State of London Debate

State of London Debate 2019

Last night, Age UK London attended the State of London Debate – a yearly opportunity for organisations and members of the public to put questions to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on issues close to their heart. Hosted by LBC’s James O’Brien, the event gave the chance to  about his handling of five main topic areas: transport, housing, safety, the environment, and London’s economy. Sadiq Khan was joined onstage by five of his Deputy Mayors, each representing one of the aforementioned topic areas.

The State of London Debate began with a brief speech from Sadiq Khan, outlining his tenure to date, and discussing his plans for the future. The Mayor emphasised his aim to make London a fairer city, whilst also acknowledging the difficulties the capital has faced in recent years – namely the recent rise in knife crime, the terror attacks of 2017, and the challenges posed by austerity and Brexit. The Mayor stated his desire to do more to improve the environment, to further tackle discrimination, and to do all he can to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The first topic area for the State of London Debate was crime. This led to a lengthy discussion of the current spate of knife crime incidents in London, with the Mayor questioned on police numbers, and the City of Glasgow’s strategy for stopping knife crime, which used a public health approach (something that that Mayor’s team aims to employ too). Sadiq Khan and Sophie Linden (Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime) emphasised that while they have worked with Glasgow to learn the lessons of their approach, there are key differences between the two cities that make it hard to replicate the process entirely. These differences include the size of London, the layout of the city across 32 boroughs, and the rise of social media – particularly the role it plays within gang conflicts.

Transport was next on the agenda at the State of London Debate. The topic began with a lengthy discussion on the age limit of black cabs between Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander and a representative from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association. There was also a question on the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which asked where all the money from the new scheme will go. Sadiq Khan was quick to point out that the £500m that ULEZ will raise has been ring-fenced for further campaigns to improve the environment and that the amount spent on improving London’s air quality was much higher than the money taken by ULEZ.

This led neatly onto the topic of the environment, where air quality again featured heavily, particularly in terms of the Mayor’s future plans. Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues explained that there are already plans to extend the Low Emissions Zone in 2020 and the ULEZ the year after. Shirley Rodrigues went on to state that many of the emissions problems (such as those cause by buildings) were beyond the Mayor’s control, but City Hall has been pushing the government to allow them to make changes here. The Mayor also announced that he is planning for the environment to be a key topic of the Mayoral Elections next year and that he wants to work with councils across London to reduce the city’s reliance on car travel.

State of London Debate.
The Mayor takes another question. (Left to Right: Rajesh Agrawal, Heidi Alexander, James Murray, Sophie Linden, and Sadiq Khan).

The discussion on housing began by focusing on the experiences of lodgers, who often miss out when changes to property law are made to improve the rights of tenants. Following this, James Murray (Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development) was left with the unenviable task of explaining exactly what “affordable” housing actually is, before calling for a vast increase in the amount of council housing available.

The last topic at the State of London Debate centred on London’s economy. Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal was unequivocal in his belief that a no-deal Brexit would greatly harm London and the country as a whole. He then elaborated further, arguing that London must remain open to immigration and that membership of the single market was vital for the UK’s economic security. When asked about the disconnect between London and the rest of the country, Rajesh Agrawal called for unity, stating that London is on the same side as the rest of the UK and that economic success for the capital spreads throughout the land.

There were also a number of questions that focussed on national and international politics, from Sadiq Khan’s reaction to Chris Williamson’s readmission to the Labour Party, to his recent public spat with Donald Trump. To get a full understanding of every answer, it’s well worth watching the full State of London Debate by clicking here. 

Unfortunately there wasn’t time for us to  on the night, but we have a number of questions on the welfare of older Londoners that we’d still like to put forward. They are as follows:

  1. Age UK research shows that 200,000 Older Londoners can go for up to a month without meeting a friend or neighbour – how will the Mayor make changes to London’s transport network to help alleviate the loneliness epidemic?
  2. Our research into the experiences of older private renters was titled “Living in Fear” – a direct quote from an older renter we spoke to. How will the Mayor protect the welfare of older private renters and ensure they can live with dignity in a suitable home?
  3. The paid work of older Londoners contributes £47 Billion to London’s economy each year and that’s before we take caring responsibilities, child care and volunteering into account. Do you acknowledge this fantastic contribution of older people to the life and economy of London and what are you and your team doing to build on this?
  4. The BBC has recently announced its decision to means-test the free TV Licence. Does the Mayor agree with this decision or does he agree with Age UK that the TV licence should remain free for everyone aged 75+?

Although we didn’t get chance to  on the night, we will continue to challenge the Mayor and his team to help make London a truly Age Friendly City. We have tweeted these questions to the Mayor’s team and will also submit them via the online portal. We will be sure to post an update to this blog if we do receive a response. In the meantime, we will be continuing with out campaigning work to ensure that London is a city that is suitable for people of all ages. To find out more about our campaign for an Age Friendly London, head to!

George Harvey

George is Age UK London's Communications and Campaigns Officer.

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