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Press Release: Labour play ‘Monopoly’ with Lambeth – and lose millions!

Press Release: Labour play ‘Monopoly’ with Lambeth - and lose millions!

Labour’s monopoly of Lambeth Council has lost hundreds of millions of taxpayers money on projects it has been warned about by Green councillors for years, but have continuously refused to listen.

Lambeth Labour have used their majority to ram through pet projects, such as the disastrous ‘Homes for Lambeth’ (HfL) which has cost the borough at least £30m but has produced only 40 new council homes – costing nearly £1m per home. Lambeth even had to pay back £52.7m to the Mayor of London due to lack of progress on the project, which included bulldozing over 900 council homes.

Labour have avoided all internal scrutiny by using their majority to rigorously enforce a one-party state. Despite receiving 53% of the vote at the election, Labour has 92% of the councillors. Due to a disproportionate electoral system -  opposed by 85% of ordinary Labour Party members - the Greens got over a fifth of the vote, yet only have two councillors.

After years of HfL failure, in February 2022 Greens proposed closing down the project in their alternative budget, but officers refused to advise on costs, saying “it would not be possible to undertake this work without causing significant disruption and alarm with HfL.  Labour then whipped their huge majority to vote down this proposal.

But within a few months Lambeth commissioned a review of HfL from former Cabinet Secretary Lord Kerslake. His 130 page report, confirmed Green criticisms and condemned HFL. [1]  Labour finally agreed to ‘wind down’ the £80m failed project in December; yet four months later no timetable of the end of this disaster has been published.

It has taken Labour over a year to begin to address the failure first exposed by Greens, with even now money still being wasted renting swanky offices on the South Bank rather than existing Council offices in Brixton. [2] Yet, in a display of backslapping hubris, the ruling Labour group deflected all blame at last week’s Budget Council meeting and treated the Green proposals with contempt.

Co-leader of the Green councillors, Scott Ainslie said: “Labour can say what they like about our budget, but they end up adopting our ideas. For example: expanding council tax support for Lambeth’s poorest residents; expanding the Landlord Licensing scheme; passing of a Lambeth living rent motion to protect tenants’ rights; and declaring a Climate Emergency. Faced with both the cost-of-living and climate crises, Labour should work with the Greens to better serve our residents in solidarity against an austerity driven central government.” [3] 

Labour has refused to work constructively with the Greens since 2014 to ensure that the people of Lambeth are getting best value for money.  Many councils across the country work collaboratively across parties, and allow votes on budget amendments from opposition groups, such as is done by Labour run councils in Bristol, Islington, Exeter, and Norwich. [4] But in Lambeth, Labour chauvinists enforce their inflated majority to avoid all scrutiny or cross-party working for the good of the borough’s residents.

Greens have also raised the issue of up to £38m of unspent planning gain and Community Infrastructure Levy [5] - will we have to wait for 2024 for Green proposals to tackle financial mismanagement to be finally adopted by Labour’s swollen majority?

Ends 

[1] https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/documents/s142089/Kerslake%20Review%20into%20Affordable%20Housing%20in%20Lambeth.pdf 

[2] https://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/10718 

[3] https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=142&MId=15896 

[4] https://thebristolcable.org/2023/02/amended-bristol-city-council-budget-passed-council-tax-up-almost-5/ https://committees.exeter.gov.uk/documents/b18798/Budget%20Amendments%20from%20the%20Progressive%20Group%2021st-Feb-2023%2018.00%20Extraordinary%20Meeting%20of%20the%20Coun.pdf?T=9 https://www.norwichlabour.org.uk/news/2021/02/20/norfolk-county-council-budget-update-from-norfolk-labour-group/ https://democracy.islington.gov.uk/documents/s31833/Opposition%20Budget%20Report%202023%20-%2024.pdf 

[5] https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2022-12/102382-Lambeth-Infrastructure-Funding-Statement-2021-22-FINAL.pdf