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Our Green Revenue and Capital Budget Proposals 2023/24 to 2026/27

Councillor Nicole Griffiths and Councillor Scott Ainslie
Councillor Nicole Griffiths and Councillor Scott Ainslie

The Green Group put forward four proposals for Lambeth Council’s Revenue and Capital Budget 2023/24 to 2026/27. 

1. A Citizens' Assembly for Social Housing

2. Tackling empty homes and Lambeth’s housing crisis

  • Turning ‘voids’ and empty properties into homes
  • Buybacks, Compulsory Purchase Orders, and S106 purchases as policy 
  • Community Land Trusts 

3. Retrofitting Council properties, creating jobs and supporting local businesses 

4. Clean Green Lambeth: a Workplace Parking Levy and increase to Emissions Based Parking Charges

Introduction

In the spirit of democratic collaboration, the Green Group asked the Labour Group again this year if we could propose separate budget amendments to be considered at full councils, as has proved successful in Brighton, Leeds, Southampton, Bristol, and the Greater London Authority. Disappointedly, this constructive approach was rejected by Labour but we hope that they consider seriously our proposals that aim to deliver for Lambeth residents in the context of a brutal cost-of-living crisis.

We appreciate that this is a hugely difficult time for Local Authorities, who are struggling to balance delivering critical services and support for residents with the monumental shortfall in finances as a result of over a decade of Tory austerity, unprecedented inflation rises, and further government cuts. We are supportive of much of what the Labour group has done to mitigate against these effects on those in Lambeth: increasing council tax support, funding a cost-of-living support package, and the provision of warm spaces throughout the borough. Reduction in central government spending means that we have also needed to be more efficient with our proposals but they remain driven by the values of equity and justice, with the wellbeing of each and every resident, and visitor to our amazing, diverse Borough at its heart. 

We believe that economic, racial, social and climate justice are structurally entangled and our proposals move from this logic; social and affordable housing and Lambeth’s air and environment are the prevailing themes of our proposals. It is disappointing not to see a carbon budget, set alongside the council’s finance budget, as the Green Group has consistently asked for, that outlines the pathway to zero carbon emissions in the borough by 2030. 

It gives the Green Group no comfort whatsoever that the Kerslake Review into the failings of the disastrous Homes for Lambeth venture vindicates what we, residents and community groups have been saying for years. There is no solace to those who have suffered at the hands of successive administrations who systematically failed to listen to residents' voices.  The residents on estates earmarked for demolition have suffered well documented levels of stress induced mental and physical ill health and we are still no further to solving Lambeth’s housing and homelessness crisis. 

Our proposals hope to bring this shameful chapter of Lambeth’s history to a close; working to engage residents as stakeholders in developments through a Citizen Assembly for Social Housing and Community Land Trusts, and reducing the number of families in temporary accommodation by bringing empty council properties back in use. By drawing down on the GLA grants already at our disposal, we propose increasing our sorely depleted council housing stock by buying back Right to Buy homes and using our powers to compulsory purchase houses that lie empty for years, and building in affordable housing into every development through purchasing Section 106 units as council policy. We have unlocked millions in investment to our Transport, Kerbside and Air Quality strategies by widening increases to emissions based parking charges and introducing a Workplace Parking Levy. We want to use this to make Lambeth a truly green and accessible place to live: improving cycle and pedestrian routes in the borough, increasing the number of cycle hangars and electric charging points, providing grants to businesses to improve infrastructure for bike storage and shower facilities, subsidising cycle to work schemes, providing financial incentives to businesses to reduce petrol and diesel car and van use including subsidising electric vehicles for employees, encouraging the use of one ride-sharing electric vehicle per business and improving green access and transport routes for Lambeth’s disabled residents. 

1. Citizens' Assembly 

"Taking part in a Climate Assembly, particularly at a time when national politics was so fraught and there was such a feeling of disenfranchisement, to take part in local democracy that's really deliberative…[I] think this is what it should be like, get involved and make a difference.” 

(CA participant)

Resident engagement and ballots are both recommendations in the Kerslake Review that this administration has accepted. This amendment responds to both the Kerslake Review’s recommendations for greater engagement with residents, and the calls from council tenants and leaseholders, particularly those on estates earmarked for demolition, for a say in what happens to their homes and local communities. The Review recommends a “reset of how the Council undertakes its future estate renewal programme, with resident voices put at the heart of any future renewal projects.” 

Without a Housing Strategy for several years, and millions wasted on Homes for Lambeth it’s time for this administration to not just follow the recommendations in Lord Kerslakes’ Review but truly reset by engaging with social housing residents to find a way forward that’s democratic and fair, with ‘Consultation, engagement and [building] trust ’ at its heart. 

In our budget amendment document last year we highlighted the lack of resident engagement on these estates, and the need to ballot residents on estates to properly hear their views on what is being proposed for their homes and communities. 

We therefore propose that a Social Housing Citizens Assembly (SHCA) be held in late Spring, and participants be drawn from residents in social housing, to inform and influence the new Housing Strategy. With reference to the recommendations of the Climate Emergency Citizen’s Assembly in relation to homes and the built environment.

The proposed Citizen’s Assembly (CA) would involve fifty participants drawn randomly from the social housing tenants list, whilst ensuring a fair representation of all demographics. It would be held over six weekends using the Town Hall Assembly room. To inspire greater levels of trust we suggest the CA is overseen by a third party, for example, the Consultation Institute.

Costs 

Estimates from Involve to run the CA is £60,000. We also suggest the entire set up and monitoring of the CA and the entire reset process is overseen by the Consultation Institute. They have quoted a total of £55,000 to be a strategic partner and give quality assurance at every stage of the reset. The total combined costs are £115,000. This would be paid for using unallocated s106 funds. 

2. Tackling empty homes and Lambeth’s housing crisis

Our priority is the provision of decent, secure, genuinely affordable, carbon zero homes for all Lambeth residents who need one, be it in the social or private rented sector. With the cost of homes to either buy or rent well beyond the reach of many of the borough’s residents, we need homes at genuinely affordable levels that people on average incomes can afford to live in, and an increase to our sorely depleted council housing stock. 

i. Turning ‘voids’ and empty properties into homes

This proposal calls for the urgent reclaiming of empty council homes for Lambeth’s homeless households. Empty homes equates to revenue loss for the council, and the hardship of homelessness leaves our residents in need of additional services.

Lambeth currently houses over 3,150 families every night in temporary accommodation, at a cost of over £10 million per year according to the council’s own estimates. Last year, we were told there were 421 unoccupied homes in Lambeth and some of these homes have been empty for years. Many are on the estates that Labour has earmarked for demolition; Central Hill, Fenwick and Cressingham Gardens. It was reported that 358 faced ongoing repairs and 44 were to be demolished or regenerated. Only 19 were ready to be let out. We propose expediting the refurbishment and reclaiming these properties as secure accommodation for those families currently in temporary accommodation. 

The Green Group were told by officers that the average cost to bring an empty council property back in use is £5,500, bringing the total cost of reclaiming the 358 properties with ongoing works and the 44 due to be demolished to a maximum of £2.211m. This would be funded using unallocated s106 funds. Taking the average cost per family as nearly £3,200 based on the above cost and population figures, the savings to the council if all voids were filled within the next 18 months with a family currently in temporary accommodation would be £1.276m, over 10% of the council’s annual TA spend. 

ii. Buybacks, Compulsory Purchase Orders, and S106 purchases as policy 

Lambeth is also experiencing an empty homes and affordability crisis in the private housing sector. Figures from Action on Empty Homes show that the number of empty properties in Lambeth has gone up again since last year. There are now 1,827 properties that have been empty for over six months, up from 1,563 in 2021

A Members Enquiry revealed that there had been no compulsory purchases of private properties by the council in the past 7 years. To date, Lambeth has only initiated twelve Order for Sale proceedings, bringing in revenue of just £197,429.25. This is all set in the context of a dearth of affordable and social homes for Lambeth residents. 

We note that Lord Kerslake recommends setting a presumption to buy s106 affordable units from developers through the planning system as council policy, making use of compulsory purchase powers to enable developments where there is a clear public benefit and wider social value, and purchasing homes off the private market, ‘off-the-shelf. 

The Green Group proposed the latter two proposals in previous budgets, and are interested in supporting Lord Kerslake’s recommendations if the council is willing to deploy a more rigorous approach to tackling the affordability crisis in Lambeth. The Kerslake Report notes that Lambeth has not made full use of the significant grants it has been allocated from the Mayor and the GLA, including through the Mayor’s Right to Buy-Back programme. This allocation was due to unlock 1,030 homes by March 2026 across Westbury, Knights Walk and South Lambeth but has funded just five Buy-Backs. To compare, London Boroughs Hounslow and Newham have bought back 574 and 408 properties respectively. 

The council must draw down the remainder of these grants before their expiry; ensuring all is being done to tackle our housing crisis and get private homes back into council use.

iii. Community Land Trusts 

We also remind the council that our last budget recommended making use of local community-led developments on existing sites like those in Haringey and Christchurch Road to develop a Community Land Trust. We were glad to see that this was a recommendation also put forward by Lord Kerslake in his report. We understand the administration is working with the London Community Land Trust on the Christchurch Road site and we look forward to it progressing successfully. We cannot budget for this as it is an agreement with the council and the LCLT.

3. Retrofitting Council properties, creating jobs and supporting local businesses 

The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates 1787 jobs will be created in Lambeth by 2030 in the low carbon heating and energy efficiency sector

Investment helps provide highly-skilled jobs, offers support to local businesses, contributes to the development of a more sustainable borough, reduces energy costs for all, and therefore positively helps those facing fuel poverty.

Lambeth’s development of a cross borough Climate Action Plan to achieve net zero by 2030 is a positive step and we are pleased that the retrofitting of public buildings is a priority for the council. We note, however, that only a small percentage of school buildings for example have undergone a full and deep retrofit. We’d like to see this expand much further, faster.

We welcome the ongoing research with London South Bank University to understand the local retrofit supply chain and workforce, which involves a gap analysis and evaluation of the roles and skills needed across both private-purchased and publicly-procured channels.

The Kerslake report recommended rolling out a training package for all staff involved in development on low carbon development, in partnership with the Climate Change Team, echoing our budget amendments for last year that called for council-wide carbon literacy training for officers and members. Last year, council officers told us this would cost up to £150,000. We would like to see this implemented without further delay, funded through unallocated Section 106 funds.  

We welcome the £98bn plan to retrofit 3.8 million homes by London Councils and we will work with the council to ensure that the money is made available by the government to stimulate further local investment into this work to accelerate the roll out.

The Greens welcome the Whole House EnergieSprong pilot scheme on Myatt’s Field South Estate - the least energy efficient homes in the borough - and which serves as a demonstrator project for BEIS. The estimated cost is £135,000 each and 26 homes will benefit from a comprehensive retrofit, including air source heat pumps, wall insulation, triple glazing. (The original proposal around 2018 was to do 40 homes at £85,000 each, but costs have increased in the last 5 years.) 

We also welcome the decision to retrofit Passivhaus EnerPHit 24-26 Bloomhall Road, SE19.

However, Lambeth has set a target to get to net zero by 2030. This will mean that the roll-out of retrofitted homes must begin to accelerate far quicker than it is currently. Lambeth will have to retrofit approximately 20,000+ homes per year. The current retrofit rate is less than 0.2% of the annual target. It would be good if the council produced a comprehensive, costed-plan for the delivery of Lambeth-owned housing stock in time to reach net zero by 2030.

Lambeth will have to work imaginatively with companies like Repowering London and London Mutual Credit Union to enable the skills and finance to support a faster retrofit programme. We just need the political will to do it as well as expanding finance schemes for local investment such as Green Bonds.

Officers have identified 227 Tenanted Street Properties that are to be upgraded with easy measures to improve energy efficiency. Estimated costs are £15,000-£20,000 per unit. We understand only 10 of these will be retrofitted to include Internal Wall Insulation (and possibly other energy saving measures), where the cost rises to between £45,000-£50,000. Given the council’s net zero target, we propose that all of these 227 street properties have Internal Wall Insulation (and other measures), so that these residents’ lives are only disrupted once and it helps the council do all it can to reduce carbon in the homes it owns. We calculate that the additional energy saving measures will cost £6,510,000. (An additional £30,000 per property.) This would be funded from unallocated section 106 funds in the current financial year.  

4. Clean Green Lambeth: a Workplace Parking Levy and increase to Emissions Based Parking Charges 

Two years ago, the Green Party proposed a Workplace Parking Levy. It would discourage commuting into the borough by motor vehicle, helping to meet the council’s vehicle use reduction, net zero and air quality targets, tackle Lambeth’s air pollution crisis and cut carbon. A briefing prepared by Lambeth Council Officers in 2020 estimated that the levy could generate £979,200 per year in revenue.

We think this could amount to much more. Nottingham City Council introduced a scheme in 2011 and since then has raised nearly £90 million that went into doubling the size of the city’s tram network and accessing £1 billion of inward investment, including £570 million for the tram network, £120 million for low and zero emission buses and £60 million to transform Nottingham Station into a 21st century multi-modal interchange. A report 10 years on from the introduction of the scheme states that it has helped regenerate neighbourhoods, link socially disadvantaged communities with training and job opportunities, reduce harmful emissions and improve their green credentials. The scheme has seen CO2 emissions reduced by 58% since 2005 and a reduction in air quality pollutants means a clean air zone is no longer needed. There is a small employee exemption placed on this levy. Only employers who provide 11 or more parking spaces are charged and spaces for disabled people, NHS premises and emergency services are exempt. Employers must pay £428 a year per parking space and all revenue raised from Nottingham’s levy is ring fenced by law to be spent on improving local transport.

Given the benefits, the progress in implementing a WPL has been much too slow. It is disappointing and nonsensical for it not to be included in the council’s Revenue and Capital Budget 2022/23 to 2025/6.

The council’s Revenue & Capital Budget 2021/22 to 2024/25 paper noted (at 2.17)

“In order to better understand what impact a Workplace Parking Levy would have, Lambeth commissioned a desktop study to estimate the quantity of workplace parking in the borough. 

This was completed in 2020. 

However, with the response to Covid-19 taking priority the findings have not yet been published.”

It is disappointing that this study has still not been published, even though the work has been done and we face a Climate and Ecological Emergency, as well as the Covid crisis. We propose, for now the fourth year in a row, that Lambeth Council shows leadership in London by taking this forward and continuing to press the Mayor of London to do so.

Lambeth was ranked as the 9th highest borough in London for people commuting in from other places in London. 21,491 people drive a car or a van into Lambeth according to the 2011 census, and another 1110 come in as passengers. Lambeth’s own Air Quality Report Plan 2017 - 2022 found that road transport was the borough’s biggest emitter even though we have one of the lowest rates of car ownership in the country. This contributes to toxic air in Lambeth and the council is not tackling it. Many of these commuters park in private bays off the street. Based on a 2005 survey, there were an estimated 8,900 (non-central) and 1,300 (central) private non-residential employee parking spaces in Lambeth

Costs

A briefing from the Service Manager at Nottingham’s Workplace Parking Levy costs initial set up at £1-£1.8 million and offered to guide the drafting, consultation and implementation of the programme. The team at Nottingham reported that they were generating £11 million a year in revenue pre-covid and they expect to generate £8.7 million this year. We have a concentrated population and excellent transport links in Lambeth and as such have less employee parking spaces than in Nottingham. We therefore propose offering this small employee exemption to employers with 3 or less parking spaces and consider waiving the exemption for non-frontline and managerial NHS staff.  

Even if Lambeth’s cautious estimates of £979,200 are correct and the cost to the council amount to £1.8 million, we would make this back in revenue in less than two years. Following in Nottingham’s footsteps, we also propose that £1.8 million includes a budget of £120,000-£150,000 be put aside to fund a dedicated Workplace Parking Levy department of three full time officers.

The initial implementation would be funded by altering the proposed increase to emissions based parking charges for resident permit and Pay by Phone parking. By retaining the 13 band system but widening the range of charges from £120 - £500 to £80 - £1000 at increments of 18% per band, we could generate a revenue of £7,891,525 per year. This alternative model would allow us to generate £3,299,299 more than the current income of £4,592,226.

We propose that a further £100,000 of this revenue is used to offset the £100,000 expected to be generated via commercial advertising on digital screens on roads across North Lambeth. Proposals fail to mention the gargantuan carbon footprint of this venture. A Freedom of Information request found that 86 digital out-of-home (DOOH) boards in Manchester city centre could power 345 households for a year at an annual use rate of average of 11,501kWh of electricity. Road safety is also compromised; numerous studies have shown that digital advertising is significantly and deliberately more distracting to the driver than paper adverts and increase the likelihood of road collisions.

The remaining £1,399,299 should be reinvested back into Lambeth’s Transport and Kerbside strategies. As noted by officers in the Lambeth’s Changes to Emissions Based Parking Report 2023/24, it is hoped that revenue will gradually decrease as provision and access to green transport is improved and residents are incentivised through ease, access and financial assistance, to reduce their reliance on car usage. This is a significant long-term investment in our borough’s green future. We propose income from both of the parking schemes be used to improve cycle and pedestrian routes in the borough, increase the number of cycle hangars and electric charging points, provide grants to businesses to improve infrastructure for bike storage and shower facilities, subsidise cycle to work schemes, provide financial incentives to businesses to reduce petrol and diesel car and van use including subsidising electric vehicles for employees, encouraging the use of one ride-sharing electric vehicle per business and improve green access and transport routes for Lambeth’s disabled residents.