Mayoral election 2021: ITV debate sees main candidates clash over new homes ‘failings’

Ross Lydall
·5 min read
<p>Sadiq Khan, Sian Berry, Shaun Bailey and Luisa Porritt</p> (ES Composite)

Sadiq Khan, Sian Berry, Shaun Bailey and Luisa Porritt

(ES Composite)

Sadiq Khan was forced to admit that too few new homes were being built in London as the main mayoral candidates clashed over housing in a TV debate.

The Mayor accepted that the number of homes being started in the capital had fallen short of the minimum 49,000 a year that City Hall’s planning blueprint, the London Plan, says are needed.

The ITV London hustings — the first TV debate to feature the four main candidates — also saw Tory Shaun Bailey ridiculed by Mr Khan, Lib Dem Luisa Porritt and Green Sian Berry for his pledge to build “100,000 homes for £100,000”.

There were sparky exchanges as Mr Khan was forced to defend his five years in office and Mr Bailey found himself criticised for the Tory government’s alleged lack of investment in the capital.

ITV London hustings: Sadiq Khan and Luisa PorrittITV London
ITV London hustings: Sadiq Khan and Luisa PorrittITV London

On housing, Mr Khan was challenged by host Charlene White that London was “nowhere near” the 49,000 target.

Mr Khan admitted: “No we’re not.”

He blamed “successive governments” and said the matter was “personal to me” as he grew up on a council estate.

Mr Khan was given £4.82 billion by the Government to start 116,000 affordable homes by 2022, a deadline that has been extended by a year due to the pandemic.

City Hall data shows that 12,555 affordable homes were started in 2017/18, 14,544 in 2018/19, 17,256 in 2019/20 and 4,468 between April and December last year – a total of 48,823, of which 4,688 have been council homes.

In each of the three complete years, Mr Khan has only narrowly exceeded the annual target he agreed with Government.

Mr Khan said: “Last year we began building more council homes than any year since 1983. Last year we also began building more homes with a social rent – 7,000 – than in the entire eight years of Boris Johnson being mayor.

“Three years ago we began building 12,500 affordable homes, the next year 14,500, last year 17,000. We have broken records.”

But Ms Porritt, who wants to convert offices left empty by people working from home into flats, said: “What has been happening so far hasn’t been working. The current mayor has only started half of the affordable homes he promised back in 2016, despite record grants from the Government to deliver housing.”

Ms Berry said: “Polling shows that people don’t think the current mayor is doing enough on housing. I do agree.”

Mr Bailey said: “The biggest failing we have seen in London, where we need the big fresh start, is in housing.”

ITV hustings: Shaun Bailey and Sian BerryITV London
ITV hustings: Shaun Bailey and Sian BerryITV London

But Mr Bailey’s 100,000 homes plan, which would require low-income Londoners to raise a £5,000 deposit, was mocked by Mr Khan, who asked whether the seemingly unachievable pledge would also be delivered in “100 days”.

Ms Porritt asked Mr Bailey: “Who is going to be able to afford your homes?”

Mr Bailey accused Mr Khan of being “absent” at the beginning of the pandemic. He said the key to restoring the capital’s economy was ensuring the return of customers. “We need to be driven by data so we can reopen London.”

Ms Porritt said there was a need to “embrace” the rise in online shopping and more people working from home to convert some empty office space into homes.

Ms Berry proposed a “basic income” – of about £10,000 a year for three years – to “help kick-starts some young careers”. Her manifesto proposes a pilot scheme involving about 1,000 Londoners.

Ms White put it to Mr Khan that, excluding the year of the pandemic, crime had risen by 18 per cent in London in his time in office.

Mr Khan replied: “The causes of crime are quite complex. Deprivation, alienation, the lack of opportunity are all factors. I’m not excusing crime, but they are factors. What doesn’t help is 11 years of austerity.”

He said there were almost 1,000 more Met police officers than five years ago. “Youth violence has gone down, violent knife injury for under 25s has gone down, moped-enabled crime has gone down, burglary has gone down, homicide has gone down, gun crime has gone down.”

He said the Met had more black officers than in its history and said he aimed for 40 per cent of recruits next year to be from a BAME background.

But Ms Porritt said: “I’m afraid Sadiq is not going to reach that 40 per cent target, because he has only got to 3.3 per cent. How are we going to get to that point by next year?

“Part of the reason why recruitment isn’t working is a lot of people from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities feel the police is not for them.”

Ms Berry said: “We haven’t learned the lessons from the Stephen Lawrence case. Every time I look at the data, it shows that the police are using force disproportionately against ethnic minorities.

“Too many families don’t get the justice they deserve. We have to have a massive conversation about the principles of policing by consent, to restore that.”

Speaking to the Standard after the debate, Ms Berry said she was referring in particular to the deaths of the sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman in Wembley last year and the “disproportionate” use of tasers, spit hoods and coronavirus laws on black Londoners.

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