Southwark Soapbox: residents shocked at ‘astonishing’ lack of youth services in Newington ward

Kit Heren (14 April, 2022)

Our viewers left grimacing as candidates clash

“Six hours a week though! That’s ridiculous!”

“Six hours a week!”

“That’s less than a shift at work!”


These were some of our focus groups’ reactions on learning about the short opening hours of the youth centre on the Brandon Estate, which has hundreds of homes and many vulnerable young people.

  • The News has since  investigated what was happening at the youth centre – see article below 

Exclusive: ‘It looks like a youth detention centre!’ – Residents say the lights are off at youth centre on estate troubled by knife crime

There are few public amenities in the area: the Jack Hobbs centre, a facility for everyone on the estate, is also closed much of the time, and an adventure playground near the Newington Estate is shut for refurbishment until next year.

Asked why Labour was struggling to keep valuable community spaces in Newington open, Labour candidate John Batteson struggled to answer. He said how important it was for young people to keep active, citing his own experience playing football, and said school and other activities were also vital.

Southwark Soapbox: how would the parties help keep our streets safe?

Ola grimaced when she heard Mr Batteson’s answer, visibly cringing when she heard him defend his party by saying that activities for young people “don’t all have to come through one youth centre”.

Neil was less interested in the politics. “Could it be that it’s just incompetent people who are running this stuff? Could that be the reason why? That they’re just lazy and incompetent?”

Southwark Soapbox: Labour and Lib Dems blame each other over budget cuts

Green Party candidate Clare Wood said that it was astonishing how little the youth centre was open, pointing out the large numbers of young people in the ward left without easily available activities.

Mr Batteson said he didn’t know much about the timing of the Frederick playground refurbishment, simply repeating his well-worn point that it was important for young people to have things to do.

  • The News found out what was happening at the playground see article below 

Asbestos-contaminated children’s playground will not reopen until late 2023

At this point, Liberal Democrat candidate Abdul Gbla accused him of trotting out cliches.

“You can clearly tell by us three here who is the politician, and who’s here with the soundbites,” he said. “ I mean come on mate, you went on and on and on about this and that, this and that but still didn’t answer the question.”

“Ooh they do get a little feisty, don’t they,” Brandon Estate resident Kym said.

Southwark Soapbox: our Newington residents share their crime horror stories

But when pressed for what the Lib Dems would do in power, Mr Gbla struggled to answer, merely repeating that the three community spaces “really need to be looked at.”

Brandon Estate resident Ola gave him short shrift. “So what would be his own solution then? Because he hasn’t said nothing of importance and he’s accusing someone else of not answering the question! Nice.”

  • NOTE – The News would like to make clear that despite repeated requests throughout our filming the Conservative Party in Southwark declined to join in our debates 
Why should you vote on May 5th?
  • Your council makes important decisions and has responsibility for a huge range of things that affect your everyday life – from what housing gets built and where, to closing off roads to cars and keeping the streets clean and tidy.
  • Individual councillors in your area are also meant to help you with problems that you come to them with.
  • Southwark Council has been controlled by the Labour Party since 2010. Some 48 out of 63 councillors are from Labour. Fourteen more are from the Liberal Democrats, and there is one councillor who is independent. There are no Conservative or Green Party councillors at the moment, although people from both parties are running in May.
  • Local elections are normally held every four years. The elections to choose new Southwark councillors will take place on May 5 this year. You vote by ward – the area which you live in – for whichever candidates you want to represent you. Depending on the ward, there are either two or three councillors to choose.
  • Any adult from the UK or EU living in the UK, or any adult from the Commonwealth with permission to stay in the UK can vote, as long as they register.
  • You can find your councillors on Southwark Council’s website by searching online for ‘find Southwark councillors’. Or CLICK HERE to find your councillor 
  • You must be registered to vote by 11.59pm on April 14. Register to vote here.


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