ITV News London Debate: Mayoral candidates clash on crime, housing and air quality

Tap above to watch the ITV News London Debate with Charlene White

Sadiq Khan's five years as London Mayor came under attack from his political rivals on Thursday night during a special ITV News London Debate.

The main candidates vying to be ushered in to City Hall after polling day on May 6 clashed over crime, housing, and air quality in a special programme hosted by Charlene White.


During Mr Khan's term as Mayor crime went up by 6%, a figure which rises to 18% when the stay-at-home year of 2020 is excluded.

The rise was partly blamed by Conservative challenger Shaun Bailey on cuts to police numbers.

"The mayor removed £38million from the police staffing budget as his first act of being mayor - and that reduced [police] numbers straight away," said Mr Bailey who pledged to make savings at City Hall and cut crime within 100 days.

Mr Khan said the causes of crime were "quite complex" and often stemmed from deprivation, alienation and lack of opportunity - and government austerity played a role.

Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan

"Police officer numbers being cut, youth services being closed down, public services being cut. So the last five years we've been both tough on crime with a thousand additional police officers, but tough on the causes of crime," Mr Khan said.

He added that youth violence has gone down, knife violence had declined along with moped thefts, burglaries, homicides and gun crime.

Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt believed it was time for a fresh approach tackling crime through neighbourhood policing.

"We know people feel safer and are safer when there is a visible police presence in their neighbourhood, so I would double the number of [police officers]," said Ms Porritt. She said the move would also help "rebuild trust" with the police.

"Police knowing people in their local area - that means they can gather intelligence to help them solve and prevent crimes," she added.

The Green Party said an alternative approach was needed taking a public health approach, with issues such as drugs fuelling a significant level of crime in London. And she unveiled an ambitious target for the capital.

Green Party candidate Sian Berry

"I've set a target to achieve zero murders in London within ten years and that's about a transformation in our attitudes, because as soon as you look at it from that perspective you have to focus on prevention," said Sian Berry.

She said she was proud to have opposed austerity "from the start" and it was time to "invest in real prevention".

All candidates agreed building up trust between communities and the police was an important priority. Shaun Bailey said diversity in the police was important, Sadiq Khan said he had an action plan following the death of George Floyd including better scrutiny of the force, Luisa Porritt said an overhaul of stop-and-search was urgently needed and Sian Berry said lessons had simply not been learned since the murder of Stephen Lawrence and too much force was being used disproportionately against ethnic minorities.

Candidates also took questions directly from members of the public, including Sayce Holmes-Lewis, who mentors young people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds on the issues they face in education and society. He asked what they would do to reduce crime in London - and if there would be ring-fenced funding for young people in education and youth services and early intervention.


In 2017 Sadiq Khan's London Plan said there needed to be a minimum of 49,000 homes built every year, a figure the Labour candidate admitted he was no where near.

"This is personal to me, I was raised on a council estate... last year we began building more council homes than any year since 1983," said Mr Khan.

"Last year we also began building more homes with social rent 7,000 - more than the entire eight years of Boris Johnson being mayor... we're breaking records every year," he added.

Sian Berry's ambitions add up to a rent freeze, but in reality her plan would currently be unachievable as beyond her reach as mayor.

"Polling shows people don't think the mayor is doing enough on housing and it did take me three years of pestering in the London Assembly to get him talking about rent controls," Sian Berry said.

The Green Party candidate said she understood "the urgency of sorting this out" and would "work with Londoners and mayors from other cities to win the powers from government we need to solve our housing crisis."

The Lib Dems have their eye on London's offices and want to convert work spaces into homes for people in central London. Luisa Porritt said the current approach has simply failed to work and we can't have "more of the same".

Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt

"The current mayor has only started half of the affordable homes that he promised back in 2016 despite record grants from the government to deliver housing," said Ms Porritt.

She said London had "an amazing opportunity" with lots of office space coming onto the market "to convert some of that into quality, affordable homes for Londoners".

Shaun Bailey's housing plan amounts to building 100,000 homes in London that cost £100,000 for buyers under shared ownership.

That adds up to a £5,000 deposit and rent of around £1,000-a-month. An option Mr Bailey insisted was affordable.

"Of course it's affordable, we have the money put there. The biggest failing we've seen in London, where we need the big fresh start is in housing," said Mr Bailey.

Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey

"The mayor promised 80,000 homes per year - he hasn't built 40,000! I will start a developer in City Hall run by me, backed by me and to deliver. The mayor has failed to deliver on housing and we've seen the results across London.

Zoe Dainton was one of the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 which killed 72 people and uncovered huge problems with fire safety in high rise buildings across London and how those concerns are reported and acted on. She asked what the candidates would do as mayor to ensure that everyone in social housing lives in a safe home.


The mayoral hopefuls also took a question from Anjali Raman-Middleton, a friend of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the nine year old from South London who died following an asthma attack.

She is the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. The coroner said yesterday there should be tougher legally binding targets on air quality levels. She asked what plans the candidates had to stop students breathing illegal air pollution levels on their way to school.

The Lib Dems said the story showed that Covid-19 wasn't the only "silent killer" on our streets - and the mayor was currently "going in the wrong direction".

"Tackling our poor air quality in London has to be a priority for the next mayor... I would scrap Sadiq Khan's £2billion polluting Silvertown Tunnel which is only going to make our toxic air in London worse," said Luisa Porritt.

The Labour candidate brushed aside criticism and insisted the "status quo wasn't working".

"The Blackwall Tunnel which is the only way to get across is closed on average 700 times a year - the most unreliable bus is a single decker bus which goes through that tunnel for every five minute closure there is a three mile tailback, said Mr Khan.

"My solution is to have one tunnel with a lane reserved for buses - double decker buses - more than 13 an hour - room for pedestrians and cyclists," he added.

The Green Party said there was "incredible danger" from air pollution. "I've been working on this for about 20 years," said Sian Berry.

"I can't understand why the current mayor's plans for an Ultra Low Emission Zone are only going to the North and South Circular.

"Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah lived near the South Circular but the new Ultra Low Emission Zone won't prevent traffic on there... we need something that covers all of London," Sian Berry said.

The Conservative candidate jumped on "mistakes" and "opportunities missed" and said it was wrong to focus on taxing people more to tackle pollution.

"What we should be doing is greening the entire bus fleet that would be the equivalent of taking 1.1 million cars off the road," said Shaun Bailey.

"I'll also give the black taxi cab industry a £6,000 interest free loan to speed up the adoption of the black cab, zero emissions," he added.

And finally... Charlene asked the candidates what their greatest post-lockdown treat will be... and you might be surprised by some of the answers... clubbing and embarrassing dancing?!?