The fifth in our series of interviews with potential candidates for next year's Mayoral election. Previously: Victoria Borwick (Tory), Andrew Boff (Tory) and Warwick Lightfoot (Tory), Sian Berry (Green).
Today: Liberal Democrat candidate Fiyaz Mughal. He's competing with fellow LDs Brian Paddick and Chamali Fernando to represent his party in next year's elections. Would you vote for him? Read his ideas below.
Where do you live in London and what do you like best about it?
I live in the London Borough of Haringey and enjoy the sheer diversity of London. There is no other capital city that is as vibrant as London and which has so many different communities within it. That is the strength of London and many cities look towards London as the beacon and trail blazer city from which social programmes can be adopted and implemented within their respective areas.
Why do you think you should be Mayor and what policies would you bring to the office that would make you stand out against anyone else who wants to be?
I think I should be Mayor since I bring with me a deep understanding of issues affecting Londoners and have been campaigning and working on social policy issues within the voluntary and community sector for nearly 12 years now. I have founded and developed not for profit organizations that have worked within numerous social fields. These have included areas like the provision of free generalist advice and information (I am currently the Chief Executive of the Enfield Citizens Advice Bureaux Service), financial exclusion and inclusion programmes with credit unions and community development finance initiatives, the educational sector and within organizations promoting integration and community cohesion within London. I believe that my work with a variety of communities shows that I am flexible and adaptable in my outlook and the London Mayor needs to have the vision and flexibility to deal with rapidly changing issues within the City.
I have experience as a Councillor and my grass roots activism has meant that I have an excellent grasp of what is taking place where it matters in London, within local communities! This allied with campaigning with diverse communities and allied to the political experience that I bring, makes me stand out against other candidates who have been hoisted onto the scene. (My political experience has involved being the Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats from 2002-2006, a Deputy President of the Liberal Democrats from 2006-7 and a member of the Party's Federal Policy Executive Committee, 2006-2008). My vision is based on promoting local solutions for local problems in London as opposed to the autocratic manner in which the current Mayor is driving through policies in London, (planning priorities for London are prime examples).
How do you yourself travel around London?
I use the tube on the majority of occasions and I occasionally use the car when necessary. My vehicle is a Peugeot 206 with an 1100cc engine. I think that better management needs to be implemented particularly in the administration of Metronet, which has been far from successful in delivering quick and efficient services.
What is your policy regarding irritant noise from mobile phone music players on the tube and buses?
I am afraid that I am against banning things since I am Libertarian at the very core. However, it is imperative on us as people who increasingly share the same living spaces, to ensure that we have respect for the needs and requirements of others. I think that the 'Me First' approach that developed under Thatcherism has taken away much from local communities who would normally work and gel together within a 'community spirit.' This item can also be tackled through an educational and sticker campaign that makes people think twice about putting their MP3's or mobile phone speakers on loud so that others are disturbed.
Would you have introduced the Congestion Charge and if not will you repeal it?
The answer is yes and I think that the Congestion Charge has been successful in reducing congestion in Central London. I remember the days prior to the Congestion Charge when it was difficult to get round London and where buses could not get through bus lanes or other points due to the sheer amount of vehicles in Central London, (as well as due to bad driving). London has become accessible and it has also helped reduce pollution and carbon emissions in the City. I think that another key point is that it has also helped to have an environmental impact and made people use public transport. Anything that does that is a positive thing!
Do you support the building of a new runway at Heathrow and how would you reduce your own international travel if you become Mayor?
This is a difficult question and one which needs to be put into context somewhat. Increased air travel is something that is a reality, though many flights do not fill to capacity even though they should in order to reduce the number of planes in the skies with extremely large carbon footprints. However, cheaper air flights (especially in the internal UK flight market) mean that more landing spaces are needed, more so in the crowded skies over Heathrow. Therefore, a new runaway is essential though I would like to see further airline taxes imposed and educational campaigns implemented around using other forms of transport to travel within the UK. Frankly, getting up earlier in the morning and a slightly longer travel time is a small price to pay for the rapid climate changes that we see around us. More and more, the climate of the globe is changing and there is significant evidence to confirm that this is due to global warming. If I were to become Mayor I would ensure that wherever possible, I would travel by train and by public transport. This would also include European international trips.
What would be your vision for the city by 2020 and how would you achieve it as Mayor?
• Significant business and financial incentives need to be put into place to reduce the CO2 emission levels on a yearly basis. The Mayor talks about a 4% year on year reduction in emission levels, so that emissions will be 60% below the 1990 levels in 2025. I propose that the business taxes be revised to take into account the heaviest polluters so that there is a financial incentive to try to reduce emissions. I think that 5% reductions year on year are possible through educational campaigns at a local and central government level allied to incentives as outlined.
• I would like to see greater transparency in the way that City Hall is run. By 2020, I hope to see Citizen's Recruitment Panels up and running in the recruitment of key posts like mayoral advisers. I am afraid to say that mayoral appointments have been made without due transparency and scrutiny of the process and this has to change. The public need to have confidence that they are receiving value for money and they should be involved in the recruitment processes in conjunction with key officers.
• I am afraid to say that in the rush for affordable homes, the Mayor has been involved in setting priorities for local areas without recourse to advise from local officers or elected councillors who know more about their local areas. The local infrastructure of some areas cannot cope with new high density housing developments and further stresses on community cohesion and resources are evident. However, affordable housing is required for a growing population and to re-house those within unsuitable living conditions; there is a difference though and to meet the demand the Mayor has suggested about 35,500 new homes per year until 2025. Such high benchmarks are causing problems in some areas and my vision is to ensure that at least 30,000 new homes are created with additional resources being targeted through lobbying to Central Government to help build up the local infrastructure. This is essential for future stability and for the well-being of local communities.
• London requires about 50,000 jobs per year and these can be brought into effect through additional volunteering opportunities in the capital that can help build skills and experience for those looking for employment. Sustainable social entrepreneurism post the Olympics should mean that some jobs should have a long life cycle and the effective business use of the Olympic sites for social and business functions will mean that there will be further opportunities. The London Development Agency will also be a key driver to the creation of new posts – especially for those leaving school or further education colleges with vocational qualifications and many of these will be employed in new service and cultural industries. Many of these opportunities will come from the Olympics but they should not come at the expense of good causes ( i.e. through drains on the National Lottery pots of funding).
Do you have any London-based trivia our readers may not know?
Yes, it is interesting to note that up to January 2007, about 750,000 people from Eastern European Accession states had registered under the Worker Migrant Scheme to come to the UK (to work). 450,000 of these were Poles and many work in the informal economy in London. (A snippet of information I picked up today as I presented a report on Migrant Workers.)
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
Thankfully no! An interesting concept though and especially when it is crowded and not ventilated!