Cllr Paul Gadsby, Cabinet Member for Housing and Vassall ward councillor, blogs on the progress of the Lambeth Early Action Partnership in Vassall ward…
There is little doubt that a decade of Tory austerity has hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest. But amidst this gloom, Lambeth is showing how a Labour council can work successfully with the community to deliver a better future for the next generation, as shown by the incredible work of the Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP).
It is now almost nine years since David Cameron arrived in Downing Street, with his allies the Liberal Democrats tucked in his pocket, and began with zeal a mission of delivering the biggest cuts our public sector has ever seen. Bearing particular brunt were local councils, with more than £230 million stripped from Lambeth’s budgets for example, but other vital services were not left untouched. For children services, more than £7 billion is estimated to have been swiped from our schools budgets and in Lambeth rule changes mean that this year alone £1.4 million has been taken out of our children centre budget.
There is not a lot of sunshine in this picture, but Labour has always believed you cannot just give into these pressures, however overwhelming they can sometimes seem. Lambeth Labour has a long track record of fighting these cuts and most importantly, we are not just campaigning, we are also right now taking action to ensure our communities continue to thrive while austerity continues.
The LEAP is a perfect example of this. This a lottery funded project that councillors and residents fought very hard to bring to the most deprived wards in Lambeth, including Vassall, Stockwell, Coldharbour and Tulse Hill. It has a ten-year plan (between 2015-2025) that focuses on leaving something lasting in our community to benefit families with babies and very young children so they get the best possible start in life. Crucially, it isn’t a top down exercise where the politicians decide where the money goes, it works directly with families and the young so the funding reaches the right place, and in the right form dependent on what local communities need.
In my ward in Vassall, we are seeing the real benefits before our eyes of this programme. Last week a fully refurbished playground opened on the Cowley estate in time for the summer holidays. The Liz Atkinson Centre is benefiting from a huge injection of funding that will significantly expand its ability to provide space for classes and services for young mothers. And the Mulberry Centre in the heart of Myatts Field Park is also undergoing significant upgrades so local children have the best play and learning facilities.
And it isn’t just building that is going on. A few weeks ago I visited one of the healthy eating classes held in the Myatts North Community Centre where young mothers are helped to learn how to cook healthy meals with free food, and of course with space for them and their children to then sample the meals they rustle up.
There are plenty of other projects going on under the LEAP banner, with more information about them here. It would be wrong to suggest that these alone will undo a decade of Tory damage to our society, but they will make a huge impact where it matters: to the young and to the vulnerable. So while the campaign against austerity must continue until it is successful, Labour in Lambeth is also ensuring that we work with our community to practically ensure our young children get the best possible start in life.