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5274.jpgThis week’s Lambeth council meeting saw an important debate on the future of the thousands of EU citizens living in our borough. The debate  took place against the backdrop of another week of crisis and chaos in the Brexit negotiations. The government was forced on the day of the meeting to suspend the progression of the EU Withdrawal Bill for a second time and once more we had to witness the spectacle of Tory politicians contradicting each other on how the government should handle this critical issue. Theresa May’s most recent letter on freedom of movement was described as “worthless” by a leading campaign group while there was yet another call from Tory Brexiters for us to leave the EU without a deal.

 

The government’s strategy, if it can be called that, is not only falling apart, but is leaving the UK’s 3.6 million EU citizens in an inacceptable state of limbo. As councillors, we are increasingly hearing from EU residents anxious about whether they and their families will be able to stay in this country when Britain finally exits the EU. During the council debate, we heard what this means in practice for people who have spent decades contributing to our economy, our public services and enriching the diversity of our borough.. Families are understandably nervous about what plans to make for their future, for their children and for their businesses. The same situation faces thousands of British citizens, born, or with families in Lambeth, and now living in the EU, who are being left in with the same dreadful uncertainty.

 

As Labour councillors said repeatedly during the debate, it is completely unacceptable that the government is leaving millions with this degree of anxiety, treating their rights as nothing more than a bargaining chip. We heard passionate contributions from my colleagues: from Councillor Tiedemann and Councillor Davie about the fears of their own family members, from Councillor Guilherme Rosa about the anxiety of Lambeth’s very large Portuguese community and from Councillor Holland about the anxieties caused for our residents told to place their trust in a Home Office that time and again has treated non-UK nationals with contempt.

 

By contrast, from our Conservative opponents we simply got a typically uncaring and short-sighted view,  as they failed to stand up for the rights of EU citizens’ in Lambeth and British citizens living in the EU.

 

While Lambeth’s Tories once again put their friends in Westminster ahead of the needs of Lambeth residents, we passed the motion with the intention of sending a clear message that EU citizens should have their rights protected: that needs to be a key and central part of the UK’s negotiating position. We cannot and should not abandon our friends and neighbours who have contributed so much to life of this borough and our country; socially, culturally and economically.

 

It is now time for the government to stop the indecision, the division and the callous disregard for people’s lives and get on with ensuring that the rights and freedoms of EU citizens, and British citizens abroad, are fully protected in any final Brexit deal.

 

Lib Peck

Leader of Lambeth Council

Lambeth Labour Backs EU Citizens

This week’s Lambeth council meeting saw an important debate on the future of the thousands of EU citizens living in our borough. The debate  took place against the backdrop of...

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You probably had more people helping you today than you realised.

If your bins were collected, or your child went to school; if the pavement you walked down was flat and clean (that’s not the default setting for a pavement when nature gets involved), then you were helped by a public sector worker. It’s their job to do it, of course, and it’s labour that you pay for, but consider for a second how important they are.

Teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, prison officers, judges, social workers: the men and women who do the invisible things that we notice when they go wrong, and those who run towards danger and not away from it, have been singled out by the government. They have been told in no uncertain terms that they are not valued. Since coming to power in 2010, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats (and let’s not forget their joint role in the coalition) have stuck dogmatically to the 1% pay cap. In real terms, vital public sector workers, often on low to middle income salaries, have seen their wages decline as utility, food and other bills have risen. And this is despite in many cases these workers being asked to work longer hours. 

Yesterday, Lambeth council passed a motion calling on the government to end its seven year long policy of imposing a stringent 1% pay cap on the annual wage increases of public sector workers across the UK.  This one policy change could have a profound impact on thousands of people. When the government defends the pay cap they signal, with rare clarity, how they feel about the work that you and I rely on every day.

There are no luxuries left in local government. If you need a social worker you probably wish you didn’t, and the people who empty your bins don’t do it for the glory.

The pay cap is not a clever accounting position. It’s what happens when a failed economic policy is pushed through at a real cost to millions of people who have families to support and lives to get on with.

But can this really be done? Can government afford to lift the cap? Putting aside for a moment the argument that they can’t afford not to (£1.1bn this year on locums who choose to work for agencies should have alarm bells ringing across Whitehall), reversing the cuts to Corporation Tax rates would raise enough money to meet their responsibility.

And aren’t some public sector workers getting a pay rise? Well, actually no, not really. This week inflation hit 3%. This means that an increase of 2% for police and 1.7% for prison officers is a real terms cut. Not as much of a cut as some of the men and women they work alongside, admittedly, but that’s a pretty low bar that they’ve set.

It’s not only an increasingly untenable position, but an increasingly unpopular one too. A leading polling company found that 75% of all voters support above-inflation increases in public sector pay. That includes, incidentally, 69% of Conservative voters.

And yet, in Lambeth, the Conservatives will not support Labour’s call for the cap to be lifted. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised - Lambeth Tories are a right wing variety who support a Hard Brexit, attack parents for opposing cuts to local schools and are in favour of increasing business rates by as much as 45% for local firms.  But still, it’s puzzling: it’s one thing to be out of step with economists and the workforce but they are at odds with their constituents too, not least as thousands of public sector workers live and are employed in our borough. After all, Conservative voters use doctors too.

There is no economic, social or political argument to keep the cap and it should be lifted now.

Let’s think about a world without public sector workers. And then let’s think about whether they deserve a decent wage.

 

Imogen Walker

Deputy Leader of the Council (Finance & Resources)

Its time to end the public sector pay cap

You probably had more people helping you today than you realised. If your bins were collected, or your child went to school; if the pavement you walked down was flat...

 

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Hate crime is on the rise. Between 2015-16 and 2016-17 religious and racist hate crime increased by as much as 10% in Lambeth with 653 reported here in the year to March 2017 compared with 592 the previous year. In September, Stonewall reported recently that hate crimes against LGBT people have increased by 78% in the past five years. And, shamefully, disabled people are more than three times as likely to be victims of hate crime compared with non-disabled people.

 

A crime is classified as a hate crime if it is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility, prejudice or hatred towards someone's actual or perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

 

A victim does not have to be a member of the group at which the hostility is targeted. In fact, anyone could be a victim of a hate crime. Hate crime can take a range of forms, from name calling and verbal abuse, to physical attacks or threats of attacks, damage to property or bullying at school or in the workplace.

 

Hate crimes are devastating and victims often feel too afraid to leave their homes or modify their behaviour in other ways as a result. This sort of intimidation needs to be eradicated from our streets.

 

14-21 October marks National Hate Crime Awareness Week which aims to bring people together to support those affected by hate crime and to remember those we have lost.

 

Lambeth Labour is calling for a zero tolerance approach to hate crime and to make sure residents know what constitutes a hate crime incident should it happen to them and where to go and what to do to report it. The more people come forward, the better this insidious and growing threat to our tolerant and diverse society can be understood and tackled, hopefully eradicated.

 

The Lambeth Equality Commission launched by Cllr Lib Peck last year heard about the considerable impact of crime on vulnerable victims, with disabled residents particularly concerned about hate crime and the police’s ability to support them. The report, which was agreed by Cabinet on Monday, included a recommendation that the Council should lobby the Metropolitan Police Service to monitor disability hate crime as a specific crime and improve efforts to increase reporting.

 

There are several ways to report a hate crime. Dial 999 or 112 to speak to the police or online. The police take hate crime very seriously and will record and investigate this offence even if you do not want to give your details. Residents should feel confident to come forward to report incidents to the police. It is vital that the true picture is understood so that appropriate action can be taken. 

 

Against this backdrop of rising hate crime, it is quite simply dangerous that the government is proposing to cut funding to policing across the capital. The effect of these proposed budget cuts in in Lambeth would be stark, fewer police officers on patrol and only one walk-in police station would remain to serve the whole borough and give residents a place to report crimes in person.

 

Lambeth Labour is running a campaign to fight these cuts to policing. So far, over 1,000 residents have signed the petition to urge the government to think again.

 

Lucy Caldicott

Labour candidate in Stockwell

Lambeth Labour is backing 'National Hate Crime Awareness Week'

  Hate crime is on the rise. Between 2015-16 and 2016-17 religious and racist hate crime increased by as much as 10% in Lambeth with 653 reported here in the...

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