Ken listens to the sound of the suburbs on Redbridge visit

Pursuing caps on rents, cheaper travel and a U-turn on new Crossrail stations are among Ken Livingstone’s plans if he wins the London Mayoral election next year.

Ken, who was mayor between 2000 and 2008, embarked on a whistle-stop tour of Redbridge on Monday before meeting editors and reporters at the Recorder’s offices in High Road, Ilford.

After being dubbed Zone One Mayor at the last election in 2008, Mr Livingstone is keen to show his solidarity with the suburbs this time, and, like Boris Johnson before him, is visiting every London borough. Redbridge was seventh on the list.

He said he had improved life for outer Londoners as mayor.

“I’ve never been able to afford to live in zone one,” he said. “If you think back to what it was like waiting for a bus in Ilford when we had something like 5,500 buses. Now we have something like 9,000 and they’re all new.”

Mr Livingstone criticised rises in public transport costs and pledged to reverse cuts to the Crossrail project, which have led to a downgrading in plans for Ilford and Seven Kings stations.

He said: “The thing that’s going to encourage investment from economies like China is if they see investment. We’re not in competition with anywhere else in Britain, we’re in competition with Hong Kong and Shanghai and Mumbai.”

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He slated government budget cuts and said big businesses should pay all their tax to help plug the budget gap, adding he would protect police Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

“You can’t make London a better place if you’re cutting front line policing or if you’re cutting the bus grant.”

He said he would only reinstate the western extension of the Congestion Charge if it did not cost money, although he said he would outline his plans fully after hearing what Londoners want.

And he said more new council housing and private rent caps were key to providing a good life for Londoners.

The Labour veteran, who has spent 40 years in politics, also pledged his support for keeping King George Hospital’s maternity ward and A&E open.

He said he would like to speak at the Save King George Hospital march and rally on April 8 but will be in Brussels at a prior commitment.