Lack of access to affordable housing, to rent or buy, is a huge problem across London, but is particularly acute in Kensington, where the average house price is over £1.5 million. Kensington and Chelsea Council recently came fifth from bottom in a national survey conducted by the charity Shelter on the demand for affordable homes in every area in Britain.
Labour changed the rules to allow councils to build using income earned from housing sales. It is committed to bringing all housing up to the Decent Homes standard. We have a world leading commitment to all new homes being zero carbon by 2016 and a massive programme of support for ‘retro fitting’ to make millions of existing homes energy efficient.
How does this compare with the Tories? Just look at neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham, where the Conservative council are experimenting with new forms of Thatcherite social policy. The council leader has called for the ‘tearing down the Berlin Wall of varying tenure and rent levels that operates between the private rented and social rented sectors.’
What this means in practice is an attack on the housing security of over 8 million people who could see their security of tenure reduced to just two months. Labour councillors in Kensington are fighting to make sure that the ‘regeneration’ of our social housing leads to real improvements for tenants, not the top-down imposition we have seen in plans for Wornington Green.
Sam Gurney, Labour‘s candidate in the 2010 general election, writes:
In 1997 one of Labour’s central messages was that a vote for Labour would help secure the future of the NHS. I could quote a barrage of statistics showing how investment has doubled, waiting lists have fallen and doctors’ surgeries are open longer hours, but I’d rather give a personal example.
I have a condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis – a degenerative back condition. When I was first diagnosed back in 2001 treatment consisted of pain killers and anti-inflammatories, and dealing with the worst flair-ups as best you could. Over the last 9 years, thanks to the NHS, treatment has improved massively. A new drug has been rolled out removing the pain almost totally (and it is delivered free to my door), I have a direct number for my rheumatology nurse, I see the consultant at more regular intervals and the hospital I attend has received much needed refurbishment.
Obviously an organisation as large as the NHS is always a work in progress. Issues about access to treatment remain, individual health trusts have shown failings of management and the contracting out of cleaning services has exacerbated problems with MRSA. But overall I am convinced that what Labour promised has been largely delivered.
In Kensington and our immediate surrounding area we have some wonderful NHS facilities from community hospitals like St Charles to global leaders in medical research like the Royal Marsden. Despite Tory claims that the NHS would be safe in their hands you just have to look at interventions by senior Tories like Daniel Hannan in the healthcare debate in the USA to see the thinking that lies behind their election rhetoric.
We are still facing tough economic times, but look back at the economic situation faced by Britain in the post war period when Nye Bevan and the Labour government established the NHS. Politics is always about choices and for Labour the provision of a universal healthcare system, free at the point of use, will always remain a top priority.
The economic crisis has been tough on Kensington, but the Labour government put forward the right policies to protect ordinary people from its worst effects. In the last two years, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has:
- Coordinated a global response to prevent a meltdown in the banking sector
- Introduced measures to save 500,000 jobs that would otherwise have been lost
- Set up a £1 billion Future Job Fund to create 170,000 employment opportunities for 18-24 year olds
- Prevented mass house repossession by creating new laws to ensure homes would be repossessed as a last measure only
- Maintained spending on public services such as schools, hospitals and policing
It is true that all of this required a substantial increase in public borrowing, and it is clear that the deficit should be cut dramatically in the next few years. It is my belief that the Labour Party is best equipped to reduce the public debt in a way that will protect key public services and ensure that society’s most vulnerable members do not suffer disproportionately.
Britain needs a fair future for all, not a reversion to the divisive policies of the Conservatives. Cameron and Osborne seem to think that their failed solutions to the recessions of the 80s and 90s would somehow have worked for us in the 21st century. They talk about the need for massive cuts whilst planning new tax breaks for the super rich, many of whom are the bankers who helped to cause the crisis in the first place.
Our task now is clear: we must build a secure and sustainable economic future for Britain. We can achieve this through strengthening key public services, promoting systems of progressive taxation, continuing to reform our financial system, and creating jobs with a green new deal.
The lack of access to affordable housing is a huge problem in Kensington. When I finished university I knew my chances of moving back to North Kensington were virtually nil. Kensington and Chelsea Council recently came fifth from bottom in a national survey conducted by the charity Shelter on the demand for affordable homes in every area in Britain.
Shelter estimate that the Council should have built 3,663 new affordable homes last year to meet the requirements of its latest Strategic Housing Market Assessment. The Council built 100.
The Labour government has improved over 1.5 million council houses since 1997, and has committed to building at least 112,000 more over the next two years.
If elected I will work with our labour councillors to ensure that:
- Empty properties are brought back into use
- All new developments contain the maximum possible numbers of affordable homes
- The regeneration of our estates means real improvements for the people who live there, not knocking them down and replacing them with a majority of flats and houses for private sale, as plans for the Wornington Green Estate currently seem to entail.
Our Labour government has made massive strides in making the NHS a service that is fit for the 21st century. As someone who suffers from a degenerative back condition I have benefitted personally from these improvements over the last decade. Waiting lists have been cut, treatment made more efficient and effective, and infrastructure improved. St Charles Hospital is a first class example of a facility that was once scheduled for closure and is now an £11 million Community Hospital.
Much, however, remains to be done. It is simply unacceptable that life expectancy in North Kensington remains 10 years less on average than in the South. The next Labour government has already set its priorities on improving support for those diagnosed with cancer with personalised care and treatment service including dedicated home nursing care.
Crime and the fear of crime are two very separate issues that we must address in two very different ways.
Under Labour crime has fallen substantially. During the recession of the early 1990s burglary, robbery and theft rose by 19%, whereas during the current crisis burglary has actually fallen by 8%, and other crimes – including violent assault – have also decreased substantially.
Of course it is true that some very serious issues, such as knife crime among teenagers and the very low percentage of successful rape prosecutions, need to be addressed in new and innovative ways, but cutting the number of police on our streets – as Mayor Boris Johnson is proposing – is certainly not the answer.
I simply don’t believe the Tory rhetoric about ‘Broken Britain’ and abhor the culture of fear they are trying to create. Since 1997 the number of police officers on the beat in London has increased by over 4000, and the introduction of community support officers and designated neighbourhood safety teams has meant that the police are now much more present within and accessible to our communities.
Social Care and Pensions:
Providing financial security and the highest quality of care and support for people in retirement must be at the heart of any progressive government’s policy aims. I am proud that 900,000 pensioners have been lifted out of poverty since 1997, and that pensioner households are now £1500 better off on average per year than in they were in 1997.
I am proud of what we’ve accomplished, but know there is much still to do. I believe that we must restore the link between state pensions and earnings in order to ensure that pensioner poverty is eliminated throughout the UK. We must also do more to protect basic pension provision in both the public and private sectors.
Everyone needs to contribute to a workable system that will ensure we can all enjoy a good standard of living during retirement. Labour’s plans for a new national care service to ensure consistent, high quality and affordable social care show that we still have the vision and ability to deliver for all older citizens.
It is my firm belief that if we want to build a more fair and equal society we must first of all build a high-quality public education system. The results of Labour’s massive increase in spending on education – spending per pupil has doubled since 1998 – can be seen across Kensington in the form of reduced class sizes, increased numbers of teachers and support staff and new and improved school buildings. Additionally, more people in Kensington than ever are going on to study at universities and other higher education institutions due to Labour Government investment in education.
Labour is ensuring that new technology is being harnessed in our schools to facilitate new methods of teaching, and that measures are being put in place to make sure that all pupils can benefit from increased spending on education. The government recently introduced a £300 million scheme to make sure kids in low income home have access to computers and broadband.
I believe that the project to rebuild my old secondary Holland Park should take place in full consultation with students and parents to ensure that there is minimum disruption to the education of current pupils and that North Kensington is left with a quality school with a non-selective intake.
Jobs and Workplace Rights:
As a former union organiser and a current member of the governing body of the United Nations International Labour Organisation, I believe that the best way to tackle poverty is to ensure that people have access to work. Policies designed to help secure full employment that pays a living wage must be at the heart of the manifesto of any progressive party. I am proud of our accomplishments in this area.
Labour has introduced the national minimum wage, which was opposed by Tories and Lib Dems; increased basic holiday provision to a minimum of four weeks; improved maternity and paternity pay and leave entitlement; removed the worst restrictions on peoples ability to organise themselves into unions; and made it easier for people to start their own businesses and foster enterprise.
I am, however, concerned that there has been an increase in insecure employment as many people have been forced into short term contracts, and I find the growth in the gap between the salaries of the richest 1% and the rest of society completely unacceptable. That is why I am calling for:
- A High Pay Commission to look into the culture of excessive remuneration and bonuses at the very top of our economy
- A London Living Wage building on the existing minimum wage
- The immediate implementation of polices to finally end the gender pay gap and ensure that men and women get equal pay for work of equal value
I also believe that the next Labour government should build on the steps we have already taken to rebuild our manufacturing base by creating more ‘green jobs’ and building a high tech, low carbon economy.
As someone who commutes daily I can complain about London’s transport infrastructure with the best of them, but I also know that real improvements have been made in the last few years, mostly due to the work and policies of our former Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Bus services in Kensington have improved dramatically- the new 228 bus (the first ever to go up Ladbroke Grove!) is a great example. Better and more accessible buses and cheaper fares have lead to a London-wide increase in bus use of 8% a year since 2001, making the government well on target to achieve their 10% increase in bus use between 2001 and 2011.
The Cross Rail project will be one of the major infrastructure legacies of this government and I am very keen to see a station serving North Kensington so that our area can take full advantage of the benefits it will bring.
As your MP I would continue to campaign for improvements to existing tube and train links serving the constituency. I would also work to reverse Boris Johnson’s decision not to make Latimer Road and Ladbroke Grove stations fully accessible for wheel chair users.
I have seen first hand the impact of British development assistance in many countries, and I know the effect it can have on peoples’ lives. I am very proud of the strides made by Labour to ensure that the UK is one of the few countries that is on course to meet the United Nations target of 0.7% of gross domestic income (GNI) contributed to overseas development assistance. In order to build on this work, Labour should:
- Make the United Nations target number legally binding
- Enhance the effectiveness of the aid we are giving
- Introduce a financial transaction tax (Robin Hood Tax) and use the revenue raised to fund more international development and tackle climate change
Environment and Climate Change:
Climate change is undoubtedly one the greatest threats that we face today. Our Labour government has led the way on highlighting that global warming is a man made phenomenon and one that all countries across the world must work together to prevent.
I support firm targets for action to ensure temperature increases remain below 2c. We must take steps now to ensure that 15% of all energy used in the UK by 2020 will come from renewable sources, and reduce our carbon emissions by 34% by 2020.
Just as with the financial crisis, Labour recognises this is not an issue that can be dealt with completely at the national level. I believe the EU has a central role to play in working with other nations and multilateral group to achieve meaningful global action.
At a local level in London we have to go further to meet environmental targets. The increase in recycling over the last 10 years has been impressive, and now with government support for programmes to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses – such as the boiler scrappage scheme – we are making major progress to reduce household emissions whilst creating new jobs.
Culture and Sport:
Under Labour we have seen the introduction of free entry to major museums across the country. This is particularly relevant to Kensington as some of the country’s greatest museums are located in our constituency.
Winning the 2012 Olympics is a huge boost for sport in London. We have some great facilities in Kensington, such as the West Way Sports Centre, but we need to do more to facilitate and encourage the growth of community sports programmes such as the Wornington Green football club.