Last night I attended a Property Week/Olswang/CPA sponsored debate as 1 of 4 panellists, alongside Steve Norris (ex-London Mayor Candidate), Chris Taylor (President of British Property Federation) and Professor Tony Travers (Director of LSE London).
We were debating what needs to change in London under a new mayor.
From the opinions shared, it became obvious to me that we are in for one of the most interesting political battles we have seen for a long time. It is highly likely this will be a 2 horse race; white wealthy public school boy versus British Muslim – Right versus Left.
However, this does not tell the full story because we have yet to see how brave either candidate will be on new policy and the resulting execution. This is important, because whilst Boris Johnson has had plenty of charisma, been pro-business and has taken an active involvement in calling in planning permissions, he is likely to leave office, after two terms, without leaving a lasting legacy. Will this happen again or can Goldsmith or Khan implement a stronger constitution and legacy to follow.
Last night there were 3 main areas of debate:
- Housing supply shortage – this has got to such a critical stage that businesses are now being put off London because they cannot guarantee their talent a reasonable living offer. You know things are serious when blue chip firms are providing rental accommodation as part of their graduate offering – a sure sign of a hugely dysfunctional housing market. Both candidates are already promising that they will double the housing supply to 50,000 new homes per year but Tony Travers, alongside others in the market made a clear argument that both are over promising – it will take time and drastic measures to unlock housing supply in London.
- Mayoral powers – a unanimous view across the panel that the powers of the mayor need to be increased, particularly around transport and skills
- Infrastructure – Crossrail Route 1 has effectively come for free for existing land owners. Most, but not all panel members, agreed that all stakeholders, including occupiers and landowners, have a responsibility to contribute to the cost of Crossrail 2.
Let’s hope this Mayoral Vote does not get distracted by the airport debate – this is not the area that a London Mayor can have most influence.
London (and any major city) is better off with a mayor. Whichever candidate wins, they should have more courage than Boris Johnson and focus on creating a city for people with less traffic, better trains, improved air quality and first-class retail/leisure amenities, oh…………..and yes, somewhere to live that is not so prohibitively expensive that we all have to move to the countryside. Who on earth would want that?!