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Voters in Lambeth had the opportunity this week to question candidates standing for election on 8th June about their views on education, thanks to the work of local parents. The Fair Funding for Lambeth Schools campaign organised a Fair Funding Picnic on Streatham Common as part of the school funding campaign day of action, giving people the chance to speak to parliamentary candidates about their views on education.

This is particularly important as more details have emerged in the last few days of the choice on offer on education in this election. The highly-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has analysed all the main parties’ manifestoes and made clear that only Labour will invest in education and our children’s future. In particular, they highlight that the Conservative plans “could spell further cuts to already struggling schools after the General Election”.

It comes as no surprise, considering the Conservatives’ record of cutting school funding and obsessing about school structures rather than driving up standards in our schools. In particular, their plans to cut up to £24 million from education in Lambeth has rightly caused outrage among parents, teachers and local residents. Since April 2016, we have been campaigning against these plans to cut funding for local schools. We have been clear that this would put at risk the huge progress made by Lambeth schools in the last decade, concerns shared by hundreds of parents, teachers and local residents. One of the largest public meetings in the country about this issue was held in Streatham in March (pictured) and over 1,000 people have signed Lambeth Labour’s petition against the government’s changes.

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Last week, they finally caved in to pressure and offered some money for schools in the manifesto. But, as the IFS makes clear, this is far short of the money needed to ensure per pupil funding is protected, and it comes alongside cuts to free school lunches for working families. We also know what Conservative manifesto pledges on this issue really mean: David Cameron promised to protect the money following each child into school just two years ago, only to introduce huge cuts to the funding for schools after he’d won the election.

The government has repeatedly defended its policy, arguing that taking and spreading funding around the country is a fairer way to fund education. Yet we firmly believe that funding should be levelled up, not levelled down, and that we should be investing in our children’s education.

 This view isn’t shared by the local Conservatives, who have continuously supported these deep cuts and who declined to turn up to the recent public meeting to answer for that support. Indeed, the Conservative leader in Lambeth criticised the parent-led campaign for highlighting this issue, despite repeatedly getting his own figures on the cuts wrong.

The pattern is now being repeated with Conservative candidates refusing to attend hustings events, showing their contempt for local voters - they want our votes but refuse to answer questions about how they would vote on this issue in Parliament if they were elected.

Only Labour has consistently opposed these cuts, campaigning throughout the last year in our local communities, working with schools and parents, gathering signatures from local people and raising awareness of the impact they will have on Lambeth children. In contrast, the Greens and Liberal Democrats have been silent about this crucial issue. A Labour government in Westminster will fully fund education and our parliamentary candidates in Lambeth have consistently campaigned in Parliament to protect our local schools.

Please do make sure you take the opportunity to speak to local candidates about this issue and make clear to them how important this issue is to our children’s future. And on 8th June, I urge you to vote for a party that will invest in their education and protect our local schools.

Councillor Claire Holland

Deputy Cabinet Member for Schools

Education should be top of the agenda in this election

Voters in Lambeth had the opportunity this week to question candidates standing for election on 8th June about their views on education, thanks to the work of local parents. The...

The Government’s desperate attempts to prevent their air quality plan being published before the election shows that they have not woken up to the scale of the air quality crisis. By dragging their feet and then filleting the plan of any meaningful proposals, they have put politics ahead of people’s health. 

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With 10,000 Londoners dying prematurely each year because of air so filthy it is actually illegal, their inaction is literally costing lives. Brixton Road breached the EU annual limits for nitrogen dioxide within the first five days of 2017 and so many pollution hotspots in the city are around schools, exposing our children to dangerously polluted air. 

By far the largest source of harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions are diesel cars, which are linked to 23,500 of the 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. It’s therefore really disappointing that the Government has failed to commit to a diesel scrappage scheme - the single measure that would do most to encourage motorists to move to cleaner vehicles.

Client Earth, the group of environmental lawyers who brought the legal challenge that forced publication of the plan, have rightly criticised the proposal to set up non-charging clean air zones. Without the threat of a fine it's difficult to see how these would persuade motorists to stay out of the area. The Government have passed on responsibility to local authorities to introduce these zones. But at the same time they've also cut the amount of money they have given to councils to improve air quality - the Air Quality Grant has shrunk from £3m to £3500,000 since the Tories came to power in 2010. 

Worryingly Andrea Leadsom, the Secretary of State for the Environment, has been silent on whether the UK will continue to maintain current EU air quality standards. Post-Brexit, vital agreements such as the the binding emissions targets agreed by member states in November, could be torn up.  

The scale of the crisis demands big solutions. Sadiq Khan has led the way in London with a bold and ambitious plan to expand the Ultra Low Emmission Zone. From 2019 the most polluting vehicles will have to pay a daily charge to enter central London. Sadiq knows this won't make him flavour of the month amongst some diesel car owners but he knows that fiddling around at the edges is not an option as air quality in our city continues to worsen.

Lambeth has been at the forefront of efforts to kick clean air up the political agenda. As well as lobbying the Government, the council has led by example in implementing a number of measures to improve air quality. We have secured one of the first clean bus corridors in London on the highly polluted A23 between Streatham and Brixton. This will reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by an estimated 84%.

We have also made huge efforts to encourage people out of their vehicles and onto bikes. Two new Quietway routes will soon open, providing over ten miles of safe cycling routes. We’ve introduced a 20mph speed limit across the borough, installed 1,000 bike hangar spaces and trained more cyclists than any other place in London. The number of cycle journeys increased by 68% from 2004-2014.

Finally, we have just published an Air Quality Action Plan which sets out 59 specific actions the council will take to improve local air quality. These include plans for a freight consolidation centre in partnership with three other councils to cut the number of polluting delivery journeys made for council services, local businesses and other organisations.

The plan is set to be agreed by Cabinet next Monday and has been endorsed by Deputy Mayor for the Environment, Shirley Rodrigues, who praised Lambeth's "excellent plan" with its  commitment to "a range of ambitious actions to improve air quality." 

The Mayor of London and local government have shown what can be done where political will is combined with hard-hitting plans of action. It’s a pity Ministers have not shown the same ambition. Thankfully voters can give their verdict on the Government's record on air quality on 8 June.  

Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Cabinet Member for Environment and Housing 

Inadequate clean air plan shows Government are not serious about tackling air pollution

The Government’s desperate attempts to prevent their air quality plan being published before the election shows that they have not woken up to the scale of the air quality crisis....

Lambeth has just become the first council in the country to sign up to the Local Government Declaration on Sugar Reduction and Healthier Food. It’s a chance for the borough to build on almost a decade of hard work on the issue writes Jim Dickson Labour’s Cabinet Member for Healthier and Stronger Communities...

Few would be surprised to learn that overconsumption of foods high in sugar, fat and salt as well as swallowing  too many sugary drinks is a major contributor to some of the biggest causes of early deaths in Lambeth. In our borough, more than two in five children are either overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school and this often leads to serious health complications later in life, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  On average 11 to 18 year olds consume three times the recommended amount of sugar every day, much of this from sugar sweetened drinks.  And yet consumption of unhealthy food is actively promoted through advertising, sponsorship deals and price promotions locally and across the country.

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In the absence of clear leadership from the government (whose 2016 obesity strategy flunked many key challenges) it’s up to councils – with our responsibilities for public and environmental health, planning, leisure and recreation - to hold the ring on  action to promote healthy eating and sugar reduction. We have the ability to influence food and drink offers in our buildings, leisure centres, libraries and other commissioned services. We set standards for school meals and can encourage free breakfasts. We can ban new fast food outlets near schools as we have done in Lambeth. And by co-ordinating our policies with partners including in the health and third sectors we can help people achieve healthier diets and lifestyles.

In Lambeth, we’re well placed to pull all these threads together. We’ve had a ‘whole systems approach’ to addressing childhood obesity in place for some time and are the only council in the country to have shown a consistent reduction in overweight children at year 6 during the past 7 years. Promotion of breast feeding, a well-designed schools healthy weight programme and work with frontline staff to deliver messages on eating and lifestyles have -  according to a recent Public Health England evaluation - all played a key role in turning the tide on childhood obesity in Lambeth. Strong system leadership has also been crucial as our Food Flagship Partnership has started shaping a healthy food system for local residents, sustaining improvements in school meals, making heathy eating more affordable and expanding food growing across Lambeth including in GPs’ surgeries. Schemes such as the healthy eating voucher scheme and Norwood’s Community Shop have seen Lambeth named as London’s No1 borough for fighting food poverty.

After signing the Declaration on Sugar Reduction the next stage in our fight against obesity will see us start to embed a range of fresh priorities. We’ll be taking action on council advertising and sponsorship deals to ensure we’re not promoting sugary food and drinks as well as cracking down on vending machines selling unhealthy products working closely with our health and contracting partners.  We’ll be promoting healthy food at public events. Our work on breast feeding and healthy schools will be strengthened and deepened. We’ll be broadening our collaboration with retailers providing vouchers which can be exchanged for fresh fruit and vegetables, beyond our excellent partners at Brixton market.

Our young people have already developed key healthy eating messages as part of our social marketing campaign demonstrating a determination to turnaround the sugar juggernaut that seems in markedly short supply amongst ministers who are failing to act on the ‘obesogenic environment’ in which we live. Which perhaps amply illustrates the truth for Lambeth once more in the old proverb ‘that if you want something done well, then best do it yourself’. 

Cllr Jim Dickson, Cabinet Member for Healthier and Stronger Communities

Not so sweet on sugar...

Lambeth has just become the first council in the country to sign up to the Local Government Declaration on Sugar Reduction and Healthier Food. It’s a chance for the borough...

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