As councillors settle down to work at the Town Hall, how can Lambeth run more efficiently and in a way that better meets people’s needs? Lambeth Life has asked local campaigners, business owners and policy experts for their thoughts.

Nequela Whittaker,
youth worker

In the 25 years I’ve lived on my estate in Clapham, I’ve seen the area come up from nothing. Deprivation used to be rife. Now regeneration has been implemented in the culture. The council offered tenants money to move out – it was bribery, it was blackmail. Very few of the people I grew up with are still in Lambeth. Those who’d like to move back can’t afford to. I’ve been on the housing register since 2011 and expect I’ll always be on it. Regeneration disenfranchises communities, it breaks the culture when it wasn’t broken. We definitely need to build more social housing and protect what’s left.

In 15 years since I first got involved in gang culture, I’ve gone from being part of the problem to part of the solution. The media has a narrative about youth knife and gun violence, but they don’t seem to understand it’s a consequence of social factors, it’s part of a cycle. If residents are victims of austerity, is it a surprise if young people glamorise drugs and crime, so they can have their own commodity in this society? We need to highlight positive things young people are doing in their community – not portray them all as gang members – build bridges between police and the community, partner with local groups, communicate with parents and get more involvement from faith groups. Young people also need much more direct support. From my own experience, I would call for halfway houses or youth hostels for when young people come out of prison, especially young females, maybe for all young people who aren’t 100% on their feet. I invite local politicians to discuss these issues with me.

Michael Tuffrey, trustee, New Economics Foundation
Mike Tuffrey was a LibDem councillor and has been a Lambeth resident for 35 years

The power and wealth of the capital passes too many Lambeth residents by. We are officially the 22nd most deprived borough in England, with one in three people of working age falling below the poverty line.

The council’s top priority should be to build a new economy that works for everyone. That means four things:

1. Basic skills. Everyone entering the world of work should have a helping hand to get the skills needed for today’s good jobs. The apprenticeship levy gives local employers and those on our doorstep a real incentive to train up the staff they need

2. Keep money local. Money spent in local shops and businesses employing local people multiplies three times in the Lambeth economy. The Council should protect firms under threat from rising rents and rates, and break contracts up into smaller parcels, promoting the opportunities to local firms.

3. Help people to help themselves. One in five Lambeth residents rents from the council. Move the management and maintenance of that more directly into the hands of the tenants themselves for a better quality service – and to give people more say over their lives.

4. Getting everybody above the poverty line comes first; but then enjoying that improvement needs healthy air, clean streets, flourishing parks and beautiful neighbourhoods.

Janet Baker, Women’s Equality Party 2018 candidate in Brixton Hill

The Women’s Equality Party asks Lambeth Council to create a culture of transparency. We want see- through spending, so residents can track how our council tax is being used. This means social housing tenants will be told about planned building maintenance, and an effective complaints system so when plans go awry residents can report it. We think it’s a good idea for councillors to receive financial training. Lastly, we call for the Council to set up a resident’s group that can hold the Council to account.

In times of austerity, every pound needs to be used intelligently. We want all possible outsourced work brought back under council control and to ensure that the workforce represents the local population.

We want to see women and girls’ needs brought to the forefront. This includes making all council jobs available for part-time work, helping mothers, disabled people and carers back into local employment.

Sean Roy Parker, Brixton Pound Cafe

-Signposting local mental health charities and organisations to the most isolated must be a priority.

-Food waste is obviously a hot topic and Lambeth has been promoting good practice online over recent months. Brixton Pound saves 65kg of fresh produce from landfill every week, turning it into a delicious and seasonal pay-what- you-can menu. Many residents don’t have access to the internet or food waste bins, so my suggestion would be that the council provides practical workshops in accessible community spaces.

-Perhaps most importantly, with noon-to-night traffic along most main roads in the borough, reduce congestion and air pollution on the roads by promoting walking and cycling to work and seriously penalising idling and multiple car ownership. The irony is, those already walk or cycle suffer the worst air quality, while drivers remain relatively unaffected.

Angella Williams, private chef – Angella’s Kitchen, mentor and business networker

As a Streatham business owner, I found limited information locally about business development support and funding, so I set up Ladies Who Latte, a monthly networking support group for women in business.

There is a need for improved communications with residents, since dealing with the council can be quite arduous and time consuming, especially when individuals move departments or leave. Local mums who run their own businesses say they have the impression that the council’s focus is more on earning additional revenue from parking charges than on supporting residents and SMEs. The hike in business rates is a major concern for many.

Paul Wheeler
Paul Wheeler is a former resident of Waterloo, long time member of the Labour Party and writes on local politics.

Lambeth is full of aspirational people who want to do well for themselves and their families. The big question is how the council can help them.

1. Anyone who is willing to get up early and work hard deserves a fair wage and it’s great that Lambeth is a living wage employer. Several London councils such as Greenwich and Brent give business rate relief to small businesses who commit to paying the living wage; Lambeth should do the same.

2. Labour has been impressive at challenging the legal loan sharks. We need to go further and encourage local organisations to provide fair credit. Within London, Lambeth should be at the forefront of Michael Sheen’s national campaign to end high cost credit.

3. The government have recently given local councils extra powers to challenge rogue landlords with sanctions including high fines and jail sentences. We should be taking full advantage of these, making sure that bad landlords have no place in Lambeth.

4. Councils need to avoid the impression that they can solve all problems themselves. Lambeth has a great tradition of self help most notably in the development of housing co-operatives in Waterloo, providing affordable homes in an area of otherwise prohibitively expensive accommodation. Let’s work with the Mayor of London and other housing providers to develop similar housing co-ops across the borough.

Leave a Reply