Friday, 28 March 2008

Ken vs Boris on the Issues (4): Local Environment

The fourth issue that I am taking a look at as part of this assessment of the relative merits of Ken's and Boris's policies is really more of an umbrella category. Basically, 'Local Environment' covers everything (apart from those things that fell under the previous 3 issues) that determines how pleasant a city London is to live and work in. That ranges from major planning decisions through to street-sweepers.

What I'm deliberately not covering here is global environment, particularly climate change. Both candidates have policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions as part of their manifestos (some, such as opposing the Heathrow 3rd runway, are shared). However, one candidate (Ken) has made tackling climate change a central part of his campaign, whereas the other has not. Regardless of which approach you prefer, I am not taking these views, or criticism of same, into account.

Both candidates have Environment Manifestos available for download. Ken's, entitled 'Greener & Cleaner' (G&C), can be downloaded here (PDF). Boris's, entitled 'Protecting Our Local Environment' (PoLE), can be downloaded here (PDF).

Boris has focused on the city's parks and open spaces in his environment manifesto, pledging the protection of all of London's green belt land and gardens by introduction of tougher planning rules to ensure that housing is not built at the expense of green spaces. Additionally, Boris promises the renovation of parks and open spaces, introducing a £6 million 'Priority Parks Programme' (PoLE, pg5) to provide boroughs with more funds for parks improvements. Ken's manifesto, on the other hand, relegates parks to page 12 of 16. Here he promises the creation of a 'Green Grid' of parks and waterways as part of the Thames Gateway development, something that is not mentioned in Boris's document - perhaps because one of Boris's more far-out ambitions is the development of a new airport in the area!

Trees are the second plank (pun intended) of Boris Johnson's local environment policy. He has promised a £1 million scheme to bring about the planting of 10,000 street trees by the end of his first term. Ken, in the final paragraph of his manifesto (C&G, pg15), promises the establishment of a rather ambitious scheme, 'Trees for All', with a target of planting a million trees. However the manifesto is lacking in funding details or a timescale and Googling doesn't elicit further informations of how Ken proposes to proceed with this.

Ken pledges to tackle air pollution (C&G, pg11), continuing the implementation of the Low Emissions Zone and other incentives for reduction in pollution from traffic; as well as introducing the £25 congestion charge for the most polluting vehicles. Boris opposes the latter, suggesting that it will have a counter-productive effect by resulting in an increase in congestion(PoLE, pg14), but gives his backing to the Low Emission Zone (PoLE, pg15), although he has made statements attacking it. Noise pollution is named by Ken as a problem in need of tackling, but neither he nor Boris provides specific policy to achieve a reduction here.

Litter, graffiti and fly-tipping are important environmental issues at local level. As might be expected from his emphasis on 'broken windows', Boris has pledged to increase prosecutions of offenders (PoLE, pg8) and make the offences easier to report. However his proposals are lacking in detail, particularly with regard to dealing with the problem of litter. Ken emphasises litter enforcement and educational programmes (C&G pg13-14).

Boris pledges to support recycling, making it easier and more convenient and thereby improving recycling rates (PoLE, pg9). A headline policy is his proposal to reward Londoners with vouchers for recycling. However, the feasibility of this plan has been questioned. He has also expressed support for a ban on plastic bags. Ken proposes simply to support councils in helping Londoners raise recycling levels (C&G, pg13), a much more down-to-earth pledge but perhaps a more realistic reflection of the role of the Mayor in this area.

Overview: Boris has clearly made local environmental concerns central to his environment manifesto, whereas Ken emphasises tackling climate change. The result of this here is that Boris appears more determined in almost every area I have discussed. Both are suspected of coming up with proposals intended to grab headlines rather than be put into practice, such as Boris's Thames Gateway airport plan, and Ken's seemingly tacked-on plan to plant a million trees. Boris in particular appears to perhaps be overstating the amount of authority he will have over the boroughs if elected Mayor, making his lack of a litter policy all the more puzzling. All in all, local environment is a mixed bag from both candidates with neither standing out as clearly the better choice.
Verdict: Draw

1 comment:

Mark Wadsworth said...

You really have put a lot of time and effort into wading through all that guff and nonsense! I hope that this series is getting you loads of visits at least.

Or are you hoping to appear on Mastermind, specialist topic 'London Mayoral candidates' detailed policies for 2008 elections'?.