In the fifteen years since five million Londoners chose Ken Livingstone as their first directly-elected mayor, Greater London has been transformed.
The capital’s population has grown by one-fifth, and today London’s reputation as a global centre for finance and business is complemented by world-class universities, a rapidly expanding visitor economy, and growing tech, creative industries and life sciences.
While our city’s success looks more assured than at previous mayoral elections, its growing pains are becoming harder to ignore. House building has lagged behind household growth, and prices have spiralled out of reach for many Londoners as inequality increases. Population growth is placing pressure on workspace and infrastructure. On top of this, the chancellor’s Spring Budget tomorrow is rumoured to bring further fiscal cutbacks on public services.
It is against this backdrop that on the 5 May, London will vote for a new mayor. The next Mayor of London will need to respond to the changes taking place in the city, and bring new ideas to ensure that London’s transformation doesn't stagnate and falter.
In Keeping the Promise: A Manifesto for London, Centre for London sets out a series of creative and radical solutions to make sure the city’s resources can cope under these pressures. In it we argue that the new mayor will have to tackle the conventional thinking - particularly around green belt, housing density and roads - which is currently threatening London’s future success.
There are five key areas which are currently being overlooked by the candidates. These changes should be at the top of the new mayor’s to do list:
Take a more strategic, pan-London approach to low income housing and create balanced, mixed-income communities by pooling developer contributions and using them to maximise the supply of affordable housing by building in less expensive areas. The new mayor should also find space for more homes in existing neighbourhoods, and push for higher density development around stations.
2. Go green
Review London’s green belt, to allow for carefully planned development while enhancing and improving the green belt’s environmental functions.
Introduce city wide road pricing and promote car sharing, to reduce congestion and air pollution, and create better public spaces for walking and cycling.
4. Share some more
Create a more open and technologically engaged London government, and turn London into a ‘sharing city’ - to enhance civic participation and embrace the problem solving potential of technology.
5. Fight for more power
Launch a London-wide campaign for devolution, to lobby government to give the GLA greater power over schools, rail services, and decision making.
With no incumbent standing, this will be the first election in sixteen years where London is guaranteed to get a new mayor, and so a fresh start. The new Mayor of London will need to make tough decisions on transport, affordable housing and new development, to meet the needs of current and future Londoners and cope with the growing pressures on the city. But the key to his or her success will be bringing Londoners along with them.