Building a better future

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A message from Lambeth Council Leader Cllr Jack Hopkins

Dear Resident,

The Covid19 virus has changed everything. Our borough has faced some extraordinary and far-reaching challenges. Lambeth residents have experienced great pain and hardship, isolation and declining health. Many people have lost their jobs. Large numbers of people have suffered ill-health as a result of the virus and sadly many have died from it.

It was said early on in the pandemic that coronavirus “does not discriminate”. The facts say otherwise. Vulnerable people, especially those from a Black or Minority Ethnic background, or older people or those living with disability, have been disproportionately hit hardest. Those who were celebrated weekly for their role as key workers have paid the ultimate price for their commitment to public service. Poorly paid public sector and health and care workers have borne the brunt.

While many of us are rightly welcoming the opportunities to see family and friends again that the lifting of lockdown is bringing, there is rightly still huge caution about carrying on as before. And we know that we are only through the first phase of the crisis – because as hard as dealing with the outbreak and the lockdown was, the challenges ahead are even greater.

The slow lifting of lockdown and attempting to safely reopen our economy; adapting our daily lives to contain the spread of the virus; managing the enormous economic impact of covid-19 and the after effects of lockdown on people’s mental and physical health – these are all interconnected and enormous challenges.

Last week, Lambeth council’s Cabinet discussed the work the council has done so far to protect residents through the pandemic – and our plans to build Lambeth’s recovery from this crisis. The report outlined our commitment to a jobs guarantee for young people, supporting older people with social care services and building a better future by taking real action on climate change.

We’re proud of the way that Lambeth has come together to fight the virus – neighbours supporting each other and communities banding together. In particular, we’ve seen the incredible efforts made by local voluntary groups and mutual aid groups to help support each other. The council has played our part as our staff have put in place unprecedented support for our most vulnerable residents. We have delivered thousands of food packages, ensured care homes had the support and PPE they needed and spent millions of pounds to help keep local businesses going.

But that extra spending, combined with a significant fall in income from parking, business rates and council tax, means we face a huge budget shortfall.

At the start of the pandemic, the government said that councils would be fully funded and that we should spend whatever it takes. But so far, government funding covers less than half of the financial impact (£22 million of a £47 million budget shortfall). Even our most cautious estimates are that Lambeth council could face a funding crisis of £27 million – and it could be as high as £54 million as the country faces a recession and huge uncertainty. That’s more than we spend on rubbish collection, parks, libraries, leisure centres, roads and children’s centres all together.

The last few months have shown the true power of public services that protect us all at the most difficult time of our lives. We want to empower our key workers, invest in the services they provide and build a recovery that can help improve the lives of Lambeth residents.

We’ve set out the council’s ambitious plans to do that, by providing a youth jobs guarantee, changing the way the council works in local neighbourhoods so we are more responsive to local need and investing in jobs, homes and tackling climate change. These plans will support the efforts of businesses, residents, voluntary groups and other public services to pull together so that we can build Lambeth’s recovery. 

But we cannot do that if the government fail to fund local services properly, and force cuts on the organisations that have helped people through the crisis. We will fight every step of the way for the support our communities need so that we can build a better future for all Lambeth residents.

Best wishes,

Cllr Jack Hopkins