Sadiq Khan launched his re-election campaign in north London today insisting it is “a two-horse race” for City Hall between himself and Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, pledging to help the capital’s recovery from the pandemic and making a passionate case that London as the ally of the rest of the country rather than its rival.
Speaking to reporters outside the Hot Milk café in Bounds Green, the incumbent Mayor said he would be doing all his powers and budgets allow to support employment in the wake of Covid-19, to “transform the support we give to small businesses, who are crucial to our economy”, and also to promote the West End and the rest of the capital’s Central Activities Zone, which has been devastated by the impacts of the virus.
Underlining that London contributes close to £40 billion more in taxes to the Treasury than it receives, Khan said “it is not possible to level up the country by making London poorer. That, to me, is nonsensical.”
Though describing Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision, announced in his Budget yesterday, to create an “economic campus” for around 750 civil servants in Darlington as “not a bad one”, he told On London‘s Ben Willis that businesses in the Westminster Council area alone “pay more in business rates than all the business in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield put together” and that a major Oxford Street store pays more in Business Rates each year than every business in Sunak’s constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire combined.
“That’s why it’s important for the government to recognize that it shouldn’t be London versus the country,’ he said. “It should be London and the country.” Khan also urged the government to reach a good funding settlement in its latest negotiations with Transport for London, saying it is important “the government realises that TfL wants to be a help to the country rather than a hindrance. And the way for the country to recover is for London to be firing on all cylinders”.
The Mayor, who has been enjoying opinion poll leads of at least 20 percentage points through the last twelve months, said he is concerned about turnout at this election because of the pandemic and encouraged people to register and to make use of postal voting as a Covid-safe way to cast their ballots in time for 6 May.
He acknowledged the possibility of job losses at City Hall, which is to move from its current home by Tower Bridge to a building by the Royal Docks in an attempt to save money, due to a loss of income from Business rates and Council Tax, which has also hit the capital’s local authorities.
Khan cited experts who have likened the challenges Britain faces due to Covid as “not dissimilar” to those that followed the end of World War II: “Look at the last year – we’ve lost more than 18,000 lives in our city, and more than 300,000 jobs.” He said he would “pivoting” the £330 million adult skills budget, recently devolved to London’s control help people in low skilled, low paid jobs to “skill up while they are in work” and others to prepare for re-entering the job market.
He said he hopes to build on the Mayor’s construction academy model, with academies to help with the green, creative, tech and health and social care jobs of the future. “What we don’t want to see are people being long-term unemployed, as we did in the 1980s,” he said, adding that he intends to lobby the government for “a national jobs guarantee” after the furlough scheme ends to avoid “falling off a cliff-edge”.
Khan’s campaign launch was attended for On London by Ben Willis, who also took the photograph.
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