Picture a Greener London, says Jenny Jones
Jenny Jones is the Green candidate in this May's London Mayoral Election and has been a member of the London Assembly since 2000. In her guest blog she describes being a mum and grandmother in London, and explains what she'd change to make the city safer - and greener- for parents and their children.
I’ve lived in London for more than 20 years and by the time I arrived here my own two daughters were grown up, so the worries that come with raising children—schools, safety, money and managing the household—had passed to them. For the last few years I have been a London granny, entertaining my children’s children when they visit the capital, enjoying their company and feeling absolved from all the day-to-day worries of motherhood. I feel a strange mixture of relief, sadness and exhaustion when I hand them back to their parents.
Although there are elements of parenting that are universal to mums and dads around the world, raising children in London does have unique concerns. One of the reasons that I am seeking election as Mayor—and my colleagues are joining me in the campaign to elect more Green members to the London Assembly—is that I don’t believe that we must just accept these difficulties. By approaching things differently, by engaging with Londoners rather than just mud-slinging, and by creating an alternative vision for London with reduced inequality, better transport and lower pollution, we hope to improve the quality of life for every household in London.
Over 4,000 Londoners die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution. The capital’s children are particularly vulnerable to the health problems caused by pollution, such as asthma, lung disease and heart problems. Over 1,100 of London’s schools are within 150 metres of roads that carry 10,000 or more vehicles per day. The Mayor has a responsibility to publicise bad air days—when the health risks of air pollution are particularly great—so that vulnerable Londoners, especially as children, can avoid busy roads and help protect their health.
Too many residential areas of London suffer from high-speed, high-polluting vehicles passing through, making roads dangerous, dirty and noisy. Too many roads are far too busy and not well laid out, so parents don’t feel confident enough to allow their children to cycle down them. We want to introduce 20mph limits on all streets where Londoners live, work or shop, and let families reclaim quiet residential streets as public space for play. By prioritising road improvements near schools and increasing cycle training for children, we want to enable an extra 100,000 children and their parents cycle to school every year.
In most parts of the capital, renting a two-bedroom flat costs over half the average household income, and too many families are being driven from their homes—or are forced to leave the city altogether. To combat this, as Mayor I would build at least 15,000 affordable homes per year and 4 in 10 of these would be family-sized. We want to make sure that childcare is affordable and fits in with parents’ working lives. As Mayor, I would work with schools to extend hours and invest in after-school and holiday play schemes. I would work with councils to prevent children’s breakfast clubs from closing.
London is a unique city, and I think most of us want to keep it that way. But I don’t think we should accept that the difficulties that come with raising a family here are unavoidable when there are simple, affordable steps that City Hall could take to reduce or even overcome them. As Mayor I would make roads safer, make London a more affordable place to live and reduce the terrible air pollution that we all currently breathe in on our streets. And whatever the outcome of the Mayoral race, by electing more Green Assembly members in May, London can make the difference and help create a more equal, healthy and affordable London for everyone.