Sadiq Khan addresses issues at Dagenham Question Time event

Picture: Richard Wood

Picture: Richard Wood - Credit: Archant

A lively People’s Question Time took place in Dagenham last night, giving hundreds of voters a chance to quiz mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Greater London Assembly members.

Picture: Richard Wood

Picture: Richard Wood - Credit: Archant

The two-hour show touched on the biggest issues of the day and was split into discussions on safety, housing, transport, environment and the economy.

Residents were selected at random to directly put their questions to Mr Khan and the GLA members - and the discussion was generally much more polite than on the the BBC’s version of Question Time.

“It is great to be here in the People’s Republic of Dagenham,” announced Mr Khan at the beginning of the event. He was visiting for the second time in a week following the Dagenham East film production announcement.

The majority of those in attendance were from the borough - but some had come from further afield to raise concerns.

Picture: Richard Wood

Picture: Richard Wood - Credit: Archant

Lots of London-wide issues were discussed - but Mr Khan was quizzed on some local issues.

Inevitably, the issue of police counter closures came up and Mr Khan said that for the moment both Dagenham police station and the counter at Barking Learning Centre will remain open for now until yet another consultation has taken place.

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The evening’s most poignant moment came when a mother from Dagenham spoke about the death of her son, who was stabbed to death.

“What will be my son’s legacy?” she asked.

Picture: Richard Wood

Picture: Richard Wood - Credit: Archant

Mr Khan responded that he had “spoken to too many people like her” and he is working with police, schools, community groups and charities to ensure there is a reduction in knife crime.

The most heated exchanges were saved for housing. Andrew Achilleos, chair of the Dagenham and Rainham Labour Party, asked a question in relation to affordable housing.

Mr Khan responded by talking about his policy of ensuring at least 35 per cent of new developments are designated as “genuinely affordable housing,” with 50 pc being the aspirational target.

“Fixing London’s housing market is a marathon, not a sprint,” he noted.

The event was hosted by Barking and Dagenham's assembly member Unmesh Desai. Picture: Richard Wood

The event was hosted by Barking and Dagenham's assembly member Unmesh Desai. Picture: Richard Wood - Credit: Archant

Andrew Boff, Conservative GLA member and Barking Riverside resident, was quick to interject.

“You can’t live in a percentage,” he said, before criticising the overall volume of housing currently being built.

Obsessing over the proportion that is affordable misses the point, he said, because the biggest problem is supply.

“I won’t be lectured on the housing crisis by a Tory,” retorted Khan, to rapturous applause from the sell out crowd.

The assembly members in attendance didn’t get too many opportunities to steal Khan’s limelight, and he remained very much front and centre throughout the evening.

Indeed some looked thoroughly bored - sat in the back corner, Keith Prince, assembly member for Havering and Redbridge, looked to be doodling or playing on his phone for most of the evening.

However there were some meaningful contributions from members. The Green Party’s Caroline Russell pointed out that on the assembly member’s minibus journey to Jo Richardson Community School, which is where the event was held, they were in “stop-start” traffic the whole way - but improving transport shouldn’t just involve increasing the amount of available public transport. Walking and cycling needed to be prioritised too, she said.

Overall the huge crowd maintained a positive, constructive atmosphere. Those in attendance showed a genuine concern and interest for the issues facing London.