Opinion: Jobs and the economy must feature in Brian Paddick’s mayoral campaign

Last weekend, in common with many Team London activists, I was out delivering literature for the upcoming mayoral election.

In a recent Ipsos MORI poll, commissioned by BBC London, some 59% of respondents cited jobs; growth and the economy as the most important issues that Londoners say will help them decide who to vote for in the upcoming mayoral election. This chimes with my own experience of feedback on the doorstep.

Tackling crime (49%), improving public transport (38%) and building cheap homes (37%) were the other top issues.

During the 2008 election, our candidate Brian Paddick, polled a little less than 10% of first preference votes and overall our London assembly seats fell from five to three.

Regaining five list seats would most likely see us ousting the BNP member on the assembly and placing both Shas Sheehan, a female Muslim member and Merlene Emerson, a leading figure in London’s Chinese community, in City Hall.

Brian, by virtue of his experience, is the most competent of the candidates in confronting crime issues.  With less than six weeks to Polling day, we now need a laser-like focus on youth unemployment and economic issues – tied in with improving public transport and building cheap homes.

More than 15,000 businesses have disappeared from London since 2010. Worst hit has been my local area, the London borough of Hounslow, which saw the biggest fall in its business numbers. Some 3,169 companies were lost through insolvencies, relocations and closures – amounting to 17.5% of the total number of firms there.

Ring fencing of retail and investment banking will ensure that the vital Financial Services sector and the jobs so many in London depend on are protected. Supporting London’s tourism industry, worth over £15 billion a year and employing over 250,000 people is vital.

In the wake of the Olympic games we need to capitalise on the legacy opportunities to attract investment in infrastructure and regeneration across London.  There is an acute shortage of affordable housing. The issue of homes left empty and dilapidated for years on end, 36,000 London-wide, needs to be addressed in particular. The Liberal Democrat initiative to create structured finance vehicles for Pension funds to be able to make long term investments in affordable housing and economic infrastructure projects should be aggressively pursued in London.

Soaring tube and rail fares are putting increasing pressure on hard-pressed commuters. These factors combined with escalating parking and congestion charges threaten the ability of businesses to be able to attract staff at affordable wages and shoppers to travel into London.  We need sensible and pragmatic solutions to these issues that include a London living wage and business friendly solutions that will drive employment growth in and around the city. The Coalition has substantially increased funding for apprenticeships at the instigation of the Liberal Democrats but more needs to be done in London, to encourage and incentivise business to offer every young Londoner real opportunities for training and career progression that will stand them in good stead throughout their working lives.

As with so many elections in the past twenty years, we need to remember Bill Clinton’s mantra – It’s the economy, stupid!

* Joe Bourke is an accountant and university lecturer, Chair of ALTER, and Chair of Hounslow Liberal Democrats.

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