Monica Costa of London Mums and I, had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, prior to our Conference for International Women’s Day, 8th March 2012.
What is your biggest achievement so far as the Mayor of London to improve the lives of London families?
Restoring a sense of community to London neighbourhoods has always been at the heart of what I want to achieve as Mayor of London. From cutting crime to cleaning and greening our neighbourhoods to simply giving some of your time to helping those less fortunate than you, I want London to be an enjoyable, attractive and pleasant place to live, work and raise your family. This is why I’ve been mobilising thousands of volunteers through my Team London programme and why I am so proud to say that I will have put 1000 more warranted police officers on the street by the end of my first term than I inherited at the beginning.
Crime – particularly serious youth crime – was and is my greatest cause for concern in London, which is why I have increased officers on the streets and on our transport network and am protecting policing in our communities. And although any death is one too many, teenage killings in London have more than halved during this mayoral term, overall murder is at a historic low and knife injuries and gun crime are also significantly down.
In the midst of an economic downturn, it is more important than ever to support families to get on the housing ladder and be able to meet basic living costs. This is why last year I increased the London Living Wage to £8.30 an hour which could take a quarter of London’s poor children out of poverty, as well as raising the income of low-paid workers. I’m proud to say we are well on track to delivering more than 50,000 affordable homes by the end of this year and my Know Your Rights campaign helps Londoners to claim the hundreds of thousands of pounds of benefit entitlement which go unclaimed in London each year.
Being able to get from A to B as easily as possible is crucial for families living in London and during my mayoralty I have overseen the greatest ever upgrade of the Tube network, begun the building of Crossrail which will add 10% capacity to London’s transport infrastructure, delivered the extension to the London Overground and rolled out Oyster cards on to the National Rail network. By withdrawing the hated bendy bus and abolishing the loathed Western Extension of the Congestion Charge, getting from A to B quickly should be simpler than ever for on-the-go families. Furthermore, we have led a cycling revolution with the introduction of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme which has seen the introduction of 8,000 bicycles at over 570 docking stations across London. And to keep journeys shorter, snappier and more punctual Londoners can now check when their bus is coming by web, text and mobile phone app.
What can be done to make the lives of women in London better, in terms of employment and education?
London has produced some of the most talented, successful and inspirational women in the world from Virginia Woolf, Enid Blyton and Mary Wollstonecraft to Twiggy, Kate Moss, Adele, and of course, my good friend Barbara Windsor. I am committed to making London a city which will continue to provide the opportunities and quality of life in which all Londoners can flourish and reach their absolute potential. I want London to be a city in which women can live, work, spend time with their families and friends and, if they want to, become world-leaders in their chosen field.
Providing routes into employment is absolutely crucial for women to establish the role they deserve in public life and I am focused on the practical measures that will make a real difference. I have been working with the National Apprenticeship Service to boost the number of apprenticeships in London – a fantastic 40,000 apprenticeships were delivered in 2010/11, double the number we originally expected. We are well on track to achieve the target of 3,000 new apprenticeships across the GLA group and 100,000 across the capital by the end of this year. Through my Sports Legacy Fund, over 2,000 women have received training within the sports industry, many of whom are now coaches and officials. Our Diversity Works for London programme helps businesses to harness the benefits of a diverse workforce which is reflective of London’s population and to widen their supplier base to businesses run by women and other underrepresented groups.
The values and morals which we instil in our young people whilst they are still in education are key to creating a more cohesive and equal society. The Mayoral Academies Programme has already established three academies preparing our young men and women for the world of work so they can seize every opportunity available to them in the competitive London job market. At the end of last year, I announced an education inquiry, which has already delivered its preliminary findings on the key challenges for education in London and recommend practical action for boroughs, schools and colleges and I shall be pushing this forward in the capital .
What can be done to improve female entrepreneurship, and grow existing female businesses in London?
Forums such as London Mums and Work Your Way are invaluable for forging new relationships, sparking ideas and providing advice in an easy, accessible way. For living proof of the dizzy career heights which are being reached by ambitious, talented and entrepreneurially-minded women in London, I need to look no further than my own team – Isabel Dedring, Rosie Boycott, Munira Mirza and Pamela Chesters are all outstanding female advisors of mine who are shaping London’s bright future. They are among many fantastic female role models in London who are step ping forward to instil confidence in the next generation of entrepreneurial women.
Entrepreneurship will strengthen our economy and appeal to mothers who may prefer to use their bright ideas to set up their own businesses and work more flexibly around the needs of their families and I will continue to press for the support start-ups need to get off the ground. Growth of female businesses in London is at the heart of London leading the way out of the recession and I am fully supporting, through TfL,Crossrail and the Metropolitan Police, services such as CompeteFor which enables small-to-medium-sized businesses to compete for contracts in the 2012 Games. Smaller and medium sized businesses in the capital, particularly bringing fresh ideas, are as important to the long term health and prosperity of this great world city as any business situated in the Square Mile.
What legacy would you like the Olympics to leave on Britain
We are already achieving an amazing legacy for this country, and for London, before the Games have even started. We’ve seen the transformation of the historically deprived east London during one of the toughest economic climates of the last century, the creation of 200,000 jobs; including work for 32,000 previously jobless Londoners, as well as 8,000 permanent jobs at Stratford Westfield and a massive £2 billion boost to the capital’s economy.
Londoners are already reaping the benefits of a £6.5bn investment on transport improvements ahead of the Games. We’ve delivered improvements to Tube, DLR, rail and cycling infrastructure including a 50 per cent increase in DLR capacity with the line extended to Woolwich and Stratford International. The Jubilee line has been upgraded to provide more frequent and reliable services and there is extra capacity on the Central line.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park one of the biggest new parks in Europe will be transformed into capital’s newest district with the potential for 29,000 new homes and 1.35 million square metres of new and improved commercial floorspace offering a multitude of investment opportunities and future generations will be able to enjoy a whole new district of London attracting visitors from all over the world.
But, what I’m most passionate about is the sporting legacy we will deliver. I’m delighted that as part of the £ 40 million I’ve invested in sport over the last three years, 200,000 Londoners are now more physically active, at least 10% of which were previously inactive – that’s 20,000 Londoners! So I can say without any doubt that more people in London active and healthy already – I am even running three times a week.
These Games are much more than a sporting event – over the next few months we’ll see seven years of hard work come together in the greatest opportunity to showcase our capital city. From the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, to the arrival of the torch in London and through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we will welcome visitors from every corner of the planet and host a sporting and cultural festival that gives London and the UK the opportunity to show off all that’s great about Britain.