Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

MQT on 2016-05-25
Session date: 
May 25, 2016
Question By: 
Tony Arbour
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Mr Mayor, you will now provide an oral update of up to five minutes in length on matters occurring since the publication of your report, including the matters on which you have been specifically asked to comment.  


Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Good morning, everyone.  Good morning, Chairman.  First of all, can I offer you my congratulations on being selected by your fellow Assembly Members as the new Chairman of the Assembly.  I will try to keep to your strictures and keep the spontaneous banter to a minimum.


I would like to also take this opportunity to congratulate all 25 Assembly Members on being elected to the London Assembly.  I am aware that some of you are seasoned veterans and others, like me, are new to this Chamber and new to the Assembly.


I would like to make it clear that I fully appreciate the vital role that the Assembly plays in holding the Mayor to account, investigating important issues and making recommendations to the Mayor and the Government in order to improve the lives of Londoners.  I look forward to - genuinely - working with you all to make London a better place to live, work and visit.  I also want to assure both Assembly Members and Londoners that I will do my best to answer Mayor’s Questions the best that I can.


However, this being my first Mayor’s Question Time (MQT), I would also like to ask for your patience.  I hope you will appreciate that I am still in the process of shaping many of my policies and appointing my team.  Therefore, I may not be able to answer each and every question in a manner that fully satisfies you at the moment.  However, I promise you that I will give it my best.


Mr Chairman, as you all know, I am delighted to have appointed Assembly Member Joanne McCartney as my statutory Deputy Mayor for London.


Over the last few days I have made some further appointments to my team, pending Assembly Confirmation Hearings and approval by the relevant boards.  Valerie Shawcross CBE, whom many of you know from her years on the Assembly, has been appointed as my Deputy Mayor for Transport; Sophie Linden as my Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, subject to a Confirmation Hearing by the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee; Assembly Member Fiona Twycross as Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, subject to a Confirmation Hearing by the London Assembly; Lord Andrew Adonis as Chair of Crossrail 2, pending approval by the Transport for London (TfL) Board; and James Murray as Deputy Mayor for Housing.


I would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the full extent of London’s housing crisis.  On 16 May 2016, whilst visiting the Landmark Court site in Southwark, I revealed that my audit of City Hall’s preparedness to tackle the housing crisis showed that the previous Mayor left the cupboard bare when it comes to delivering affordable housing in the city.  The audit revealed the shocking scale of the challenge I now face to tackle the housing crisis.  It showed affordable home delivery at a near standstill.  Last year, the previous Mayor delivered the lowest number of new affordable homes since current records began in 1991 - just 4,880 - and left a legacy of just 13% affordable homes coming through planning permission.


There is an acute construction skills crisis with annual construction apprenticeship starts in London averaging just 7% of the national total and with a total of 100,000 planned apprenticeship starts missed during the previous Mayor’s second term.


There is a flawed process of identifying public land for homes.  As I revealed, the previous Mayor’s work to produce a digital ‘Domesday Book’ of public land in fact includes scores of sites that will never be built on, including City Hall, 10 Downing Street and the British Museum.  Landmark Court in Southwark, which is owned by TfL, is one example of public land that I believe is ripe for building new homes on; at least 120 in this case.  I have pledged to build many new homes on land owned by City Hall, including TfL land, and I intend to fast-track scores of sites like Landmark Court that are suitable for development but were not utilised by the previous Mayor.


I would, Chairman, like to take the opportunity to update you on my pledge to ensure safer and easier cycling for all Londoners.  On 20 May 2016 I launched an incentives scheme to encourage London’s business to get their staff cycling by announcing that businesses that sign up to a new Santander Cycles business account before 1 July 2016 will receive a 10% discount.  Following a successful pilot scheme, the initiative, which offers easy cycle hire access, is now being targeted at businesses across the capital to encourage their employees to cycle to and from their offices or meetings.


I also reaffirm my commitment to make cycling safer and easier for every Londoner as I begin scrutinising major plans for three new Cycle Superhighways and the transformation of key junctions in the heart of the capital.  The first completed consultations I am considering are the North-South Cycle Superhighway phase 2, a 1.5-mile extension from Stonecutter Street to King’s Cross; East-West Cycle Superhighway phase 2, a 4.5-mile extension from Paddington to Acton via the Westway; Cycle Superhighway 11 from Swiss Cottage to the West End, a 2.5-mile route from Swiss Cottage to Portland Place; the Hammersmith Gyratory, Better Junctions; and Highbury Corner, Better Junctions.


Mr Chairman, I will now respond to two oral update requests from Assembly Members.  The first one is from Assembly Member Eshalomi.  May I congratulate her on winning her seat.


From the point at which I became Mayor, it was quite clear that it would cost Londoners more to cancel the Garden Bridge than it would to finish building it.  It is, therefore, in the financial interests of London’s taxpayers to complete the Garden Bridge.  I will be transparent with Londoners.  A total of £60 million in public funding has been pledged, £30 million from TfL by the previous Mayor and £30 million from the Government.  Of the £30 million pledged by TfL, £20 million is in the form of a loan to be repaid in full.  Of the £60 million of total public funding, £37.7 million has already been spent by the Garden Bridge Trust, £24.25 million of which came from TfL and £13.45 million from the Government.


If we were to cancel the project today, that full amount would have been spent for no benefit at all to Londoners.  However, if we complete the Garden Bridge, not only will TfL be repaid the £20 million loan by the Garden Bridge Trust, but it will also pay roughly £22 million in value added tax (VAT) to the Government.  That would leave an ultimate cost to the taxpayer of £18 million for completing the Garden Bridge, significantly less than the £37.7 million cost of cancelling it now.  Clearly, it is in the financial interests of London and United Kingdom (UK) taxpayers to complete the Garden Bridge.


However, in return for my continued support for the project, I have insisted that the Garden Bridge Trust makes a series of amendments to its plans.  I expect that the Bridge will be closed on fewer days each year for private fundraising events and for fewer hours.  I want a guarantee that an ongoing programme of visits will be laid on for local schoolchildren.  The Trust must also look to build a strong working relationship with parks from all over our city so that seeds and plants grown on the Garden Bridge can then be replanted in parks across the capital.


There is a second oral update request from Assembly Member Prince.  May I also congratulate him on his election to Havering and Redbridge.  This is on the Night Tube.


I am delighted that the Night Tube service will launch on 9 August 2016 with the Central and Victoria lines running throughout the night, followed by the Piccadilly, Jubilee and Northern lines later in the autumn.  This means, Assembly Member Prince, Londoners in Redbridge will be some of the first to benefit from this vital service.  Unlike my predecessor, who announced the launch of the Night Tube on three occasions, I am committed to getting things done and improving the lives of all Londoners.  The Night Tube will mean a 24-hour weekend service for the first time in London’s history, helping to cut night-time journeys by an average of 20 minutes, with some cut by more than an hour.  It will also play a vital role in opening up London’s night-time economy to a host of new opportunities, supporting around 2,000 permanent jobs and boosting London’s economy by £360 million.  Most importantly, it will help shift workers and late-night revellers, who currently have to rely on night buses or minicabs to get back to outer London after the Tube shuts down.  That I have managed to agree a date for this crucial service to London’s future prosperity just goes to highlight how important it is to work with all Londoners, including trade unions.  Londoners need both sides to talk and resolve their differences.