Cllr Claire Holland is the Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council and the Cabinet Member for Environment and Clean Air.
This week, I visited the Kennington Park Community Centre (KPCC Oval) with my ward colleague, Cllr Philip Normal, to see the centre’s Kids’ Summer Fun Days programme in action.
The programme gives children from the Kennington Park Estate and the surrounding area the opportunity to play and learn together, and get a hot meal – all for free – during the school holidays. Initiatives like this are an essential part of tackling holiday hunger. For many households, the 6 weeks holiday is a time characterised by increased financial strain and hunger, due to the absence of free school meals that children would get during term time.
Programmes like the one at KPCC Oval relieves the added financial pressure put on parents by spending cuts from the Tory government. A decade of austerity and cruel welfare reforms, imposed by the Lib Dem/Tory coalition and successive Tory governments, has lead people to extreme levels of poverty. Poverty is a political choice. The last Labour government 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 and the Lib Dems.
Last year Lambeth launched a holiday activity programme to run out of Brixton Library, working in partnership with Brixton Soup Kitchen, and funded by the Mayor’s Fund for London, Kitchen Social Fund. The programme combines literacy based activities and the provision of food to families in need during school holidays.
I’m proud to say that through initiatives like this, Lambeth tops London rankings for action to address food poverty. 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. We know that our residents need us to continue to deliver on tackling food poverty, and that there is so much more still to do.
A few years ago KPCC Oval was threatened with closure due to cuts from the Tory government, but we successfully campaigned with residents and the wider community to save it. You can support the work of the community centre by donating to their crowdfunder here. It is a testament to the strength of community in our borough that through council and community initiatives we can tackle holiday hunger, but with continued cuts this important provision will become more difficult to deliver. We need a general election so that the country has the opportunity to elect the Labour government that people here in Lambeth so desperately need – a government that is truly for the many, not the few.
Cllr Claire Holland