New City Hall, New Year Goals

17 Jan 2023

The move to the New City Hall has brought lots of challenges and opportunities to our group in City Hall. There have been lots of changes to our team so for a while Caroline and I have had an increased workload. But now we are establishing a new team I have had time to reflect on the year and year ahead.

This year:
I have written 274 questions to the Mayor
I have visited over 20 boroughs across London
I have attended 36 committee sessions

This year I have become the Chair of the Economy Committee and continued my role in the Fire and Environment  Committees which has led most of my work. I continued to lead Diversity workshops with local parties, culminating in a Diversity Panel Discussion in December. I will continue with my focus on diversity in the party across London.

Hina has challenged the Mayor multiple times regarding his record on tackling indoor pollution.

Making London’s air cleaner for all

The Mayor of London prides himself on leading the fight against air pollution, but has faced challenges over the expansion of the ULEZ, partly due to the lack of adequate public transport in outer London. The Lib Dem group asked for a delay until there was a wider and fairer scrappage scheme in place. Despite the clear reality that more roads will result in more road traffic, the Silvertown tunnel has gone ahead. I have pushed the Deputy Mayor on this several times to ensure there is sufficient air pollution monitoring stations at both ends of the tunnel. We will continue to scrutinise the Mayor’s double standards and support the environmental groups who have been campaigning on this issue.

I was pleased to have chaired a committee meeting which sought to help businesses transition to net zero using cargo bikes. With the uptake of cargo bikes from small businesses, market traders and now even Amazon, the committee are compiling a list of recommendations for the Mayor to make London’s infrastructure suitable for businesses to adapt.

My main focus has been on indoor pollution, with the support of Mums for Lungs and other campaigners, we know that 17% of emissions come from wood-burning and produce 750 times more fine particulates than a heavy goods vehicle. I successfully passed a motion to push for a wider awareness campaign, and the Mayor has promised to start a communication campaign this winter or early next year, which we are still waiting to see the details of. With the new Clean Air Bill going through Parliament, I am now pushing the Mayor to hold a Task Group which will include campaigners and local authorities to help the reduction of harmful wood-burning in our City.

Hina is working closely with cladding campaign groups such as End Our Cladding Scandal and CLADAG

Making London accessible for all

Since becoming a London Assembly member I have had many groups reach out who have felt like they were not being heard; the missing voices of London. This was profoundly felt when we remembered Grenfell, 5 years on from the tragedy, through the inquiry which revealed the underlying prejudices in how many of the residents were treated when they warned of the fire risks in their building. This is why at the start of the year we pushed the Mayor to fund a Building Safety Crisis Support Hub, with only Labour opposing we were not able to get this passed. It is why I have been working closely with support groups focused on helping the disabled and older people through the crisis. So that they may have Personal, Emergency, Evacuation Plans and appropriate aids and equipment to evacuate buildings in case of a fire.

Disabled and older Londoners must also have fair access to work, that’s why there will be a strong focus on this under my chairpersonship of the economy committee. In addition to this, refugees and asylum seekers still have no right to work in the UK; not only will I be leading my colleagues in investigating this at City Hall, I have successfully encouraged all Lib Dem-run councils to join the Lift the Ban coalition.

Achieving fairness in our society is absolutely key. That’s why I’m pleased to have continued my work with Make Votes Matter on electoral reform, despite the backward step of the mayoral elections being made FPTP, we have still seen encouraging next steps in making democracy fairer. That being said, our city doesn’t always feel fair. Recent concerns coming from London’s businesses and economic community are that London is being threatened by ‘levelling down’.

With nearly a third of London’s children living in poverty, London is certainly not a city where everyone is equal. This was highlighted by the economy committee’s work investigating food insecurity; where the failings of Universal Credit were highlighted, which made clear to me the need for a Universal Basic Income trial, and a motion which I put to the assembly in December.

Hina has asked the Fire Commissioner about what progress has been made on a public awareness campaign around unsafe lithium-ion batteries and will be working closely with the London Fire Brigade on a solution. Making London safe for all

My work on the Fire Committee has allowed me to highlight issues with the unfair cost of cladding and waking watches for leaseholders and subsequently, the unsympathetic way developers have treated residents. We have long been calling on the Mayor to stop working with untrustworthy developers – they should not be let off the hook. We have been meeting the End our Cladding Scandal campaign groups regularly to continue our support on this issue.

I have also been working with the London Fire Brigade on their community outreach and was part of some great work with East London Mosque. I met the first hijabi firefighter, and have been working with them to ensure more Muslim women join the brigade. Unfortunately, there is a lot of work to do as the Culture Review revealed in its findings of misogyny and racism within the ranks, something that I have been questioning both the Mayor and Commissioner on.

Finally, my biggest concern is the rise in fires caused by lithium-ion batteries used in e-scooters and e-bikes. We must act now, before a death is caused by these types of fires. I have been calling for a public awareness campaign so that we can warn anyone who is thinking about buying a battery online about the dangers of adapting them to your bike.
There is no law to stop unsafe electrical products being sold online and despite me writing to the government and the Mayor, little has been done to tackle this issue. I will continue to call this out.

Making London more Liberal
It’s been a busy year and it’s likely to a busy 2023. We have had some great successes this year as a party; gaining 23 new councillors across London, with 12 of those from Merton where I won my seat for a second term. But we also saw gains in Brent, Croydon, Lambeth and Bromley. Next, we need to see gains in other parts of London and I am looking forward to working with many local activists and setting up dates to campaign to win more seats.

Sadly, Caroline Pigeon is standing down next term, but it’s been an honour to work alongside her and learn the ropes. We must now make sure we continue flying the Lib Dem flag and building a larger team for City Hall. I look forward to the opportunities ahead to make London’s Liberal voice louder than ever.