By Martin Tiedemann, Labour and Cooperative Party
A few weeks ago, I read here on Brixton Blog about the numbers using Brixton’s food bank doubling in just six months. The idea that in 2012 so many families, even those in work, have to rely on handouts, and on loansharks too, just to put food on the table is a modern tragedy.
There is a crisis in the cost of living here in Brixton. Private rents, food and petrol prices go up and up. The gas and electricity companies have all put up their bills this winter. Boris Johnson has increased fares on buses, tubes and trains well above the rate of inflation – an average of 4.2% for London’s transport.
Meanwhile, for those in work, wages are not keeping pace and those struggling to find jobs are demonised by this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government.
So I am pleased that Lambeth’s Labour Council is freezing council tax for another two years, having already refused to raise it for the last four. At the moment it’s important that the council isn’t adding to the burden already faced by people in Lambeth. But we can do more.
It’s the sense that, when things get tough, councils need to step up that led me to put my name forward to be a councillor for Brixton Hill, the area I live in. I live in the heart of the ward, on Lambert Road. I walk and cycle the streets of Brixton, catch the 133, use the tube (when I really have to), and shop at the local shops. I grew up in South London and was a councillor in Thornton Heath a few years ago, so I have experience of helping residents with difficult issues and fighting for my area.
I am particularly interested in the environment and transport – I chair a national environmental campaigning group and previously led on sustainability and cycling as a councillor. I was the lead councillor responsible for delivering the first Fairtrade Borough in London. And I’m a passionate supporter of the arts, serving as a trustee of a local independent theatre for over a decade.
I was a school governor for four years – so I am well placed to take up the cause of new, quality school places for local children. I have spent years working on housing issues for private and council tenants, leaseholders and homeowners.
These are challenging times. The Conservative-Lib Dem Government is inflicting swingeing cuts on local councils. But politicians have choices – to cut hard without thought for consequences, or to resist the worst, to protect the frontline and to restructure to be as efficient as we can be.
The difference in approach is shown by Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson. Instead of defending community services at the toughest of times, he has taken an axe to the emergency and frontline services we depend on. Residents have told me over and over that crime and anti-social behaviour is their top concern but now, a year after the riots, we find that Lambeth’s police officers have fallen by a quarter – 300 – more than any other borough.
To add insult to injury, Boris is now threatening to close two of Lambeth’s three police stations. This will add to waiting times in emergencies and reduce the number of safe places where confidential reporting can be made by victims of crime.
So I have been campaigning to reverse these cuts. Hundreds of residents have signed up to our campaign and I will be presenting their views to City Hall alongside our Assembly Member Val Shawcross.
If elected as Brixton Hill’s Labour & Co-operative councillor on 17 January, that’s how I will work. Listening to local residents, taking up the issues that matter to us and fighting our corner. Resisting unnecessary cuts to frontline services but prepared to make tough decisions to do so. And working for all of Brixton Hill, from Roupell Park to Acre Lane, from Streatham Place to the Town Hall.