As Election Day approaches, one of our No Second Night Out volunteers Faye Ferguson tells us her thoughts after going to a BBC London debate. The views expressed are her own.
In the lead up to the General Election, BBC London asked people to get in touch if they’d like to take part in an election debate on board a boat on the Thames. I did, and was lucky enough to be invited along.
That’s how I and others joined Vanessa Feltz live on BBC London radio 94.9fm on the Golden Star to listen to different party representatives debate London’s housing crisis. Think Question Time on water and, in place of David Dimbleby, it was the vivacious Vanessa Feltz!
The boat was moored at Temple on the banks of the Thames. With the show staring at 9am, it was an early start to get there but I soon forgot that with the buzz of being live on BBC radio. It is fair to say the water was particularly choppy that morning. I think even Vanessa herself was a little “green around the gills”!
Those participating in the debate about London’s housing crisis were Tom Chance (Green Party), Andrew Charalambous (UKIP), James Cleverly (Conservative), Tom Copley (Labour), and Simon Hughes (Liberal Democrats), with each person speaking about their party’s manifesto.
Three of them said things that really caught my attention.
Tom Copley said that a Labour Government would build 200,000 new homes by 2020, put in place longer tenancy agreements (a minimum of three years), cap annual rent increases, and abolish upfront letting agency fees.
Simon Hughes spoke about how the Liberal Democrats wanted to make it easier for local authorities to build more affordable homes. He said that local communities should be the ones to benefit from new housing and that new planning rules should ensure all homes are occupied and not left empty by investors.
Tom Chance, Green Party, assured the audience and listeners that the Green Party wanted to regulate the private rented sector, scrap the right to buy scheme, and build more social housing.
As someone who volunteers with people who are homeless and sleeping rough, trying to support people with no home, I found it an interesting debate. For myself personally, I have also faced housing issues.
The debate didn’t sway me in how I will vote on Thursday 7 May but it definitely made me more aware of what each party is thinking about the housing crisis in London and that action is really needed by the next set of elected MPs.
I know too that St Mungo’s Broadway has also been encouraging the people they work with to register to vote, and has collected some of their opinions into a St Mungo’s Broadway manifesto.
Overall, I am glad I was able to take part in the debate and feel better informed because of it. Make your vote count!