Zoë Garbett launches Green campaign for Mayor pledging ‘more affordable’ London

Zoë Garbett launches Green campaign for Mayor pledging ‘more affordable’ London

London’s Green Party mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett has officially launched her campaign with a pledge to make the city “more affordable” for all – coupled with flagship policies on transport, school meals and housing.

Flanked by her party’s London Assembly candidates at a canalside community centre in Bethnal Green, Garbett said the city had become “far too expensive” for too many people after a “decade or more” of Tory austerity.

Some 2.2 million Londoners now were living in poverty, she said, let down as well by the Labour Mayor “failing to get to grips” with the city’s crisis of affordability. “Our city desperately needs a new direction. We have to do better – and we can.”

In City Hall she would immediately extend free bus travel to all under 22 year-olds and asylum-seekers, and reinstate free travel across the network before 9am for all Londoners aged 60 or over, she pledged. “A Green Mayor will make transport affordable for all. Freezing fares isn’t enough.”

She would also extend Sadiq Khan’s primary school free meals pledge to include all secondary schools, a big ticket item estimated to cost some £180 million in its first year of operation.

A rent commission would be established to work up plans to freeze and “ultimately” bring private rents down, and London’s councils would be further funded to buy up existing housing to provide more social homes, a programme which had first been promoted by Green Assembly members, she added.

Speaking to reporters at the launch, Garbett said her school meals plan could be funded through City Hall’s Business Rates income, which was growing at some five per cent a year, while the cost of extending free travel for older people, estimated at £40 million, could be found within existing transport budgets.

Axing Khan’s “off-peak Friday” fare reduction currently being trialled would be one option, she said, since it was not helping “those who needed cheaper travel the most”. All her manifesto commitments, she added, would be fully costed.

On possible “pay per mile” road user charging schemes, she argued that the congestion charge was now outdated, and that the flat rate ULEZ charge has “unfairness” built in. Any new scheme would be “co-designed” with residents, and it would be “up to Londoners” to decide whether changes should be made or not.

More house-building as well as council acquisition of existing homes was part of the answer to London’s housing crisis, but not on the Green Belt, she told On London. A Green Mayor would also require more affordable housing on private developments, as well as pressing the government for more funding.

And spending commitments based on increased Business Rates income did not mean support for economic growth at any cost, she confirmed. “I’m all about fair growth, focused on what people need and want,” she said.

Garbett also suggested that candidates for the mayoralty should be attending hustings – yesterday she was the sole candidate at an Age UK London event, and was joined only by Liberal Democrat candidate Rob Blackie at an event hosted by the countryside charity CPRE’s London branch, with other contenders sending representatives instead. “It’s a really important part of the campaign. People want to see the candidates,” she said.

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