Don’t be passive in 2018. Get registered and vote!
Local elections are fast approaching on 3 May, when all the seats on London’s 32 borough councils will be contested. I’m passionate about my Labour values – but even more fundamental is getting people to engage in the democratic process. Turnout at UK local elections is low in comparison both to general elections and international norms. In 2014, Lambeth shamefully had one of the lowest turnouts in London at 32%. This is a huge missed opportunity, when the decisions made by local authorities have such an impact on our daily lives.
In this issue of Lambeth Life, we have interviews with two dedicated servants of Lambeth, current deputy mayor Cllr Guilherme Rosa and former mayor Clare Whelan, about the challenges of engaging busy city people in political and civic life. While others talk about disengagement, Clare is an optimist, impressed by the number of people she sees volunteering in their communities. I urge readers of Lambeth Life to make sure they are registered to vote before the deadline of 17 April, and to remember to get to the polling station or apply for a postal or a proxy vote by 18 April as necessary. You may complain about council policies or services, but without participating you’re not empowered to do much about them!
Elsewhere in the news – air quality is an issue I feel very strongly about. We must act fast to address the fact that air pollution is contributing to some 9,500 premature deaths in London every year. This year, the annual legal limit on Brixton Road wasn’t reached until the end of January, rather than within the first few days of the year as in 2017. This is an improvement, but there is a very long way to go. Brixton Road is only one of several pollution hot spots in the borough.
Lambeth small businesses are struggling with business rate rises of over 120% in Brixton and up to 200% on the South Bank. Lambeth has launched a business rates support scheme and the Business Improvement Districts are helping businesses take full advantage of it, which is very welcome. But more work is needed to foster an environment that is truly welcoming of entrepreneurship and SMEs.
Later this month, we will hear if Lambeth’s bid for the London Borough of Culture competition, which impressed Deputy Mayor for Culture Justine Simons, will have convinced the judges of the inaugural competition. Lambeth combines some of London’s most prominent cultural institutions with an enticing grassroots cultural landscape formed from its diverse population. And when we read about yet another scandal around sexual abuse and gender inequality, we can at least be cheered by remembering Lambeth’s pioneering role in progressive politics, fighting discrimination and striving after social justice.
It is great to hear people say they’ve been looking forward to the next edition of Lambeth Life and that it offers a balance that isn’t available in other local media. This is your paper – accounts of
charities, residents’ groups and businesses engagement in the community are gratefully received. In this edition you can read about boxing training at the Black Prince Trust and the Care4Calais charity initiative to help refugees. We welcome feedback and views about everything that’s going on in Lambeth – please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org