at this election is who can make Londoners better off. I will cut fares which will save the average fare payer £1000 over four years and if you are in Zone Six that will be up to £1700 and right now a letter is going out from me to Londoners saying how I will cut the fares, using the surplus that this Conservative Mayor has allowed to build up with his fare hikes which has given us the highest fares in the world and saying in that letter if I don’t cut fares by 7th October this year I will resign, let me be absolutely clear on that. If you want to get a copy of that letter then if you text Fares to 66007 then my fares plan will be immediately sent to your phone. My challenge to Boris Johnson tonight is that he needs to tell Londoners what he would do with fares. Here’s a copy of his transport budget spelling out over the next few years increases of 2% above inflation year by year. The Tory candidate doesn’t even mention the fares level he will set in his manifesto, my first act as Labour Mayor will be to rip up this plan and cut the fares and make it clear, there is no reason on earth why we should have the highest fares on earth.
AB: Mr Livingstone, thank you very much indeed, we’ve run out of time there. So gentlemen, thank you. If you are out and about this evening or getting in your car for example and want to hear from Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick then you can tune in LBC Radio 97.3, we’re live throughout the hour so 97.3 for that. Now of course lots of Sky News viewers sent in questions, many of those who did are here tonight so straight to our first questioner now, Emily Shipp, Emily.
EMILY SHIPP: Thank you. I want to continue to live and work in London but it could take me 33 years to save for the average deposit on a home here, by that time I’m be 59. It looks like renting is the only option so what will you do to improve rented housing for those who rent in London and contribute to this city?
AB: Brian Johnson let’s start with you, is this city simply too expensive to live in?
BJ: You’ve conflated two candidates there but I’m happy to take the question. Do you mean Brian Livingstone?
AB: Boris Johnson, you answer first.
BJ: The best answer, and there is a housing crisis in this city, huge numbers of young people such as yourself are finding it hard to get on to the property ladder, we have got to keep building more affordable homes. We’ve done a record number over the last four years, 52,000 new affordable homes, many for social rent, some for part buy/part rent. We’ve helped 25,000 people to buy a share of their property but over the next few years what we need to do is build even more so I’m putting together 530 hectares, that’s a lot of acres, more than double the number of acres, to make that land available for development and between 2011 and 2015 we can do 55,000 more homes. The rental problem is acute, the best way to solve it is to create more homes and to crack down on some of those landlords who are in my view are gouging and we have a very good new accredited plan and …
AB: Boris Johnson, we have lots to pack in. Ken Livingstone, if I can get your views next.
KL: Well my big disagreement with Tony Blair apart from the war in Iraq was he carried on Mrs Thatcher’s ban on building council housing. We used to build 50,000 good council homes a year in this city and we were bringing the waiting lists down, we’ve got to start building those homes with rents people can afford again. Boris is right, we’ve got enough land in London to build a third of a million homes and that could be done over the next decade, putting people back to work to do it. Where I think the Mayor has failed is not tackle the growing abuses of the private rented sector, about a third of the landlords are really abusing their position and they get, the cost of a two bedroom private rented flat is over half the average take home pay in this city and what I will do is set up a Mayor’s letting agency to cut out the sort of rip off charges, ten or eleven percent of your rent is paid to the agent who simply introduces you to the person who is trying to look for a tenant and bring that down and have really aggressive action against those landlords who have been physically intimidating, not returning the deposits and not doing repairs.
AB: We’ve got so many questions to try and fit in, I’ll come to you in a moment but let’s hear from Brian Paddick first of all.
BP: Emily, I know exactly how you feel because I rented in the private sector and I was fed up when every time my annual pay rise was swallowed up by the increase in rent. We want to give kite marks to responsible landlords so that renters will know that these are the people that you can get a good deal from. We have identified brownfield sites, not green areas, not back gardens, where you can build 360,000 new homes in London over the next ten years and what I want to do is I want a massive social house building programme, council houses in old language but not like the estates we used to have. You know, the Mayor is going to be the biggest landowner from May in London, that means that land can be used to build social homes, we can borrow from the City of London and rent those properties at 40% of the market rent.
AB: It’s not just about housing though is it, really it’s about the cost of living. Boris Johnson, has the Chancellor’s budget not helped your campaign at all?
BJ: Well I think the Chancellor has obviously got to speak for his own budget, the most important thing that I can do to help people like Emily is as I say to build more affordable homes and for people who are on fixed incomes in this city to govern London in an affordable and cost effective way, take down your council tax and continue with vital benefit – people talk about pensioners in this city who are facing tough times, it is very, very important that you continue to bear down on council tax and also to deliver as we are with the 24 hour Freedom Pass.
KL: We can all freeze the council tax, the real problem is this budget has just cut the top rate of tax for the richest 1% and you’ll congratulate the Chancellor, you campaigned for that for two years. Instead half a million pensioners in this city have got to pay more tax to make up for that and I think that inequality is wrong. I want to see pensioners protected and I wrote to every MP to oppose the granny tax which they just passed into law tonight.
AB: Brian Paddick, you all want to talk don’t you, but I want to go to another question if you don’t mind which is very pertinent to where we are in the Square Mile so let’s go now to Katy Wright.
KATY WRIGHT: Thank you. I’d like to ask, would you support greater taxation of the financial sector, so like the idea of a Robin Hood tax on banks, to help pay for poverty reduction in London and the UK?
AB: Let’s start with Brian Paddick, I might even know who you all are by the end of the hour I guess! Brian.
BP: Katy, what I think we should be doing is we should be asking the banks to give a proportion of their bonus fund to support young people in London. In addition to that we want a voluntary contribution from everyone who stays in a four or five star hotel in London, every night they pay a pound. We reckon in the first year that can give ten million pounds to help young people. We have got to invest in our young people and I think asking the banks to accept that they need to contribute, they need to show that they are socially responsible is something that we need to do but I don't think we should knock the financial centre. Yes, we need to rebalance the economy and have more manufacturing but we must acknowledge the massive contribution the financial sector makes to this city and not run them down all the time.
AB: This is difficult for you two isn’t it because Boris Johnson, you are seen as a candidate for the wealthy and you are perhaps seen as someone who has abandoned the City. Boris first.
BJ: Well thank you very much, I actually think that the former Mayor, there he goes bashing me for allegedly calling for tax cuts in the budget when he campaigns for an 80% tax rate and as far as the best of my knowledge, as far as I understand the matter Ken, you pay a tax rate of 14.5%.
KL: No, 35%, Boris.
BJ: It is one thing to bash the banks and call for a banker to be hung every week or whatever your economic policy is, I think it is more sensible and more productive to recognise that there are huge numbers of people in this city, not all of them on large incomes, 640,000 depending one way or another on financial services, that industry needs to flourish, it needs to be protected and yes, I certainly think it would be a good thing if they gave more and that’s precisely what I … I don’t want to agree too much with Brian or they’ll think this is a coalition going on here but it is quite right, it is quite right that the banks should be coming forward and giving more to good causes in London and that is why the Mayor’s Fund for London is available to any bankers in this audience who may wish to contribute even more to the Mayor’s Fund or is likely to do so.
KL: It’s not just the banks.
AB: Ken Livingstone, this issue is straying into our third question, so let’s hear now if we can from Oliver Thompson, Oliver.
OLIVER THOMPSON: What is your view on tax avoidance and individuals who attempt to minimise their tax bills by legal means?
AB: I think it’s your turn, Ken Livingstone.
KL: Let me answer the question that was posed before. We have had inequality of wealth double in this city over the last thirty years, the only western society more unequal than us is America and there is a very good book that spells all this out. We need to have a much fairer system, I pay … I publish my tax returns, Boris Johnson says it is 14%, it’s 35%, he pays 41% but then he earns half a million pounds, he should pay more than me.
BJ: You didn’t publish your tax return.
KL: The simple fact is, we need to actually have a system that is enforceable. It isn’t just about income tax, that isn’t where the real abuse is, it’s things like that Duke of Westminster who owns vast amounts of central London and doesn’t pay tax on his vast inherited wealth.
AB: But the question is really asking whether you have been hypocritical and not …
KL: But that’s where the real avoidance is.
AB: Whether you’ve been hypocritical, not illegal but hypocritical. You’re quoted in the past saying these rich bleeps, which I can’t say, just don’t get it, no one should be allowed to vote in a British election let alone sit in parliament unless they pay their full share of tax.
KL: And I pay three times the average rate of tax of an ordinary person in this city, Boris pays a little bit more than me but as I say, he earns half a million pounds, I don’t.
BP: Can I just say in terms of inequality you have Boris Johnson who is on a six figure salary who has benefited in the reduction in the 50p rate of tax, that’s not helping inequality and you’ve got Ken Livingstone who funnels his income into a private company so that he doesn’t get up to the level of paying 45% tax even though he is, his company is earning over £250,000 a year.
BJ: This is turning into the Schleswig-Holstein, the whereabouts of Lord Lucan or Shergar because we’ve had two weeks now in which the former Mayor, Ken Livingstone was invited to produce details of his earnings and the tax he’s paid and it has yet to appear, it is a complete mystery what your rate is.
KL: Well I’m very sorry, if you go on to my website, I have published my tax returns. I think it was Jenny Jones, the Green candidate, it was a very good idea, I think every candidate should. I made it clear I will publish my tax returns every year if I’m mayor but this is what I think has annoyed a lot of people, the other candidate Siobhan Benita got a real round of applause at the Evening Standard debate saying she is sick of hearing this, she wants to hear about the issues that matter like youth unemployment and crime. This isn’t about three men it’s about eight million Londoners.
AB: We’ve been talking about some big issues which are the economy, the cost of living, the City, whether you support it or not, what about the audience? I know some of you had your hands up, let’s go to a few of you. If you can pass the microphone down, what was your thought? If you can introduce yourself first.
PAUL ANDERSON: Thank you, my name is Paul Anderson and I’m from Croydon. When you leave this wonderful building today you will see people, your fellow Londoners, sleeping on the streets of London. This gets right to the heart of the discussions that have already been raised about housing and poverty, as Mayor will you commit to say that nobody will sleep on the streets of London and what steps will you take to make sure that that happens? Thank you.
AB: Okay, Brian Paddick, you start.
BP: Paul, as I’ve already said, we need a massive social house building, in old money council house building programme. We’ve got 350,000 families on the council waiting list across London, we need to get that down and we need to address the underlying issues that result in people being homeless, so some people have got emotional problems, family breakdown, other people have got substance misuse problems, others have got mental health issues, it’s not just about housing. So as well as building far more homes than we have seen under either of the previous two mayors, and I’m afraid it’s a bit of a joke calling this affordable housing, I’m sure Emily wouldn’t be able to afford what these two call affordable housing, but we have also got to address those underlying social issues as well.
BJ: You’ve got to tackle rough sleeping, you’ve got to tackle homelessness. As soon as I got in we set up the London Delivery Board to bring together all the agencies that are dealing with it. We’ve actually had a great deal of success in helping some of the more entrenched rough sleepers, 75% have been helped off the streets and the government has rewarded what we’ve done with about £34 million which we’re going to use, every penny of it, on helping people off the streets. It is a serious problem but it’s one that we’re tackling and having a great deal of success in tackling.
KL: On the government website it shows that in the last six months there has only been 56 affordable new homes started and I think Brian’s right, their definition of affordable is not what most people would. We have got to build tens of thousands of homes again but in the short term to tackle this problem I don't think working through a city hall bureaucracy is the answer. We have churches, we have Shelter, we have a lot of voluntary groups who are there on the street and can reach these people a lot easier than any local government structure and I met with the faith communities earlier today discussing with them how we can use them both to reach out to homeless people, to reach out to kids that are packing a blade on the street and drifting into crime because I think you get a much better return for the money you are going to spend if you are engaging those communities based in London’s communities.
AB: Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed. Well lots more still ahead, remember you can join the debate via Twitter, use the hashtag #skylondondebate and more reaction coming through from all of our experts, journalists and community leaders who are waiting at nine o’clock to speak to us, lots more people to speak to, four other candidates also vying for the job of London Mayor, hearing from some of those as well. Just to remind you who they are, Siobhan Benita who is an Independent candidate, Carlos Cortiglia for the British National Party, Jenny Jones for the Green Party and Laurence Webb for the UK Independence Party, as I said speaking to some of those at nine o’clock. Lots more from our audience though coming up after this short break.
AB: Hello there and welcome back to the London Debate, we have Brian Paddick, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone waiting to take questions from our audience. Let’s go to one person who was affected by perhaps the biggest events in London over the last year, the riots, let’s hear now from that.
MOAZ NANJUANI: I am Moaz Nanjuani and I am an optometrist in Tottenham, I’ve been practising there now for thirty years and I am here representing as Chair of the Tottenham Traders Partnership, important work in the partnership and I am also here representing the proud people of Tottenham who are not the people who were involved in those problems as you know, they were people from outside so what I would like to know is what do you think were the root causes of these problems and what are you doing first at the moment, and I know you have all visited us in Tottenham, what are you doing now to make things better there and what will you do if you become Mayor to make things accountable. Promises have been made but things have still not happened, how will you ensure that this will happen?
KL: I think there was an element of criminality there, people with their black berets, but I think there was also an element of anger and I think a lot of people feel that no one in power, either in government or in City Hall, cares about them or has got an agenda for them but I think as in 1981 with the riots then which spread across Britain, it was an insensitive act. When Mark Duggan’s parents marched to Tottenham Police Station to make complaints about why their son had been shot, there was no one there to meet them. It was not the Mayor’s fault, he was on holiday but there is a Deputy Mayor. We didn’t have a Commissioner at the time, we had an Acting Commissioner and if the Acting Commissioner couldn’t have been there, there should have been a deputy. Someone should have been there in authority to listen, to seriously take what they said and say we are going to take this seriously, there’s not going to be a cover up and I think you could have avoided it. Then the other disaster was a completely fumbled response. The next night after the riots there were only 6000 police on the streets. The following night when we had 16,000, that brought it to an end. You’ve got to be much more proactive as I was as Mayor when we had things like the demonstrations in 2001.
AB: Boris Johnson, I know you said it was awkward for you that were hundreds of miles up a mountain in North America but is it embarrassing for you that you did take so long to get back when your city was aflame?
BJ: Clearly in an ideal world I would not have been, as Ken Livingstone so rightly says, abroad at the time but when I got back obviously I worked with the police to bring the situation under control, by Tuesday they had done a fantastic job and then to answer your question, Moaz, what we need to do now is to continue to work with local communities to transform the area. We got the 20 million that Tottenham needs, I think if we can unlock the stadium deal there is an amazing regeneration scheme to be done in Tottenham, you can do extraordinary things in Croydon. We’ve got the funds now to take those areas forward and to deliver jobs and growth that will take them far beyond the level they were at before the riots began and yes, I don't think I’d really dissent much from what Ken Livingstone had to say about the causes. There was a lot of criminality involved and there are deep seated problems in the lives of young people that give them the idea that they can behave like that. We need as a society, as a city, we need to tackle that and that’s why we have set up all the programmes that we’ve got, the mentoring schemes working with young people, trying to rehabilitate kids in the young offenders institutions, working as David Lammy I think rightly said, trying to expand the uniformed groups, the Cadets, the Guides, all those things which do so much good for young people and that is very much what we want to expand.
MOAZ: But promises have been made, you have said there is a Mayor’s grant available, there is a Mayor’s fund, we are now how many months into that situation yet I have not seen a local person on the street has received any of this funding.
BJ: The high street fund came in immediately.
MOAZ: One thing we are very concerned about is if we don’t speak up and say something very positive to the community now, to say something is happened, and there is a silence everywhere, this silence is going to create trouble and I implore you guys that you must tell your other local leaders that you must speak up and say that something is happening in Tottenham.
BJ: Thank you. Tottenham has a fantastic future, we can make sure that those funds as I say can trigger … TFL is going to put money in to get the whole stadium development going and that needs to happen, that’s no secret. Once that happens you’ve got houses that will be built, you’ve got thousands of jobs that will be created in that area. In the meantime I congratulate you and your association and what you’re doing.
AB: It’s easy with hindsight isn’t it, Brian Paddick, to say the police should have done this but nobody knew what those riots would become.
BP: Well that’s not actually true because when I was the police commander in Brixton we had an exact parallel situation, a young man was shot by the police, a peaceful demonstration happened outside the police station, that turned into a riot. The police should have known that that situation had the potential. We know from academic research that has been done that a lot of the hostility was hostility towards the police that caused those riots, disproportionate stopping of young black men in stop and search. We’ve seen allegation after allegation recently of racism in the police, these are some of the reasons why people were so angry in Tottenham on those occasions. Six months, on the six month anniversary after the riots took place there was only one of us in Tottenham and I didn’t recognise you immediately without your white coat on because I remember coming to your shop and talking to you about the issues. That’s what needs to happen, we need to get in to Tottenham, we need to take the media with us and we need to say to people that was a one off with the riots hopefully, that Tottenham is a really good place to go. I mean footfall, turnover of the businesses in Tottenham is down 50% as a result of what happened last August, we have got to say Tottenham is a great place and we need to support Tottenham to get back on its feet.
AB: There are lots of hands coming up in the audience, let’s hear from you, if you could introduce yourself as well.
ETA MICHAEL CHOSO: A very good evening to you, my name is Eta Michael Choso and it is probably a follow on question from that one but probably it will need a bit more substance to it. Obviously London is multicultural hub with a very vibrant and diverse population, following from last summer’s London riots as well as the recent allegations of racism levelled against the London Metropolitan Police, what would your office do to make sure or to promote or enhance race relations as well as to put mechanisms in place that combat racial discrimination?
AB: Let’s just hear from Bieneosa as well, can you just ask your question as well?
BIENEOSA EBITE: My question is actually linked and again with the series of allegations with regards to the Metropolitan police, I would like to find out how the candidates would actually address the issue because it is a recurring issue that has been going on but not only that, I think there is also an issue of trust so I would like to find out how the candidates will actually seek to build trust with London’s black and minority ethnic communities?
BP: I spent 30 years in the Metropolitan Police and I saw a number of commissioners try to change the culture and deal with the issues of racism in the police and they failed. Why did they fail? Because successive mayors of London did not stand up and say there is a problem with racism in the Metropolitan Police and I haven’t heard these two in this campaign turn round and say there is a problem with racism in the Metropolitan Police and unless you acknowledge that there is a problem and unless the Mayor is vocal in his support of the Commissioner, I know from experience that change will not happen.
BJ: Can I just say, Brian, that actually as soon as those reports came out the Commissioner issued a very powerful statement with which I completely concurred and …
BP: But you didn’t say anything, Boris.
BJ: Which I completely echoed and I issued my own statement saying that any racism in the Met has got to be stamped out and that is why we set up the Race and Faith Inquiry as soon as I got in to try and get some of these issues out in the open. But the best way of tackling this in the short term and in the long term is to recruit more black and Asian minority ethnic police officers and not only recruit them, I am proud to say that there are now more in the Metropolitan Police Service than at any previous time in the history of the force but also to promote them to higher ranks. We’re going to continue with that process.
KL: The key as well as getting a better representative force is to make sure more of it is embedded in the community, bringing back neighbourhood patrols, I want to build and extend those. But we have a crisis here, we have had three Metropolitan Commissioners of Police in four years, that is catastrophic in an organisation like that and when Boris, you sacked Sir Ian Blair at the behest of the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail because he was alleged to be politically correct, I think that sent a signal through the force that this wasn’t a priority any more and I think we did make progress after the inquiry into that horrific incident that we had with Stephen Lawrence, we’ve made progress but it just went off the boil when you got rid of Ian Blair because people didn’t think that.
BP: Can I just give these two guys a reality check? When Metropolitan Police officers on the streets of London treat young people and young black people in particular with disrespect, why on earth would they want to join that organisation?
BJ: Can I say something about that, Brian? The fact is that irrespective of what you say and the discouragement, they are joining that organisation and by the way … they are and thanks to the extra budgets I have secured for this city they are going to be able to keep joining that organisation because I have got more money for the police than this guy on my right would have secured in a month of Sundays, we are able, we are able to keep police numbers high because of the negotiations that I have done with central government to make sure that London is properly policed and we will keep recruiting.
KL: Boris, the Metropolitan Police’s own website shows there are 1,700 less police today than there was two years ago and we’re 13 weeks away from the Olympics, how on earth would you lose nearly 2000 police when we are about to be the biggest target for terrorism anywhere on the face of the planet.
BJ: What it shows is that London is an oasis, an island of high police numbers and more than a thousand actually more than there were when I was elected and we are putting 2000 more now into the Safer Neighbourhood Teams by contrast with the rest of the country. We got that through hard negotiation with government.
BP: I think what you just said, Boris, that left to you alone the police numbers would still be 1700 down and it was only because you were bailed out by central government that police numbers are getting nearer to where they were before.
BJ: Brian, I think before you go any further you need to understand the elementary fact of the mayoralty is that you have to lobby for funds from central government, I’m afraid that is how the system works and until such time as we raise taxes independently in London, which may or may not be something you support, that is I’m afraid the duty of the mayor.
AB: You’ve had your hand up for absolutely ages but Bieneosa first.
BIENEOSA: I just wanted to raise the point, because we’ve heard it several times before about recruitment and getting more black and minority ethnic people into the force, that is actually going to take a very, very long time for that to happen, for the changes that we want to see based on that so the actual culture within the Metropolitan Police is obviously an issue there and I think we hear lots about recruitment and a lot of rhetoric but we want to know what is actually going to happen, what difference, what changes are you actually going to make in your powerful position as mayoral candidate?
AB: Before you answer I just want to hear from this gentleman as well, carry on.
RICHARD REECE: I’m Richard Reece, I come from Walworth, we were in the middle of the riots. I want to know what you are doing for the youth, none of you have talked about giving any hope to the youth on jobs or on homes and unless you do that it is already brewing in our area, it looks as though it…
KL: The thing that most people will find surprising is that it’s not bankers that have lost their jobs massively in the last four years, two thirds of all the jobs we’ve lost in the City have been in construction and we’ve got a third of a million families on the waiting list. The most important thing is to create jobs. When I left school in this city, every boy that left that school in Brixton got a job, none of us had A levels, we had manufacturing in this city. We need to rebalance, this idea that the banks would lift us all and that we’d all get a trickle-down effect, we need to be manufacturing high quality goods like Germany does that somebody else wants to buy, that brings good jobs for working class men, black or white.
BJ: The way to expand every sector of the economy and to get young people into work is to keep going and to expand the apprenticeship schemes that are currently running in London. There is a huge opportunity to get young people into work, we have done 54,000 already, we are going to go on to 100,000 by the end of this year, we can do 250,000 apprenticeships over the next four years. I’d far rather see people in a place of work, learning a skill, learning a trade than on benefits and losing their self-confidence, losing their self-esteem. We are putting money into that, it is fantastically important that we continue to do that and, and the way to create jobs fundamentally in this city is to invest in our housing and our transport infrastructure.
AB: Before you continue we have a question specific to this, Theodora Clark, where are you? I know you run a workshop in Hackney for unemployed youth is that right?
THEODORA CLARK: Yes, after the credit crunch I helped set up a new business to help graduates become employable because they need help with writing their CVs and prepping them for interviews but I am really concerned that you guys are not doing enough for youth unemployment and I want to know how you are going to help the next generation to become employable. And Ken, just looking at your record, you were Mayor for eight years and the number of NEETs, that’s young people between 18 and 24, went up by 10% to 124,000 young people in London who are not in education or employment or training so we have actually seen your track record and you actually made it worse, so how are you going to make it better this time around, that’s what I want to know?
KL: If you actually look at the figures, the increase in jobs in this city was 389,000, in the last four years it has been 16,000 and you’ve just got to get a better balance. It can’t all rely on the banks. I will restore the Education Maintenance Allowance which will help keep our poorest kids in college, that £30 a week which the government said it wouldn’t scrap and has. You have got to help young people stay in and get that training, that education and then you have got to get a better balance of jobs in this city and we’ve got to create real apprenticeships. Most of these apprenticeships you hear of are not apprenticeships. I got an apprenticeship at the Royal Marsden when I left and after four years I had a full time job, an apprenticeship that doesn’t give you a job at the end of it is not an apprenticeship.
BP: Theodora, what we are promising to do is to have a guarantee is that all young people between 18 and 24 will either be in education or in training or have a real work experience opportunity, that’s what we’re guaranteeing. I already mentioned before about having a voluntary bed tax in four and five star hotels across London, like they have in New York for example, where we reckon we can raise £10 million in the first year to put in to youth provision because we have got to make sure that young people have got something positive to do and somewhere to go to rather than get involved in gangs and knives.
BJ: You’ve got to look at the basic educational under-achievement of so many of these kids and particularly the kids who were involved in the riots, many of them had school careers that were not distinguished by any means … it is a disgrace, it is an absolute scandal that one in four eleven year olds in London is still functionally illiterate. If we can stamp that out, if we can start stamping that out in the poorest boroughs in London which is what I want to do over the next four years, we will start to give those young people real hope.
BP: If the education system is failing to engage a section of our young people, we need to change the education system. It is no good blaming people, blaming young people for not being able to read when they leave school …
BJ: I wasn’t blaming them.
BP: The education system needs to engage them, not blame them.
AB: We need to take another break but do remember, if you are getting into a car, if you are out and about, you can listen to this debate on LBC Radio 97.3 we are live throughout the hour and back in just a couple of minutes time.
AB: Hello there, you are watching the London Debate. With us of course Brian Paddick, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. The next question is about transport and nearly everybody’s hands in the audience went up so let’s hear now from Chris Gilchrist.
CHRIS GILCHRIST: Thank you Anna. London’s transport system has been blighted by strike action in the past months with more threatened imminently in the run up to and even during the Olympic Games. What will you do as Mayor to prevent the greatest event our city has hosted in over fifty years being disrupted by our trade unions?
ABB: Who wants that one?
BP: I’ll go for that.
BJ: I’ll take that. My honest view is that the hard working people on London Underground, a lot of people would have seen the programme The Tube about the incredible work they do, I don't think for a moment they are going to want to disrupt the Olympic Games and you may, there may be some hardliners here who would egg them on, there may be some people who support the union barons who might want to provoke strike action, I heard what Len McClusky had to say who after all is financing Ken Livingstone’s campaign, he called for massive disruption. I didn’t hear, well I think you did finally descend from that approach Ken but I don't think that is going to happen. I think the overwhelming majority of people who work in public services in London, particularly in the Tube, are going to want to show off this city to the best possible advantage in the next few months.
ABB: How many strikes have there been under you, Boris, on London Underground?
BJ: There certainly have been some strikes in the last few years, I make no bones about it …
ABB: There’s one next week as well isn’t there?
BJ: Actually fewer, this is interesting, fewer and fewer members of the relevant unions actually go out on strike during these strikes under me but there have certainly been strikes triggered by the union barons and the reason is that we’ve had to take some tough decisions about reform of the Tube, ways of working on the Tube that were outdated and costly and we had to reform the ticket offices in a way the previous mayor was all set to do and then chickened out. I have no hesitation in saying I think that was the right thing for London and by the way I will continue to take that kind of tough action to automate our system even if the union barons don’t like it.
BP: You see hear he goes again taking a confrontational approach. What needs to be done is that you need to sit down every month with these union leaders and make sure that you have a relationship with them, have a dialogue with them, that you don’t just engage with them when there is a problem and that’s why we’ve had more strikes under Boris Johnson, that’s why the bus drivers still haven’t settled as far as whether they are going to take strike action over the Olympics or not. It is a failure, for somebody who says he is bonhomie and everybody’s friend, yet he won’t talk to the people that are most important to talk to which is the people in charge of the ….
ABB: We have had so many hands go up and Ken Livingstone I want to hear from you.
KL: You asked how many strikes there have been on the underground under the Tory Mayor, twice the number compared with my eight years. If you look at my eight years, the rate of strikes in my last three years as opposed to the first three was cut by 98% because I had a simple rule, if they went on strike I wouldn’t improve the offer and that’s why when there was a threat of a strike just the week before the 2004 election, they backed off. But I met them. I had some very, very interesting meetings, even rougher than meeting Boris in the lift but we got …
ABB: Surely not!
BJ: The lift’s over there, Ken.
KL: I don’t want an automated Tube. We promised four years ago to keep ticket offices open, now night after night, I am somewhere in London every night, you go to a Tube station and there is no one in the ticket office, no one on the platform, no one on the barrier and that is very scary for a lot of people particularly women.
BJ: Can I just say that crime on the Tube has come down 20% since I’ve been the Mayor and actually under you I think violent offences went up like 521% on the Tube if I remember a statistic I saw last week. We are making, this Tube system is now the safest anywhere in Europe and I’m very proud of that.
ABB: Let’s hear from some of our audience, either of you two.
KATHERINE HIBBERT: My name is Katherine Hibbert and I am part of a group called Londonersonbikes.org. In London last year 16 cyclists were killed being knocked off their bike, in Paris last year not a single cyclist was killed. Boris, you claim to be the cycling mayor but your strips of blue paint along the sides of the road desert you at exactly the point where you need them most.
ABB: What is your question?
KATHERINE HIBBERT: What are you going to do to stop dozens of people dying under cars and HGVs, pedestrians and cyclists?
ABB: We need very quick answers please, we have got a lot to pack in. Brian Paddick?
BP: The reason is because this mayor has prioritised speeding traffic flow over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on our roads. There is a junction at King’s Cross, the London Cycling Campaign said you need to amend this junction from two lanes on one side to one lane on the other because someone is going to get killed. TFL refused to do it because it would slow down traffic flow and what happened, within months somebody was killed. Boris Johnson’s policy is killing cyclists.
BJ: Well I have to say, I hear what you say Brian, we are working very hard to bring cycling casualties …
BP: Don’t deny it.
BJ: I do deny it because we are working very hard to bring cycling casualties down. If you look at the total increase in the number of cyclists in London, it went up 15% in one year. We are seeing a massive expansion of cycling and actually the rates of fatalities, of those killed and seriously injured, are coming down and not just on TFL roads but across the city and if I can just finish, this was a very serious allegation that my policies are leading to more fatalities when actually the opposite is true, we are investing in measures that are making London’s roads safer and we will continue to do that. Obviously we will continue to do that but you cannot do that if you are going to go round in a short term and irresponsible way, stand on a platform of cutting investment in transport infrastructure. That is no way to improve cycling in London.
KL: Boris, you have underspent the investment budget by one and a quarter billion pounds.
ABB: Where is that money then?
KL: It’s just sitting there unused because he hasn’t …
BJ: Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.
ABB: But you say the surplus is 338 million so where is the 1.25?
KL: You’ve got a surplus in the fares account of 338 million at the moment, you have an underspend of a billion and a quarter but I am going to answer what Boris said on cycling. Virtually the first thing you did as Mayor was take away the rule I had in post that Transport for London’s top priority was the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. At [inaudible] Junction your office instructed TFL to remove the cycling safety measures, within a month two cyclists had been killed and when the police investigation is over your office may be subject to corporate manslaughter charge, your office has done nothing for cyclists.
BJ: Well I think that is absolutely outrageous, not only from a man who cannot ride a bike but who is standing on a platform to cut investment in transport. We are putting in measures that will improve safety across London’s streets and I am determined to take them forward.
ABB: We’ve done cycling, I’m really sorry, we haven’t done public transport and we haven’t done road users, which one are you?
DAVE DAVIS: Dave Davis from Cabbies Against Boris. I think you can guess who this is for. The reason why Transport for London have so many strikes is because they act improperly and unlawfully, they are a public body that has no accountability to anyone. They get 9.6 billion a year in taxpayers money yet they are accountable to no one, they spent four years implementing strategies to persecute the taxi trade, they have implemented no emission strategies, four thousand people a year dying from pollution and nothing’s been done and yet TFL aren’t held to account by anyone.
BP: Caroline Pidgeon is the Liberal Democrat leader on the London Assembly and she chairs the Transport Committee. She is excluded from some of the Transport for London committee meetings and she is supposed to be the person that represents Londoners when it comes to Transport for London. It is a disgrace the way that Transport for London has been run and we need more democratic accountability and we need to consult those people who are passengers on what transport we should be providing in London.
BJ: Dave, you complain about air quality in London, actually I was the first mayor to implement an air quality strategy that made taxis clean up their act and we have an age limit now for taxis which I think is the right way forward and the previous mayor completely flunked that opportunity to implement.
KL: I introduced the low emission zone because we have got the worst air quality of any city in Europe, at least 4000 people die prematurely and we’re not talking about an elderly person dying a few months early, the average is eleven years lost life. Kids growing up near a main road, their lung capacity is 15% below. This has led to the fact that the European Union may be about to fine us £300 million and this Tory government has ruled in parliament that if that fine comes through it will be passed to the council tax payer which will be £100 on a Band B because you haven’t cleaned up our air.
BJ: That’s ridiculous, I’ve got to … I’m sorry …
BP: We have the most ambitious programme of all the parties to clean up London’s air with electric buses and electric taxis.
BJ: We had a legacy of toxic and poisonous air, not just being emitted now by the previous mayor, which was left over. We have been cleaning it up, not just with the cleanest, greenest new bus ever in the whole of Europe but …
KL: And the most expensive.
BJ: … but with cycling initiatives, an age limit for taxis and with stage three of the low emission zone and actually the fine, the fine was one incurred by the failure of the previous mayor to act and I’m glad that that directive has now been lifted. Yes, go on.
ABB: I think you need a microphone, sir. It’s behind you, as they say.
MAN: London is the economic capital of Europe, when you look at the transport, when you look at the train, no seats on the train, planes are making noise …
BJ: Yes, so why cut it, why cut the investment?
MAN: … look at the buses, the buses doesn’t stop, they are full, okay. As a cyclist when I look at other cities in Europe, they have separate cycle paths with protection but here I don’t feel safe cycling on the roads. London being the capital of Europe, economy, money, everything, why is it the worst travel with the highest ticket prices?
BP: And do you know why I am so passionate about public transport? Because I don’t have a car, I rely on buses and Tubes. I live near the Elephant and Castle, great transport links there but other parts of London are badly served. There aren’t enough bus routes in the south of London where there are no Tubes for example, the Tubes are overcrowded, the Northern Line, I can’t get on at Elephant and Castle in the morning …
MAN: So the question is, what are you going to do for the next four years to make it the best in Europe? Simple question.
BP: Just let me say what I will do, I will continue the programme of investments that are absolutely vital, to upgrade the Tube – you talk about overcrowding on the Tube – to keep every single one of our bus routes and expand our bus service and to make sure London has the world class transport system that it needs. As you rightly say it is indispensable for our economic success and what I won’t do is put that success at risk by promising a short term and irresponsible fares cut which will take more than a billion pounds out of investment in transport budget. With two weeks to go before this election I really think it’s time that the previous mayor explains where his money is coming from.
ABB: Two weeks to go and we need to hear your final statements now, Ken Livingstone first, one minute only please.
KL: In these tough times the first duty of the Mayor is to keep money in Londoners pockets, that means cutting fares, it means freezing the council tax and freezing congestion charge because you shouldn’t take money out of the London economy, that’s why I will cut the fares, there will be a thousand pounds for the average person, seventeen hundred if you are in the suburbs and you can get a copy of the detail of that and see what Boris is getting wrong on that if you go to, if you text Fares to 66007. This mayor has once again gone through another debate without saying what he will do with fares.
BJ: Yes I will, I’ll keep them down.
KL: No, you are committed to increasing them 2% above inflation. We already have the highest fares in the world and have we got the best service in the world? No we haven’t and it’s not about investment, you have underspent the investment budget by 250 million a year, each year for the four years. I will do what I can to help Londoners to get through this, that is why we’ll reintroduce the Education Maintenance Allowance, it’s why we’ll start building housing, it’s why we’ll create real apprenticeships. It’s not what these three men are arguing about, it’s what we can do for London.
ABB: You’ve had your minute, thank you Ken Livingstone. Brian Paddick.
BP: I am not passionate about my own ego, I am passionate about London and I am passionate about Londoners. I really care that young people can’t get jobs, particularly young black men can’t get jobs because of discrimination in the job market. I am concerned about families in overcrowded conditions, in accommodation that is poor, that they cannot afford which is why the London Liberal Democrats want a massive house building programme. We are being honest with you in our manifesto about what is achievable but remember on May 3rd this isn’t just about voting for a mayor, this is voting for a London Assembly that is going to hold the Mayor, whoever that is, to account and it is just as important to vote for the Liberal Democrat as far as the London Assembly is concerned, it’s as important as voting for me for Mayor.
ABB: Brian Paddick thank you. Boris Johnson.
BJ: I think the choice in this election is very clear, it’s between our administration that is going to continue to cut costs and be effective in bringing down your council tax, to hold fares down in an honest and sustainable way with investment in automation or going back to an administration that had an appalling record for inefficiency, waste, council tax rises and broken promises on fare rises. It’s between an administration that invests in London Transport and in the economic needs of the city and improving the quality of life for everybody and an administration project that involves putting that investment at risk. It’s between a Mayor who keeps his promises and one who shamelessly breaks them, a Mayor who wants to unite the city and a Mayor who tries to play off one group against another for narrow psephological reasons that people barely understand. I want to take London forward, that’s why I’m standing to be Mayor again of the greatest city on earth and I hope I can count on your support on May 3rd.
ABB: So whoever you vote for, don’t forget you should vote on May 3rd, we’ll be hearing from some of the other candidates in the next hour. To our audience, give yourself a round of applause, thank you very much indeed, and of course to our candidates, Brian Paddick, Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, thank you very much indeed.
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