Housing is the number one issue in my postbag year after year, and the need to address it only gets more acute. There are people who come to see me at my advice surgeries who have been living in overcrowded and unacceptable conditions for over ten years, and many of them give up hope of getting a home. The problem is that in areas like ours, demand greatly exceeds supply and people who are not in the most acute need get left behind. This has also meant that private renters are vulnerable to exploitation when landlords know that there are many others to replace them.
The long-term solution is building far more homes, but these must not be built by knocking down perfectly good housing and destroying communities, as proposed for Knight’s Walk for example. Tenants must be given new protections with three-year tenancies the norm, and a ceiling on excessive rent rises. A ban on unfair letting agent fees would save renters over £600, and creating a national register of private landlords would drive up standards. I don’t want to neglect leaseholders, who often find their service charges high without the service they deserve.
2. Local business
Small business is crucial to a healthy economy. I am pleased that Labour is prioritising cutting business rates for small businesses rather than cutting corporation tax for big ones. I have always sought to help the small firms and family-run businesses locally with any problems that they bring to me, and I am glad that we have several thriving and varied high streets in the area. We need more flexibility on parking to support customers for our shops.
I do not want to see local firms overwhelmed by big chain stores, and have opposed such developments in the past. I will continue to press for a balanced and attractive mix of shops and businesses.
What do you think of local schools? How would you support improvement in them?
I have seen huge improvements in all our schools over the past few years, especially primary schools. Leadership is important and where there is a strong and resourceful Head, a school will thrive. I support high quality and successful schools that want to expand, because I believe that all of our children deserve the opportunity for the best education possible, and I often have to try to help frustrated parents who have not been able to get their children into their preferred schools.
All local authority sports facilities should have free use for part of the day. I would like to see them run by community trusts rather than the big leisure operators.
I worked with campaigners to keep the historic home of British skateboarding at the Undercroft on the Southbank. I want to see Lambeth maintain its overall financial support for libraries in these difficult times.
I am glad that this issue is being raised, as for too long people in inner-city areas have suffered from unacceptable air quality. The first step is to ensure regular monitoring of the situation, so that the scale of the problem is clear, and appropriate action taken on emissions.
I want to see the continuation of the greening of many of our estates and support for people growing their own food.