Blog Post

April’s policy round up: Council tax concerns, cost of living and a change in Commissioner

Our Chief Executive Nick Bowes reviews April’s big stories, with thoughts on the tough choices that lie ahead for the Metropolitan Police, as well as London’s households and council candidates.

While the elections in May will be a big factor in determining the next big developments in London politics, if April’s key stories were anything to go by, there is no calm before the storm. Here’s my round-up of a month which saw plenty to reflect on:

The Met’s move forward 
April marked a significant moment for policing in the capital as Dame Cressida Dick stepped down from her role as Met Commissioner. Londoners trust in the police, particularly those from minority backgrounds – has declined rapidly over recent months, not least driven by a growing list of scandals, controversy and tragedy. 
A new commissioner represents a fresh start and is a major part of what’s needed to restore trust in the Met. But on its own this won’t be enough – the new Commissioner will need to recognise the wider structural and cultural problems that need tackling if confidence and trust in the police is to be increased. It is encouraging to hear the Acting Met Chief Sir Stephen House concede to Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee that problems in the force are not down to “a few bad apples” 
One thing in the new Commissioner’s in tray will be how the police can better read the public’s mood. The Met losing their legal challenge against the organisers of the last year’s vigil for Sarah Everard, whilst also giving Cressida Dick a standing ovation on her last day at work, demonstrated how far there is to go in this area.

Local elections steered by council tax

Polling day draws ever closer, with just a week to go until the crucial contests that will steer the future of the capital, during perhaps its most critical period in living memory.

The campaigns have knocked on as many doors and delivered as many leaflets as possible – something I know all too well about from my own experiences on the campaign trail – but what issues are going to be the vote-deciding factors for the Londoners being spoken to before the 5th of May?  

Our brand new polling published in partnership with Savanta ComRes this month highlighted council tax as Londoners top local election priority, indicative of how many people are struggling to make ends meet given the impact of rising bills on their wallets. Our polling also revealed that restrictions on cars are further down the list of voter priorities than perhaps some would have expected, suggesting the animosity and controversy that feature in discussions around them might not convert into significant electoral consequences in areas where they have already been implemented. Should this be the case, it will be interesting to see whether councillors are emboldened to ramp up plans for more schemes such as low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and the like to tackle car usage and congestion as a result.

If you haven’t already had a chance to, do read our blog featuring local election predictions from a range of ex-politicians, pollsters, journalists and commentators. It provides fascinating insight into the range of key issues in different parts of the capital, as well as what is at stake for the political parties involved including the governing party nationwide, who risk losing their influence in London almost entirely.

Increased inflation an issue for Londoners

The first half of 2022 has seen a rise in inflation to levels not seen for thirty years. The growing cost of living crisis is leading to many London households struggling day to day with basic necessities such as heating and food.  

A vast proportion of London’s population are already struggling to get by and our Snapshot of Londoners polling revealed nearly a quarter of them find food difficult to afford, with almost one in ten getting groceries from a foodbank, and nearly half of Londoners find rent unaffordable.

Londoners already face a higher cost of living, so surging prices will hit the city hard. That’s why the government will come under pressure to provide targeted support to prevent inequality and poverty soaring in the city.

Nick Bowes is Chief Executive of Centre for London. Follow him on Twitter. Read more from him here.