We asked the four candidates who attended our Hustings if they would write a blog post for older Londoners. Here, we have the first of these pieces, from Caroline Pidgeon, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group.
It is often said that London is a young city.
And it is certainly true that London has more young people than many other parts of the country. London is a place where many young people come to study and to work.
However as the Age UK London manifesto rightly points out, within London there are already 2.2 million people aged 50 and over.
And London has almost a million people aged 65 or over.
Most importantly this population is increasing. Within just a few years there will be more Londoners age 65 or over than the whole population of Birmingham.
People are not moving out of the city in the numbers they may have done in previous decades, particularly when they started a family. Many people stay in London throughout their careers and often into retirement as well.
I have the experience London needs. As a Liberal Democrat on the London Assembly, I have been holding the current Mayor to account for eight years. I have been working day in, day out for Londoners at City Hall and have seen first-hand the challenges we face, including those for London’s older population.
I can confirm that I support Age UK London’s proposals and suggestions for making London a better place for older people.
Let me touch on a few issues.
In terms of housing, London has a growing population and it also has a huge problem of a lack of affordable housing. Private rents have soared in recent years and the ability to buy a home is just a dream for many young people at present. I know this is a huge concern for many parents and grandparents.
The only solution to solving London’s housing crisis is to increase the supply of all types of homes. I have a costed plan to do just that by continuing the Olympic Council Tax precept as a Housing precept. If Londoners elect me as Mayor I will have the mandate to set a new budget, reversing the current Mayor’s plans, ensuring we have the funding stream for an Olympic effort to build the homes that London needs with a £2 billion fund.
As part of my home building, I will use the London Plan to ensure that we build homes which are accessible and attractive for older people. Detailed information can be seen here.
In terms of digital issues, I think the manifesto quite rightly highlights the need for digital inclusion. It is very easy to forget just how rapidly the world has changed. Just thirty years ago people were still using electronic typewriters in many offices. In fact I learnt to type at school on an old manual typewriter!
It is absolutely right that we need to ensure that communication is routinely available through non-digital channels, whilst also ensuring computer training is available to help older people to gain the basic skills and confidence to use a computer and have full access to digital services.
And of course, transport – so important in allowing people to enjoy their lives. I 100 per cent support the Freedom Pass as it stands – with no means testing. I also want TfL to take over running suburban national rail services in London, not only to get a better service for passengers, but also to allow older people to have a genuinely 24 hour Freedom Pass wherever you live in London.
I have been a strong campaigner on the issue of accessibility of transport from step free access at stations and bus stops, to the importance of dial-a-ride and enough time to cross the road at pedestrian crossings. For more information on my record on access issues I hope this article for Disability Talk UK is useful.
Finally, your manifesto calls for the appointment of a Mayoral Adviser to ensure London is more Age Friendly. I fully support this proposal. London’s 1 million and growing population of pensioners deserve nothing less.