Equality Can Win
This election you are choosing the Mayor and Assembly who will be in charge of London’s recovery from Coronavirus. Nobody has been unaffected by the pandemic. Many thousands of Londoners have lost loved ones, their own health, their jobs, their financial security. The poorest and most vulnerable are so often women, in particular black and minoritised women and disabled women, and they need to be prioritised if our recovery is to succeed.
Everyone agrees we need to build back better. The Women's Equality Party says we need to do more than that – we need to Build Back Equal. The pandemic has laid bare the inequalities in our economy and society, and the government’s response has magnified many of those inequalities. If we are to Build Back Equal, then we need diverse perspectives round the table to help reimagine jobs, housing, transport, policing and communities. We need a plan that will meet the moment.
The Women’s Equality Party narrowly missed out on a seat on the London Assembly in 2016, when the party was only months old. This time we are encouraging Londoners to share their votes with us on the orange ballot, so that we can send our first representative to City Hall and help deliver such a plan. That plan must, as a starting point, make ending violence against women and girls a political priority.
London is globally admired and rightly so. The diversity of talent, innovation and opportunities here are incomparable. But our city has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, compounded by years of austerity and a damaging Brexit agenda, increasing the inequalities in our society and economy. It is clear that urgent action is needed, not just to get London back on track but to set it on course for a brighter and more equal future.
During the pandemic we have seen what is essential and we cannot unsee it. When everything else was closed, what had to remain open? It was our hospitals, care homes, schools and nurseries - our social infrastructure. The vast majority of our essential workers who saw us through the worst of the pandemic are women, especially black and minoritised women, working in high-risk jobs for poverty wages. We have to right this wrong.
WE will create a care revolution from City Hall, driving down zero hours contracts, investing in skills and driving up pay. And we will build homes with social rents to stop our essential workers being priced out of London. We will make London the best place to be a care worker and the best place to receive care.
Wherever there are gaps in our social infrastructure, women are expected to fill them. During lockdown, carers and parents have provided £73 billion worth of unpaid care every single day in London. They have been forced to reduce their hours or quit their jobs and 60% of Covid job losses in London are now expected to fall on women. With nearly half of London’s childcare providers also expected to close, even more women could lose their jobs. If we want to save jobs, we have to save childcare.
WE will make a landmark investment in childcare by extending the free childcare allowance to parents studying or in training. This will support parents who have lost their jobs, stop families being driven into poverty, and help keep our nurseries open and our economy running.
Unlike in previous economic crises, the sectors that have been hardest hit are dominated by women. Hospitality, retail and the arts are the lifeblood of London’s economy and are vital to women’s employment. The usual response of politicians popping on a hard hat to announce more investment in construction simply won’t work. We have to think differently this time.
WE will negotiate from government a recovery package that understands the realities of this crisis, and helps futureproof our economy. We will maximise expenditure from city hall to support apprenticeships for young women in the jobs that businesses are saving, and help drive capital investment to women- and minority-owned businesses.
We won’t stop there. Drawing from the work of great female leaders in places like Finland, Iceland and New Zealand, we will bring forward a wellbeing budget that measures crucial indicators of a city’s success beyond GDP, and for the first time includes the value of unpaid care. We will allocate funds on the basis of what’s best for the wellbeing of our people and our planet. Across London, we will work with employers not just to pay a London Living Wage, but to ensure Londoners live well.
WE will convene an annual citizens’ assembly, to scrutinise the London budget and make recommendations for change before it is approved. Without a deliberate effort to extend power to a more diverse cross-section of London society, we will not be able to remove the intersecting barriers that prevent us from becoming a truly successful city.
Ending Violence against women and girls
And there is no bigger barrier than violence against women and girls. Over the last five years, cases of violence against women have increased while charging rates and funding for support services have fallen. Domestic abuse now accounts for one in ten of all crimes in London and is a major driver of homelessness. We need to make ending violence a political priority every single day.
WE will make London a place where every woman can live free from the fear of violence. We will ensure that no woman is turned away from safe refuge and make London the UK’s first Sanctuary City - overriding the government’s hostile environment policies to ensure migrant women with No Recourse to Public Funds are not tethered to their abusers.
WE will introduce a specialist policing unit, drawing on expertise from outside the Met Police and increasing the number of independent advocates to rebuild trust and achieve justice. And we will develop the first comprehensive perpetrator strategy - because we need to stop managing violence and start ending it.
A woman’s ability to live free from violence is also dependent on her capacity to afford a home of her own. The housing crisis in London combined with the gender pay gap means that 80% of women’s income currently goes on rent, and women are more likely to rely on housing benefits and to be made homeless.
WE will redefine so-called affordable housing to put it within reach of those on low incomes. We will introduce a strong social rent policy for London and a separate target for social rent delivery. And we will fight like hell for housing benefits to catch up with rents - to stop homelessness in its tracks.
In the wake of this pandemic, with the official toll alone standing at more than 150,000 deaths, business as usual is not an option. Coronavirus was able to rip through our communities at devastating speed and scale, aided by inequality and poverty. In these elections it therefore falls on each of us to demand a new normal. We must send a message to government that equality matters.
Vote for the Women’s Equality Party on the orange ballot on 6th May to make equality a reality.