Saturday, 27 September 2014

Homes under the sledgehammer

It’s hard these days to tell whether Lambeth Council is being run by Labour or the Conservatives. Across the borough Lambeth is working with developers rather than local residents, in a strategy dictated by finance and commercial opportunities.

The beautiful Cressingham Gardens estate next to Brockwell Park, with its vibrant community of 300 properties, faces the bulldozer.  Sheltered housing communities in Streatham, West Norwood, and Gipsy Hill will be broken up, so the land can be developed. Meanwhile, in the Clapham area ‘shortlife’ housing co-ops set up between local people and the council over 30 years ago - but then ignored by Lambeth - are being sold off for profit and the residents evicted.

It follows a combination of chronic underspending and endemic waste by Lambeth Council which has left a backlog of repairs and a crisis of its own making.    

According to last years council’s accounts Lambeth Living spent three times more (£75 million) on supervision and management than it did on repairs and maintenance (£27million).   Neighbouring boroughs of Wandsworth and Southwark spend 40% more on every property they are responsible for.

But rather than get their own house in order, Lambeth has decided to kick local people out and get commercial developers in.  Local residents have described it as being framed for someone else’s crime.  The result is a form of ‘social cleansing’.

But there are plenty of alternatives.  There are grants available from Government and GLA to bring empty homes back into use.  Homes can be refurbished or rebuilt with extra stories, raising additional finance for repairs elsewhere.  Community Land Trusts can provide permanently affordable housing.  And of course, the huge inefficiency and waste of poor management should end. 

Rather than breaking up housing co-ops Lambeth could empower residents to be self-reliant - just as these communities have been since the start.

This is what a real co-operative council would do.  

Why was Trinity Free School in Brixton allowed to open with just 17 pupils?

'Why was Trinity Free School (in Lambeth) allowed to open with just 17 pupils?' asks Streatham MP Chuka Umunna.

Part of the answer is here in this article in the Brixton Blog from January which states:

MP Chuka Umunna has refused to come out in support of, or against, the school.
The fact is, that as with many other issues, the MP has sat on the fence and failed to take a position.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Air pollution is killing Lambeth residents, but the Council will not act

If there were a series of local murders or even fatal road deaths there would quite rightly be public outcry.  Resources would be thrown at dealing with it – whether it be to track down a killer or redesign a dangerous stretch of road.

There is another silent killer in Lambeth responsible for around ten times the number of deaths caused by violence or traffic collisions. But not only is little being done to stop it, the Council is trying to cover it up.

In April, Public Health England estimated there were 112 deaths in one year in Lambeth linked to air pollution.  The victims tend to be those who are most vulnerable – the old, the young, and those with lung and heart conditions.  But when the Green Party proposed a motion calling on the council to deal with it, Labour councillors removed all reference to the deaths.  Not only that, they also tried to pretend it wasn’t their responsibility to protect local people.

There are some very basic things the Council should do.  It could lobby the London Mayor for more low emission buses on routes through Lambeth. It could stop incinerating the borough’s waste. It could create ultra low emission zones and more green and pedestrian areas.   

But it refuses even to put small, cheap air pollution monitors outside local schools as other boroughs have sensibly done.  That would at least indicate how much pollution our children are being exposed to on a daily basis. It would at least enable schools to make better decisions about how to protect those in their care.

Its time for the Council to stop blaming others for problems it could address itself.  Until it does, with every new edition of the Lambeth Weekender, we should remember that another four Lambeth residents will have died because of local air pollution.  

First published by Councillor Scott Ainslie as an article in the Lambeth Weekender, 31st July 2014. 

People's climate march this Sunday in London

Lambeth Greens will be meeting with other London Greens at 11am this Sunday 21st September at Middle Temple Gardens, Embankment, to take part in the London Climate March.
The march will start at Temple Place at 12.30pm and finish at Parliament with a rally at 2.00pm. 
It comes on the eve of The World Leaders' Climate Summit in New York which will be a key moment in the fight against climate change. 
Where: Greens will be assembling 11am, Middle Temple Gardens, Embankment
Green Party Contact: London Campaigns Officer Dave Plummer
More info can be found at the Campaign Against Climate Change website