On Wednesday 14th May, candidates from Lambeth’s 3 main political parties agreed to the work with Lambeth Citizens on a range of community issues ahead of next week’s local elections. In front of an audience of 200 local residents, Cllr Lib Peck (Labour), Cllr Alex Davies (Liberal Democrats) and Graham Pycock (Conservatives) committed to specific proposals on crime, jobs and youth opportunities, developed after a 6 month Listening Campaign.
The Lambeth Election Assembly, hosted by St John’s Church in Waterloo, saw Lambeth Citizens (a branch of the national Community Organising alliance, Citizens UK) bring together a diverse range of faith groups, community organisations and schools to celebrate a year of local action and hold the candidates to account.
Each candidate agreed to support the alliance’s CitySafe campaign, which has seen over 50 shops and public buildings in the borough, including Lambeth Town Hall, offering places of safety to young people in danger. Two of these locations, Tesco’s Brixton Superstore and St John the Divine Church in Kennington, were presented with awards for making their premises CitySafe Havens. The audience was moved by the powerful testimony of local policeman Pc Adam Barr, who works in the neighbourhood where 17 year old Alim Uddin was stabbed to death 2 weeks ago.
The candidates also committed to work with Lambeth Citizens to identify new local employers to offer apprenticeships to 16-23 year olds, as part of the successful ‘Tech City Stars’ initiative. Bernice Kusi-Bediako from House of Faith in West Norwood shared her uplifting story of supporting young women leaving in care into work. On hearing this testimony the candidates promised to provide local volunteers with training from Council jobs brokerage staff, so that similar mentoring can be offered by civil society groups.
Organisations present were celebrated for achieving accreditation as Living Wage employers, including South London Liberal Synagogue, St John’s Church, Waterloo and Vauxhall One. Vauxhall One are the first Business Improvement District in the country to commit to paying all directly and subcontracted staff the Living Wage of £8.80 per hour. In response, all 3 candidates committed to hosting an event during Living Wage Week to promote the Living Wage to Lambeth-based companies and all companies pursuing planning applications in the borough. They also agreed to make jobs and skills forecasts for new developments public, so local communities can take advantage of new work opportunities.
Alongside the politics, the audience were treated to performances from Muslim poet I.Am.Shaheed and a specially assembled choir made up of singers from diverse organisations represented.
The Lambeth Election Assembly is one of several similar events organised by members of Citizens UK in 22 London boroughs. The alliance is bucking the trend of voter apathy as thousands of citizens turn out to hold local politicians to account and challenge them to agree to specific, locally devised proposals ahead of the local elections on Thursday 22nd May.