Cllr Ed Davie is the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and a councillor in Thornton ward.
Rather than working to alleviate the additional pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic on Lambeth families, this Tory government have overseen a triple whammy of measures which makes things worse for the children of our borough.
On access to food, transport and educational IT the Tory government is undermining our children’s chances to enjoy healthy, fulfilled lives.
Conservatives voted against a Labour parliamentary motion, inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign, to provide support over the half term break to children who receive free school meals.
Lambeth Labour quickly filled the gap locally by instructing the council to pay for vouchers to be distributed to the 10,000 plus eligible children in our borough.
Neighbouring Tory-run Westminster council have refused to do the same meaning we are supporting Lambeth children attending schools in that borough as well as our own.
Lambeth acted despite government halving the council’s grant over the last decade and leaving us with a £20 million hole in our budget from Covid-19 related costs it had promised to cover.
Secondly, and in the same week, the government has reduced the number of laptops it promised to deprived children by 80%. This announcement came the day after the same government made it mandatory for schools to provide online education for pupils unable to attend in person because of Covid-19. In September Elmgreen, to name one Lambeth school affected, was promised 115 laptops for disadvantaged by the Department for Education – a month later this has been reduced to just 23. That means at least 87 children at one school cannot access online education should they have to self-isolate or the school close again.
Thirdly, the government continues to push Transport for London to cancel children’s free travel as well as take away older people’s passes, extend the congestion zone to the South Circular and increase all fares and council tax. Every other transport system, including private rail franchises, have received 18-month-long bailouts with no such strings. It is clear that the Tory government is using London and its children as political pawns to harm Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan’s re-election chances next May. It is frankly outrageous for a government to behave in such a party-political fashion in the midst of such a terrible pandemic and recession.
Free transport for children in London was introduced by a Labour mayor under the last Labour government. A Labour government that also halved child poverty and enshrined in law the duty of central and local government to measure and have strategies in place to reduce child poverty further. The Conservatives removed those duties when they amended the Child Poverty Act in 2016. It is clear they were embarrassed that since they came to power in 2010 child poverty had massively increased as it continues to now. Imagining going to the trouble of legislating in to increase child poverty and make it harder to know that is what was happening?
Now nearly half the children in London live in poverty as a result. This poverty is not only avoidable and immoral it is also economically nonsensical as poorer children end up with worse lifetime health, education and employment outcomes and therefore earn less and cost the taxpayer more.
Despite this national negligence Lambeth Labour is determined to use its power and influence to reduce child poverty. To that end Lambeth Council has been a London Living Wage accredited employer since 2012 and we have encouraged other major employers like our NHS hospital trusts to do the same. We have built and supported excellent children’s centres, schools and colleges and are working to knit together seamless support for children from before birth to adulthood.
Despite the government abolishing the need to measure and have a strategy to reduce child poverty Lambeth Council voted, earlier this year, to do this locally again so that we can go further despite government neglect.
Our promise is for a better, fairer Lambeth and that is only possible when all of our children, regardless of their background, have the chance to fulfil their potential.
Cllr Ed Davie