Housing for Key Workers

Meeting: 
MQT on 2014-12-17
Session date: 
December 17, 2014
Reference: 
2014/5268
Question By: 
Nicky Gavron
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

The London Ambulance Service has 250 vacancies and is struggling to recruit staff due to the high cost of housing. How are you going to provide homes in London that are affordable for workers providing key services?

Answer

Answer for Housing for Key Workers

Answer for Housing for Key Workers

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  Thank you, Nicky.  You have asked about the ambulance service and its difficulty in recruiting paramedics, particularly, and obviously we are, insofar as housing is the problem - and it is only a part of the problem - as you know, delivering huge numbers of affordable homes.  We will deliver 100,000 low-cost homes over this mayoralty.  More homes are now being built in London than in any year since 1980, which is before any of us entered politics, Nicky.  That is an outstanding achievement by London government at all levels and indeed by the builders in London. 

 

We have a big First Steps plan to help people - and indeed we have already helped 42,000 low and middle income Londoners - get a foot on the property ladder and we are very ambitious to extend the part buy/part rent scheme.  The problems in the ambulance service are by no means all to do with housing.  There was also a huge failure in the training programmes.  I am sure Dr Sahota could confirm there was a failure to get enough paramedics coming through.  There has also been the phenomenon that the paramedics have been in many cases lured away before ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Can I just ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am just ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  OK, I accept it may not be the whole problem.  I just want to point out that you have been talking about supply now for six years and meanwhile we have an issue where it is not just about the recruitment of paramedics but it is also about the retention of them.  There has been quite a lot actually in the news recently just saying that whereas a few years ago we were losing or not retaining 80 a year, it is now 280.  I just wondered what you are going to do about that because these people are not eligible for the social housing you were talking about. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is right. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  They cannot possibly afford the part rent/part buy or the First Steps.  They are not in that income bracket.  What are you going to do about housing for London’s key workers? 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Sometimes they may well be eligible for the part rent/part buy schemes, actually.  That is not true.  They are just the kind of ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Darren Johnson [AM] did a report.  Just let me say Darren did a report ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Can I just say also that when you talk about retention you are right to focus on retention?  What has happened is there has been a change and Victoria [Borwick AM] will confirm this.  There has been a change in the way the paramedic qualification can be applied and what happened was a couple of years ago that it was widened so that paramedics could serve not just in the ambulance service but as paramedics at football matches or whatever.  Therefore, a huge number of them have gone off to do other things in perhaps less stressful environments and the result is ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  And to live closer to where they work. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  And perhaps a more lucrative way of being a paramedic. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Can I just take that?  OK. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What we have had is a failure of planning in the growth in the number of paramedics. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  The information was that although it is only part of the problem ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You asked what we are doing specifically.  I know that Ann Radmore [Chief Executive, LAS] and the LAS are now in the process of trying to recruit more paramedics, particularly from Australia, where ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Yes, I saw that. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- they have a ready supply.  Those are some of the things we are doing now to try to address the problem.  I would stress that the ambulance service, in spite of the great difficulties it is facing, is continuing to do a remarkable job.  Whenever I have had personal contact with them, they turn up incredibly quickly and they are wonderful. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  OK.  Fine.  Can I just move on to the recent report we had last week from the Royal College of Nursing? 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  The Royal College of Nursing showed that we now have a shortfall in the capital of 8,000 nurses and the reasons they gave were that it was mainly due to spiralling housing costs.  Let me just say that in October 2013 I asked you a question about key worker housing for nurses.  I said, “Do you not think that nurses should be able to live close to where they work?”  It is more or less the same with paramedics, too.  You said, “I do”.  Do you still think this? 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do.  I do, Nicky, and that is why we are building so many new affordable homes.  That is the objective.  It is whether we now have to consider specific tied housing for key workers in a way that we as a country moved away from over the last two decades, particularly under the Labour Government. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  You are considering tiered housing. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, I am not saying that.  I am saying that we need to look at it again and the arguments need to be rehearsed.  It may be ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Mayor, can I just say ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It may be ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Mayor, in 2008 ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- previous governments including the Labour Government ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Can I just say, Mayor ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- moved away from that decision.  The best answer ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  OK.  You have been moving away from it, too. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- is to build more affordable homes and ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Mayor, in 2008 you had the key worker category ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- the difficulty is ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  -- in your London Plan.  You came in and abolished it. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- that it is very, very hard ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  You abolished the key worker category in your London Plan.  I am speaking over you because you are not listening. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- to establish who is a key worker, who is indispensable and who is not indispensable.  There will be plenty of people ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  I am sorry, Mayor ‑‑

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- who say that they are absolutely vital. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  -- I am talking over you because you are not listening. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am just giving you the answer.  There are plenty ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  You have abolished the key worker category in your London Plan. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  There will be plenty of people ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  You have abolished it.  Why did you abolish it? 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  For the reason, as I ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Up until then, we had key worker housing.  You abolished it. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  For the reason that it is very difficult -- yes, if you just stop repeating yourself I will give you the answer. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Would you like to answer why you abolished it? 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, because it is very difficult to make a distinction between key workers and people who are not key workers and this can be an invidious distinction that ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Paramedics, nurses and people on shifts. 

 

Female Speaker:  It is pretty obvious[AH1] . 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- people find ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Pretty obvious, exactly. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- it hard to ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Paramedics, nurses and the people who keep this city safe and look after us. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Police officers. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  They are at risk. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Security guards. 

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  What are you going to do about it?  Have a policy. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Doctors.  

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Have a scheme.  Allocate some of your budget to it. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Hospital porters.  There is a very wide ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Boris, allocate some of your unallocated budget to key worker housing.  It is a growing crisis. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What you need to do is to build more affordable housing and that is what we are doing.  If you were to resort to the old solution that the Labour Government moved away from in the 1990s and in the early part of this century, which was the key worker system, you have raised all the issues that they encountered then and that was ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Allocate some of your budget to it. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- that it was invidious, it made no economic sense and it was impossible to determine who was a key worker and who was not.  What we need to do is ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  Rubbish. It is obvious who is a key worker. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- build more ‑‑

 

Nicky Gavron (AM):  I have finished. 

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  -- affordable homes and that is what we are doing, unlike the previous Labour administration. 

 [AH1]11:40:20