Feb 10 2011 By Michael Russell
Ken shares a platform with MP Virendra Sharma and council leader Julian Bell
WITH dramatic cuts underway, massive transport projects planned and high streets struggling, whoever becomes London mayor in 2012 will certainly have a lot in their in-tray.
It could be the biggest challenge for Ken Livingstone yet, that is if he defeats Boris Johnson this time, as well as other contenders yet to throw their hat in the ring.
We spoke to Mr Livingstone, who held the post from 2000 to 2008, about three main topics concerning residents: Policing, High Speed Two, The Regeneration of Ealing Town Centre, Residents which lose safer neighbourhood officers should demand a reduction in council tax, according to Mr Livingstone, who warned of the dangers of cutting police.
The Met are currently reviewing the deployment of safer neighbourhood teams throughout the capital and there are fears areas could lose officers and even see sergeants split between two wards.
Mr Livingstone said: “Each year as mayor I increased the council tax so we could recruit another 10,000 police, both PCs and PCSOs, opinion polls showed support of about two to one for doing that.
“The deal was these teams will never be taken away. I think the areas that lose these have the right to say I think my council tax should be reduced. One thing you can be absolutely certain about is crime will rise as police numbers fall. As well catching criminals and deterring crime, more police also reassures people. And the local bobbie gets to know the names of the kids getting into trouble and can often steer them away from crime.
You can't do policing on the cheap, we're facing losing about 500 police officers in the next three years.”
Mr Livingstone also plans to campaign against the proposed route of High Speed Two. The railway, from London to Birmingham is set to run through residential Perivale and the busy traffic hub of Hanger Lane. Mr Livingstone says he agrees with the need for another high speed railway - planned to be finished by 2025, with construction beginning in 2017 - but it should not run through the borough.
He said: “I disagree with the last Labour government's route proposal. There is no earthly reason why it should go out towards Heathrow when in seven years Crossrail opens. It should go from Euston to Birmingham broadly following the M1, not through very residential areas and areas of outstanding national beauty.”
But he believes High Speed Two is vital for environmental reasons, getting people out of planes and onto trains.
He added that he believes the route can be changed, not least because of the amount of Tory MPs with upset constituents along the route further north. And that a tunnel should connect Euston and Waterloo under central London.
A consultation is to begin this month, the Department for Transport refused to tell the Gazette exactly when.
Finally he warned of the dangers of not taking advantage of the opportunities Crossrail will bring to regenerate Ealing town centre.
Along with many residents, he fought against the last plan proposed by Glenkerrin, with its central tower known as the cheese grater, saying it was ugly and not fitting a suburban area. But pointed out Crossrail would attract a major development and that should be welcomed.
He said: “If I became mayor I would like to sit down with the council leader and say: 'this is a major town centre. What can we do with the mayor's development plans and what Crossrail is bringing to make it attractive to shop in again.”