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Cllr Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture, blogs about the importance of celebrating Windrush... 


This weekend marks 70 years since the arrival of the Empire Windrush. On 22 June 1948, 492 passengers mainly from Jamaica arrived at Tilbury Docks. Between 1948 and 1973 an estimated 550,000 people migrated from the Caribbean to the UK. The ‘Windrush Generation’ contributed significantly to rebuilding the country following the Second World War and their settlement has continued to enrich social, economic, political and religious life.

Nowhere is the contribution of the ‘Windrush Generation’ more evident than in Lambeth where the majority of the first passengers made their home. Many stayed in temporary accommodation in the underground deep-shelter in Clapham Common and then settled in Brixton. One reason they were attracted to Brixton was because of Gus Leslie, a Jamaican landlord with rooms to let in the streets around Coldharbour Lane. This area in Brixton quickly became the nucleus of the Jamaican community in London and by the 1960s two streets in particular, Somerleyton Road and Geneva Road, had the highest levels of West Indian home ownership in the UK. Lambeth Town Hall hosted much of a new musical heritage and was the location of the famous No Colour Bar dance in 1955. Lambeth remains the home of many of the Windrush Generation. Windrush Square the Black Cultural Archives are testament to their survival as we continue their journey through generations to come.

As such, Lambeth Council is spearheading the Windrush 70 campaign. The council commissioned the official anniversary design from young local Lambeth designers including commemorative pin badges. The council is supporting a series events to celebrate the Windrush generation including the Harry Jacobs A Snapshot of Brixton: Exhibition at Lambeth Town Hall, a tea party in the Town Hall, events in Windrush Square, a lecture by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles at Brixton Library, talks by the Windrush Foundation and an exhibition at Clapham South underground.

I am pleased that following pressure from campaigners, the government has announced that the 22 June will be a national annual Windrush Day to demonstrate the importance of those who travelled from the Caribbean to rebuild Britain.

Sadly, this year’s celebrations have been accompanied by the bitter irony of the the Conservative government’s “hostile environment” policy which has made many of the Windrush generation feel unwelcome in their home. Some British citizens have been deported without any opportunity of defence. Others faced job losses and insurmountable healthcare costs due to government policy demanding increased immigration checks with a high burden of proof.  

Last year I wrote to the Home Office and Jamaican High Commissioner urging the government to take action. Leader of Lambeth Council Cllr Lib Peck, Chuka Umunna MP and Helen Hayes MP wrote to the Prime Minister in April calling on the government to rectify this appalling situation. Following pressure from politicians and campaigners, the government promised to review and resolve the situation – but reports of slow responses to cases and a remaining high burden of proof persist, so much more needs to be done to ensure justice. For example, the government should instate a proper compensation scheme to victims who have endured financial hardship because of the government’s practices.

This weekend is not only about recognising the contributions of the Windrush generation but, against the backdrop of a hostile government, we will also celebrate the importance of immigration and embrace our tolerance, openness and diversity. 


Windrush Weekend

Cllr Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture, blogs about the importance of celebrating Windrush... 

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.   


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:


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.


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...

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