MQT on 2019-03-21
Session date: 
March 21, 2019
Question By: 
Andrew Boff
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What is the biggest failing of your mayoralty?




Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thank you, Chairman.  I am immensely proud of what we have been able to achieve at City Hall since I became Mayor.  Our actions are already making a tangible difference to Londoners’ lives.  This includes starting to build record numbers of new social rent and council homes, giving residents and tenants the right to vote on estate regeneration projects, helping record numbers of homeless people by doubling City Hall’s outreach teams, making commuting more affordable by freezing all TfL fares and introducing an unlimited Hopper bus fare, getting the Night Tube and Night Overground up and running, reducing the number of strike days on the Tube by around 65%, tackling air pollution by cleaning up our bus and taxi fleets, creating Low Emission Bus Zones, setting up the most comprehensive air quality monitoring of any city in the world, and from next month introducing the world’s first ULEZ.  We are also tackling both crime and the causes of crime in the face of huge Government cuts by investing in the MPS Violent Crime Task Force, creating the VRU and establishing the £45 million Young Londoners Fund.


However, the past few years have not been easy for London.  We have had a series of terrorist attacks, the Sandilands tram crash and the awful Grenfell Tower fire, and have seen the increase in violent crime like the rest of England and Wales.  We have also seen continuing austerity from the Government that has damaged our public services, and the chaos of Brexit has caused real damage to our economy and our communities.  As Mayor, it can be extremely frustrating when I am unable to tackle some of the challenges we face due to inadequate funding or lack of powers.


For example, I am doing everything possible to tackle the rise of violent crime, but our hands are partially tied because of the Government’s continued cuts to the police and preventative services since 2010 and because we do not control many of the services that contribute to preventing crime from happening in the first place.  Similarly, we cannot go as fast as I want towards tackling the crisis in housing because the Government refuses to devolve the necessary powers and its funding for affordable housing in London.  It is still less than half of what it was in 2010.  We are also being held back on cleaning up London’s air because of the Government’s refusal to fund a diesel scrappage scheme or give Londoners control over emissions from the River Thames or construction.


All these problems have been made much worse by a Government that is been preoccupied on Brexit to the exclusion of other issues ever since I became Mayor.


We have also started, Chairman, to fix many of the failings of the last Mayor, which certain Assembly Members in this Chamber encouraged and supported, such as stopping new social homes from being built, allowing TfL fares to rise by 42%, wasting money on water cannons that were never used, a Garden Bridge that was never started, an Estuary Airport that did not go anywhere, a new Routemaster bus costing twice as much as regular double‑decker buses, and more than £700 million converting the Olympic Stadium to a loss‑making football stadium.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, thank you so much for that ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I could go on about my successes.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I am sure you could.


Andrew Boff AM:  You often do go on, Mr Mayor.  What I have asked for is your biggest failing.  Do you have one?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.


Andrew Boff AM:  The first issue that you mentioned, Mr Mayor, was that you claimed record numbers of social homes were being built.  You claimed that 12,526 GLA‑funded homes were started last year [2017/18] and that just meet the lower end of the target that you had agreed with the Government following on from the record amount of money that it had given you to build those homes.  Yet in January [2019] you responded to me that 1,256 of these homes ‑ 10% ‑ were actually restarts and not new starts at all.


Do you think, Mr Mayor, it would have been more honest for you to have reported the real figure of 11,270 to the Government and to Londoners?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Ours is the accurate figure.  I am just sorry that the previous Mayor had dodgy figures.  We have made sure the figures are correct.  The figures we have are record numbers of starts on affordable homes since these powers were devolved, more than 12,500.  A promise made; a promise delivered; record broken.


Andrew Boff AM:  Are you saying that your answer to me in January was factually wrong when you said to me that a total of 1,256 affordable homes started in the financial year 2017/18 were restarts from previous years?  Which is right: what you have just said or what you replied to me for that question?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have just said that the number of homes started under the previous Mayor was incorrect and they were taken off ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  I have not asked about that, Mr Mayor.  I have asked about restarts.  Have you included restarts in that figure of 12,526 GLA‑funded homes?  Have you included the over‑1,200 restarts?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The 12,500‑plus starts in that year [2017/18] are starts according to the Government’s criteria set by it.  That does include taking the dodgy figures from the previous Mayor’s year out from the previous Mayor, which were wrong and will not satisfy the criteria, and making sure we have those right.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, does your Housing Policy ‑ bearing in mind that it has failed to meet targets ‑ really spark joy for you?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I do not accept the premise that it has failed to meet its target.  The target was to break a record of 12,500.  That has been done.  The target is to start 116,000 homes by 2022.  We are on course to do that.  The target this year [2018/19] is to break that record again by starting 14,000 homes and I am hopeful and confident that by the end of April [2019] when we have the figures that we will have met that target as well.  Bearing in mind the ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, you are halfway through the year and halfway through the period of funding for the 116,000 homes that Londoners need.  We are halfway through that funding period and yet you have built less than a quarter of the homes that are required.  Is that a policy you are proud of, Mr Mayor?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am really proud of Londoners being able to finally afford to live in London rather than luxury penthouse flats being built and bought by foreigners to use as gold bricks for investment.  I am proud that we have ditched the dodgy definition of a home costing £450,000 being affordable when it is clearly not.  I am proud that the dodgy definition of homes that are 80% of market value being considered affordable has been dumped in the bin.  I am proud that my definition of affordable for a home that is either a council rent, a social rent, a London Living Rent or a home that is in shared ownership is leading to more homes being built with harder criteria.


By the way, in relation to percentage terms, we have made more progress this year [2018/19] in relation to starts than last year [2017/18] at this stage and last year we met the target and broke it.  I am confident and hopeful that this year we can do the same.


Andrew Boff AM:  Do you think, Mr Mayor, when you next declare figures, you can do so without fiddling those figures to make it look like more?


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  No, that cannot be right.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, this is a very serious allegation made by an Assembly Member against officers who work so hard in this building.


Andrew Boff AM:  No, I made no allegations against officers whatsoever.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I would ask, Chairman, for that remark to be removed because he is basically criticising officers who cannot defend themselves and he should be ashamed of that.


Andrew Boff AM:  Not at all.  Mr Mayor, they are your figures.  They are your figures, Mr Mayor, and you have included 1,256 restarts to justify your housing --


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The officers cannot be here to defend themselves.  It is outrageous.  It is outrageous.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Mr Mayor, these figures are published in your name and so he must be referring to you.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I know it has become a habit of yours to defend Conservatives, but let me just explain the role of a chair.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  No, that is outrageous.  That is completely unacceptable, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am glad you find that unacceptable.  It is funny what you find unacceptable, is it not?


Len Duvall AM:  Point of order, Chairman.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Assembly Member Duvall.


Len Duvall AM:  If you are going to make rulings about whose figures they are, also can you remind the Assembly that they are the Government definitions?  That is the same argument that was put back in the past of why those figures were in order and they were corrected later on.  The Government determines how those figures are compiled, not the Mayor.  They may be in the Mayor’s name, but you also ought to make that ruling clear to this Assembly.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  OK, you have made your point.


Andrew Boff AM:  In that case, has the Government expressed concerns with you about the pace of development of your housing programme?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No, the Government has been really pleased that, for example, in the last year we had more starts for social rents than the rest of England put together.  We had more starts last year in relation to social rents than the previous four years put together.  The Government could learn a lot from London.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, I look forward to seeing the next release of figures and we will be going over them with a fine‑tooth comb to make sure ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I just say, Chairman?  The only people who are hoping that we do not build enough affordable homes are the Conservatives.  That is a disgrace.  They would rather for electoral reasons see housebuilding fail.  That is disgraceful.  They are willing us to fail.  How shocking that is.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, I would like you to cite where that has been the case because, if it were a Conservative Mayor, we would be building at least double what you are producing because you are spending more time on press releases and not enough time on delivering homes for London.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Here we go, Chairman.  I will tell you where that has been the case.  When it was the case that we set the target for 12,500 starts on genuinely affordable homes, not a dodgy definition, they said we could not do it and were willing us to fail.  We did it.  Rather than celebrating it, they are looking for holes to try to make out as if we did not do it.


Andrew Boff AM:  Mr Mayor, you are not answering the question.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  This year [2018/19] we have an even more stretching target of 14,000.  They say we cannot do it and they are willing us to fail.  You know what?  We are going to do it, we are going to celebrate it, and they are going to wish we had failed.  That is how shocking these Conservatives are.  They would rather see us failing than building homes Londoners so desperately need.  They should be ashamed.


Andrew Boff AM:  Yes, and indeed, Mr Mayor, figures will be massaged to try to justify your next press release.  Thank you very much, Chairman.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Again, Chairman, let me be clear.  Let me be clear, Chairman ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  No ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Well, that is a question.  Try to be impartial for five seconds, Chairman.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  That will do, Mr Mayor.


Steve O’Connell AM:  Point of order.  Can I just intercede?  I am actually ‑ unusually ‑ very irritated by the Mayor’s personal abuse against you as the Chairman.  In previous years when Jennette Arnold [OBE AM] chaired very ably, we never heard that sort of abuse towards the Chair.  I am shocked by this and I would like to go on record.  Mr Mayor will attack us and others perhaps if he chooses to, but not the Chairman of this Assembly.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I just wish Conservative colleagues defended the Speaker of the House like they defend you in this Assembly.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  How glad I am that I am not Mr Bercow [Speaker of the House of Commons].  Can we now please ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I think Labour MPs are glad you are not Mr Bercow as well.