Is the council listening? Leader Lib Peck says it is

Cll Lib Peck seated in her officeFuture Lambeth is an ambitious five-year plan for the borough. Bugle editor Linda Quinn asked council leader Lib Peck how she plans to square budget cuts with the ambition of building strong communities and reducing inequality “When we were elected in 2014, we were elected on ambition and fairness and these are the two guiding principles of the administration,” says Lib Peck.

These two principles, she says, are at the heart of the Future Lambeth: Our Borough plan. It sets out the council’s vision for the next five years and identifies three priorities: inclusive growth; reducing inequality; and strong and sustainable neighbourhoods.

“It’s a fascinating borough. I love its diversity, but we have to recognise that, at one level, some very rich people sit alongside some very poor people – there’s a huge diversity.” Peck says the council will use proceeds from regeneration to tackle inequality which is, in some ways, its most difficult problem.

A Lambeth Equality Commission is being set up to examine the problem. Its remit will include education, employment, leadership and participation, and justice.

“We are trying to put the plan into practice at a time local government finances are being devastated Our priorities are about getting money into the borough but making sure we are very focused as a borough.”

Huge cuts in government payments and a resulting reduction in staffing of about half by 2020 mean the council will need to work with all stakeholders in the community to use the combined assets in the borough, she says.

Cooperative council

But not everyone recognises Lambeth’s claim to be a cooperative, consultative council. Cressingham Gardens tenants and the owners of Club 414, to name but two of the many critics featured recently in the Bugle, have won high court judgements against the council on development related issues. Library campaigners simply do not believe the pledge to keep all libraries open.

“Our intention,” says Peck, “is very much to work with people to enable communities to participate and help shape our decision making. We launched the cooperative council to try and do just that.

“Although the practice is usually a lot harder and we have to be realistic about that.

“For me one of the regrets over the last year would be our communications around libraries. What we were trying to do with libraries was completely lost. What you had instead was a situation where people think we are closing libraries. Lambeth is blessed with 10 libraries all of which we have said we are keeping open in the long term.”

The focus on inward investment to replace funding cuts is understandable, but does the council recognise that some communities and local businesses fear they will be ignored?

“Absolutely. I do recognise that fear. Change is hard for people to deal with. Lambeth is incredibly dynamic with people moving in and out all the time.”

So is the council cavalier in its approach to planning and regulation?

“Absolutely not. Our values mean listening to the people who live and work here. We want to do that. And you can see how we exercised that in Brixton.” Examples she gives are Pop Brixton where the council ensured over 75% of tenants are local businesses; opening up access to the community in the redeveloped town hall; support with improvements to Windrush Square; and gifting a building to the Black Cultural Archives.

Change will happen

“Change is going to happen. We want to make sure, where we can, that we inject the values we think are important to communities in Lambeth and Brixton.”

But she points out that there are limits to the council’s powers in licensing and planning.

Responding to whether the council could have done more for the Network Rail Arches traders, she says: “We as a council have tried to use the powers we have to influence Network Rail to have better conversations with their tenants and to make sure that there were alternative premises for them during renovation; and that they are offering them a fair deal. Ultimately we aren’t the landlord and can only use our power to try and influence.”

She acknowledges that feelings were running high at the recent planning meeting where the Arches were discussed, but condemns the behaviour of a minority that resulted in the police being called. But she wants to keep meetings open. “Our approach is to be as open and transparent as possible.”

“I’m very proud that over last year we have seen greatest rise in start-up business compared to the rest of London,” Peck says. “The work of the council has helped to sustain more of those businesses than ever before.”

She notes that Lambeth is the borough with the biggest number of business improvement districts and thinks Brixton BID has established itself as a positive force in the community.

Peck is also proud of the borough’s commitment to refugees. “Fairness drives us as Labour politicians. When you see pictures of refugees you can’t help but be moved. We are proud to be one of the boroughs leading the response to refugees. We are working alongside Lambeth Citizens to make sure we are able to rehouse refugees. We are a very welcoming open borough. That’s what people like about Lambeth. People enjoy the different experiences and diversity.”

She admits that “It’s fair to say that Labour Party politics isn’t in the best state at the moment. I hope having had the leadership election the party can pull together and looks at who the real people are we should be challenging – and that is the government.”

Cleaner buses

When the subject turns to the London mayor Sadiq Khan, she’s much more optimistic about what the council can achieve in partnership.

“In his first 100 days, Sadiq has proved to be a fantastic mayor. One of his issues is air quality. I know that he is an asthma sufferer and has prioritised air quality as a campaign issue.”

Lambeth is to become the second Low Emission Zone in London, which means new, cleaner buses on Brixton Road. Emissions from older buses are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution.

The council is also keen to promote cycling. “We have the highest number of cycling storage provision. I know this sound geeky, but lack of storage is the major barrier to cycling.”

Asked how the council would enforce the “Twenty’s Plenty” speed limit, Peck says the council is looking at speed guns and letting communities use them. “But it’s cultural as much as anything else. It’s nudge behaviour. It’s the sensible thing to be doing it and has the knock-on effect of less fatal accidents and improvements for pedestrians.”

We end on a positive note. Lib Peck is pleased with the results of the annual survey of residents. “Despite the incredibly challenging circumstances we find ourselves in, we had the best results. Seven out of 10 residents say they are satisfied with the way the borough is run. That’s the right direction and very positive.”

“I love my job. I love leading Lambeth. It’s a fascinating, exciting, vibrant challenging borough. It gives me more grey hairs than I’d like, but more pleasure than I can imagine.”

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8 Comments on "Is the council listening? Leader Lib Peck says it is"

  1. Tulse Hill Resident. October 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm · Reply

    That is simply it. The council don’t enforce the Twenty’s Plenty speed zones, especially around here in Tulse Hill. All we got on these roads were a number twenty in a circle painted in white on the road surface. That was it. No other signage. No traffic calming measures. No camera’s. No enforcement. Nothing. A big zero. Nothing has changed. Here in and on Tulse Hill it is a case of not Twenty’s Plenty but more Forties Naughty or even way above the speed limit at Fiftes Nifty.
    Utter and complete waste of time Councillor Peck. Come and see for yourself in Tulse Hill if you are in any doubt and don’t forget to bring along your speed gun!

  2. Nick Biskinis October 6, 2016 at 12:01 pm · Reply

    And what ‘annual survey’ of residents allegedly giving the Council a 7/10 satisfaction is this? Are these residents who work for the Council and/or are members of the Labour Party?

  3. Gary Bruton October 5, 2016 at 11:43 am · Reply

    Lambeth Council working with communities? Don’t make me laugh.

    The only community that seems to matter to Lambeth is the community of carpet-baggers, spivs and grasping landlords that seems to run Brixton these days.

  4. Eleonora Claps October 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm · Reply

    “We as a council have tried to use the powers we have to influence Network Rail to have better conversations with their tenants and to make sure that there were alternative premises for them during renovation; and that they are offering them a fair deal. Ultimately we aren’t the landlord and can only use our power to try and influence.” – so Ms Peck and her colleagues have done so well, have cared so much about the Arches that the businesses have now got evicted with NO ALTERNATIVE PREMISES ANYWHERE, and NO FAIR DEAL (it’s pretty much each single trader by themselves, as far as I understand). Thank you for the sterling job. or maybe this council don’t actually care about communities. Why then not being honest??? The only “communities” they care about is the people who get drunk on Friday and Saturday night at Pop Brixton….

  5. Andrew St. John October 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm · Reply

    I have no doubt of the truth of the first part of Ms Peck’s opening statement, regarding being elected on ambition. Unfortunately for the people of Lambeth, that ambition wasn’t to make OUR lot better, it was ambition to make their lot better – to network with developers and big business, and to sell off our borough and our homes from under us.

    Ms Peck mentions that “it’s very much our intention to work with communities”. Put bluntly, that’s a load of rubbish. The entire “cooperative council” meme is about Lambeth Council showing central government that it is “listening”, and about stage-managing dissent to the council’s various projects. Lambeth Council haven’t “worked with” the residents of the estates being “regenerated” (for which read “bulldozed”) in any meaningful way, but have run roughshod over resident views every step of the way, using all the usual tricks, such as last-minute time and date changes for meetings, cancellations, management of those attending meetings – any meeting with Lucia Deere in attendance usually meant her complaining vociferously if anyone took notes, for example – denial of the right to record meetings, not allowing people to take away documentation, ignoring Resident Engagement Panels whenever members air views contrary to those of council officers…the list is near endless, and this is only regarding regen!

    A council-led “equality commission” will be meaningless, especially if it is peopled with the same old faces as most other endeavours by this administration. What is needed is a fully-independent permanent commission that can “publish and be damned” with it’s findings, not see them filed in a bin. Lambeth Council don’t do things to help US, they do stuff to help themselves. Ms Peck’s “apology” with regard to the child sexual abuse saga shows this in spades.

    I also notice that Ms Peck mentions “7 out of 10 residents” being satisfied with Lambeth Council, but no reference to the sample size or any other data – such as whether the sample was taken in council offices. If she wants to convince, she needs to support her claims better.

  6. Rahul Patel October 3, 2016 at 2:24 pm · Reply

    5 out 10 Libraries are what they intended to close. Two of those 5 have been saved for now after the intense local campaigns. However, the rest are closed or are going to be turned into gyms. There was no communication problem. Lib Peck and the rest of the team simply got caught with their pants on fire. The councillors late night tweets in early April just told us what they thought of the rest of us. We want libraries not sleaze and greed.

  7. decidendi October 3, 2016 at 1:07 pm · Reply

    No they aren’t listening, Peck can spin as much as she wants but they aren’t listening to anybody but themselves as Progress always knows best.
    If Lambeth were listening people wouldn’t be winning Judicial Reviews. they wouldn’t be the LA with the largest volume of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman. It wouldn’t have so many unanswered Freedom of Information questions and it wouldn’t seek to shut people out of Council meetings. These are not the actions of a Local Authority listening to it’s Tenants, Residents and Local business and communities we all know and somewhere somehow Lib Peck must know it too.
    Oh and really liking the fact that she only talks about talking power in 2014 when we all know Progress Labour have been in a monopoly of power since 2006 after a brief period of Fib Dem control. Carefully managed there Lib but unfortunately much like your future plan transparently awful.

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