Environment, economy, transport: Caroline Russell, candidate for Green London Assembly list
In 2020, London will go to the polls to elect a new Mayor and members of the London Assembly. The London Green Party are now in the process of selecting their candidates for those elections. Bright Green is offering every candidate seeking selection an opportunity to tell our readers why they should be selected. One of these candidates is Caroline Russell, who has the following to say:
Since Sian and I were elected to the Assembly in May 2016, we’ve worked closely together listening to Londoners and pushing the Mayor of London to make his policies smarter and greener.
My areas of focus have been Environment, Economy and Transport and I’m going to give you a taste of the way I’ve worked to represent Londoners and the Green Party in City Hall in the hope you’ll want more.
I’ve been taking every opportunity to bring the threat of climate breakdown into my work. I persuaded the Mayor in the summer to include climate change in his legal case against Heathrow expansion and it was my Assembly motion that got the Mayor to declare a climate emergency for London just before Christmas and bring forward his zero carbon targets from 2050 to 2030. I am challenging him this week at Mayor’s Questions to explain when he will share his plan to show what needs to happen to make this a reality.
As Chair of the Environment Committee, I recently invited residents who live under concentrated flight paths in South London to come to City Hall to tell the committee about the persistent aircraft noise they suffer from City and Heathrow airports. Heathrow is consulting on “flight path modernisation”, which is a way to cram more flights into the same airspace. GPS (rather than radar) allows planes to be much closer together. The committee report is due out shortly and we’ll be supporting those residents in their calls for respite and no aviation expansion.
My work as an Assembly Member has been underpinned by my experience of working at Council level. For example it took about four years before residents trusted me, as their Islington councillor, to show me the terrible damp, condensation and black mould in homes on estates across my ward. I’ve used this as a starting point for a City Hall scrutiny into the causes and solutions for black mould. We’ve visited Thamesmead to see some cutting edge multi-measure retrofit work and will be publishing a report shortly with recommendations to the Mayor which I hope he’ll take up as he addresses the climate emergency.
Last summer the Environment Committee published Unflushables, our report on single use plastics like period pads and wet wipes. I hosted a period positive event at City Hall along with the Deputy Chair of the Committee bringing together environmenstrual and period poverty campaigners with the water companies all of whom are needed to take on the might of the absorbent hygiene product manufacturers who are creating a huge environmental sewer-blocking problem with their determination to sell their single use plastic unflushable products.
I’ve stood up for existing micro businesses in areas experiencing regeneration, especially those in railway arches and I am currently helping the East End Trades Guild as they try to devise a formula for an affordable “working rent”.
In summer 2016 I met with Uber drivers at a United Private Hire Drivers Union meeting. These mainly BAME men, told me they worked long hours for low pay, there’s no sick or holiday pay and constant worry about the loans on their cars. Since that meeting, I’ve spoken up on many occasions for Uber drivers – my motion calling on the Mayor to make workers’ rights a condition of licencing to protect these drivers from exploitation passed and I’ve successfully pushed for their voices to be heard in the Transport Committee.
Meeting workers in the gig economy inspired my Shortchanged report for the Economy Committee last year looking into the financial health of Londoners. We looked at access to affordable credit for people on the lowest incomes and recommended the Mayor should focus on financial advice for young people and those without access to mainstream banking. We followed up this year looking at the experience of people running micro businesses who are on Universal Credit and we’ve written to Government to raise concern about the harsh effect of the minimum income floor on low earning self employed people.
I came into politics through campaigning to reduce road danger. On transport, I’ve focused on pushing for safe conditions for walking and cycling, creating properly inclusive streets that work for everyone and revealing the slippage in the Mayor’s delivery on cycle lanes in my report “Cycling Proficiency?”
I’ve concentrated on outer London as that is where we need so much more investment in our streets so people have a safe and healthy alternative to driving. My report Hostile Streets exposed the severance created by fast multi-lane roads cutting through communities where people are trying to get to school, work or the shops.
I’ve made sure that traffic reduction is a key principle in the Mayor’s transport strategy and worked with groups like Transport for All to ensure that TfL provides a transport system that is welcoming to everyone including those with hidden disabilities.
Finally all the transport work brings me neatly full circle back to the environment via air pollution and the importance for health equality that we can trust the air we breath. I’ve been working with outer Londoners to make the case for a ULEZ that leaves no one out. It’s ludicrous that the south circular which is like a high street not a motorway should be the boundary of Sadiq’s clean air zone and there’s a real job to be done to make the case for a bigger ULEZ underpinned by smart road pricing in the campaign ahead.
Being an Assembly Member is a massive opportunity to influence policy, check that the Mayor is doing the very best for Londoners and to bring Green Party policy to life in our city.
I hope London members like the way I have worked over the last four years and will vote me top of the Green Party list for the next Assembly election so I can contribute to four more years of effective Green influence at the heart of London politics.
Caroline Russell is a Green member of the London Assembly, first elected in 2016. She is also the Green Party’s transport spokesperson and a councillor in Islington.
Articles from all candidates can be found here.