Conservative Home: Ivan Massow is a financial services entrepreneur, a former Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arta and is seeking the Conservative nomination to be a candidate for Mayor of London
1) Why do you want to be Mayor of London?
I am a ‘One London Conservative’ and I want my candidacy to show Londoners that anyone, from any background, can and should be able to make it in this amazing city.
I want my candidacy to promote social mobility, making everyone better off, and explain why the Conservative Party places entrepreneurship and business so high on its list of priorities. London is a truly global city and a torchbearer for arts, culture, democracy, sports, but most importantly, human rights. We exemplify best practice and offer hope to those subjugated by prejudice, sexism and intolerance. To continue doing so, we have to ensure our city remains strong and I want to make sure it does.
2) How would you increase the housing supply in London? What sort of housing is needed and where should it be built?
I will speed up negotiations between developers and councils by moving some social housing obligations to a more transparent ‘exit levy’. Local authorities would then have the funds to simply buy from developers or build their own schemes at market rates. This would also allow councils to ‘pepper pot’ social and affordable housing throughout the borough creating healthier communities, a better cultural mix, while reducing gang crime and extremism.
I will create an automatic call-in period for all delayed planning applications so that developers and councils are held to account. I will also increase and enforce the empty property tax and help older people to downsize, freeing up family homes and helping them enjoy their retirement.
I love tall buildings but my emphasis will be on low-level developments on London’s vast 30skms of brownfield sites. We need to build centrally to take the pressure off the suburbs and allow people to live near their place of work. We know that, from an environmental perspective, it’s better if we all make shorter journeys.
3) Would you favour a third runway at Heathrow? If not what alternatives do you propose?
We need more airport capacity – and £20m later, the Davies report has recommended Heathrow. We must now get on and build it.
Boris’ estuary airport would have created 340,000 new homes, vast numbers of jobs and new business along with the roads, rail links and new river crossings the East End so badly needs. It would have been a more beneficial, and ultimately, more cost effective solution for London as a whole. Heathrow however, is an acceptable result and time is ticking on – doing nothing is not an option. So lets just build the thing.
4) How would you hope to achieve a further reduction of crime in London?
I come from a policing family and know only too well the mismatch between effective police work and people’s requirement to see bobbies on the street. I will be unveiling individual policies supporting Sir Bernard’s gang, cyber and anti-radicalisation initiatives. But my principal policy will be to meet two borough commanders every week to work through their figures and problems; helping them get the support they need to fix their issues locally.
I am in talks with the Metropolitan Police about how we can emulate Scotland’s example of re-branding traffic wardens to perform some community support roles so that fully trained officers are more readily available to respond to emergencies. It’s disappointing to me that you can be attacked on the street and spend 20 minuets waiting for help but if you stop your car to buy a paper you’ll have a traffic warden breathing down your neck within seconds.
5) Would you increase or reduce the Council Tax precept if you became Mayor?
As a Conservative, it is my natural instinct to cut taxes and relieve the financial burden on Londoners. Indeed, I welcome Boris’ consistent reduction of the GLA precept, on course to reach his target 10% cut by 2016/2017 for a typical Band D property. I aim to continue this precedent.
There are also ways we should aim to amend existing funds so that all Londoners are treated fairly. For example, I sympathise with calls from GLA Conservatives to scrap the Lee Valley Park tax. Rather than scrapping the levy altogether, we should redirect the money raised towards supporting investment in all London’s green spaces including revitalizing the Green Belt for public use. This would end any debate about why Richmond Council or Thurrock’s unitary authority in the south of Essex should have to raise money to contribute to a park that barely any of their residents use.
6) What extra powers – if any – would you like to see Mayor given, and why?
London needs the power to decide how and where it places its schools. We need more say over extra-curricular education and be given the tools to inform our children on issues around inclusion, diversity, even sexual health and relationships to deal with issues that affect London’s youth. Even a joined-up US style school bus network to reduce congestion at rush hour.
London can save the taxpayer a fortune by managing its healthcare budget and joining up public health, social care and NHS resources. For example, it’s madness that, for want of an extra 15 minutes of social care at home, older people are being admitted into hospital at a cost of a £1000 a night.
Greater control over business rates would help a mayor encourage new businesses and entrepreneurship, allowing the development of business zones. London isn’t looking for a greater slice of the cake but control over stamp duty would allow us to promote affordability and development in certain areas and set incentives for people to downsize and free up family homes.
7) How do you propose reviving London’s high streets?
I am fully in favour of relaxing Sunday trading laws to allow local businesses further opportunity to reach more of their community. I would aim to make high streets across London more appealing by encouraging a ‘Café Culture’ and resurfacing roads to increase pedestrian priority, making high streets attractive destinations in their own right.
Although my emphasis is on clean travel and cycling, I will aim to provide a period of free parking in town centres to boost local small business, making it easier and cheaper to drive and park near shopping hubs. Additionally, I will launch a review of the necessity of double yellow lines in areas with a high concentration of small businesses
8) Do you support the proposed Thames Water Super Sewer?
When I meet London developers, one of the largest hurdles they have to get past is the availability of essential services, predominately sewage removal. It’s a problem as old at the roman’s and London needs to Caesar to push through the reforms that are good for it.
While steps have to be taken to consider residents’ concerns and to protect our green spaces, London needs to accommodate the 1.5 million growth in population expected over the next 10 years.
Tower Hamlets is one of the fastest growing boroughs in London, but its residents are an example of those who have campaigned heavily against the Super Sewer. The future expansion of this great community will prove to be impossible without the development of quality infrastructure to match its growth. They expose the awful dichotomy the Mayor faces, “build new homes so my kids can live near me please, but no houses on my street please”.
9) What would you do to reduce the unemployment rate in London?
I’ve done a lot of work looking at how to solve the problem of long-term unemployment, often typified by issues surrounding mental health, drug, alcohol and ex-offenders.
I will expand on the work of companies like Pret a Mangér’s who couple employee with new apprentices in a mentoring project to achieve a lasting outcome. They aim to take on the unemployed and train them up as skilled contributors to the company.
As an entrepreneur however, I understand that many people don’t fit the traditional employers’ model with A-Levels or a University education. This is not because they are less able, but because they have different skills. So I plan to launch my ‘London Incubator Project’. It involves little more than a desk, WIFI and surrounding oneself with people of a similar mind-set/mentors to achieve success in self-started business.
We need to create jobs for both traditional and non-traditional employees, harnessing London’s entrepreneurial talent, and giving them the ability to start up from scratch. London is already Europe’s largest tech hub, and is only held back from being the world’s largest by its failure to provide second and third round funding to new firms. Crack that and many more will have the chance at a fulfilling career.
10) How would you seek to improve air quality in London?
There are currently up to 10,000 premature deaths in London each year due to poor air quality. The 1952 Clean Air Act introduced a ban on burning dark fuels. Many were left cold that winter because our government believed that air pollution at the time was an extreme concern. Air pollution caused just 4,000 deaths that year.
I believe the new Ultra-Low Emission Zone, due to be enacted in 2020, should be widened to include all inner London boroughs. Roads also need to be made a lot safer for cyclists, and new priority given to both pedestrians and cyclists to get people out of cars and employing healthier methods of travelling.
London should aim to be an ‘Electric City’ by 2025, not just for environmental reasons, but because it would put us at the forefront of new technology and as a global leader. London’s today is the world’s tomorrow, and we need to capitalise on this unique opportunity.
11) What experience do you have that would qualify you to be Mayor of London?
Throughout my career, I’ve started successful businesses and run public institutions, but it is not my successes that I consider my greatest asset, in fact it is some of my failures; not just in business, but also as a human being, that I call to mind when facing a new challenge.
I’ve lived all over London: North, South, East, and West, and I value my relationship with colleagues across the entire political, social and business spectrum and throughout the charity sector. If I stand for anything, it is the right of anyone to make it, regardless of their background or education.
Mine is a story of social mobility – having grown up in care, to making it in business, to standing for Mayor – that is as relevant today as it was in Dick Whittington’s day. Anyone can make it if they are given the tools and have the determination. I want to give Londoners those tools and inspire that determination.
12) What do you think has been Boris Johnson worse mistake during his past eight years as Mayor?
Some would say that Boris’s biggest mistake is to step down after only two terms, however I believe that a Mayor should not serve for longer, and I will attempt to make this official policy for the future. It gives a chance for new talent, a fresh wave of energy and maybe even someone from a different school? ;o)