BRINGING POWER BACK TO LONDONERS: MP GARETH THOMAS’ VISION FOR LONDON

In May 2016, London will go to the polls to decide who will replace Boris Johnson as their new mayor. A number of progressive parties from across the political spectrum are standing candidates in that election. We’ve got in touch with all those who are seeking nomination from their parties, asking why London should elect them, what their key policy priorities are and how London will be changed if they are elected. We’ll be publishing their responses over the next few weeks.

by Gareth Thomas, MP Harrow West

I think Londoners should be given more of a say in the decisions that shape the future of our city. That is why I introduced the London Devolution Bill into parliament, and that’s why if I was Mayor I would call for a referendum in September 2016 to secure public consent for devolving more powers and responsibilities to London.

London creates more wealth than any other region or nation, much of which is rightly distributed around the UK. Yet London also has some of the worst deprivation, child poverty and inequality, and we also have the most severe housing crisis in the UK. That’s why I believe London should be given more powers to be able to tackle the unique challenges London faces.

Cities such as Manchester have been given some opportunity to shape their own future and Scotland will soon be receiving more powers devolved to them, on top of their already existing powers, so why not London?

It’s time most of the big decisions that affect London were taken by Londoners themselves.

London is already one of the most powerful cities in the world, but Londoners also have a right to expect their Mayor to champion their right to become some of the most powerful citizens in the world too. Because although London may house our parliament, Westminster can often seem as remote to someone living in Croydon or Dagenham as it does to someone living in the Western Isles in Scotland.

Accident & Emergency Departments across London have been closed in recent years by a Secretary of State for Health whose constituency is not even in the Greater London area. Equally, the rules on who gets housed when they’re homeless and what rent controls there are or not are all decided not in London by Londoners but rather by the 650 MPs, including Scottish Nationalists, Ulster Unionists and Manchester MPs, many of whom represent constituencies with very different characteristics.

It’s time most of the big decisions that affect London were taken by Londoners themselves. The Mayor of London and the London Assembly were set up only after a referendum in 1998, which saw Londoners give their consent. And now in 2015 Londoners should have to give their consent again to the big devolution agenda London needs, and straight after a new Mayor is elected would be the logical time for a referendum on this.

(Gareth Thomas MP © Facebook; Gareth Thomas)

My Bill aims to implement the recommendations of the cross-party London Finance Commission:- on devolving property taxes and easing borrowing restrictions which have been ignored by David Cameron and George Osborne.

These measures would allow for more of the visionary and innovative local planning that our city so desperately needs

The Bill also seeks to bring London in line with Scotland and what is planned for Wales, notably the power to vary income tax. It would also allow new taxes, such as a tourist levy or new environmental tax to be introduced locally. These measures would allow for more of the visionary and innovative local planning that our city so desperately needs and give London a far greater base to prudentially borrow against. Londoners would also have much more of a real say and stake in how to achieve future economic growth in the capital.

Skills and training budgets should also be devolved, higher educational standards promoted and the Mayor appointed to the Prudential Regulation Authority Board. And if Manchester can receive control of its NHS budget why shouldn’t London’s healthcare budget be devolved to the Mayor with the boroughs able to commission NHS services in the future?

As a Co-operative MP, and Chair of the Co-operative party I support bringing power closer to people and communities in all forms. That’s why I would want to encourage the expansion of credit unions with a Credit Union ‘Bank’:- credit unions working together to offer London wide financial services supported by Mayoral backed advertising on bus, tube and trains and offering new credit union accounts for every young person.

Commuters should have the right to hold TFL bosses to account for the decisions they take.

I am also keen to open up Transport for London to give Londoners more of a say in its big decisions be they fares, land sales or future investment. Commuters should have the right to hold TFL bosses to account for the decisions they take. Involving Londoners in the future of public transport will help ensure wider debate on the big strategic transport challenges London faces but also on more local transport issues too. And one major difference on housing between me and the other candidates is around co-op housing. I strongly support a wider mix of types of social housing and think tenants should be given much greater control over the housing they live in.

As we move towards a more federal Britain, we cannot afford for London to be left behind. Given the wealth London generates, the rest of the UK needs to accept that there are no longer just four partners in the United Kingdom – there are five: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the city state of London.

A referendum held in September 2016 following the Mayoral elections would seek consent from Londoners on more powers being devolved to London and go some way to recognise London’s ongoing vital role in this union.

More information can be found at gareththomasforlondon

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