By Cllr Paul Gadsby, Councillor for Vassall Ward
This is not the rosiest of times for local government with the Chancellor’s axe repeatedly falling on council funding every time he steps up to deliver a budget in Parliament. In this tough climate, it is important that we grab every opportunity to spend what funding we do have in the right way and ensure it benefits as many people as possible, especially those from vulnerable parts of our borough. That is why Lambeth is making the new Cooperative Local Investment Plan (CLIP) a priority – and why every resident in the first three areas to benefit is being asked to come up with their ideas on how this money should be spent.
The CLIP is effectively funded from a levy on private developers involved in building new housing or other developments. It means that when they come in to build, they have to give something back to local people. Under government rules, it has to be spent on infrastructure projects, in other words physical improvements to a local area rather than services or staff (e.g children's centres or libraries). Despite this restriction, this does leave open a wide variety of projects that could be taken forward, including new playgrounds or sports areas, improved green spaces and other infrastructure.
The amount of funding that will appear is still being determined, but the first three wards in Lambeth – Vassall, Larkhall and Stockwell, where the process is being piloted – are likely to see the budget appear in the next 12 months. To ensure that we are ready to distribute it effectively, Lambeth Labour has ensured that a consultation is starting now on what improvements people want to see so they can be built as quickly as possible. This is not just by asking the public what their general priorities are, but also giving residents the opportunity to pitch specific ideas that could be worked up and implemented. In an area like Vassall, which is the ward I represent and suffers from high levels of deprivation, I am keen that we get as much feedback as possible so that we spend this money effectively. We have already done targeted door knocking in some areas to reach people not online, distributed flyers and contacted our local community leaders.
I won’t pretend that this money will make up for the 56% cut in Lambeth’s funding that by 2018 will mean over £200 million stripped from our borough’s coffers. This kind of blow, without a change of heart in government, is not going to be side stepped easily. But alongside our own recent budget which aims to protect the most vulnerable in our society, we are with the CLIP process prioritising the spending of this funding and getting ideas from local people, so that we can be both fair and ambitious for our area. Already I have had a number of people talk to me about some ideas they are going to pitch, with many focusing on putting in place new projects providing space and activities for young people in the ward.
If you live in these three wards, you can take part in the consultation here – and if you don’t, then keep a look out over next year for the consultation starting in your area: this offers a real chance for us to improve our local patch with input from those who live there. The consultation closes on Friday 8 July 2016.