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This week has been another frustrating one for thousands of Lambeth residents using Southern Rail. On a network beset by routine delays and poor service, a three day strike is resulting in an even longer commute for those who rely on these vital train services. 


Along with my Labour colleagues in Lambeth, I feel it’s utterly unacceptable that Southern Rail have been allowed to continue running a service that has shown little signs of improvement. Excuses and promises to change are not what passengers want. They just need a service that is efficient and runs on time, which is what they are paying for.

While this week may feel like another low point for the service, there are signs that pressure from residents and Lambeth Labour is beginning to push the government into taking action that is badly needed.

It was a welcome step forward that TfL have announced recently that they will take control of suburban rail services and integrate them into the London Overground network when the current franchises expires. This is something we have been campaigning for as one of the key aims of our ‘Back on Track’ Streatham Transport campaign. We also know that this is something that local residents have wanted to happen for some time.

These services coming under TfL’s control is a positive move that means we can look forward to more frequent, more reliable and less crowded services. However, we firmly believe that Streatham residents should not have to put up with the current unacceptable level of service until 2021. As commuters stand on crowded platforms and cramp into buses this week, I am sure they won’t be consoled by the fact that in five years services may begin to improve. 

As a result we need to continue to keep the pressure on ministers and TfL. Our central message is that we cannot afford to wait: the government needs to cancel the Southern Rail franchise and hand control of these services to Transport for London as soon as possible. At our next council meeting, we will be debating a motion that will make this Lambeth’s official policy – and I hope both the Greens and Tories will back our call. This is part of our concerted effort to get the best deal for our residents: and it’s time the government started listening to their voice. 

Cllr Danny Adilypour, Labour Councillor for Streatham South Ward



The Government must call time on Southern Rail

This week has been another frustrating one for thousands of Lambeth residents using Southern Rail. On a network beset by routine delays and poor service, a three day strike is...

Local ward councillor and Cabinet Member for Housing Matthew Bennett blogs on the future of the Central Hill Estate in Gipsy Hill

I’ve been a local councillor for the Central Hill estate since 2010.  Over the past seven years while knocking on doors and asking residents what’s important to them, the same issues come up again and again.  Too many homes suffer from damp, from mould, from disrepair.  Too many homes have problems with their drains, the kitchens and bathrooms are dilapidated and need replacing, roofs and water pipes leak.  The estate needs at least £18m of investment to bring it up to a decent standard, possibly twice as much by some estimates.  Many families are living overcrowded conditions in homes that are just too small and over a quarter of tenants are on the council’s transfer list, trying to move away.

Around 18 months ago we started working with residents to look at all the potential solutions.  We wanted to work together to see how, despite huge cuts to council budgets, we could provide residents with better homes that they’ve waited too long for.  Nobody underestimates how difficult and stressful that uncertainty has been, or how disruptive estate regeneration can be for residents.  But the last 18 months have meant that every option has been robustly checked and challenged and it means we can say with absolute confidence that having looked at all options that the best outcome for the residents of Central Hill is for the estate to be fully rebuilt to a higher standard.


Local councillors Jennifer Brathwaite, Luke Murphy and Matthew Bennett on the Central Hill estate

In Lambeth we’re committed to controlling the estate regeneration process and ensuring it is a better and fairer than elsewhere.  There is:

  • no private developer involved
  • no sale of land and
  • no handing over of homes to a separate housing association.

We’ve also worked with tenants and leaseholders on a set of ‘Key Guarantees’, which explain the council’s offer to anyone affected by estate regeneration.

We guarantee that all tenants can:

  • stay on the new estate, getting more bedrooms if they’re currently overcrowded, in a home with a lifetime tenancy at council rent levels; or
  • take the highest priority on the housing allocation system and choose another council home in Lambeth with a secure tenancy.

We guarantee that resident homeowners will:

  • have their homes independently valued, getting an extra 10% on top of the value and be compensated for any expenses;
  • have the option to buy a home on the new estate which they will own outright or take up one of the shared ownership arrangements (depending on their circumstances); or
  • be provided a rented home at a rent they can afford if homeownership isn’t feasible anymore.

The Key Guarantees mean nobody has to leave Central Hill who wants to stay and everyone can have a new home on the rebuilt estate.

Rebuilding also means we can increase the number of homes for council rent.  London faces a social housing shortage but in Lambeth we’re building 1000 extra homes at council level rents to help some of the thousands of people on our waiting list.

Hundreds of additional council level rent homes are already planned on other estates in Lambeth, as well as on brownfield sites like Somerleyton Road.  New council rent level homes have already been built at St. Oswald’s Place and Akerman Road.  Unlike with other regeneration schemes, in Lambeth we are increasing social housing and investing in the future of our community.

The new homes will also be larger; with higher environmental and energy-efficiency credentials; and built to Lifetime Homes standard, so that people can stay in their homes if they have mobility problems.  We will also design bespoke homes for residents with disabilities, so they can stay living in their community, in a home built to meet their exact needs.

The consultation runs until mid-November, giving everyone on the estate a chance to share their views on the proposals, as well as the offers set out in the Key Guarantees.  It will also allow enough time for the council to listen to what’s being said and respond to any concerns before a decision is made.

We know that proposing to rebuild the estate makes this is a difficult and potentially distressing time for residents.  But we can’t pretend there’s no problem with the condition of residents’ homes, we can’t ignore the best solution and it would be unfair and irresponsible to promise refurbishment when we know we can’t deliver it.  

Cllr Matthew Bennett

The Future of the Central Hill Estate

Local ward councillor and Cabinet Member for Housing Matthew Bennett blogs on the future of the Central Hill Estate in Gipsy Hill

After Philip Hammond used his speech to the Tory Conference to announce that plans to eliminate the deficit by 2020 would be abandoned, there has been lots of talk about it marking the end of austerity. 

But while the rhetoric may have shifted, for local government, already hit incredibly hard by cuts in funding over the last six years, austerity is far from over.

In Lambeth, our budget has already been reduced by 56% since 2010 and we are having to take even more money out over the next three years. The taps are very definitely not being turned back on.  

In February the Government announced a new longer-term financial settlement for councils. What this means for Lambeth is we must reduce our already stretched budget by a further £55m over the next three years. To put that in context, that’s more than we spend on waste collection, parks and community safety combined every year.

Further difficult decisions are unavoidable and the impact of austerity will continue to be felt long after George Osborne has left 11 Downing Street.

It’s not just on the economy where Tory rhetoric jars with the reality. We can see it too in the Government’s plans to re-introduce grammar schools. Theresa May has pledged to create a country that works for everyone. Yet, report after report shows that grammars do not boost social mobility and actually widen the gap between rich and poor.

The incredible improvement in Lambeth’s schools over recent years has seen children from all backgrounds go on to get good quality apprenticeships, places at top universities and skilled jobs -transforming their life chances in the process. We’ve done this without the help of grammars and we will fight to keep it this way.

I won’t be alone in being deeply concerned by the post-Brexit hardening (and coarsening) of rhetoric on immigration. Our borough is proudly open and outward looking. There are 40,000 EU-born residents living here and they make a huge contribution; economically, socially and culturally. 

What message does it send to them when government ministers talk about forcing businesses to publish lists of the number of foreign employees, as Amber Rudd did this week? A quarter of doctors were born outside of this country and the NHS would collapse without foreign workers. The many foreign-born carers, teaching assistants, nurses and street sweepers who work hard, pay their taxes and make a contribution to our country should be thanked, not made to feel like they are a burden. 

As this week has shown, the nasty party is clearly not a thing of the past. The treatment of foreign workers, the crazy plans to reintroduce grammars and the false talk of austerity being over shows there is now a deficit of a different kind - between the government’s words and actions. 

Cllr Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council

For local government, austerity is far from over

After Philip Hammond used his speech to the Tory Conference to announce that plans to eliminate the deficit by 2020 would be abandoned, there has been lots of talk about it...

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