Five candidates in the running for the £77,000 top decision making role at Lewisham council have outlined what they would do for the borough if successful.
The Labour party has short listed five councillors to face a membership vote and be its prospective candidate for the decision making executive Lewisham Mayor post. Residents will be able to vote for a new executive mayor at the council elections next May as Sir Steve Bullock who has held the post for Labour since 2002 is to step down. It is likely that all the main parties will field candidates and there could also be people making independent bids.
The London Labour Party has confirmed members across the borough will get to vote for the short listed candidates in September with the result expected by Friday September 22. Councillors Paul Bell, Brenda Dacres, Damien Egan, Alan Hall and Paul Maslin have outlined the key issues and concerns they would address and what they can bring to the role of Lewisham executive mayor.
Lewisham is unusual among London councils to have adopted the system in which residents vote for the leader of the council as in most cases the post holder is chosen by councillors. The executive mayor has the power to make some decisions exclusively and in other cases makes them with the cabinet members chosen from councillors.
COUNCILLOR PAUL BELL has been a Lewisham councillor for Telegraph Hill for the past seven years. The 46-year-old trade union officer has been been endorsed by the GMB, Unite the Union and by Momentum.
He said: “I was raised in a working-class family on a council estate so I know what it was like to live on benefits in Thatcher’s Britain and I overcame dyslexia to get a degree at university. I am proud to be a disabled person. I’m dedicated to representing the diverse communities that enrich Lewisham and standing up for the most vulnerable.
He said: “I want to tap into the huge talent and creativity in Lewisham. I’ll conclude much better deals with private developers attracted to Lewisham’s potential, deliver more social housing more quickly and tackle under-achievement in Lewisham’s schools. I will also place Lewisham in a leading role in the national campaigns to extract proper funding for adult social care and schools, protect the National Health Service and work with the Mayor of London to improve public transport and deliver healthier streets.
“I will end outsourcing and privatisation. It is not efficient but it costs more, drives down wages and prevents us from fighting austerity. I will intervene in schools – where there is a need- for the benefit of our young people, protect our Special Education Needs kids by investing more in their future.
“But we cannot do anything without the money and income to do it. That is why we must look at an income generation strategy. I have the experience and I believe in Lewisham.”
COUNCILLOR BRENDA DACRES who represents New Cross has lived in Lewisham for 34 years. The single mum who brought up her son while working full time was the first in her family to go to university. She first got involved in campaigning in the borough in 2003 when she led a campaign against cuts to the budget at her son’s school.
She said: “And I’ve been campaigning ever since – campaigning to save Lewisham Hospital, campaigning as Chair of Labour Group against Tory cuts to Lewisham Council and to school funding. I also campaigned against the Compulsory Purchase Order around Millwall Football Ground and fought hard against Brexit during the EU referendum.
“ I am standing to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Lewisham because I believe that together we can build a better future for our community. With a grant from Lewisham council, I was the first in my family to go to university. I am driven to give back to the community that has given me so much, the community I love. We need a radical Mayor who will get things done, a campaigning Mayor who will take the fight to the Tories.
She said her top priorities as the Mayor of Lewisham would be too:
• Tackle the housing crisis by building council homes and standing up for private tenants
• Help every child reach their potential by improving our schools, fighting cuts to funding, and inspiring the next generation
• Improve Lewisham’s environment by reducing air pollution and cleaning up our streets
• Fight poverty by promoting the Living Wage
• Promote a new and inclusive politics, with our movement and community at the heart of decision-making.
COUNCILLOR DAMIEN EGAN has represented Lewisham Central Ward since 2010. The 35-year-old works at the Ethical Trading Initiative which is a social enterprise that campaigns for fair treatment of workers around the world. He currently serves on Lewisham council’s cabinet with responsibility for housing matters.
He said: “Lewisham has a strong and diverse community, but so many of our families are struggling, and working harder for less. Next year Lewisham will get to elect a new Mayor to respond to the big challenges that Lewisham faces in housing, our schools and to our local NHS, all of which have been caused by this Tory government’s years of austerity.
“My number one priority as a Labour Mayor for Lewisham will be to tackle the huge housing crisis that’s preventing thousands of people from renting or buying a home they can afford. As Lewisham’s housing cabinet member, I’ve ensured that 500 new council homes will be built and overseen the pop-up Ladywell Place temporary housing for homeless families. But we need to go much further. As Mayor, I will commission the biggest social house building programme in decades.
He said: “A Mayor also needs to be an effective leader – I will lead for Lewisham in taking on the Tory Government and their harmful plans for cutting funds to the NHS and our schools, as well as support taking all of Lewisham’s rail network into public hands.
“Above all, I will be a Mayor who’s grounded in our community and champion equality for all who live in Lewisham, both who were born here and those who have chosen to live here, not least EU citizens worried about Brexit and refugees from war-torn countries.”
COUNCILLOR ALAN HALL who has lived in Lewisham all his life represents Bellingham and currently heads the committee to scrutinise decisions made by the council. The 50-year-old says he can bring his experience of holding powerful people to account and his many battles over the years on behalf of Lewisham residents.
He said: “I want to lead a Labour council that works with residents, businesses, co-ops and trades unions to make far-reaching changes for a more co-operative, cohesive and ambitious community. A community where genuinely affordable housing and good education means that every single person has a better chance of building a good life for themselves and their family irrespective of background, class or race.
“As head of Lewisham council’s scrutiny, I have held powerful people to account when necessary – over the attempts at Compulsory Purchase Orders around Millwall Football Club, over the need for more genuinely affordable housing in the borough and a more sympathetic development of the town centres. I also introduced a new council committee to hold the train and bus operators to account.
He said: “I was born in Lewisham, I went to Lewisham schools and chose to live here all my life. That’s why I deeply care about Lewisham and have led the Council on the Campaign to Save Lewisham A&E. I was there in the courtroom on the day we overturned Jeremy Hunt in the Court of Appeal – that was a great day! – but the fight continues.
“Now 50, I have the experience to fight many more battles on behalf of Lewisham residents and am currently in their on your behalf whether as board member or governor of Phoenix Community Cooperative Housing, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust or campaigning to make Lewisham the great place it should be.”
COUNCILLOR PAUL MASLIN who was born in a prefab in Berthon Street in Deptford in 1965 is, according to his mother, at least the fourth generation his family to come from Deptford. His parents ran services and activities for youngsters at the Shaftesbury Christian Centre and Bear Church.
Cllr Maslin who studied economics at Cambridge set up the Revival Café and Hales Gallery in Deptford High Street in 1992 in a derelict shop and after getting involved with business groups in Deptford he became a councillor for New Cross and Deptford in 1998.
He said: “The council estimates that it will have to implement £52m of cuts by 2021/22 due to the Tory Government’s Austerity. The challenge is immense. We must be honest with our residents about this. However, at the end of this process, the Council will still be spending hundreds of millions of pounds each year to make the lives of Lewisham people better.
“The council needs to change, adapt and innovate to meet this challenge. It needs to embrace new ways of doing things and to direct resources to take advantage of new opportunities. The borough is changing. New people are moving here. We need a Labour council that speaks to these new residents, one that says that it is on their side as well as on the side of those who have lived here all their lives.
“We need a Labour Mayor who will speak up for the vulnerable and the needy and one who shares and supports the aspirations of everyone to do better for themselves and their families. I believe that I have the experience and qualities needed to lead the council through these difficult times and give people hope.