Unmesh Desai on air pollution and homelessness in London

Unmesh Desai

Toxic air is a blight on our community, contributing to the deaths of almost 10,000 Londoners each year, as well as stunting children’s lung development and causing other serious health problems.

This is why it has been positive to see the City of London Corporation take action on this issue by proposing to introduce three pilot zero emissions zones at the Barbican, Golden Lane, and City Cluster.

From City Hall, the Mayor has also spearheaded ambitious efforts to clean up the Capital’s air. In April, we saw the rollout of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in Central London, supported by a £48million diesel scrappage scheme.

More recently, he also revealed plans to increase the number of electric car-charging points across the Capital and announced plans for the largest-ever car-free day to take place in London this September.

Earlier this month, we also saw the City of London awarded a share of the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund to bolster its work to clamp down on air pollution. By taking stringent action now, we are on our way to ensuring that future generations of Londoners can breathe easier.

Homelessness continues to be the most tragic and visible symptom of austerity on our streets. Last week, the Greater London Authority released data revealing that the number of rough sleepers recorded by outreach workers in the City of London in 2018/2019 increased by 27% upon the previous year and across the Capital by 18%.

This is nothing short of a disgrace brought on in large part by the government’s shameful legacy of pernicious welfare cuts and reforms, and its failure to properly invest in social housing.

The Mayor has stepped in to address this burning social injustice by doubling City Hall’s rough sleeping budget and the size of its outreach team. As part of his Rough Sleeping Action Plan, he has also called upon the government to commit to investing £574million in funding over the next five years.

The provision of good quality housing is also a vital local issue, and I will shortly be visiting the Golden Lane Estate to discuss residents’ concerns towards housing standards and the nearby COLPAI development.

On a final note, I have received assurances from the office of the Deputy for Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, that she will be visiting the Barbican Estate, alongside local councillors to address local residents’ long-standing issues with excessive Tube noise.