Lambeth Council

Labour ‘playing monopoly’ with Lambeth, claims Green Party

Lambeth Green Party has accused Labour of running the council like a “one-party state” – and losing millions of taxpayers money as a result. 

In a press release published yesterday, the Lambeth Green Party accused Labour of not working across party lines and using their council majority to instead push through pet projects like the failed Homes for Lambeth (HfL) program. 

Labour currently holds 92% of the council seats in the borough – with 58 councillors – while the Greens have just two. 

In their statement, the Lambeth Green Party alleged that Labour had “avoided all internal scrutiny” by keeping their councillors whipped into agreement, and refusing to collaborate constructively with opposition parties.

The accusations come in the wake of the announcement in December that the HfL program will be winding down, following a damning review from former Cabinet Secretary Lord Kerslake. 

The project, which cost the borough at least £30m, has only produced 40 new council homes – averaging to nearly £1m per home. 

Lambeth has had to pay back £57.2m to the Mayor of London due to the project’s lack of progress, which included bulldozing more than 900 council homes.

The borough is now the lowest performing of any to have received a Greater London Authority grant. 

Cllr Scott Ainslie, one of the two Green Party councillors in Lambeth, claimed that his party suggested the HfL project should be closed down back in February 2022, but officers refused to advise on costs due to potential disruption, and the proposal was voted down.

He added that the council could have saved millions by taking stock of the suggestions within his party’s budget proposal, and firing the people that ended up having to go anyway.

The council has also been renting expensive alternate office space on the South Bank for the HfL project, rather than using existing council offices in Brixton – on a lease that only expires at the end of this month. 

While some councils allow budget proposals from opposition parties – such as Labour-run councils in Bristol, Islington, Exeter and Norwich – Lambeth Council does not.

Minority parties are instead expected to write a full alternative budget proposal – an exercise akin to “firing in the dark”, Ainslie said, when questions to officers can go answered for up to a year.

He said: “If they weren’t such an arrogant, bloated monopoly council, they would have some humility and consider accepting two or three amendments.

“It’s not serving the people of Lambeth at all.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Matthew Bryant also expressed discontent with the way his party’s alternative budget proposals were addressed by the council. 

“Ideas are dismissed out of hand without people having taken the time to consider them,” he said. 

In honing in purely on the financial aspects of alternative proposals, focus is distracted from the actual content of the ideas, he alleged. 

Other suggestions that the Greens claim have featured in shot-down budget proposals but later been adopted by Labour councillors include expanding council tax support for Lambeth’s poorest residents, declaring a Climate Emergency, and adopting the homeless charter of rights.

“It’s just Punch and Judy politics,” said Ainslie. “If people were to witness that they wouldn’t be voting for Labour.”

Labour Councillor Liz Atkins, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, said she’s worked very well with both the Greens and the Lib Dems throughout her tenure – including during a recent meeting on the Kerslake report – and found the accusations made by the Lambeth Green Party “surprising”, considering they agreed with all of the recommendations at the time.

Lambeth Council has been contacted for comment. 

Featured image credit: Reading Tom via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY 2.0 license

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