Lambeth heads to the polls on 5 May, voting for 63 council seats. Anna McKie takes a look at what the main parties in Brixton are offering.
It’s been four years since the last election and a lot has happened. Locally, this year Lambeth’s 21 wards become 25, although the total number of councillors remain at 63. The leader of the council has changed twice since the last elections, after Labour’s Lib Peck stepped down in 2019, her replacement Jack Hopkins then did the same in 2021. Current leader, Labour’s Claire Holland, will be hoping residents of the Oval ward will see her re-elected.
While seemingly less dramatic than general elections – and often featuring poorer turnouts – the results of these elections can have a big impact on local people and local issues, and all candidates will be hoping to persuade residents that they’ve got their best interests at heart.
As ever, housing, inequality and pollution – Brixton is home to one of the UK’s most polluted roads – are the big issues on the table this year.
The council is also responsible for a range of other matters in the borough, which include libraries, care of the elderly and support for people with disabilities, local schools, parks, council tax, planning, street cleaning, looking after vulnerable children, funding care homes, adoptions and fostering, and rubbish collection.
The 2018 elections saw the Labour party slightly reduce its majority, dropping two seats to 57. The Green Party increased its total from one to five, and the Conservatives lost two seats, taking their total down to one. The Liberal Democrats again failed to win any seats in 2018.
Here are the main parties and their policies they’ve set out for this election:
Claire Holland, Labour councillor and leader of Lambeth Labour Group, believes voters should recognise that the Labour party has a proven ability to support people in the borough, despite “despite a decade of Conservative cuts and the devastating impacts of a global pandemic”.
Their manifesto features a plan to tackle child poverty; creating 2,500 apprenticeships and more support for older people; cracking down on anti-social behaviour; tackling the climate crisis by creating more cycle hangars and planting more trees; and building more council homes.
Cllr Holland says Labour has “built the first new council homes in a generation, helped thousands of people affected by Covid-19 with food and financial support, and been the first borough in London to declare a climate emergency.”
“Labour will always stand up for Lambeth, keep fighting Conservative attempts to cut your services and for a fairer deal for Lambeth. We’ll help people feeling the pressure from rising energy bills and the Conservative’s cost of living crisis – and make sure support is always there for those who need it most,” she says.
“We’ll take radical action on the climate crisis – not just to safeguard our future but because fuel poverty is affecting so many families right now and we know there can be no climate justice without social justice. And everything we do will be about tackling inequality – removing the obstacles that hold people back in this borough and never failing to challenge injustice.”
Lambeth’s official opposition party says its focus is for “greener, fairer communities”, which means “making Lambeth a safer, fairer, cleaner, greener and healthier borough in which to live, work and thrive.”
Green Party Councillor and MEP Scott Ainslie says they want to see an end to the one party state in Lambeth Council and for residents to feel their voices will “actually be heard”.
The party’s manifesto goals include getting the borough to net zero by 2030 and a “people’s housing plan” that explores alternatives to demolition, including maintaining and retrofitting homes, and providing more genuinely affordable homes. The Greens say they will also tackle the council’s own contributions to air pollution, including by ending waste incineration and unnecessary development.
They also want to see the introduction of a four-day week in the council and to make sure that within the elected body there is greater accountability, openness and transparency and much better value for money.
“Our plans are designed to keep people in their homes; reduce their bills and help with the cost of living crisis. The greenest home is the one already built,” Cllr Ainslie says. They are also “demanding justice for every survivor of Shirley Oaks [a council-run children’s home where decades of historic abuse was covered up].”
“Whatever happens we will continue to hold Labour’s feet to the fire in how they run things,” Cllr Ainslie says.
The Conservative Party say they want to boost democracy in the borough, improve council efficiency and make Lambeth safer.
The Tories are the only party who say they plan to remove the Low Traffic Neighbourhood road and bridge closures, which they say cause an increase in traffic and do not decrease pollution as they are supposed to.
Their manifesto says the party will improve life chances for Lambeth’s children from lower income families, in line with Wandsworth Council standards. They will support the regeneration of Lambeth’s high streets with sustainable and responsible development and prioritise facilities closed by the council, including youth clubs, sports clubs and other organisations, “with a view to improving the life chances of younger people, especially in areas of high deprivation”.
They also set out plans to make Lambeth “greener and cleaner”, and end the “over-exploitation of parks and green spaces” in the manifesto.
The party also says it will introduce a Repairs Charter for tenants and leaseholders who have Lambeth Council as their landlord. “We support the objectives of Lambeth homeowners. We will establish a new centralised contracts team so leaseholders can finally understand what they’re being charged for. Labour Councils don’t understand what the issue is,” Conservative councillor Tim Briggs recently said.
The Lib Dems say a vote for them is “a vote for councillors who care and a Council that listens.”
The party aims “to make sure that our young people are supported with their education and wellbeing, addressing the real impacts of the pandemic. We’ll work with community policing teams to make sure that everyone is safe, at home and on our streets. We will speed up action on air quality and the roll out of EV charging points,” says Sarah Lewis, chair of the Lambeth Liberal Democrats.
“And we’ll fight to reset the Council’s priorities when it comes to housing and development – saying no to estate demolition and to big buildings only designed for big profits at the expense of local residents, instead focusing on building more council homes that local people can truly afford.”
“Lambeth is an amazing place to live. But it’s currently the third most complained about borough in London. It’s time for that to change,” she says.
“We’ve heard from people up and down our borough that Labour Lambeth isn’t working for them. They want a Council that cares for the spaces we share. Services they’re proud to pay for. Real action on the environment, not just hot air. No corruption, no cronies, no secrets and no spin.”
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