Southwark’s Liberal Democrats have published their election manifesto, with housing at the heart of a plan for the borough, promising “big and radical” changes, as well as “quick wins”.
Anood Al-Samerai, leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrats, standing for re-election in May, said the manifesto focused on three key areas: housing, crime and the environment, with housing raised as “by far the number one issue” by residents.
The opposition leader told the News: “The overarching message we had from people is that Southwark is a great place to live but it does not work for everybody”, and took aim at what she described as Labour’s “appalling record” on housing, saying “big and radical” changes were needed.
She said: “Knocking down council homes and building luxury flats is creating segregated communities and is against the spirit of what makes London great.”
The party believes it can finance new homes, with rent set at no more than one third of the household’s income, and encourage developers to do the same.
She said: “It’s a scandal that 6,000 homes are sitting empty, and every week in my advice surgery people are in tears about their housing situation.
“If you do not have a decent home to live in it affects your employment, your health, and your family.”
The party has said it would not sell any individual council houses, except under right-to-buy, reduce the turn-around time for council homes to be re-let within four weeks, and use compulsory purchase powers to take over long-term empty homes.
One of the party’s biggest challenges, she said, was to change the perception that the council’s hands were tied on big issues due to government cuts.
“Again and again I hear on the doorstep “The council cannot do anything”, but funding decisions are political decisions.
“The council found a million pounds to give to the Tate.”
Key on the Liberal Democrats’ agenda is tackling gun and knife crime with an extra two million pounds of investment for “proactive policing”.
She dismissed Labour’s manifesto giveaways of a free theatre trips for primary school children, similar to its previous free swim and gym pledge, as “gimmicky”, and argued that a long-term focus on the environment – including more electric car charging points – would not turn prospective voters off.
The opposition leader said: “As politicians we have to be leaders and look after future generations.
“More and more people are talking about air quality.
“People say they want to get an electric car but there’s nowhere to charge it.
“There are currently 20 charging points in Southwark but Hammersmith and Fulham have 130.”
She also said Liberal Democrat membership, in the last few years, has grown “phenomenally across all demographics”, and hoped European nationals would vote for the party, but their support would be about more than the party’s pro-EU stance: “When I talk to EU citizens, they have exactly the same concerns as us.
“People are very angry about Labour’s record on housing.”
Southwark Lib Dem vision for borough:
- Building homes with rent set at no more than a third of household income
- An extra two million in funding for more police officers and a dedicated unit to combat rising knife crime and moped gangs
- Investing in green infrastructure such as income-generating solar panels on council buildings, and a new recycling-for-cash scheme in partnership with local shops