Many of us make New Year wish lists and I am one of them. It is tempting – and usually unwise – to reach for the skies. The following five items are selected because they seem possible and achievable in 2022. Fingers crossed.
- The departure of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister might not end the Conservative government’s high-handed and electorally motivated mistreatment of London government and the capital in general, but it might curb the worst of it. Like the rest of the country, London would not miss the chaos, cronyism and incompetence of his administration and Transport for London could only benefit from the departure of his transport adviser and erstwhile media supporter Andrew Gilligan. Depending on Johnson’s successor, there might even be some furtive recognition that impeding the capital’s economic recovery imperils that of the rest of the UK.
- In October 2020, following the sentencing of Wayne Couzens for the murder of Sarah Everard, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick asked Louise Casey to lead an “independent external review” of “our culture and standards of behaviours” in the Metropolitan Police, covering leadership, recruitment, vetting and training. It was expected to complete its work in six months. Dick said at the time that the Met would immediately initiate its own programme of improvements, including by completing “an urgent review” of investigations of “allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic abuse” against the Met’s own officers and staff. Last month saw the jailing of two Met officers for taking and sharing photos of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, whose bodies they were supposed to be guarding. The Met has a lot of work to do to rebuild Londoners’ confidence, and not only among women. We need to see serious progress made in 2022.
- A “car-led recovery” from Covid is well-established. This underlines the need for bold changes. Policies for reducing the use of private motor vehicles on London’s roads make economic, environmental and public health sense. They can take several forms, including more car clubs, carefully calibrated filtering systems, more stringent parking restrictions and, potentially most transformative of all, a new, London-wide road-user charging system that deploys modern technology to discriminate between different kinds of vehicle. Introducing such a scheme would be difficult politically and the Mayor has a point when he says there is no such system in operation anywhere in the world. But London should lead the way on this. Support for the approach is broad, encompassing the Green Party, business group London First and think tank Centre for London. In 2022 the case for “smart” road-pricing should be broadened, strengthened and focused. At the same time attractive, low-cost public transport alternatives to driving must, must, must be retained.
- London’s Conservatives need to get their act together. You don’t have to be a Tory supporter to recognise that Labour needs better quality opposition in the capital. The Conservatives fought a disreputable and well-beaten mayoral campaign this year – not their first – and with Labour pulling ahead in national opinion polls, Conservative hopes of strengthening their position at May’s borough elections might now be fading. That ought to, at long last, concentrate Tory minds on the need to develop a distinctive and constructive Tory approach to the capital. Senior London Assembly Member Andrew Boff revealed not long ago that he didn’t even know who was in charge of Tory organisation in the city. London Conservatives need to re-think their attitude to national government, especially at City Hall level. It is, of course, the job of Tory AMs to oppose the Labour Mayor, but surely they could follow the example of the leaders of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea councils and muster a bit of disquiet about a Johnson administration that is treating London so shoddily and foolishly. They might even get a few more votes.
- London Councils chair Georgia Gould and fellow senior borough figures (including Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville) returned from COP26 enthused by the potential for working more closely with the 11-strong Core Cities group and others to develop clusters of green urban investment opportunity as part of the effort to achieve net zero carbon as soon as possible. The initiative also needs to succeed as an example of co-operation between the capital and the rest of the country.
This list could be lengthened to include big perennials such as Green Belt and drug law reform, far more radical measures to tackle housing unaffordability and much more devolution, including the fiscal kind. Those issues remain live and urgent and On London will continue to cover them, though they look to be for the longer term. Here’s hoping for the best for 2022.
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