View from Westminster: Fairwell to Peter John – and how charity Dads House in Elephant and Castle are one of a kind

Admin (04 March, 2020)

In his regular column, Neil Coyle MP talks about Elephant and Castle charity, Dads House

31612Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Last week I visited the charity Dads House, which helps single dads (as well as mums) and is based in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

They are the only community centre of their kind in Europe amazingly and have several fantastic initiatives including free legal advice sessions, a foodbank, cooking classes, football and book clubs for kids and parents as well as a helpline open to all.

It was great to see how much practical support Dads House offers, particularly when I compare it to my own dad’s struggles in the 1980s due to mum’s ill health.

But it was also a reminder of how badly successive Tory/Lib Dem Governments have failed parents and families since 2010.

Legal Aid, for example, was slashed by the coalition and thousands of families have been denied access to justice for issues like custody disputes and challenging unfair benefit sanctions or cuts.

For a decade it has fallen to charities like Dads House, which relies on donations, to pick up the pieces and I fear things will only get worse under the current regime.

Boris Johnson has already defended Universal Credit which is damaging so many people’s lives here in Southwark.

I’m pleased to have won a place again on the Work and Pensions Select Committee and it finally met again this week.

It took three months between December’s election and our first meeting due to government delays in appointing Conservative members.

Johnson seems scared of scrutiny, but I suppose his legacy of lies and deceit must weigh heavily.

I look forward to using my role on the committee to try and secure much-needed changes to social security policies leaving some people homeless, others reliant on foodbank handouts and even more in debt and arrears with rent.

Peter John is stepping down after ten years as Leader of Southwark Council.  Peter has overseen a positive decade of delivery for our borough in very difficult circumstances.

Since 2010 the council has lost a staggering £146 million in central government funding and been burdened with more responsibilities without the resources to match, as well as a growing population and ever-rising prices.

Despite the brutal cuts handed down by the Lib Dems and Tories nationally, under Peter John, our council has opened new libraries, provided free healthy school meals for primary school children, introduced free swim and gym use for all local people, paid the London Living Wage for council staff, and has the biggest council housebuilding programme in the country which has also created hundreds of new local jobs.

Peter has been an important shield for our borough against national government cuts and, despite Tory low expectations for local government generally, Peter has been innovative and ambitious for our community.

He exemplifies what Labour can achieve: winning back the borough, leading with vision, and overseeing a decade of delivery in Southwark that more than matches Labour values with local people’s needs and aspirations.


Neil Coyle is the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

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