Ahead of the 2018 council elections in May, it is no surprise to see that political parties in Southwark are once again focusing primarily on housing, reports James Murray
The Labour party currently holds a vast majority within Southwark Council, occupying 48 out of the 63 available seats, while the Liberal Democrats hold 13 and the Conservatives have just two to their name.
Both of the major parties within the borough, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, have detailed plans in their manifesto’s to tackle the housing issues.
Cllr Peter John, the leader of Southwark Council, has gained a reputation for his competence and ambition for the Borough, since taking over in 2010 – but he has also come under some criticism regarding housing. In 2014, the council made a target of building 1,500 council homes by 2018 and have unfortunately failed to deliver on them.
When asked what would be done differently to avoid this happening again if Labour were re-elected, Cllr John admitted it had been a more difficult process than expected.
“Obviously we would not have said we could build 1,500 by 2018 if we didn’t think we would get there but it’s been a slower and harder process than we had imagined back in 2014. Part of that is that it takes much longer to talk to residents about new builds; they want to be involved in the design and who’s going to be living there quite rightly.
He continued: “There has been some resistance so some schemes that we thought would be delivered we’ve had to remove from the programme so it has taken longer. We are up and running now and I’m as confident as I can be that we can deliver.”
Southwark Labour has also proposed to make sure that 50 percent of all housing which is built on council land will be let at council rents.
This election is extremely important for the Liberal Democrats, who used to hold a much higher percentage of the seats within Southwark – but lost several in 2014 following the Coalition Government.
The Southwark Liberal Democrats will be looking to close the gap on their opposition and their leader, Anood Al-Samerai, has slammed Labours “appalling record” on housing, saying “big and radical” changes were needed.
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.
Al-Samerai 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.
Shane Martin, an International Business Management graduate, admitted that despite being in full-time employment, he does not see his future in London because of the housing crisis, as he said: “Although I now have a pretty good job, I don’t see myself getting my own home any time soon.
“There aren’t enough houses to go around as it is, and that’s before I think about how I’m going to finance it. In my hometown, I could get a house for a small fraction of the price people pay here, so I couldn’t say for sure that I’m going to stay in London. Hopefully, things start to get better after the council elections.”
The council elections will take place on the 3rd May, where housing is sure to be the big issue on everyone’s mind.