Why I’m standing to be a Labour London Assembly candidate

First published on LabourList: https://labourlist.org/2020/01/andrew-achilleos-why-im-standing-to-be-a-labour-london-assembly-candidate

I’m standing to be Labour’s GLA candidate for Havering and Redbridge because I know just how much local people need a strong Labour voice to represent their interests in City Hall.

The Tories have held Havering and Redbridge for 20 years, leaving residents across two boroughs without a seat at the table on the issues that matter.

If members put their faith in me when ballots drop next week, we can change that.

Having worked for Jon Cruddas MP over the last eight years, I’ve made a name for myself by consistently winning elections against the odds. I’m the candidate best placed to beat Keith Prince because I did it two months ago when he organised the Tory campaign against us.

If selected I hope to stand on a bold agenda;

  • I will work across sectors to improve air quality and lead a green transformation thatmakes our parks and open spaces the best in London;
  • I will campaign for more investment in the Metropolitan Police and work alongside Labour colleagues to champion a multi-agency approach to violent crime; and
  • I will put council housing at the forefront of my campaign. I’ll challenge ’viability’ models and hold developers to account, ensuring we build truly affordable council homes.

As Deputy Chair of Overview and Scrutiny in Barking and Dagenham I have first-hand experience of being a ‘critical friend’ and if I make it to City Hall. I won’t be afraid to speak up for Havering and Redbridge.

These aren’t just words on a screen, I have a proven record of delivery.

My work for Jon Cruddas has seen us save Dagenham police station twice, halt plans to build a super-prison in the area, save the iconic Civic Centre which is now a university and I’m currently organising Jon’s campaign against a mass waste incinerator which would damage air quality.

I have always been passionate about the environment, and since being elected as a Labour Councillor in Barking and Dagenham I have worked tirelessly to make the area cleaner and greener.

Over the last two years I have; introduced a motion to phase out single use plastics, led an in-depth scrutiny review into environmental sustainability, fundraised to get nature book ‘The Lost Words’ into every primary school, and I am a key stakeholder helping to shape our Air Quality Action Plan.

In January 2019 Barking and Dagenham also adopted the Mental Health Charter which I drafted, aiming to end stigma and discrimination – supporting those in need across our community.

It is fair to say over the last eight years in the Labour movement I have gone from strength to strength. However, like many in London, my life hasn’t always been plain sailing.

I started out working down the markets in Walthamstow and Harringay. I grafted all through my education and I know what it’s like to make the choice between eating or paying the bills. I also found myself homeless for just over four years – a low priority for limited council housing stock, whilst not earning enough to rent privately. These aren’t unique experiences.

As a Labour GLA candidate I would be a strong advocate for council housing, the environment, police investment, improving transport networks and supporting our local high streets. Above all I will be a strong voice for Havering and Redbridge, making sure that the outer boroughs are not forgotten in the 2020 Labour manifesto for London.

Having lived and worked in the GLA constituency for most of my life it would be a great honour to represent Labour this May. That’s why I’m asking members to vote for me in the coming weeks. Together we can secure a Labour victory in Havering and Redbridge.

100 Years of Council Housing – Let’s Celebrate by Building Some

This year marked 100 years since the Addison Act – legislation that paved the way for councils to build social housing. What better way to celebrate and honour this ground-breaking Act than to get councils building again? There are somewhere in the region of 11,000 local authorities in the United Kingdom, if all of them pledged to build just 20 homes on secure fixed tenancies, at traditional social rents that is nearly a quarter of a million truly affordable homes.

Whilst I champion council housing, I also understand the need for mixed tenancies as well, I myself benefited from a 65% market rent ‘working persons’ option which lifted me out of homelessness in 2015. However, the majority of people on housing waiting lists cannot afford the standardised ‘affordable’ option which comes in at 80% of market rents.

The Mayor of London has gone some way to address this with the ‘London Living Rent’ and ‘London Affordable Rent’ – which is close to traditional social rents, but I think local authorities can go one better.

Councils should correlate affordability to average local wage levels, ensuring that ‘affordable’ means no more than a third of the average local wage on a borough by borough basis.

We’ll be told that this isn’t viable. However, the truth of the matter is that if the political will is there it can be done. It’s time to challenge the notion of ‘viability’. Basing a development on a 15-35 year return hikes the rents up and is contrary to the interests of millions across the country, pushing many further away from the security of a home.

The political system is so caught up in electoral cycles that for the most part we have stopped signing off on legacy projects. I expect a new home to be standing and habitable for generations. If councils, developers and ALMOs base their models on a 45-65 year return, we can start to make real meaningful inroads that provide housing at lower, traditional rent levels.

I’m running to be Labour’s GLA candidate for Havering and Redbridge and if I am selected housing will play a large role in my campaign. I’ll fight to deliver more council housing but make sure that we aren’t overdeveloping to the detriment of existing communities. That means sustainable place making and bringing the community with us on all decisions.

I’ll advocate like for like on all regeneration projects to ensure that families and community networks are preserved, and people aren’t moved on against their wishes. Regeneration shouldn’t be a code-word for social cleansing.

I’m also in full support of the Mayor of London’s call for rent controls. If I make it to City Hall, I’ll work with the Mayor and local authorities to extend licensing schemes, delivering more rights for renters.

There is much more to say but for now I will end where I began.

This year marked 100 years since the Addison Act – legislation that paved the way for councils to build social housing. What better way to celebrate and honour this ground-breaking Act than to get councils building again?