“There are gaps in communication!” Ola, one of four households taking part in Southwark Soapbox, this paper’s project to boost turnout in the May local elections, burst out. “There are gaps in communication.”
Southwark News is holding debates on key policy issues with local politicians ahead of the elections on May 5 – and showing them to Southwark residents to get their reactions.
About 60 new council homes are planned for Newington, a ward near Elephant and Castle where our households are based, as part of plans to tackle the waiting list of thousands of households.
Asked if residents’ regular complaints that they were not being consulted enough by the council over new homes were fair, Labour’s Cllr Alice Macdonald said she disagreed.
But Brandon Estate resident and mother-of-four Ola had other ideas, complaining that she and other residents weren’t being told about Southwark’s plans.
Her fellow Brandon resident Paula added: “I didn’t hear anything about any progress or how they are planning… to achieve this.”
The new homes in Newington are part of a wider Labour scheme to get 11,000 homes built by 2043.
Laughing, Ola went on: “2043? Do they plan to be in power till then?”
The Liberal Democrat Cllr Graham Neale said he was pleased that so many new council homes were being built. But discussing private housing developments, he said he was “very disappointed” that the council’s planning committees do not make sure housebuilders commit to 35 per cent affordable housing enough.
Nodding, Oyster Court resident Neil said: “It does seem like all this fancy stuff goes up, and they say ‘it’s going to be affordable stuff’ and then actually it’s not, it just gets bought up by wealthy people from abroad.”
Paula remained unmoved by Cllr Neale’s words. “He seems worried by this situation,” she said, laughing ruefully. “But I don’t know if he wants to do anything about it!”
The Greens’ Clare Wood agreed with Cllr Neale. “Labour does have a very bad track record on making sure that new developments have space for social housing and local residents, and the idea of affordable housing is something that is hidden behind, because how affordable is it really for the local people.”