Local politics in Southwark took a surreal turn last week. Labour councillor and cabinet member for housing, Leo Pollak was revealed to have created a fake twitter account, pretending to be a local resident, and using it against residents who dared to disagree with his housing plans, writes Southwark Liberal Democrat leader Nick Johnson…
Perhaps he was feeling the pressure as Southwark has just missed its target for new council homes this year.
Elected politicians are there to serve all residents, not just those who support them. So it is right that he stepped down from his cabinet post. He should also step down as a councillor for South Bermondsey, as I cannot see how he can hope to keep the trust of the residents who elected him and trusted him.
I highlighted in my column last month the failure to deliver council homes. It is a fact that Southwark has seen a net loss of 2,000 council homes since the start of 2010 – despite a promise by Labour to deliver a 2,500 increase by 2022. This is a property clearance not a building programme. They didn’t just sell them off to leaseholders, they demolished them and sold the land to private developers. Less than 100 per year have been completed since. Although they say they’ve started 1,500 or so more, at this rate who has time to wait another decade to get back what we’ve lost? Certainly not the 15,000 families on the waiting list. We need a better and bolder plan if we are to get people into new homes faster. As I said last month, expect to hear more on this from us later in the year.
Which brings me to finances. It is annual budget time at the council and this week we are setting out our challenges on spending priorities. Firstly, I want to commend council officers, who have worked tirelessly to secure extra funding from central government. Their success means that vital frontline services won’t have to be cut.
Although there are many things we would like to do if we ran the whole council –we’ve focused on the following four areas as urgent priorities to help residents:
- Going greener faster in Southwark – Accelerating climate action with green roof programmes, committing to stop using fossil fuels for vehicles and energy across council estates and encourage air quality improvement to stop the dither and delay on saving the one planet we have.
- Becoming a more inclusive Southwark by helping the thousands of children and adults with no digital access obtain laptops and training for a better future
- Boosting mental health support for residents given the impact of successive lockdowns of the pandemic
- Encouraging safer houses for all by more direct help from the council to private residents and residents of housing associations in ending the cladding and snagging crisis created by developers and freeholders
Please get in touch if you want to learn more about the above and what an alternative plan for Southwark might start to look like.
In the meantime, I know it’s tough out there but stay safe; don’t go to any illicit warehouse raves and hang on in there, it will end… eventually.