Bringing council services in-house, giving 50 agency staff permanent contracts, securing £37m to deliver 384 new council homes, identifying 28 new sites for social housing, publishing our first annual Modern Slavery statement. These are just some of the things our Labour council has done in the past year to build a Lewisham for the many.
Almost a decade of austerity has hit local government hard, but we are still making a difference by delivering ambitious policies, big and small, that are transforming our communities. As the country goes to the polls tomorrow, we hope to show what Labour in local government can offer. In fact, Lewisham has received praise from some unexpected places.
After visiting our Youth Offending Service as an example of best practice, a Conservative justice minister praised our trauma-informed approach that had improved outcomes for young people, ironically while cutting services that keep our young people safe. In their local elections manifesto, the Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats sited our support for homeless people.
Almost one year ago, I was elected mayor of Lewisham by local residents, alongside 54 Labour councillors. We stood on a bold and radical manifesto that made over 100 pledges and, almost a year on, have made significant progress.
Our borough is one of the most diverse in the world, home to people from all backgrounds. We have a proud history of embracing new communities and those fleeing violence, which is why we are becoming a Sanctuary Borough, protecting the rights of all migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. I’m delighted that we’re expecting the first of our 100 new refugee families to arrive by summer.
Lewisham, like the rest of the country, is facing the effects of a severe housing crisis. That’s why delivering 1,000 new social homes is a top priority for us. We have identified 28 new sites for social homes and, following the success of PLACE/Ladywell, confirmed three more innovative pop-up housing developments. This will lift 112 homeless families out of emergency accommodation.
Lewisham has among the country’s best early years services, among London’s leading primary schools, and now our secondary schools are beginning to see improvements. The council is spearheading Lewisham Learning, a borough-wide schools partnership, funded by schools and the council coming together, and we are already seeing results. Lewisham’s GCSE results are improving faster than the national average and more parents are choosing a Lewisham school as the first choice for their children.
Conservative councils often favour privatisation over inclusive local growth, despite the letter bring proven to support more residents into work. Lewisham Council recently celebrated giving 50 agency staff permanent contracts, and we are working to get that number up to 100.
Childhood obesity rates are a challenge in our borough, as it is in other poorer areas of the country. By becoming the first council to ban junk food advertising, we are supporting residents to make healthier choices.
We are incredibly proud of our parks, which last year were ranked best in the capital by Parks for London. We have invested in the regeneration of Beckenham Place Park, south-east London’s largest park, so it becomes a thriving green space. It will also be home to south London’s first wild swimming pond from this summer.
The Conservatives have overseen huge cuts to police budgets and youth services, and crime is an increasing concern in our communities. We have supported four local youth projects in their £282,000 bid from the Greater London Authority.
Councils are at breaking point but the Conservatives are shockingly complacent about the impact of their cuts on people’s lives and communities. Ultimately, we need a Labour government that will properly invest in local services. But we must not forget that even in the most challenging of times, Labour councils up and down the country and making a huge difference for the communities. Give them your support on 2nd May.