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Sadiq Khan’s Year As Mayor: Eye-Catching Initiatives but Slow on Housing and Infrastructure

A year on since Sadiq’s election as Mayor of London, Ben Rogers reflects on his manifesto promises and his work to date.

Sadiq Khan is proving to be a very different mayor from his predecessors – more deliberate and more unifying.  He has been criticised for remaining in campaign mode, but the Mayor does not have much hard power and needs to exercise his soft power as effectively as he can.

He has done well in getting the message out there that ‘London is open’, pushing air pollution up the political agenda and calling for more power for the capital – though he could perhaps do more to sell London to the rest of the UK. He appears to move easily through London’s many worlds. Polls suggest his popular with voters.

The Mayor has eschewed eye-catching initiatives. But he did not come to City Hall with a particularly well developed set of plans or a large team of experienced leaders, so a lot of time and energy has gone into setting up the City Hall machine, making mayoral appointments and developing policy. One hallmark of his term so far: the determination he has shown in appointing women and ethnic minority people to senior positions in the GLA and beyond.

It’s feels far beyond tokenism.

We have seen most action in transport where Sadiq has frozen fares, introduced the Hopper bus ticket and is cracking down on air pollution. He’s told TfL that he wants the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street and a pedestrian and cycle bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf before the next election, 3 years away. But like previous mayors he is discovering it’s easier to campaign on housing and infrastructure than deliver it, and with cuts to public spending, notably the end of central government grant to TfL, the Mayor is seriously short of money.

It’s early days, however, and Sadiq is right to spend time on getting the people and policy right.  We will have to see what he has achieved in 3 years time and beyond.