This year, I have focused on apprenticeships, accessibility and security. Although we recognise the importance of creating jobs now, apprenticeships are the key to a future rebalancing of our economy and the best way to train our workforce for the challenges that we will face in the coming years. I have always stressed the benefits of an apprenticeship, which teaches young adults self-discipline and skills, and they must be recognised as the best way for young people who do not want to go to university but wish to earn as they learn and improve their career prospects.
The flagship development in terms of accessibility is InclusiveLondon.com, which helps those with access needs to plan their visit to London and make the most of everything the city has to offer. My main remit as Deputy Mayor is social justice, so it is important that everybody has the chance to experience the city’s main tourist attractions whilst also being able to easily find out which restaurants, pubs and entertainment venues are accessible to them. I am continuing to work to make sure that the Olympic games this year are the most accessible ever.
The media event which has dominated the headlines in this country and worldwide, unfortunately, was the riots which took place in August. There were scenes of destruction and violence all across London as an initially peaceful protest turned into an opportunistic spree of looting and mayhem. The riots escalated at an alarming rate and the police were initially overwhelmed, but the Mayor and the Acting Commissioner stepped up the response and by the 9th August there were 16,000 officers on the streets of London. In my own constituency, I was particularly shocked to hear that a bus had been hijacked and deliberately crashed. Nevertheless, we also saw communities pull together, most notably the Clapham “broom army” and other individual and collective actions which show that the rioters do not represent the true nature of London.
2011 has been an extremely busy year, with the Coroners Report on the 7th July terrorist attacks being released, following the inquest which I chaired in 2010. We are also taking action against illiteracy and child trafficking, and we have launched a mentoring scheme for young people. The so-called “Boris bike” scheme has been a notable success, as has the final removal of bendy buses from our streets. We have not raised the Mayor’s share of council tax in the three years we have been in office, and have increased funding for the Metropolitan Police, which now has a new Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, by £42 billion which will be combined with more efficient deployment of existing resources to get police officers back on the beat.
Despite the disappointment of the London riots, overall, this has been a good year for London, but 2012 is set to be even more important. We have the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to look forward to, which will bring thousands of people to London and mean that the eyes of the world will be on us, which will be a fantastic opportunity. Although the short term benefits will be of great use to us, my main hope is that the games will leave a lasting legacy of improving London’s accessibility for parents with pushchairs and those with disabilities and make London a safer place for all. We are also improving London’s infrastructure and transport, particularly the Tube, which has seen great investment and improvements. In this climate, we also have the Mayoral elections and the challenges of improving public services by making them more efficient at a time when the economic climate is difficult. We remain committed to making London the best big city in the world.