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City Matters 117

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CITYMATTERS.LONDON 19 February - 03 March 2020 | Page 3 NEWS subscribe to our newsletter at INFORMATIVE: the hustings was jointly hosted by London Chamber of Commerce & Industry and LSE. ‘Brewing up the recipe for disaster’ From Front Page than any year for more than a decade, and over 15,000 knife offences. The Mayor of London is responsible for the Met, setting the strategy for policing in the capital – but last night, an eloquent question from the floor pushed the issue further. An LSE student asked what each candidate would do beyond the “reactionary” drive to recruit more police. He claimed this approach “trivialises the issue” and shows candidates are “not actually looking at the causes of crime” – and his question got one of the biggest claps of the night. Ms Coghill said the city was starting to understand the problems vulnerable young people face. She praised the Mayor’s long-term response – investing in youth services and taking a “public health” approach to violence – arguing there is “no quick fix” to the problem. But Ms Benita said politicians “have to be more angry” about young people dying on the streets of the capital. “We can’t sit here and say we’re learning what’s happening to young people – we’ve known for years,” she said. She promised a London-wide youth service, and aims to end permanent school exclusions in the city. The Lib Dem also wants to legalise cannabis in the capital, to take power away from violent drugs gangs – claiming “that overnight it would be the single biggest thing to keep our young people safe”. Ms Berry said she was concerned that stop and search was “massively increasing” under the current Mayor – highlighting the use of Section 60 orders, which allow police to search anyone in an area without suspicion. She said it breaks down trust in the police, and is “brewing up a recipe for disaster”. But Mr Greenhalgh said a “massive increase in the number of gang members” and “widening of drug supply” had contributed significantly to rising crime. He said: “With stop-and-search, we know that if it’s done properly, with respect that it works as a strategy to take knives off the street – and I think we need a Mayor who’s brave enough to do the things that work.” There were groans and boos from the audience, and the loudest heckle of the night – “can’t do it with respect”. Mr Stewart said as an independent he would consider both policing and the root causes of crime. “On this issue of knife crime we get stuck into a very classic black and white stand off between the right and the left,” he claimed. The independent is promising to double local police in London, but said he’d also work to build up youth services and give young people more opportunities. There might be another fare freeze – but would it work? Transport is among the key responsibilities of the Mayor, and all the candidates were keen to show they’d build a network for all Londoners. During Mr Khan’s mayoralty, his fare freeze has dominated debate – the policy has held pay-as-you-go fares at 2016 rates, which the Mayor says makes travel more affordable for Londoners. But critics say many commuters use annual travel cards, which have risen in price, so tourists are more likely to benefit than locals. Some also claim the lack of revenue from higher fares has slowed investment in new TfL services. Mr Khan hasn’t confirmed if he’d raise fares during a second term – but this year’s TfL business plan is based on an inflation plus 1% rise. So Ms Coghill’s claim that the Mayor would “absolutely” maintain the fare freeze if re-elected was the surprise of the night. But is she right? Mr Stewart said the “small print” of TfL’s business plan showed otherwise. He claimed the Mayor would have to raise fares because he has “massively mismanaged the funds of TfL”. The independent said he’d use ‘smart pricing’ – as seen in Singapore – to vary fares based on income, and time of travel. Ms Berry said she’d reduce the number of zones on the network, working towards a flat fare for public transport across the capital. The Green candidate said she’d make up the budget gap from lower fares by introducing ‘smart road pricing’, which would charge private car users per mile driven. But Ms Benita said it was “irresponsible” to suggest the fare freeze could continue. She said she’d raise fares, but aim to introduce lower rates for lower income Londoners. For his part, Mr Greenhalgh admitted he didn’t know Mr Bailey’s policy – despite the Conservative candidate having publicly backed a fare rise in the past, as Ms Benita pointed out. “I think I know Shaun’s policies better than his representative does,” she said – to laughter from the audience.” Targeting the ‘dark underbelly of society’ MY responsibilities at City Hall now include sitting on the Housing Committee, writes Unmesh Desai, City & East London Assembly Member. At our last meeting we looked at the plight of leaseholders in the capital forced to pay exorbitant service charges and ground rent amongst other issues. As Chair I am looking forward to our forthcoming report which should help to push forward the debate to practically address these concerns. I alkso know modern slavery is an issue of concern to many in the City including the Corporation. At City Hall, I have been working to raise awareness around this issue which continues to cast a shadow over the capital as a whole. From car washes to nail bars, it is often hidden in plain sight in our communities and high streets, and has aptly been referred to by the Archbishop of Westminster as the “dark underbelly of London society”. I was glad to see the recently published Police and Crime Committee report on this issue receive national coverage. This should hopefully push this issue upwards on the agendas of the Mayor and the Government. At a recent Plenary session of the London Assembly, I proposed a motion asking the Government to fund the Metropolitan Police on a long-term basis, rather than year-toyear. This will allow the Met to put in place a more sustainable plan – and be better equipped to work with the City of London Police to keep the businesses and residents of the City safe. I am very pleased that my motion attracted cross-party support. During the latest Police and Crime Committee meeting at City Hall, I also questioned the Met Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, about the terror attack that took place in Streatham earlier this month. It is deeply concerning that we have seen two horrific incidents in our capital in recent times, perpetrated by terrorists released on license. Our police forces, including the City of London Police, deserve huge credit for their heroic swift action in both cases which prevented further fatalities and casualties. However, it is clear that we must urgently address the need for more effective de-radicalisation and probation support programmes to be put in place in our justice system. I have also been pleased to see action being taken on the back of another question I put to the Commissioner at this meeting on speeding up medical assistance to victims of terrorism. Since then, both the Met Police and the Mayor have announced that they are now considering whether to allow medics access to ‘hot zones’ immediately after attacks take place. At the end of last month, City Hall marked Holocaust Memorial Day. It was deeply moving and humbling to hear the testimonies of survivors and stand in solidarity with the Jewish community. Tragically, we are seeing antisemitism rear its ugly head once more in our city. It is ever more vital that we remain vigilant and report hate crimes to the police wherever we witness them.

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