Publisher’s Letter: A people’s vote and respect for Lambeth’s EU residents
by Ibrahim Dogus
With six months to go before we are due to leave the EU, Britain’s plans are in disarray. Theresa May’s Chequers deal was roundly rejected by the EU and senior Conservatives lined up to make the PM change course. Warnings about a No Deal Brexit have come from the IMF and a host of major employers. Given the lies around the referendum – from the £350 million a week for the NHS down – it is hugely important people get a vote on the final deal. That is why I and Labour colleagues in Lambeth are supporting the People’s Vote campaign and attendance for the march on 20th October is expected to exceed the 100,000 who took part in June.
Beyond the political outcome, it’s important to address the key factors that led to the Brexit vote. People voted Leave largely because of fears about immigration – often highest in areas with few migrants. Those of us who recognise the potential of Brexit to cause huge damage should address these underlying concerns by making the positive case for immigration. Repeated studies show migrants contribute more than they take out. Growing workforce participation indicates migrants aren’t taking jobs away. London, with a high net inflow of migrants, has benefited hugely: foreign workers coming to the capital add economic value amounting to 4.5% of the UK’s tax take.
Looking beyond economic arguments, life in Lambeth shows that immigration works. The borough is a thriving multicultural place. People from all over the world bring their skills and entrepreneurial drive, and there’s a strong sense of cohesion.
That’s not to say there aren’t inequalities. We’ve got a long way to go on issues such as knife crime. But when communities come together – in the spirit of the forthcoming Lambeth Walk – we can overcome many problems. Social problems are complex and we’ve all got a role to play to solve them.
Being open to immigration and skills is a good thing, and we mustn’t be afraid to say it.
On the other side of the equation, we need to offer reassurance to EU nationals that they can continue to live and work in the UK. While Theresa May has said EU citizens’ rights are safe even in the event of No Deal, there are concerns many could fall through the net of the government’s eligibility test. What resources will be put towards a public information campaign for 3.8 million people? What will the Home Office do to ensure vulnerable people, the elderly and children aren’t overlooked? Given a 10% failure rate in immigration checks for bank accounts, how much confidence can we have in the system?
The current arrangements are insufficient. People who have lived and worked in the UK, contributing to our society and with family and friends here must be treated equally to those born here. It’s a simple thing, and a fundamental duty of government, to make everyone feel welcome.
When I see the hard work that goes on in our local schools, I am very proud.
But teachers and students are working with one hand behind their back. The government claims education spending is at its highest ever level. The reality is per pupil spending has been frozen in cash terms since 2015. Factor in inflation, rising pupil numbers, and the national funding formula – in theory fair, but leaving schools in deprived inner-city areas facing the biggest losses – and it transpires funding for all Lambeth’s 71 schools in 2020 could be lower in real terms than five years earlier. So the Schools Cuts website shows Walnut Tree Walk Primary in south Lambeth with £315 less to spend per pupil over five years in real terms; children at nearby Archbishop Sumner Primary face a cut of £609 each and at Vauxhall Primary a reduction of £459.
Education in Lambeth has been transformed in recent years, from 14 schools being in special measures in 1996 to 96% judged at least good or outstanding by Ofsted last year. Budget cuts make it harder for schools to continue improving, with fewer teachers and bigger class sizes. Thousands of teachers are quitting. The NAHT union believes that even if there were enough new trainees, schools wouldn’t have the money to hire them.
Labour is taking a completely different approach with a cradle-to-grave National Education Service, guaranteeing universal high standards. We will reverse the cuts, reducing class sizes below 30 for the under 7s. Learning from the successful London Challenge, we will encourage co-operation between and strong leadership across schools, and make schools democratically accountable. We will introduce free school meals for every child, erasing stigma, and ensure teachers are valued so theirs is a prestigious profession.
Every student must have the chance to unlock their potential and become the best they can be. With a National Education Service, we can safeguard world-class education for all in Lambeth.
In this issue of Lambeth Life, Kennington resident and playwright James Graham surveys the political landscape; we celebrate the 250th anniversary of circus, which started in Lambeth; while gluten-free entrepreneur Marnie Searchwell, winner of 11 food awards, describes some delicious cake recipes. We look ahead to Black History Month, the Lambeth Walk against youth violence, rescheduled to April 2019, and the People’s Vote March next month; and bring you a round-up of community events, arts listings and sports reports.
We hope you enjoy this issue and please do send us news about local organisations you support and views on issues you feel passionately about – email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to tell the stories of all the communities in this fabulously diverse borough – and we need you to help us spread the word far and wide.