Dear Mr Jordan,
Thank you for taking the time to write to me on this vital issue and congratulations on work you do to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard.
We all remember the 2012 Paralympics and Olympic games, but the thing that remains with me was the unstoppable spirit of the Paralympians who broke new ground in disability awareness. I see that same spirit in the lives of thousands of Londoners living with disabilities who refuse to be defined by what they can’t do but rather what they can do.
London is a great city, but we need to make it great for everyone, black or white, rich or poor, able bodied or people with disabilities. More than one in ten Londoners identify themselves as living with disabilities, so delivering for them will be key priority of my mayoralty.
Two issues in particular need urgent action: transport and housing.
London has one of the most accessible public transport networks of any major city. But frankly that’s a low bar and it’s still not good enough. A constituent of mine who uses a wheelchair once challenged me to spend some time with him on London’s public transport system so I could better understand the obstacles he and countless men and women like him still face just to navigate around. I accepted and was shocked by what I saw.
So within my first 100 days as Mayor, I will commission a full review of the step-free programme which will have the explicit aim of increasing the number of stations that can be made step-free. Wherever possible I want to see ‘universal access’ – so that whoever you are, whatever your mobility, we come and go through the same doors.
I can also guarantee that the Disabled Persons Freedom Pass will be protected throughout my mayoral term. And you can trust that I will deliver on those commitments because unlike Sadiq Khan my plan protects transport investment.
TfL have confirmed that Khan’s fares pledge would blow a £1.9 billion hole in the transport budget, at a time when we need the money to expand and upgrade the network. This funding shortfall would put both the Freedom Pass and the step-free access programme at risk. These are initiatives that benefit millions of people every day – not just people like the estimated 150,000 Londoners living with visual impairment and the estimated 50,000 Londoners with acquired brain injuries, but all passengers carrying heavy luggage, travellers accompanied by young children and those who experience the infirmities of older age.
Housing is my major priority, because too many Londoners are being priced out of their own city. The only way to make housing permanently more affordable is to close the gap between what we’re currently building and what we need to build. So my plan will double house-building to 50,000 a year by the end of my term. I’ll do it by working with the Government to release public sector land on which to build, and by using transport to unlock new brownfield sites. Crossrail 2 alone, for example, could allow us to build 200,000 new homes.
I will also reaffirm the commitments made in the existing London Plan, which requires all new housing to be built to “Lifetime Homes” standards and for 10 percent of new housing to be designed to be wheelchair accessible or easily adaptable for residents who are wheelchair users. I will hold the boroughs and developers to account for achieving and even exceeding these targets, and that we deliver more sheltered accommodation. Again, these extra homes will benefit all Londoners, not least the 30,000 who have an unmet need for wheelchair accessible housing and the more than 100,000 households who need their bath or shower facilities redesigned or relocated. These improvements will enable all of London’s diverse communities to participate fully and to contribute to all areas of London life.
There are huge challenges ahead to make sure that London truly belongs to everyone: from making our green space more accessible, to using the new devolved adult skills budget to create more opportunities for Londoners who want equality and deserve opportunity.
That’s why I am determined to win on May 5th. So together we can make our great city greater still.
Zac Goldsmith MP
Conservative candidate for Mayor of London