Lambeth is one of the poorest boroughs in Britain. One in five adults of working age doesn’t have a job, and one in three children lives in a household on benefits. Although there are plenty of wealthier areas, many people living on poorer estates are locked into poverty which locks them out of opportunity.
Most people understand that has a direct impact on high levels of crime, drug addiction and teenage pregnancy. So when representatives from across the borough came together to decide what they wanted to achieve together over the coming years, they decided to try and reduce poverty by getting people back to work. The action plan is built into a document called the Sustainable Community Strategy that is supported by the police, Lambeth NHS, the local college and universities, and representatives of voluntary and community groups.
Liberal Democrat councillors had been involved in the consultation that led to the strategy being put in place and never uttered a word against it. So there was astonishment when the Liberal Democrat leader stood up at the meeting and announced that Liberal Democrats would be voting NOT to tackle poverty and unemployment. He claimed that was not an issue that mattered to Liberal Democrats and didn’t want to see action taken against it. That outburst shouldn’t have surprised anyone because while he was in charge of the Council’s finances before their election defeat, he’d taken action to STOP resources going to areas suffering the highest levels of deprivation – no doubt because those areas don’t tend to vote Liberal Democrat.
Working to reduce the opportunity gap matters to most people in Lambeth who care about fairness. But for the Libercal Democrats fairness doesn’t come into it – it’s who you vote for that matters.