We asked the four candidates who attended our Hustings if they would write a blog post for older Londoners. Here, we have the second of these pieces, from Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston.
Older Londoners contribute immeasurably to our capital’s success. As entrepreneurs and employees, you add almost £50 billion to London’s economy. But even more importantly, older people provide the ties that bind Londoners together, whether as grandparents helping with childcare, or as volunteers supporting our communities. For me, it is crystal clear that Londoners owe a debt to the parents and grandparents that support us.
As an MP, I was proud to vote through the pensions Triple Lock. This has seen the State Pension increase by £800 since 2010. And I was also proud to support Universal Benefits, such as the Winter Fuel Payment. Everyone deserves dignity and security in their old age. But there is much more I want to do for older citizens as Mayor of London, and I welcome the Age UK London manifesto.
My Action Plan will deliver more homes, better transport, safer streets and a cleaner environment.
Housing is my number one priority. Prices in London are now so out of kilter with wages that Londoners of all income levels are struggling to get on the housing ladder; and the homes being built don’t always match the kind of homes we need, from family homes to, as your manifesto rightly points out, the severe lack of Sheltered Accommodation.
I want older Londoners to be sure of a comfortable home in retirement. But, just as importantly, I want you to live side by side with your children and grandchildren. There is only one lasting solution to London’s housing crisis – and that is close the gap between what we are building and what we need.
That’s why I have committed to double house-building to 50,000 a year. I’ll get there by holding developers to account to ensure they build the maximum number of affordable homes; by working with the Government to release publicly-owned land so those homes can be built, and by growing the transport network to unlock new sites for development by connecting up remote land to the rest of London by rail and tube. Crossrail 2 alone would make over 200,000 homes possible.
My second priority is closely linked with the first: keeping London moving by protecting transport investment. Our transport system has to handle 24 million journeys every day – and London’s population is growing by the equivalent of two new tube trains a week. It’s why I am standing against Labour candidate Sadiq Khan’s proposals to take £1.9 billion out of the transport budget.
His plans would mean more overcrowding, less money to spend on Step Free Access, and it would put the over-60s Freedom Pass at risk – a priority issue in your Manifesto, and a priority for me too. As Mayor, I will guarantee the Freedom Pass, and I will protect investment in those vital transport upgrades, including Step Free Access.
Third, I am committed to building a safer London for Londoners of all ages. Your manifesto rightly called for “more visible, accessible and approachable policing.” I will deliver that as Mayor. I will safeguard Neighbourhood Policing, keep police numbers above 32,000 and ensure police are out on the streets where the public want to see them. I will also put more police on public transport to reassure all Londoners given the escalating threats we face. And I will tackle the root causes of crime in our communities, investing in prevention work and getting tough with the most dangerous individuals.
Lastly, I want older citizens to enjoy a cleaner, greener London. Air pollution is cutting short the lives of too many Londoners – equivalent to 10,000 deaths a year – with the elderly hit hardest. So I will clean up London’s air by supporting solar power, getting dirty HGVs off our roads and delivering a revolution in electric cars. I will also expand and enhance our precious network of green spaces, and will absolutely defend our magnificent green belt.
I’ve kept my promises as a local MP. It’s why at the last election my constituents rewarded me with the biggest increased majority of any sitting MP. Now, as a mayoral candidate, I’ve been working round the clock to get things done for London.
When the police budget was threatened with cuts, I took a stand to protect it. I’ve stood up to union bosses, changing the law so a strike can only go ahead if it has clear support from ordinary union members.
I’ve been able to deliver because unlike my Labour rival, I’m prepared to sit down and work with this Government. In a system where the Chancellor controls 93 percent of London’s funding, the next mayor has to be able to make deals with David Cameron and George Osborne.
London is the greatest city in the world. As Mayor I will make it the most age-friendly too.