London mayor Sadiq Khan to EU citizens: “You are welcome here”

London mayor Sadiq Khan. Image: Getty.

There are something like 3m EU citizens in the UK – around a third of them in London alone.

What happens to those people now that Britain has voted to leave the European Union – whether free movement of people within Europe is to be retained – is not nearly as clear as one might hope. (You’d think that someone in the Leave campaign might have worked this out before we voted on it, but no.)

But one man at least is determined to soothe some nerves. In a statement released this morning, London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote:

“I want to send a particular message to the almost one million Europeans living in London, who make a huge contribution to our city.... You are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change as a result of this referendum.”

Whether he can deliver on this promise remains to be seen – London’s mayor does not have control of the city’s immigration policy.

His response, however, has the advantage of being politically expedient, as well as the right thing to do. London’s success as a world city has been built on its ability to attract workers from all over the world. With rumours that multinational banks are already looking at moving staff out of the city, this is a good moment to talk as if London is still open for business.

Here’s Khan’s full statement.

“I believe that Britain is better off within the European Union, but the British people have clearly spoken today, and their democratic will must now be fulfilled.

“I would like to praise David Cameron for the dignified way he has reacted to the message sent by the British people in his words at Downing Street today. I agree with the Prime Minister that Britain can survive and prosper outside the European Union.

“I want to send a clear message to the British people and to businesses and investors around the world this morning - there is no need to panic.

“I still believe that our country is better off within the European Union, but there is no doubt that London will continue to be the successful city it is today. Our city and our country will continue to be the best place in the world to do business. And we will continue to look outwards and trade and engage with the entire world - including the European Union.

“Although we will be outside the EU, it is crucial that we remain part of the single market. Leaving the single market of 500 million people - with its free-trade benefits - would be a mistake. I will be pushing the Government to ensure this is the cornerstone of the negotiations with the EU. It is crucial that London has a voice at the table during those renegotiations, alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We all have a responsibility to now seek to heal the divisions that have emerged throughout this campaign - and to focus on that which unites us, rather than that which divides us.”

“I want to send a particular message to the almost one million Europeans living in London, who make a huge contribution to our city - working hard, paying taxes and contributing to our civic and cultural life. You are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change as a result of this referendum.”

 
 
 
 

This election is our chance to treat housing as a right – but only if we listen to tenants

The Churchill Gardens Estate, Westminster, London. Image: Getty.

“You’re joking, not another one... there’s too much politics going on at the moment..!”

Brenda of Bristol’s televised comments in 2017, when told that another election was to take place, could just as well have been uttered when MPs voted to call a general election for 12 December this year. 

Almost immediately the politicking began. “A chance to transform our country”. “An opportunity to stop Brexit/get Brexit done”. ‘We can end austerity and inequality.” “A new revitalised parliament.” “Another referendum.”

Yet dig behind the language of electioneering and, for the first time that I can recall, there is mention of solving the housing crisis by all the major parties. I can welcome another election, if the result is a determination to build enough homes to meet everyone’s needs and everyone’s pocket.

That will require those who come to power to recognise that our housing system has never been fit for purpose. It has never matched the needs of the nation. It is not an accident that homelessness is increasing; not an accident that families are living in overcrowded accommodation or temporary accommodation, sometimes for years; not an accident that rents are going up and the opportunities to buy property are going down. It is not an accident that social housing stock continues to be sold off. These are the direct result of policy decisions by successive governments.

So with all the major parties stating their good intentions to build more homes, how do we ensure their determination results in enough homes of quality where people want to live, work and play? By insisting that current and prospective tenants are involved in the planning and decision making process from the start.

“Involved” is the key word. When we build new homes and alter the environment we must engage with the local community and prospective tenants. It is their homes and their communities we are impacting – they need to be involved in shaping their lived space. That means involvement before the bull-dozer moves in; involvement at thinking and solution finding stages, and with architects and contractors. It is not enough to ask tenants and community members for their views on plans and proposals which have already been agreed by the board or the development committee of some distant housing provider.


As more homes for social and affordable rent become a reality, we need tenants to be partners at the table deciding on where, how and why they should be built there, from that material, and with those facilities. We need them to have an effective voice in decision making. This means working together with tenants and community members to create good quality homes in inclusive and imaginatively designed environments.

I am a tenant of Phoenix Community Housing, a social housing provider. I am also the current Chair and one of six residents on the board of twelve. Phoenix is resident led with tenants embedded throughout the organisation as active members of committees and onto policy writing and scrutiny.

Tenants are part of the decision making process as we build to meet the needs of the community. Our recently completed award-winning extra care scheme has helped older people downsize and released larger under-occupied properties for families.

By being resident led, we can be community driven. Our venture into building is small scale at the moment, but we are building quality homes that residents want and are appropriate to their needs. Our newest development is being built to Passivhaus standard, meaning they are not only more affordable but they are sustainable for future generations.

There are a few resident led organisations throughout the country. We don’t have all the answers to the housing situation, nor do we get everything right first time. We do know how to listen, learn and act.

The shocking events after the last election, when disaster came to Grenfell Tower, should remind us that tenants have the knowledge and ability to work with housing providers for the benefit of all in the community – if we listen to them and involve them and act on their input.

This election is an opportunity for those of us who see appropriate housing as a right; housing as a lived space in which to thrive and build community; housing as home not commodity – to hold our MPs to account and challenge them to outline their proposals and guarantee good quality housing, not only for the most vulnerable but for people generally, and with tenants fully involved from the start.

Anne McGurk is a tenant and chair of Phoenix Community Housing, London’s only major resident-led housing association.