Oliver Deed takes a look at the first Mayor’s Question Time under Sadiq Khan …

 

The tone could not have been more different. Whilst Mayoral Question Time under Boris Johnson often descended into a circus, Sadiq Khan’s first was a sober and serious affair, perhaps reflecting the difference in personality between the current Mayor and his immediate predecessor.

 

For those of you who are not avid followers of Mayor’s Question Time, it is a two and a half hour session, held monthly, that provides London Assembly Members with the opportunity to scrutinise the Mayor on a wide range of issues from housing and policing, to health and transport.

 

No doubt Sadiq Khan approached the affair with some trepidation, but he is a seasoned politician and seemed at ease throughout the occasion. Don’t forget, unlike his predecessors, Khan has a great deal of experience at the dispatch box in the House of Commons and he used this to full effect in City Hall.

 

Unsurprisingly, many of the questions to the Mayor focused on housing – after all Khan had promised to turn the Mayoral election into a “referendum” on housing. Given that this is only Khan’s third Wednesday in the job, we did not expect much light on housing, but we did get some snippets.

 

To quickly summarise:

 

  • The Mayor of London will not be drawn on a fixed target for housing delivery. He was repeatedly questioned by Andrew Boff on the issue, but repeatedly told the Assembly Member he would not commit to a number.
  • The new “Homes for Londoners” body may well get involved in house building directly. Tom Copley AM, asked whether the body may form a “new municipal level” of house building, to which the Mayor answered “I can’t see why not”.
  • The London Living Rent, which will be based on 1/3 of average income in an area, will form a key part of the Mayor’s affordable housing policy. The Mayor was keen to stress that he wants affordable housing levels to be based on income, as opposed to property values.
  • Within the next couple of months, the Mayor will issue new guidance on viability assessments. We expect that to be influenced by newly appointed Deputy Mayor for Housing, Cllr James Murray who introduced a requirement to publish viability assessments in Islington.
  • TfL land will be released quickly, and planning permissions fast tracked to deliver an immediate boost to house building in London.

 

During the session, Khan repeatedly accused the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson of “leaving the cupboard bare” when it came to affordable housing delivery. That accusation is always leveled by incumbents upon their predecessors and it will be particularly interesting to see whether this sticks.

 

A different tone has been struck, and the Mayor has definitely been activist in his approach so far. Whether this will permeate and result in an increase in house building in the capital is yet to be seen. If Khan is to be judged a success, he needs to better his predecessors record on housing and, given his tone so far, by some considerable margin.

 

For more information contact Oliver Deed on 0203 176 4555.