Mike Tuffrey interviewed at The Guardian

Over on Dave Hill’s London Blog at The Guardian, there’s an interview with London assembly member Mike Tuffrey. The piece touches on a whole range of interesting topics and is well worth a read, but here’s a short extract in the meantime:

Lack of ambition, in his view, has marked the first eleven years of mayoral rule. He credits Boris with engendering lots of small scale activity but, “When I stand back and ask what it really adds up to, I only give him five out of ten.” He thinks Ken Livingstone’s terms came up short too. “We have a monumental housing crisis. There’s 360,000 people on the waiting lists. Private rents went up 17 percent in the last quarter of last year, which is a sign of shortage. We’re becoming a city where only the very rich or very poor can actually afford to live. I don’t see how anything that’s been done from here has had any real impact on that.

“It’s one of the ironies that in this great world business centre we’ve got a higher percentage of unemployed people than any other region – ten or twelve percent. We have a health crisis – there’s a statistic that says life expectancy drops by ten years in the space of three stops on the Jubilee Line. On all the indicators, it is pretty scandalous. But what have we had out of the GLA over those ten years or so? Very little impact if you track back. We have not, as a city, risen to the challenges that face us.”

The standard response to such an argument is that the Mayor and Assembly have always lacked sufficient powers. But Tuffrey invests high hopes in the new levers London Mayors will soon have to hand. “We’re at a fascinating time for London government,” he says, adding with a mildly rueful chuckle, “whatever say about the coalition we have the Localism Bill.”

The new Mayoral powers in the pipeline excite him because he sees them as restoring a proper balance between the centre and the boroughs that was lost along with the Greater London Council in 1985. Tuffrey, a resident of Clapham, was its member for Lambeth right at the end. “The pendulum swung totally towards the boroughs, and you now need to swing it back towards a much more ambitious, strategic authority.”

He sees a great deal of potential. Not only will the Mayor acquire direct control over housing funds, but also “the prohibition on the GLA actually building houses is being removed.” He recalls that the GLC “had a huge stock of social housing.” Around 200,000 council houses. “On regeneration,” he continues, “We have the London Development Agency with its central government funding. That has been cut but not gone completely, and is being integrated into here.

“So now, finally, we can have a GLA – if we have the right Mayor and Assembly – who can integrate strategic planning powers and transport planning with the jobs and regeneration agenda.” Land assets from the LDA and HCA will amount to “a land bank,” he says. “Couple that with Mayoral development corporation vehicle and you have the potential, I believe, for the GLA to be a very powerful regeneration agency for London – if we have the ambition.”

The interview in full can be found here.

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