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The recent local elections saw Labour return 57 Councillors out of 63, with a single remaining Conservative and the Greens becoming the official opposition with 5 Councillors. After a four year term of improving services and widening opportunities in the face of unprecedented budget cuts from the Conservative Government, my colleagues and I are rightly pleased with this vote of confidence from the people of Lambeth.

And moving from one lone Green Councillor to a whole group could mean an interesting shift. Could there potentially be a progressive alliance which various commentators have speculated on? Could they bring fresh perspectives and approaches from which we can all learn?

Sadly if Lambeth Green Leader (and also Green Co-Leader nationally) Cllr Jonathan Bartley’s first forays into councillor life are anything to go by, I’m afraid the people of Lambeth will be very disappointed.  

They promised to be different but their first month has been marked by some pretty depressing gesture politics, bordering on downright hypocrisy.

At last week’s Full Council Annual General Meeting (where all Councillors are sworn in and the Mayor is appointed), Cllr Bartley began to attack the Labour administration on councillors’ allowances, claiming Lambeth Councillors had awarded themselves £472,335, in “ADDITIONAL allowances”.

At this point it may be worth doing a quick fact check. Have allowances risen by the eye-watering £472,000 that he suggests? Unsurprisingly, the answer is no. Each councillor receives a standard allowance of £10,597 – and the Labour administration has frozen it at this level since 2008. There are additional responsibility allowances – which have also fallen since last year. Lambeth’s allowances are actually below the official and independent guidelines from London Councils.

Anyone who spends even a second thinking about it would realise that it is utterly ludicrous to suggest that councillors would give themselves a pay rise on this scale - £472,000 in one year(!). But Cllr Bartley went ahead anyway, choosing to whip up his Twitter followers regardless of the facts.   

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In fact, the only allowance that has actually increased is for the opposition leader….Councillor Jonathan Bartley. This reflects the fact that as opposition leader of a bigger group than the previous Tory opposition, Cllr Bartley is entitled to receive an increased allowance of £16,207. This is in line with the official and independent guidance mentioned earlier. Cllr Bartley was advised of this after an independent assessment by councillor officers.

To understand the contortions Lambeth Greens have got themselves in over this issue, it's helpful to note that days before the Full Council meeting, Cllr Ainslie, who is the Green party “whip” on Lambeth council and Cllr Bartley’s colleague, sent an email to officers and Labour councillors requesting an additional increase in allowances for Green councillors. I’ve included a copy of the email below:

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This would have meant an additional £38,000 for the Greens, based on their own calculations.

Quite rightly, this was rejected as an unnecessary and disproportionate increase for a group of just five councillors.

As a result of their claim for extra allowances being turned down in private, Cllr Bartley has behaved extraordinarily in public: accusing the Labour administration of deliberately increasing his pay to embarrass him (good luck getting your head around that one), claiming to support a cut in allowances (he wanted an increase) and claiming Labour has increased allowances (they’ve fallen).

And he’s continued to push these extraordinary claims on social media and to media outlets.

It’s a staggering tale of politicians saying one thing in private, and the exact opposite in public. In private, Green councillors asked for money, yet in public Cllr Bartley is decrying other councillors being paid for doing their jobs.

Given his public pronouncements on the topic I fully expect to see Cllr Bartley giving his full allowance away. But let’s see if his private actions match his public pronouncements.

For a party that made such a play of being whiter than white, it’s been a puzzling start and it may take them a while to shift the cloud of hypocrisy that has engulfed Lambeth’s Greens.

Cllr Jack Hopkins

Greens demand pay increase in private: while calling for a cut in public

The recent local elections saw Labour return 57 Councillors out of 63, with a single remaining Conservative and the Greens becoming the official opposition with 5 Councillors. After a four...

After months of delay and dithering, last week finally saw a public commitment that the government would fund fire safety works that councils had undertaken since the tragic Grenfell fire tragedy last year.

This was a welcome move and a success for councils of all political colours who had been campaigning for these vital works to be supported by central government. In Lambeth, the council has spent £6m on cladding removal and testing, with even more allocated to wider safety improvements across our housing stock. This was essential work done rapidly and on a large scale in our borough in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy. However, with a decade of deep and harsh cuts to local government this was money that the council had to take from budgets that are already over stretched.

Last week’s welcome announcement was very rapidly undermined by reports in the media that the government was in fact intending to fund these improvements by raiding the budget for affordable house building.  This is a very obvious and very tired card trick, which has happened far too often in recent years, of new funding being promised by the government only for the detail to reveal its being pulled from another vital budget with the hope that no one will notice.  

The government has, as it initially said last year, a duty to support these vital safety improvements and it is unacceptable that this funding will now come at the expense of desperately needed affordable homes for the families who need them. As an inner-city borough we are at the forefront of attempting to tackle the housing crisis, despite Tory cuts. We are striving to use every penny and every scrap of land we can to build more homes for the 23,000 people on our housing waiting list, many families who are currently in overcrowded or temporary accommodation.  New council homes, including in my own ward in Vassall, are being built for residents for the first time in a generation while other forms of genuinely affordable housing are also being constructed, at the same time as a large scale refurbishment of existing council stock is being completed.

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New council homes in Akerman Road, Brixton

But there is only so much that councils can do without the delivery of new powers and funding – and yet another cut to funding for affordable homes is the last thing that people desperate for a home need.

Given the recent reports and the cascade of criticism it has caused, it now for Ministers to clarify if this funding is new money and to publicly state that they are not intending to raid the Affordable Homes budget at a time when the housing crisis shows no sign of abating.

The moving testimonies at the Grenfell Inquiry in the past few weeks have shown why, if any more evidence was needed, every possible measure needs to be taken to protect and reassure tenants in the wake of this tragedy. But that should not be at expense of desperately needed affordable homes for the families who need them.

Cllr Paul Gadsby, Cabinet Member for Housing

Fire safety funding shouldn’t mean cuts in affordable housing

After months of delay and dithering, last week finally saw a public commitment that the government would fund fire safety works that councils had undertaken since the tragic Grenfell fire...

Cabinet Members (job share) for Health and Adult Social Care, Cllrs Ed Davie and Jacqui Dyer, blog about reducing the harm done by smoking in Lambeth... 

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Cllrs Ed Davie and Jacqui Dyer, Cabinet Members (job share) for Health and Adult Social Care, 

 

Today, May 31, the World Health Organisation marks No Tobacco Day and here in Lambeth we are doing our bit by aiming for a Smokefree borough.

As the new Cabinet Members for Health and Adult Social Care our job is to support good health and key to that goal is reducing the harm done by smoking.

The damage to health caused by cigarettes is pretty well known but the facts are still shocking: smoking kills half of all smokers early and more than nine out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking.

What is less well known is that smoking causes the most financial and health damage to already deprived and vulnerable people.

The poorest people are three times more likely to smoke than the richest and in Lambeth alone about 1,428 households could be lifted out of poverty if they were helped to quit.

We also know that people addicted to other drugs and alcohol and those with mental health conditions are much more likely to smoke causing even more harm. People with serious mental illnesses live 20 years less on average, partly as a result of higher smoking rates.

Last week we visited Lambeth’s addiction treatment centre at Lorraine Hewitt House where service users are being encouraged to quit smoking by being given free electronic cigarettes, which cause about 95% less harm. Now we want to ensure targeted support like this reaches more people in need.

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Cllr Edd Davie with Dr Mike Kelleher, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead for Lambeth Addictions, at Lambeth’s addiction treatment centre at Lorraine Hewitt House

 

Lambeth Council has been working hard over recent months with pharmacies, GPs and our hospitals to review support given to those who want to quit.

As a result we will be creating new stop smoking hubs across the borough which will assist local people, and especially at-risk groups, to break the habit.

People will also be able to get help to quit from a free 24/7 helpline, GPs, 21 community pharmacies and Guys and Thomas’s NHS Trust specialist smoking service who will provide additional specialist support for pregnant women or anyone who has found it difficult to stop smoking because they have a long term physical or mental health condition.

We are also pressing to quickly implement the Lambeth Labour manifesto commitment for a complete smoking ban in children’s playgrounds.

The smoking ban in public places, brought in the by the last Labour Government, encouraged many people to quit or cut down and has massively reduced the damage of passive smoking.

If the playground smoking ban is a success we will look at extending this ban to more public spaces to cut passive smoking and encourage more people to quit.

Through increased disease, fires, litter and social care needs smoking costs Lambeth £88 million every year. For the good of all our residents, particularly the most deprived and vulnerable, we are aiming for a Smokefree Lambeth.

 

  • Call our stop smoking hotline:  0800 856 3409; or 020 3049 5186.
  • Find out more about NHS stop smoking services on the GSTT website
  • Figures from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

Aiming for a Smokefree Lambeth

Cabinet Members (job share) for Health and Adult Social Care, Cllrs Ed Davie and Jacqui Dyer, blog about reducing the harm done by smoking in Lambeth...  Cllrs Ed Davie and Jacqui...

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