Over 170 Southwark residents, who are members of Southwark Citizens, local branch of national community organising charity Citizens UK, came together at William Booth Training College this week to hold local politicians to account and present them with their People's Manifesto ahead of the borough elections in May.
Southwark Citizens members are very concerned about the lack of quality in housing repairs and the sky high prices of housing in the borough.
Following a successful Citizens UK campaign for a Community Land Trust housing development in Tower Hamlets, the candidates were asked if they would commit to identifying a site in Southwark for a similar community land trust housing scheme. They were also asked to ensure that the responsible Cabinet member would report to a borough-wide Citizens' Housing Board about new housing developments, and if they would give tenants and residents powers to monitor and track repairs and to stop sign-off on job completion if repairs are not up to standard.
In response to the request to help identify a Community Land Trust site for Southwark, Cllr Peter John said:
"We have a vision of building 11,000 new council homes across the borough. I'm very interested in a Community Land Trust development being a part of this vision, and hope to work with Southwark Citizens to identify a site and replicate the successful project that has delivered a land trust north of the river in Mile End."
Reverend Steve Calder, of Southwark Citizens member community Brandon Baptist Church, said:
"Affordable homes for local people is a massive issue in my congregation. Families are separated by rising rents and house prices. Hard working members of the community are unable to afford to stay in the area, and aren't eligible for social housing. My hope is that schemes such as Community Land Trusts will help to bring about change, and support a new way of meeting the housing demands in Southwark without lining the pockets of developers and parachuting in overseas investors. The houses will be homes for local people. I hope that whoever is voted into office by Southwark residents will honour their pledge to help us find a suitable site."
The People's Manifesto was developed following an extensive listening campaign that encouraged local people to identify issues of concern to be negotiated with and combated by the candidates for leader of the council and police commander, with the support of civil society. The Citizens Assembly comes in the lead up to the local elections in May, and Southwark Citizens' manifesto hopes to influence the council policies and priorities, as they are direct requests from the electorate. Other pledges include asks for the council leader to act as a Living Wage Champion and approach more local employers to present that case for the living wage, to sign a charter about how to treat people with no recourse to public funds, and sit on a commission that will inquire into the causes of child destitution.
At the assembly Southwark Citizens also negotiated with Borough Commander Zander Gibson on No Stiches for Snitches which is an initiative to develop an anonymous intelligence reporting system for young people to report crime. The borough commander agreed to work with us to get the right people round the table (Crimestoppers, Southwark Police, and MOPAC) to explore more effective youth friendly ways for young people to anonymously report intelligence. He also committed to supporting local round-tables with police and local young people twice a year, exploring the feasibility of the introduction of stop-and-search information and complaining cards in Southwark, and appointing a person to oversee the School Watch and CitySafe street safety programmes in the borough.