Here's the responses from Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor to the 5 questions we selected from the many sent in by our readers:
1. 'The rise in income inequalities in the UK to levels not seen since the 1920s has been driven largely by the financial markets industry in the City. How would you, as Mayor of London, address this issue ? Would regulation / legislation work and, if so, how ?'.
The Mayor of London has no powers over regulating the City. However, I shall engage pro-actively with the City to sponsor trade apprenticeships for disadvantaged young Londoners and to build youth centres where they can access confidential advice and skills training. We need to ensure workpeople in the East End have the skills to secure jobs on major projects like the Olympic site and Crossrail. We support the Supplementary Business Rate being levied on larger firms as part of the funding package for Crossrail.
2. 'The Mayoral candidates appear to be more concerned about the environment, rather than the out-of-control crime rate. What do you actually intend to do to combat the high incidence of crime in London ?'.
As I was until last year a very senior officer in the Met, I am of course very much concerned that according to the British Crime Survey crime has not fallen in the last four years. Police officers with full powers (not just PCSOs) need to be out on our streets not doing their own typing in back offices. We'll arrest gun and knife carriers based on credible information from people in local communities when they trust the police enough to call them. At present either you can't get through to speak to an officer, or the queue's too long at the police station (which they're going to close anyway). This has got to change.
3. 'Over the last decade, there has been an increasing tendency for national and local government to use the tax codes, fees and charges, penalties, political correctness and targeted legislation to micro-manage the behaviour of every man, woman and child in London (and throughout the UK). Most of these encroachments are not the legitimate functions of government, and their unintended consequences are often worse than the so-called ills they are intended to alleviate. Specifically, what do you intend to do to hold back the tide of the 'nanny-state', and restore the freedoms, choices, and market forces that made this City (and our country) great ?'.
As a dedicated liberal, I couldn't agree with you more. We're faced with further erosion of our civil liberties by a New Labour government demanding ID cards which entails them holding 49 separate piece of information on each of us. Gordon Brown says he's determined to railroad 42 days detention without charge through Parliament. We can no longer read out the names of the war dead at the Cenotaph. The Mayor of London can exert real influence by speaking out against these threats to our liberties, and I certainly intend to do that.
4. 'How do you intend to ease the pressure on London's Social Services / Healthcare / Education Authorities / Police caused by the increasing flux of immigrants ?'.
As Mayor I will champion the case of London Boroughs and the health services in demanding that the Government provides appropriate funding to ensure that services do not suffer. It is a Whitehall scam when hard-working immigrants doing socially useful work are paying their taxes, yet Government starves Borough Councils of the funds to provide the services we are all entitled to.
5. 'If you were granted one additional power - either from Central Government or Local Authorities - what would you want that to be ? Why ? And what would you do with that power ?'.
Liberal Democrats believe that rather than having to rely on Whitehall handouts, local government should be able to raise money locally to pay for local services. Power lies where the money is. London needs less tax raised centrally and more raised in and for London - preferably by a fair system of local income tax, where people pay according to what they can afford.