Lambeth Liberal Democrats will continue to take action until we have a fair, free and open society.
Equality is one of the constitutional values of our party. Yet in recent weeks we have seen increasingly clearly how we are not a ‘fair, free and open society’. Our BAME neighbours have suffered excessively as a consequence of Covid-19; the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests remind us how change has been too slow in the US and here.
We must put race equality and social justice at the heart of all our campaigns. We must be clear who we stand with. We must each ask ourselves every day what we can do better to bring about change. We must challenge racism whenever we find it: whether it is in the bias of stop and search on our own streets in Lambeth, the policies of the UK Government, or the actions of the President of the United States.
Please read his message from Roderick Lynch on the work of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality (which he chairs), the inquiry into BAME deaths from Covid-19 and what we need to do as Lib Dems.
Chair, Lambeth Liberal Democrats
10th June 2020
As the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Racial Equality I and my executive welcomed the news that the NHS England and Public Health England would be leading on the inquiry into why Black and Ethnic Minority communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The most recent figures show that of the 200 healthcare workers known to have died from the virus, 61% were from a minority ethnic background.
Clearly, we needed to ensure that the internal enquiry was genuine, fair, and transparent, but equally there were countless people waiting for answers. Without these answers, it will be more difficult to address the situation and find solutions to a problem that could well emerge in the future if there is a second outbreak of COVID-19. That is why many across a broad spectrum of political persuasions, campaigners and health professionals raised eyebrows when Sir Trevor Phillips was included as part of the review.
From the onset we at LDCRE called out on the government’s continuing failure to record the ethnicity of Covid-19 patients is risking the lives of both frontline BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) NHS workers and citizens across the UK. We called for comprehensive data to be collected from everyone who suffers from this terrible disease. Lib Dems fully understand the unprecedented pressure on the government, and we know it is doing its best, but the fact is that coronavirus will only be beaten by two things - the NHS and pandemic data.
Some people have hypothesised reasons of deprivation and multi-generational occupancy in BAME communities, and higher incidences of diabetes and hypertension amongst the Black population. However, this is not the whole picture as this is counterbalanced by the fact that older people of Black African descent do not smoke as much, so subsequently have lower rates of respiratory disease, cancer, and coronary disease. The reasons are more complicated, as ethnicity is a complex socio-cultural construct.
But the Public Health Enquiry published on Tuesday told us nothing that many did not know.
This is a situation that involves the joint efforts of all parties and where any political differences need to be put aside in working for the common good.
With the loosening of lockdown rules and more people returning to work, we are concerned about the impact this will have on vulnerable BAME employees, many of whom are represented in the public sector and key worker roles.
We are living in a global crisis that has brought social justice to the forefront of Liberal Democrats to campaign for; the death of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality, the rights of LGBTQ communities, BAME NHS and Adult Social care who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, to the scandal of the high number of deaths in nursing homes.
Lockdown has proved that campaigning for social justice we the Liberal Democrats must reach communities to stand up for their rights and the voices to be heard.
I am from the Windrush generation where my family have suffered the greatest of inequality and have paid the ultimate consequence.
LDCRE wants to hear from you, the party has to engage with the BAME community, such a diverse borough as Lambeth needs to hear from the Lib Dems in greater numbers.
Discover more: LDCRE
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21,120 EU nationals in Lambeth left in limbo
The Liberal Democrats are calling for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, as new official figures show 21,120 EU nationals living in Lambeth have not been granted permanent Settled Status to remain in the UK.
Pointing to the contribution of EU nationals working in the NHS during the Covid-19 crisis, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine urged the Government to “show its own support for the people’s heroes by extending the right to remain to all EU and foreign nationals, many of whom are fighting for our lives."
Of the 48,100 EU nationals across Lambeth who have applied for permanent residency, only 26,390 have been granted settled status.
3,840 EU nationals living in Lambeth have applied to the Home Office scheme but are still waiting for a final decision to be made. Another 17,280 have been given only temporary Pre-Settled Status, meaning they will have to reapply within five years or be forced to leave the UK.
Although the Home Office has announced a one-year visa extensions for certain health and care staff, the Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support for their campaign to give all health and social care workers on the frontline of this crisis indefinite leave to remain.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
“The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. NHS staff, social care workers and other health professionals are putting themselves in harm’s way each and every day to keep us safe. The Government has a chance to show its own support for the people’s heroes by extending the right to remain to all EU and foreign nationals, many of whom are fighting for our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic."
Florence Cyrot Mele, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Lambeth & Southwark in next year's GLA elections, added:
“Too many EU nationals in Lambeth are deeply anxious about their right to stay. With the uncertainty of Brexit, it’s disgraceful to leave them in legal limbo like this. London is their home, many were born here, they have always contributed positively to our communities and society.
EU nationals came here thanks to the EU freedom of movement as Brits settled down abroad in the same way. We all welcomed them and benefited from all the new ideas, knowledge and skills that they brought with them. They can not be treated as second class citizens by the new government. Families and children must not be made to live under a cloud of uncertainty any longer.
The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for EU citizens by fighting to guarantee their rights to live and work in the UK."
STOP PRESS - The Home Office has decided to change the naturalisation requirements for Settled Status holders by imposing new insurance obligations. We will update when we have more information.
The latest figures on the EU settlement scheme including by local authority are available here.
Remodelling of Streatham Hill
Lambeth Liberal Democrats welcome the ambitious plans for remodelling of Streatham Hill (Sternhold Avenue to Holmewood Road) to make this stretch of road safer for pedestrians and people on bikes.
We believe that everyone should have the right to breathe clean air, but unfortunately the A23 continues to be one of the most polluted roads in the UK. We welcome all progress towards reducing air pollution on our streets. Streatham has been left behind in terms of bike safety infrastructure, and it is encouraging to see plans to construct Streatham’s first ever protected cycle lane.
The current pandemic has given all road users, from pedestrians to cyclists and vehicle drivers a brief opportunity to rethink how we use our roads and we should take this opportunity to permanently improve our roading network for all users.
We have a number of ideas and concerns that we will put forward, not least extending the lane to Brixton proper.
1) Bike lane design
Onward connections to Brixton and Oval
The plans are a significant step in the right direction but we are concerned that usage of this stretch of cycle lane will be limited given it is not connected to any other transport hub. It is essential that this scheme is quickly followed by plans to connect Streatham Hill station to Brixton tube station, and eventually onwards to join up with the existing cycle infrastructure at Oval. Brixton Hill is an extraordinarily dangerous stretch of road for cyclists and pedestrians, as once again demonstrated by the tragic death of a pedestrian on 20th February in a hit-and-run collision. We are aware that there is an ambitious plan to remodel Brixton to reduce traffic and increase pedestrian and cycle friendliness, but we have not seen any evidence that the two schemes have been designed in tandem and that there is a clear and coherent plan to join the two in the near future. The Streatham-Oval route is a top potential strategic cycle connection. As part of its commitment to make 80% of London journeys by active transport or public transport, will TfL commit to extending this scheme to Brixton tube station by 2025?
We call on Lambeth Council and TfL to do their utmost to access that funding to allow Brixton Hill to be remodelled within the next 5 years.
Reduction in road crossings
It is unfortunate that the cycle lane design has to cross the road twice, as this may decrease usage due to inconvenience. It is crucial that the traffic light sequencing on this stretch allow for a smooth ride with as few stops as possible, ensuring a green light when cyclists arrive at crossing points.
Connecting bike lanes with 24 hour bus lanes in Oval
The current changes in usage at different times of the day are dangerous to cyclists who use these bus lanes due to lack of protected infrastructure. We ask that TfL makes the bus lanes connecting this bike lane to the next protected infrastructure in Oval 24 hour bus lanes.
2) Air pollution
Residents are sceptical of the scheme’s ability to reduce air pollution in the area if traffic is slowed down by the scheme. We call on TfL and Lambeth Council to work together to install air pollution monitors along this stretch of road that actually work as soon as possible. The monitors should have both the ability to measure the current baseline to work from and the capability to measure PM2.5.
Zero emissions buses
We further call on TfL to ensure that all buses operating on the A23 route are zero emissions as promised by the mayor when he announced the introduction of a clean air bus corridor on this route.
3) Greening Streatham Hill
We were dismayed to see that no thought has been given to landscaping the area to increase the level of greenery, given the Mayor’s commitment to planting 2 million trees. While planting trees is one option that TFL should consider, we call on TfL to consider all possible options to green Streatham Hill. Cooperation with organisations such as Trees for Cities should be considered to ensure that the right expertise is available, and inspiration can be taken from areas such as in Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly where the council has worked together with start-ups to use the latest available technology to combat air pollution.
4) Bus stops and lanes
Decreasing the number of bus stops may be desirable to speed up bus traffic, and it is true that at the current time some bus stops are very close together. But we have received concern from elderly residents about the implications for those who are less able to walk longer distances. We call on TfL to ensure that they take into account the journeys that older people or people with disabilities need to make prior to reducing bus stops.
5) Cycle permeability
We note that some side roads are being made entry/exit only. We ask that TfL ensures that all side roads are usable in both directions by cyclists, with a marked contraflow lane, to increase the cycle-friendliness of the scheme further.
6) Parking bays
Cooperation with local business
Local businesses and residents have expressed concern about the reduction in parking bays on Streatham Hill and the impact that this may have on local businesses. We call on TfL to work closely with local businesses to better understand the potential impact of reducing car parking bays on their customer base, and on the shopping behaviours of local residents. While we agree with TFL’s aim to reduce the number of short journeys that are made by car, TFL must ensure that adequate provision is made for those who are less able to walk to the shops.
Electric charging points
The parking bays that are made available on the route should have electric charging points, as a step towards the future we want to see.
7) Cycle parking and cycle rental
Increase in parking spaces
What will TfL do to ensure that increasing bike riding in Streatham is not impeded by a lack of cycle parking? Lambeth Council received very little funding for cycle parking in TfL’s latest announcement of funding for this infrastructure. We would like to see parking spaces increased in particular at local schools as well as outside local businesses.
Extension of Santander cycle docking stations
Furthermore, Streatham does not currently benefit from Santander Cycles docking stations. We call on TfL to install Santander cycle docking stations at Streatham Hill station to make it easier for those who do not yet own a bike to test out the bike lane on a rented bike. This would support an aim we all share - to increase the number of people riding bikes - by allowing those who do not yet own a bike to try out the bike lane on a rented bike.
Full details of the Transport for London consultation can be found here. The consultation was extended until 19 April 2020.
As part of our commitment to protecting our public spaces, Chair of Lambeth Liberal Democrats, Doug Buist, recently wrote to Lambeth Council raising concerns about the closure of Brockwell Park on Sunday 5th April 2020.
When Brockwell Park in Herne Hill was closed on Sunday 5 April, I wrote to Cllr Jack Hopkins, the leader of Lambeth Council, as well as my ward councillors and MP, to seek reassurances that the park would re-open the following day. Observing the current Government guidance on staying at home and social distancing is vital to protecting lives, it is also in all our interests to ensure a measured approach to issues like access to parks and open spaces.
There were reasonable concerns about use of the park on the Saturday (4 April), but I believe we need to keep all our parks open for the following reasons:
- They provide space to exercise and maintain mental health and wellbeing.
- In a high density area where people have no or limited access to personal green space, they will enable us all to sustain isolation and distancing.
- Many residents are working hard throughout the week to both provide essential services and to save businesses and are entitled to enjoy the limited relaxation options available to them.
- Parks often provide a safer, healthier access to local amenities like shops.
- The evidence is that the vast majority of people are using the park in the way demanded by the government instructions.
It was also not helpful to release the figure of 3,000 park users (for which no methodology was given) on Twitter which subsequently led to a less-than-measured media and social media frenzy.
That leads to something that we need to emphasise as Liberal Democrats: the need to be mindful of our civic rights at this time.
It cannot become - maliciously or inadvertently - an excuse for authorities to over-reach in their control of individuals' lives, or to encourage people to start making up their own rules and harassing people who are abiding by the law (as we have seen a lot on social media in recent weeks). We also continue to pay our Council Tax and should be able to expect access to the services we fund.
I was pleased to receive a swift reply from the Leader’s Office that it was anticipated the park would reopen on Monday (as it did).
I also expressed my thanks for the work the Council is doing to support the community in Lambeth at this time.
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Happy new year! After a restful break over the festive period, we start 2020 as the lead challengers to Labour in Lambeth. Thanks to your support for our parliamentary candidates, Helen Thompson in Streatham and Sarah Lewis in Vauxhall, the Liberal Democrats finished a strong second place in both constituencies in December's general election.
In Streatham we saw the biggest swing to the Lib Dems in any Labour-held seat in the country, while in Vauxhall we also increased our share of the vote. Helen and Sarah had the support of hundreds of volunteers and, while we were disappointed that this was not enough for them to join our parliamentary party on the green benches, it is clear that there is a real appetite for the Liberal Democrats to be a strong, alternative voice in our borough.