A speech given by Councillor Jim Dickson at the Herne Hill Forum local elections hustings on 17th April.
I want to thank the Herne Hill Forum – one of both Lambeth and Southwark’s great community organisations - for arranging these hustings tonight and so many people for coming.
I think whatever divides the parties tonight - and there are many things - we are all united by the conviction that Herne Hill is the best place in London to live with an amazing and inclusive community.
I’ve been a resident of Herne Hill for 30 years and there have been some really big changes in the time I’ve served on the council since the 1990s; very many of them for the better.
- I think of the way the community have taken Brockwell Lido from being a decaying hole in the ground – closed by the council in 1990s - to a great community asset.
- I remember how the people of Herne Hill in partnership with Lambeth Council and TfL have transformed the Herne Hill’s station square from a polluted through road to a place we can call our own with a thriving local market and performance space.
- There’s the amazing work done by residents around Ruskin Park with the council to keep the padding pool open for the last 2 summers.
- I see the brilliant example of ‘Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees’ matching Lambeth’s trailblazing work housing 23 Syrian refugee families by housing a family as a community sponsor
What that all has in common is the power of a community, showing real co-operative values working closely with a Labour council and a Labour Mayor to transform our area for the better.
And that’s very much our ambition for the Carnegie library which has now re-opened permanently, for the stable block project and plans for Ruskin Park to be a health park and the 198 Gallery - which the council cannot subsidise any more - but has received a grant to expand and redevelop so that it can grow its digital and cultural offer to young people.
But we can’t pretend that everything’s fine – we’ve got some huge challenges which are mainly the result of the Tory austerity programme which has seen Lambeth lose 56% of its government grant or £238m in the last 8 years.
- Our NHS and our schools which we’ve all worked so hard to improve are being stripped of funding by the Conservative government and it’s up to us to fight that. Because great early years provision and excellent schools are the genuine route out of poverty not Theresa May’s bogus grammars. Lambeth’s excellent 23 children centres (more than any other London borough) including Effra Nursery and Jessop Early years Centre are crucial to that.
- In the face of a housing crisis we need to find sites for new social housing at genuinely affordable rents. The council is delivering 1,000 new homes at council rents and has ensured many thousand more homes from other providers. And there are sites in Herne Hill where this can be done.
- Finally we want our local streets and parks to be safer and healthier for us all; and Labour’s record investment in roads and pavements, new street trees, the 20 MPH limit, opportunities to cycle and action on flytipping is beginning to do this
So our message for May 3rd is use your 3 votes for Labour for Jack, Pauline and I for a better, fairer, greener Herne Hill.