Monday, 24 November 2014

How much does Lambeth spend on housing repairs and how much on management?

According to Lambeth BCs published accounts for 2012/13 they spent £75.3million on supervision and management and £26.7million on repairs and maintenance. See

The self-financing settlement was based on expenditure on management of £32.9million and expenditure on maintenance of £45.7million. See

In terms of maintenance expenditure per dwelling, the self-financing settlement was based on £1,793 whereas actual spend in 2012/13 was £1,047.

Actual spend in the neighbouring inner London boroughs was:
·         Southwark £57.0million (£1,470 a dwelling)
·         Wandsworth £24.0million (£1,406 a dwelling)

So they are spending nearly £750 per dwelling less than they and the government assumed on maintenance, and more than twice as much on management. 

You might say it's no wonder they are going around demolishing rather than refurbishing, if they are leaving their homes to rot like that!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Low pay, Living Wage

So here's the first of my weekly (hopefully) blogs about something I've been reading/ thinking about over the week. I'll try to keep them on topical issues, hopefully they're not too much like a school essay (I've just finished uni, so I sometimes can't help it!)

This first one is on low-pay. I was lucky enough to go to a talk by the Resolution Foundation last week (I've only just found time to write about it) and so thought it was a good a place as any to start writing. I'd really appreciate any feedback you had and I hope you enjoy!

Around five million British workers, that’s around 22% of employees, are not paid enough to cover their basic needs, according to the Living Wage Foundation. Women (25% of whom earn less than the Living Wage), part-time workers (43%), and the young (72% of 18-21 year olds) are disproportionately likely to be earning less than the Living Wage which has increased to £9.15 an hour in London.

There are huge sectoral imbalances too, with those working in retail and hospitality, for example, also much more likely to be earning in low-paid jobs. Along with measly pay, these kind of jobs come with a platter of poor T&C’s, insecure contracts, no guarantee of hours, and reduced access to employment tribunals. Yet these low paid, insecure jobs, many of which are self-employed, are what drives the employment figures proclaimed by the Government. To continue to hold these figures aloft misses the crucial facet of the modern employment market, low paid jobs are now a bigger problem in Britain than shortage of work.

Britain continues to stand out as having one of the highest incidences of low paid work in advanced economies,  according to research by the think-tank Resolution Foundation, behind all but 6 countries (the US, South Korea, Israel, Canada, Ireland and Poland in the proportion  of full-time employees earning less than two-thirds of median full-time pay making workers in Britain twice as likely as counterparts in Switzerland (9 per cent) and four times more likely than employees in Belgium (5 per cent) to earn below the low paid threshold. Furthermore, a recent report yesterday by the New Economics Foundation suggested that, in the past year, whilst the poorest 10% of the population have suffered a 15% decline in their income, the richest 10% have seen their earnings rise by 3.9%. It’s little wonder we have growing numbers of people visiting food banks and desperately struggling to afford the absolute basics.

Nor is the issue of low pay purely a problem only for those who are earning less than the Living Wage, for the wages of the low-paid are supplemented with in-work tax credits, which means that our taxes are being used to subsidise the profits of private companies.

What all this amounts to is that poverty is increasingly the preserve of the working; in 2011, 6.1 million people in poverty were in working households (at least one person working) compared with 5.1 million living in workless household; in London 28% of people are living in poverty. Of these, nearly 60% are living in working households. The economic ‘recovery’ has not been matched by a corresponding social recovery. The fact that, since the early 2000’s, pay has failed to keep pace with increases in overall economic outputs is a reflection of a combination of shifts in the British labour market and industrial structure. So, is work still the route out of poverty?

Joseph Rowntree Foundation research suggests that, whilst decent work may still be the best route out of poverty, the rising level of in-work poverty is indicative of a labour market failing to create ‘decent’ jobs. As well as ‘bad’ jobs, in-work poverty is a result of the rising cost of living, a tax and benefit system that doesn’t incentivise work, and a lack of progression from low-paid, low-skilled jobs. This final theme was picked up on in a Resolution Foundation publication on the escape routes from low-pay, which found that, over a 10 year period from 2002-2012, the majority of people failed to escape the low-pay cycle on a permanent basis.

The truth is that none of the big three party’s recent record on income or wealth inequality is anything to shout about. For all their rhetoric we need politicians to actually commit to its reduction, and we need them to support policies that achieve this and we need the next government to make pay progression a priority; the key question in coming years will be whether or not renewed jobs growth  will lead to pay growth that is shared across all workers. That doesn’t mean the hopelessly regressive taxation proposals many have put forward. It means a Living Wage, a proper industrial strategy to create decent jobs, reinstatement of the educational maintenance allowance and the 50p top rate of income tax, a progressive property tax – and a commitment that the net effect of party’s manifesto policies will be to reduce inequality.

The Living Wage will play an important part of this goal, Julia Unwin, Chief Executive at JRF and JRHT, said:
“With the economy recovering from a deep and damaging recession, our research shows higher pay is vital to helping low-earning workers make ends meet. The Living Wage - which recognises the cost of essentials in how it is calculated from JRF research - is an important part of the answer. We will never achieve our full economic potential until we address the high levels of poverty across the UK, so paying a Living Wage is an important first step to getting to grips with the country’s in-work poverty problem.” 
Furthermore, by explicitly focusing on living standards, the Living Wage changes the terms of the debate by looking beyond the minimum wage, which focuses on what the labour market can bear without a significant effect on employment.

Yet, the Living Wage alone is not a panacea; with 44 per cent of people in working poverty living in households where no one is being paid less than the Living Wage, it only provides part (albeit a significant part) of the answer. Nor does the Living Wage guarantee an acceptable standard of living.

The massive variations in family circumstances necessarily mean that no realistic hourly pay rate can ever lift every family to an adequate living standard. In nearly half of working households in poverty, all adults earn more than around £7.40 (the national Living Wage is £7.65) an hour. The amount of work seems to be a crucial factor for in-work poverty; in nearly half of these households only one person works, a further 25% of households in poverty have only part-time workers. This is a more complex problem that requires extensive support to aid second earners, from better access to childcare to enhanced education and training, to reform of the welfare system.

I'm struggling to find a fitting conclusion to this, but the discourse around employment has changed. The political parties struggle to divorce themselves from their addiction to 'employment' figures, but we need to understand that the issue is much deeper than that. And that's why, for all the talk of a 'recovery' most of us are struggling more than ever.

I’m aware this has been quite an abstract blog, with a lot of stats and figures and very obviously lacking in anecdotal evidence about just how much of a struggle life can be on wages below the Living Wage.

If you, or someone you know, is living on less than the minimum wage then I would be honoured to chat and help share your story, because something this important cannot be left unheard, and each and every story matters, so please get in contact. I haven’t included any references but if you want to read the research yourself, or have a look at some of the literature on the subject, then, again, I’d be more than happy to share it with you.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Vauxhall Cross development consultation

If you live in the Vauxhall area then, unless you’ve been walking around with your eyes held firmly shut, you cannot have failed to notice the massive development works currently underway in Vauxhall Cross.

Official figures estimate that the Nine Elms on the Southbank regeneration project, of which Vauxhall is at the centre, could bring 25,000 new jobs and 18,000 jobs to the area. However, one of the major obstacles to this is the huge volume of traffic in Vauxhall, and TfL are developing their proposals to the domination by vehicles. As well as being a vital part of London’s strategic road network, Vauxhall is at the centre of London’s major transport interchanges, serving 30 million rail, tube and bus passengers a year.

In spite of this strategic importance, the one-way road system leads to a Vauxhall that is dominated by motorised vehicles, disregarding the fact that public transport users, cyclists and pedestrians account for 90% of all journeys during peak hours.

TfL proposals, including a two-way working on the roads immediately surrounding the transport interchange; A reversal of the one-way system at Harleyford Road, Durham Street, Kennington Lane; and new and improved public spaces, are aimed at creating a safer and more pleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists. (For more details check out the website here).

These plans are still very much in an embryonic stage and there is an opportunity for all of us to have our say, to help shape this development into something that works for all of us.

From 10th November to 19th December TfL will be running their first consultation (a second will come in late 2015 which will outline the benefits and impacts of proposed changes in more detail). This is an important chance for us all to offer our views to shape the developments in Vauxhall.
These consultations are our chance to get involved to ensure that taxpayers money is used to the benefit of ordinary people and not just big business. These consultations really do shape policies, and only by getting the views of local people can we continue to celebrate and support Vauxhall’s existing character, culture, communities and businesses.

To have your say follow this link to the Vauxhall-cross consultation page

We should all be able to have our say on how tour city is run, which and there are a number of consultations being held for Londoners on each and every strategy the Mayor produces. To see the full range, see the London Government consultation page

Share your views and have your say! This is our city, we deserve a chance to make sure that these regeneration projects work for us.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Greens lay White and Red poppy wreaths at Lambeth Town Hall on Remembrance Sunday

Councillor Scott Ainslie and co-convener of Lambeth Green Party Pete Elliot laid white poppy and red poppy wreaths at Lambeth Town Hall on Remembrance Sunday.

Pete served in Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War and Iraq (2005).

White Poppies have been laid since before the Second World War by veterans and others who want to remember casualties on both sides as well as civilian deaths, and believe that remembrance should involve a commitment to active peacemaking. The Red Poppy, according to the British Legion, represents remembrance of the deaths of those who fought for Britain.

The ceremony at Lambeth Town Hall was specifically to remember those staff from Lambeth Council who fought and died, so the Green Party was asked to lay the white poppy wreath after the formal wreath laying had ended. The Green Party played a full part in the other ceremonies at Stockwell and Streatham, also laying white and red wreaths.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Why I marched with Cressingham Gardens

By Councillor Scott Ainslie

It was a privilege to march on the Town Hall with residents from Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill two weeks ago, as part of the campaign to save their homes from demolition.

Armed with drums, banners and whistles, many had never protested before.  Grandparents, carers, children, key workers and many others created a peaceful carnival feel.  But all were united behind a very serious issue - the threat to their 300 homes and beautiful community.

The issue is so important that national news outlets such as The Guardian and ITV news covered it.  One journalist told me he just couldn’t believe what Lambeth Council is proposing.  Labour want to bulldoze the estate rather than invest in it, so they can bring in rich developers and build expensive housing next to Brockwell Park. 

Labour councillors in Tulse Hill won’t help the residents. Nor has their MP Chuka Umunna, whose role is now to develop Labour’s relationships with big business. So local people have turned to the Green Party for help.   They have collected thousands of signatures on a local petition to save their homes - many more people than voted Labour in Tulse Hill.  

Many are saying they will never vote Labour again.  Who can blame them?  Before May’s council elections, Lambeth Council’s Labour leader Lib Peck issued a press release saying: “I want to reassure people that we are not interested in doing anything to the estate that doesn’t command the confidence and support of its residents.”  Now she won’t even support resident’s requests to have a vote on the future of their homes.

In the same week that we marched on the Town Hall, Lib Peck was at a £300 a ticket property fair in central London.  Whilst Labour has an eye for the pound signs, dining with rich property speculators, Cressingham residents are acutely aware of the true value of housing and are taking all the steps they can to keep their homes.

This article was first published in the Lambeth Weekender