Saturday, 16 November 2013

Lambeth Council's recycling rate plummets

The latest annual figures for recycling have been released, and Labour-led Lambeth Council's recycling rate has plummeted from 28% to 23%.

Green London Assembly member Jenny Jones put out a press release about it on Tuesday, and it was reported in the South London Press on Friday.

We exposed last year how Lambeth Council was fiddling the recycling figures. It is now sending its waste for incineration, causing more air pollution, and claiming this is recycling. This received some important coverage from the BBC. It also brought a rebuke for Lambeth Council from the Mayor of London.

Lambeth Council has actually been falling further and further behind the London average recycling rate - something which the London Assembly has concluded is a failure of political leadership. This is however the first time it has actually fallen, since 2003 when the Lib Dems were in charge. It's recycling rate has now returned to the levels of 2006/07, when Labour took over.

As usual the Lib Dems have been quick to put out a press release expressing 'outrage'. They are however, failing to hold the Council to account as the official opposition (although they are quick to pop out a statement every time we expose Lambeth's failures on recycling). As their leaflet distributed in Streatham a couple of weeks ago states, they are even opposing the new food waste collections.

The Lib Dem claim that they got Lambeth's recycling rate up to 25% in 2006 (when they were in coalition with the Conservatives) is also rubbish. As the graph here clearly shows, they got it up to 22%, but this was only in line with the London average. And that was after the rate dipped well below the London average in the second year they were in charge.

To give an idea of the kind of levels that are achievable, next door Southwark is achieving a 30% rate, and Croydon a 44% rate.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Lambeth Council employs 27 people on Zero Hours contracts

We know that Lambeth council doesn't pay its carers a Living Wage, and we know that many council contractors don't get a Living Wage, but what about direct employees on 'Zero Hours' contracts?

We have just received a response to a Freedom of Information Request.  Lambeth Council says it employs 27 people on Zero Hours contracts.  This is what they say:

"The council does employ workers on a flexible basis in order to cover work which is of a seasonal, infrequent or fluctuating nature. In these circumstances the council may from time to time offer work but is under no obligation to do so. Equally, there is no obligation on the part of the worker, who may accept or refuse the work offered and there is no restriction on these workers being employed by other employers. There are currently 27 staff with contracts of this nature.

"Examples of the roles currently held by staff on flexible contracts, of the type defined above, are provided below

·              HR Consultant
·              Technical Programme Manager
·              Mayors Chauffeur
·              Macebearer
·              Project Implementation Lead
·              Policy Officer
·              Building Control Surveyor
·              School Crossing Patrol Officer

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Protest against Lambeth Council's Bedroom Tax evictions

There will be a demonstration by Loughborough Estate residents against the eviction of an estate resident, Dennis, when he appears in court on Friday July 5th at 2pm.

There are more details here.

Although Lambeth Council says it opposes the Bedroom Tax, it refused to follow the example of other councils who are resisting the Bedroom Tax, and promise not to evict residents who fall into arrears as a result. This is despite direct appeals by residents.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Pressure grows on Lambeth Council over 'Bedroom Tax' evictions

The Brixton Blog has reported on the growing pressure on Lambeth not to evict those who fall into arrears as a result of the new 'Bedroom Tax'.

The Loughborough Estate Tenants and Residents Association is now urging the council to not make those tenants leave their homes who face eviction as a result of the changes.

There was unanimous support for a motion urging the council to protect the 170 people on the Loughborough Estate facing a 14% cut in their housing benefit because they have a spare room.

We asked Lambeth council several months ago to follow the example of other councils around the country and not evict those residents who fall into arrears as a result of the Bedroom Tax. Lambeth Council refused.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Lambeth council wasting £180,000 on '100 more police' campaign

Lambeth Council's campaign to get "100 new police officers" out of the Mayor of London has always been a little strange.

First there was the petition, launched by Labour's Cabinet member Jack Hopkins (who has responsibility for policing matters). Nothing weird about that, you might think. Except that this wasn't a petition to the London Mayor. The petition states:

"We the undersigned petition the Council to call on the Mayor of London to provide an additional 100 police officers for Lambeth to make our streets safer."

So the cabinet member responsible for policing set up a petition asking Lambeth residents to petition er, him, to call on the Mayor. This was perhaps the first clue that the campaign was little more than political posturing and an attempt to create the illusion that Lambeth Council was doing something.

The metaphorical cat (burglar?) has however now been truly let out of the bag, with an expensive mailing that hit the doormats of Lambeth residents this weekend. The new regular mailing is costing in the region of £180,000 - including a glossy brochure and '100 more police' response cards to a FREEPOST address (again at Lambeth Council, not City Hall) residents are urged to make their feelings known that they want 100 more police in Lambeth. (Note, make their feelings known to Lambeth council, rather than the Mayor).

The problem is that the Mayor's consultation on policing ended three weeks ago on 6th March. The Mayor in fact published his final plan at 9.30am this morning. You can see the Lambeth section of it here with the "before and after" consultation decisions. But thanks to the expensive mailing Lambeth residents will continue to send their cards back to Lambeth council over the next few days, believing that they will be responding to the consultation which ended at the beginning of this month, and believing that they will be influencing a report which was published this morning. And of course the cost of the campaign will increase because this is all to Lambeth's own FREEPOST address.

Was this just more Lambeth Council incompetance? Possibly. But what is clear is that Lambeth Council were all too aware both when the consultation closed (the 6th March) and when the London Mayor would make a final decision. As the Lambeth Council website states clearly: "The Mayor will make a final decision on police numbers by April".

Why then does the mailing sent at great expense to Lambeth residents, have the deadline of the 30th March printed on it, when Lambeth knew full well that the consultation had already finished? This was always clearly too late to influence the Mayor's decision (which the campaign states it is trying to do).

The only reasonable conclusion is that this is Labour Lambeth Council, once again, wasting local residents money to try and score political points, with no hope, or even intention, of success.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Claim that Lambeth residents won't 'pay an extra penny' in council tax simply untrue

Letters from Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck are currently dropping through doors telling Lambeth residents that:

"...for six years in a row, we will not have asked residents to pay an extra penny to the Council in council tax."

This is simply untrue.

A Freedom of Information request (reference 171140) we received from Lambeth council this week states clearly:

"From the process of issuing the 2013-14 council tax bills I can report that of the 134,712 properties in the borough there are 10,937 instances where a resident who received 100% council tax benefit in 2012-13, will receive less than 100% council tax support in 2013-14 and consequently will have to pay something. In addition a further 7,151 residents who received some council tax benefit in 2012-13 will now not receive council tax support."

Around 18,000 local residents will have to pay more council tax to Lambeth Council by its own admission. The increase for some many be up to £290. And it is these residents who are paying for the council tax freeze for everyone else.

The Council of has taken £2.5 million pounds from central government to freeze council tax for the rest of the borough. It has new powers to protect its most vulnerable and poorest residents from cuts to the new council tax allowance. Many councils around the country have done this. Lambeth has chosen not to do so. Instead it is passing on the cuts to the poorest.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Letter to Lib Peck asking for information to be given to local people about debt cancellation

I have today written another letter to Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck asking for the assurance that the Council will inform residents that the Council has the power to write off debts, and setting out the mechanism by which this can be done.

Lambeth's main response to cuts by central Government has been to say that they are 'informing residents'. However it does not appear that residents are being given all the information that they need.

Dear Cllr Peck,

Thank you for your email in response to mine regarding evictions.

As I am sure you aware, you are about to implement increases in council tax for some of Lambeth's poorest residents. As your own website states, Lambeth council "was not minded to provide top-up funding from its own resources" when Council Tax Benefit is replaced by the Council Tax Support Scheme. Therefore some of Lambeth's poorest residents will be hit with increases of several hundred pounds a year. Many other Local Authorities have chosen to protect their most vulnerable residents from these increases as local authorities have the power to do this.

As you say in your email, Lambeth Council is providing local people with information to help them cope with these new financial pressures . Could you assure me that in the Council's information provided to local residents telling them about the help that is available to them, you will inform them that the Council has powers to write off debts? Clearly local residents need to know this, and it needs to be explicit in the Council's literature and public information, including on Lambeth Council's website.

Specifically, the council has discretion to write off the tax for vulnerable and impoverished people under clause 10 (1) 13A (1) of the Local Government Finance Act 2012. For this to happen it is necessary for the council tax benefit claimant to write a letter to the council setting out their financial circumstances, all debts, and all relevant information such as health/ disability. Clearly local residents need to know this, and it needs to be made known widely by Lambeth Council. The procedure for residents to do this also needs to be made clear to all those who will face the new council tax increases. I would be grateful for your assurance that they will be informed of this fact.

I look forward to your response.

With all good wishes,

Jonathan Bartley
Lambeth Green Party

Lambeth Council to evict tenants who fall into arrears as a result of Bedroom Tax

Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck has now responded to the open letter we sent, asking Lambeth Council not to evict tenants who fall foul of the new 'Bedroom Tax' which comes into force in April. (From April, the country’s poorest working age adults in social housing who are deemed to have a spare bedroom, are having their housing benefit cut. Of the 660,000 people affected, around 100,000 live in homes specially adapted for disability according to the National Housing Federation. It also estimates 230,000 people in receipt of disability living allowance will be affected).

Since the letter was sent, Brighton council have become the first council in England to commit to fighting the Bedroom Tax by not evicting tenants who foul of the tax. This is the path that we think Lambeth should also follow.

The response from Lambeth however is disappointing. Lambeth has said that it will pursue evictions of those who fall into arrears as a result of the Bedroom Tax. This is perhaps not unexpected given Labour's recent confirmation that it would not get rid of the Bedroom Tax if elected. Indeed, in her letter council leader Lib Peck reaffirms Labour's support for the principle of the Bedroom Tax:

" a council we have a responsibility to all our tenants to collect rent and there should be no difference in how we treat arrears coming from the bedroom tax to those that accrue as a result of other Government policies. To do so would send a message to residents that they do not need to work with us to tackle the problem caused by the bedroom tax and that they can continue to under-occupy with the council meeting the shortfall."

The Council, however, has already stated elsewhere that that there aren't enough properties in the borough to downsize to, and that many will fall into arrears. This is in no small part down to the fact that it has sold off so much social housing (and left a lot more to fall apart).

Instead, Lambeth's council leader recommends options such as 'get a decent job' (of course many people affected by the Bedroom Tax already have jobs) 'move to a smaller property' (when there aren't enough available) 'swop with someone else' (which passes the problem onto others) 'get someone else to pay more' (but many of these households are already on the breadline and have a disabled family member) or take in a lodger (which has other financial penalties).

We have suggested other measures which Lambeth could explore to protect local people, but it seems Lambeth will not be taking these up either. Together this reaffirms that despite its advertising campaigns, Lambeth is quite happy to implement the cuts on the most vulnerable and not doing what it can to protect them.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Mr Bartley,

Thank you for your email.

As a Labour Council we are very proud of our diverse, mixed and vibrant communities across Lambeth and so we are very concerned about the large number of benefit changes that the coalition government are introducing and the negative impact that this may have on many of our residents. We have contacted the government a number of times to make our views clear and to ask them to reconsider, but the coalition government have pushed these changes through to become law and as you’re aware many of them will come into effect from April 2013. As a local authority we are now powerless to stop these changes but we will continue to make sure this coalition government knows how these changes are affecting local people in Lambeth.

What we can also do is make sure all affected residents are aware of the changes and to work with them to support them to find the best solution to cope with these changes: the sooner people are aware of the benefit changes, the sooner they can seek advice and help.

As you state in your email, we expect about 4,000 affected households in Lambeth. The council has provided additional funding to Lambeth Living – who manage the majority of our housing stock - to engage additional staff to make contact with these families and discuss their options for making up the shortfall in Housing Benefit that they will experience because they are under-occupying their property according to the new size criteria. The options for affected households include finding sustainable employment, moving to a smaller property (assuming one is available), moving to a cheaper area, mutually exchanging their property, taking in a lodger, asking a non-dependent member of the household to pay more towards the rent or otherwise making up the shortfall themselves. To assist the process, we are funding Broadway – a voluntary organisation - to establish a pilot lodgings scheme which aims to match under-occupied households subject to the Housing Benefit cut with people needing single room accommodation. The pilot started 1st Jan 2013 and runs to the end of June.

On your specific point re. rent arrears, as a council we have a responsibility to all our tenants to collect rent and there should be no difference in how we treat arrears coming from the bedroom tax to those that accrue as a result of other Government policies. To do so would send a message to residents that they do not need to work with us to tackle the problem caused by the bedroom tax and that they can continue to under-occupy with the council meeting the shortfall. We can't afford to do this and nor is it desirable. However, we are working with our ALMO, Lambeth Living to review arrears current policy to consider whether any changes are necessary.

We also recognise that there may well be problems for some households and we have arrangements in place to support them – as detailed above. We are also taking steps to protect those who have a genuine need for the extra room via Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) (eg: foster carers, those in adapted properties) and can consider other situations on a case by case basis. We are committed to spending every penny of the DHP we've been given by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to support those affected by the welfare cuts.

I hope this information is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Lib Peck
Leader, Lambeth Council

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Another local option for dealing with the 'Bedroom Tax' ?

Yesterday I wrote to Lambeth council leader Lib Peck asking for a commitment not to evict tenants who fall foul of the Government's 'Bedroom Tax'.

On the Guardian website today is a story that points to an additional course of action that Lambeth might be able to take.

It concerns Knowsley Housing Trust, who have reclassified nearly 600 family homes as smaller properties. This will exempt tenants from having their housing benefit reduced by the Bedroom Tax.  It is conceivable that a local authority could do the same with its own housing stock, particularly given that Lambeth faces similar problems regarding a lack of suitable smaller housing for tenants to downsize to.

The legal situation regarding whether a council might be able to do this is already being discussed:
While the bedroom tax statute is silent on what constitutes a bedroom, there is plenty of statute that could provide a definition, e.g  Part X Housing Act 1985 – the statutory overcrowding provisions: 
  • more than 110 sq feet (10.2 sq metres approx) = 2 people
  • 90 – 109 sq ft (8.4 – 10.2 sq m approx) = 1.5 people
  • 70 – 89 sq ft (6.5 – 8.4 sq m approx) = 1 person
  • 50 – 69 sq ft (4.6 – 6.5 sq m approx) = 0.5 people.
  • Less that 50 sq ft = not suitable as sleeping accommodation
Then there are the HMO regulations, Housing Act 2004, which sets a minimum of 6.5 sq m as a bedroom where there is a communal living room (or 10 sq m where there isn’t.) 
Some local authorities also have their own HMO licensing standards, which set minimum bedroom sizes. 
Arguably, any or all of these would be of relevance to whether what is identified in the tenancy agreement as a bedroom is lawfully so-called, and thus whether the bedroom tax should apply.

I have raised this with a councillor who had also seen the story, and asked whether this is something Lambeth could explore.  Let's see what happens...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Open letter to Lib Peck asking Lambeth not to pursue evictions of tenants who fall foul of the 'Bedroom Tax'

I have today sent the following letter to the Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck, asking for a council commitment not to pursue the eviction of tenants who fall foul of the new 'Bedroom Tax'.

26th February 2013

Dear Cllr Peck,

As you know, from 1 April 2013 new restrictions will be introduced by the Government affecting working-age households occupying social housing. Reductions will be applied to housing benefit payments where tenants are deemed to be under-occupying their homes. This has been called the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

Your own estimates suggest that 4,000 households in Lambeth will be affected. These will suffer shortfalls of hundreds of pounds a year. You also suggest that because of Lambeth’s lack of suitable smaller accommodation for tenants to downsize to, there will be a large build up of rent arrears. The result will be more debt, more people struggling with bills and the real risk of more homelessness, with all the enormous costs that brings.

It is not enough for Lambeth council to wring its hands in despair. Lambeth Council must take steps to protect those who will be adversely affected. Will you therefore commit the council not to take eviction action against tenants for rent arrears which have arisen as a result of housing benefit being reduced for ‘under-occupation’?

This would be workable, practical and within your power to do. In determining when and whether to initiate and pursue proceedings to recover a tenancy as a consequence of rent arrears, the council could:

- Calculate the sum by which the household’s housing benefit payment has been reduced by under-occupancy restrictions

- Disregard that sum in relation to action for recovery of the tenancy (eviction).

This would be a pragmatic move that would leave it open for Lambeth Council to do as it has always done for other types of rent arrears. Other forms of debt-recovery might be used for bedroom tax-related arrears should Lambeth Council choose to pursue them. But crucially, it would remove the spectre of eviction and homelessness that will hang over many of Lambeth’s most vulnerable residents as a result of the Bedroom Tax.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Bartley
Lambeth Green Party

Monday, 25 February 2013

Exposing the lie of Labour's Council Tax 'freeze'

Labour-run Lambeth Council has made much of freezing council tax “for everyone” since 2008.   This despite the fact that it has simultaneously been slashing public services, hitting the poor and most vulnerable hardest. The authority claims that the freeze is all about helping such people and was a relentless theme in the recent Brixton Hill by-election. The Labour candidate’s mantra was “I’ll always put people first…by voting to FREEZE council tax for the next TWO years.”

BUT Lambeth Council’s refusal to cover a 12 per cent funding shortfall in the new arrangements for paying council tax benefit – despite its discretion to do so (and 25 per cent of other council’s making up the difference) – exposes the lie. The cut in central government funding has been long flagged and the council effectively made its decision not to protect those it claims to at Cabinet on July 9 last year.

As the council helpfully explains on its website “the council is not currently minded to provide top-up funding from its own resources.” Is this the kind of help Cllr. Ed Davie – chair of the health and adult social care scrutiny committee - had in mind when he tried to justify a second-round of taxpayer-funded “don’t blame the council” political advertising in a recent article in The Guardian?

To be clear: Labour councillors are freezing Council Tax for themselves while effectively hiking it for the poor and most vulnerable. Putting people first? Are you having a laugh?

It is plain that the council thinks there are better ways of spending its money than protecting those most in need. Like heating the Town Hall to over 27ºC for instance.

It has in fact received a 'bung' from central government to freeze council tax - a freeze grant of £2.46 million. This is almost exactly the amount which Lambeth need to cover the council tax benefit/ allowance shortfall. The money however, has not been used to protect the vulnerable, despite Labour's insistence that this is why it was freezing council tax.  

The Resolution Foundation in its report “No Clear Benefit” sets out the nationwide impact of the cut for Council Tax benefit funding. Some 3.2 million working households will be affected, with pensioners the only group exempted. The numbers are horrific: some will see an increase in what they pay of 336 per cent; in monetary terms the funding cut will see some pay up to £600 more a year in Council Tax.  The worst hit? Nationwide, according to Resolution, it is that now all too familiar acronym of BME (black minority ethnic).

Approximately 1 in 3 households in this deprived borough are in receipt of the current benefit, according to Lambeth Council. And the council’s own impact assessment makes clear that worst hit by the way it is introducing the cut will be women and ethnic minorities.

If there was one council that really did need to protect its residents from the cut to Council Tax Benefit, it was Lambeth. Instead, the council will meet on Wednesday to outline a programme of cuts which will make those seen so far, look tame.

Ted Knight, a former Labour leader of Lambeth Council in the 1980s has implored current Labour councils to form a coalition of resistance against the cuts. To do otherwise he says is “absolutely indefensible”. To say the current Labour leadership of Lambeth Council is thumbing its nose at the likes of Knight would be an understatement. This Labour council is complicit in these brutal, ideological cuts.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Why Lambeth is the Dirty Man of London councils

A group of activists descended on Lambeth Town Hall yesterday to call on the council to clean up its act and to demand some answers to its appalling record on energy efficiency and the environment. 

We adopted a half-term holiday theme to highlight the fact that you'll find warmer temperatures in the Town Hall than say a winter-break destination like Acapulco. Despite the freezing temperatures outside we soon warmed up in our balmy surroundings and were able to happily recline on our beach towels while eating choc-ices. As usual all the council staff were in their shirtsleeves with the windows wide open. The reason? On a recent visit to a council meeting we recorded a temperature of 27.4ºC (Guidelines commonly suggest temp should be maintained at between 18ºC and 21ºC).  How can such energy inefficiency be justified at a time of such severe service cuts? The council is literally burning taxpayer money.

Despite claims that it is taking the issue of energy efficiency and climate change seriously in its recent Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2012 Report, there is scant evidence. It needs to do a lot more than clad a few old pipes and tell staff to turn off PCs overnight.

The evidence below suggests Lambeth Council has a disregard, if not utter contempt, for taxpayer value for money, energy efficiency and climate change:

  • The council appears not to have a current Display Energy Certificate for the Town Hall. The one on display as of  20/2/13 was almost 5 months out of date. It is mandatory to display a current EPC. What could the council have to hide?
  • According to its old energy certificate the council’s energy use is getting worse year on year, and is a rather inefficient Category D.
  • Although the council currently spends almost £9m a year on energy it appears to have ignored most of the recommendations in its last Advisory Report (retrieve it here using postcode SW2 1RW) which told the council to stop simultaneously heating and cooling the Town Hall, and install a condensing boiler among a range of High Impact, affordable measures. The council were also told about a range of financial assistance. None of this appears to have been acted on.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lambeth's dismal food waste collection statistics

We already know that Lambeth has one of the worst recycling rates in London, falling further and further behind the London average.

We also caught Lambeth trying to fiddle it's recycling stats, by classing incineration as recycling. I popped down to the town hall recently with Jenny Jones to highlight it. It also made news on the BBC.

We have now got hold of the food collection data for Local authorities across London from WRAP.

It shows that Lambeth lies a couple of places from bottom, collecting food waste from just under 11,000 kerbside properties and just under 8,000 flats. Boroughs like Croydon and Bromley collect from around 110,000 kerbside properties. Even in neighbouring Southwark they collect from 47,000. Lambeth is ahead of only the Corporation of London and Sutton.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Alternative London budget proposed to lower fares, save fire stations and reduce pollution

Green London Assembly member Darren Johnson has published an amendment to be tabled at the London Assembly meeting on Friday 8th February, which is discussing the Mayor’s draft budget.

The amendment has three principal objectives:

- to help low income Londoners by holding down fares and supporting them to find decent homes let by accredited landlords

- to protect Londoners from damaging and unnecessary cuts to fire stations, fire engines and firefighters whilst raising council tax below the rate of inflation

- to improve Londoners’ quality of life, for example by investing in measures to make London’s streets safer, healthier and less congested

The Green amendment puts public safety and lower fares before gimmicks like council tax cuts and the New Bus for London. Households would pay an extra £10 a year due to a 2% council tax rise to save fire stations threatened by cuts, and households would save £60 a year from cheaper transport fares. This would also tackle longstanding problems ignored by the Mayor, such as central London’s serious air pollution problem.

Highlights include:

- On cost of living – freeze bus fares and hold train and tube fares down to inflation, more than offsetting a below-inflation rise in council tax

- On housing – set-up an ethical lettings agency to help tenants find decent landlords with decent homes, avoiding rip-off agents

- On the fire brigade – stop plans to close 12 fire stations, sell of 18 fire engines and lose 520 firefighters

- On the police service – get more frontline policing for our money by using more civilian staff and PCSOs and dropping the obsession with police officer numbers

- On our streets – spend 2% of TfL’s budget to make the 2% of journeys by bike safer and more pleasant with Dutch-style infrastructure

- On health – clean up central London’s polluted roads with a very low emission zone, a fund to help taxi drivers upgrade, and practical help for suffering schools

- On the environment – a revolving fund to help small and medium sized businesses make their premises more energy and water efficient

You can read the full Green amendment on the GLA web site to find out how these proposals are funded here

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Residents told ‘If you’re no friend of Labour – you’re no friend of Lambeth’

Ever wanted to become a ‘Friend Of’ something, like a park, library or building? Fancied doing your bit for the local community? Yes? Well don’t bother here.  

In an email sent by Lambeth Labour Councillor Sally Prentice, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, people were told that if they wanted to learn more about how to get involved in a Friends-Of group, they have to be “broadly sympathetic” to the beliefs of the Labour Party.

Titled Getting involved in Lambeth’s Parks and Libraries, the email was sent out in a recruitment drive to get more Labour members to infiltrate community groups. This way, packed with Labour members and no longer independent, annoying local community groups stop being so bothersome by not doing exactly what the Council says they should.

Encouraging people to attend the training session at the Town Hall, Sally says “We need to ensure that the Groups are as representative of different sections of the community. “Non Labour Party members are welcome to come along but they should be broadly sympathetic. This is because, she goes on to explain “In the past” (pause for deep, tearful sigh) “many of the Friends groups have been run by people who are our political opponents!” Exclamation marks and all!

What turns this fairly horrendous piece of communication into a joke is that Lambeth are doing this in the spirit of being a Co-operative Council. Clearly Labour hasn’t grasped the spirit of a co-operative which is that you actually work with the people in your community, and not against them.

Now they’ve excluded us from helping to fix the leaky roof in Streatham Library, what, we ask at Lambeth Green Party HQ, has the council got in store for those of us who don’t support Labour?  Will they pretend to re-cycle our rubbish and leave potholes on the street to tunnel down to Australia (oh hang on, they do that anyway).

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. “Broadly unsympathetic” to Labour and live in Lambeth… your talents and time aren’t wanted by the Council here.