A more equal Lambeth
A more equal Lambeth

Cllr Ed Davie, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care (job share) blogs about Lambeth’s efforts to tackle poverty caused by Tory austerity… 

Last year Conservative policies pushed another 400,000 UK children into poverty, damaging child health, development and the country’s future prospects.

This is in sharp contrast to the last Labour government which halved the number of children living in poverty by investing in education, jobs and tax credits. As a Labour Council, Lambeth has done a lot to continue this work and limit the damage caused by the Tories. Recently the London Food Poverty Campaign named Lambeth as the council with the most effective approach to food poverty in London whilst neighbouring Conservative-run boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster came last and second-last.

Next week Lambeth Labour have proposed a motion in response to the report of Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur, into poverty in the UK.

The report highlights what we as councillors and as members of the community already know too well: “the experience of the United Kingdom, especially since 2010, underscores the conclusion that poverty is a political choice. Austerity could easily have spared the poor, if the political will had existed to do so.”

Across London two-thirds of children live in poverty in London live in a household where at least one parent is in paid employment. In work poverty occurs because of low wages, exploitative contracts, cuts to welfare and rising living costs. Work no longer provides a way out of poverty because of the choices of the Conservative government.

While the Conservatives chose to plunge people into poverty, we as a Labour council choose to support vulnerable people. Just as poverty is a political choice, so is tackling it.

We welcome Professor Alston’s recognition of the importance of local authorities which “perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies.”  Despite our central government funding being cut by 56% since 2010, we have worked support our most vulnerable residents.

Lambeth Labour is supporting fairly paid jobs. While only 15 of London’s 32 boroughs are accredited London Living Wage employers, Lambeth was one of the first councils to pay the London Living Wage and accreditation was granted by the Living Wage Foundation in 2012. This council is also supporting the creation of a record number of better paid jobs and new businesses. For example, we have recently secured the commitment for the London Living Wage at International House, a former council office building which will become one of the biggest affordable workspaces in London.

We are tackling food poverty and last summer piloted a ‘Holiday Hunger’ scheme supported by the Mayor of London, Brixton Library and Brixton Soup Kitchen as well as other local businesses that offered hot meals to families.

Lambeth Labour is supporting people to manage their money through the council’s financial resilience strategy that has helped thousands of residents with debt advice, to get the benefits they deserve, to boost their incomes and to be supported through the introduction of Conservative welfare reforms.

And we have made it a priority to give young people the best start in life, by securing record investment in the most deprived areas through the Lambeth Early Action Partnership, putting youth services in the hands of young people through the Young Lambeth Co-operative and working with the voluntary sector to keep open adventure playgrounds, one o’clock clubs and children’s centres despite the scale of government cuts.

Poverty disproportionately affects certain groups like the disabled and our Afro-Caribbean residents which is why we launched our own Equalities Commission to identify and tackle inequality in our borough.

Yet, despite our efforts and the work of our fantastic community groups, too many Lambeth children – over 21,000, still live in poverty.

In our council motion which we hope passes on Wednesday, we resolve to look at what more we can do as a council and community to reduce poverty and support all of our residents to fulfil their potential despite Tory cuts and chaos.

Tackling poverty is a political choice and Lambeth Labour chooses to be on the side of those who are struggling so that our whole community is better and fairer.

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