I am so grateful to the residents of Southwark for re-electing Southwark Labour to lead our local council.
We stood on a proud record; building council homes, investing in our parks, cleaning up our air, helping people into work and supporting residents through the toughest of times – but now we must renew our purpose once again.
We have said we will always be on your side, but now we need to prove it and deliver on our ambitious manifesto to tackle the cost of living crisis, make genuine progress to cut carbon emissions and build a fairer, greener and safer borough.
Our first challenges are already clear. The Tories’ latest plan for government, set out in the Queen’s Speech last week, said nothing about how they intend to support families struggling with the cost of living.
Inflation is spiralling out of control, household bills are up by hundreds of pounds and prices in the shops ever increasing. People’s wages are being squeezed harder than they ever have been and fewer are able to make any meaningful savings at all. Those that can save money are seeing the value of those savings diminish before their eyes.
Then the Tories do what they do best – add insult to injury. Last week we saw Tory MP Lee Anderson blame the existence of food banks because those who struggling to make ends meet “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”. This week government minister Rachel Maclean let the mask slip once more, telling people unable to pay their bills to “take on more hours” or get “a better paid-job”. It’s been over 40 years since Lord Tebbit told the unemployed to ‘get on your bike’ and look for work – and they haven’t changed since and they still don’t get it.
But Labour has a plan, both nationally and locally here in Southwark. Across the country we are clear that the cost of energy needs to be met by those companies that are profiting from this crisis. It should never be the case that a few corporations profit while so much of the country is driven into desperate need. Oil firms such as Shell who made £7.3Billion profit, or BP who made £5Billion in the first three months of this year alone, should be charged a windfall tax so that government can take decisive action to support those families most in need.
Closer to home, Southwark Labour will take action now to support residents through this difficult period. We will launch a new Cost of Living Fund, to support those hardest hit and support them when they simply can’t make ends meet. We will be rolling out a new Southwark Energy Savers service, so you can get the best advice on how to keep energy bills down and we will provide free access to the internet for all residents through a network of community buildings so everyone can get online without having to pay for it.
I am also clear that while this crisis needs a swift response, we also need a new approach to how the council supports the borough’s economy going forward into the long term. This means challenging ourselves to go further once again to create new jobs. We have committed to create 2,000 new green jobs through a new Green Skills Centre, as well as 2,000 new apprenticeships and 3,000 training opportunities for local people.
It also means we need to make every effort to keep more wealth within our own communities, and so we will ensure that the council and other big institutions in Southwark buy more goods and services from local businesses, cooperatives, social enterprises and charities. Crucially, we will redouble our efforts to tackle low pay, creating a new Southwark Living Wage Unit tasked with doubling the number of Southwark employers who pay at least the London Living Wage to all their staff.
Whether you voted Labour or not, in re-electing a Labour council, everyone in Southwark can count on us to be on your side throughout these extremely difficult times. While the government refuses to take responsibility for the cost of living crisis, my team and I will do everything we can to support you and your family.