Lambeth council leader Lib Peck is to stand down to spearhead Sadiq Khan’s battle against knife crime.
She will head London’s Violence Reducation Unit, the first building block on a so-called “Public Health Model” which will treat youth crime as a disease which needs treatment using early interventions and mental health methods.
This method of tackling violence on the capital’s streets, which has been highly successful in Glasgow and then across Scotland, was adopted by Lambeth in March, backed by the South London Press in June, adopted by Khan in September – and Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced in October said that it would become government policy.
Peck has been Lambeth leader since 2012, and a councillor for the Thornton ward since 2001. She is deputy chairman of the alliance of the capital’s boroughs, London Councils, and is its executive member for crime and public protection.
Her new job will be to:
• Develop a long-term partnership strategy to tackle violence across the capital;
• Run the VRU’s budget and resources, including contributions from the Mayor and other partners;
• Build and lead the team; be the focal point of contact for the Mayor, Deputy Mayors and leaders of the other partner organisations including the Met, London boroughs, criminal justice agencies, the NHS, schools and community organisations;
• Make sure communities and young people are properly represented and consulted.
Khan, said: “I am delighted Lib has been appointed as the director of the Violence Reduction Unit and I know she will bring valuable leadership and expertise, building on her huge experience of working with community groups and partner organisations across London.
“We know that the causes of violent crime are extremely complex, involving deep-seated problems in society such as poverty, alienation, mental health issues and a lack of opportunity. Although I am working tirelessly with local councils, charities and community groups on a public health approach to tackling serious violence, it’s clear we need to do more to support them in driving down not just knife crime, but all forms of violent crime.
“We have listened to cities like Glasgow and we know that they have had success in tackling crime with similar initiatives. In London, the Violence Reduction Unit will lead the capital’s response to understanding the causes of violent crime and working to stop it spreading by bringing together specialists from right across the city.”
Cllr Peck said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the first director of the Violence Reduction Unit. Tackling violence is a number one priority for Londoners and I hope to be effective in working with a huge variety of community groups, public sector partners and the police to bring a fresh approach to this devastating and destructive crime.
“It is an incredibly important pan-London role. Serious youth violence is a hugely significant issue for our city and delivering a meaningful long-term response is crucial. In this new role I will be fully focusing on approaching knife crime as a public health issue, acknowledging that the root causes of knife crime are complex and need solutions that extend far beyond enforcement.
“The experience and insight I have gained in Lambeth will be central to this new role. I want to thank everyone that has worked with the council throughout my time as a councillor and as leader.
“Lambeth is a fantastic borough with hugely committed, inspirational and engaged communities. It has been a real privilege to be the leader of Lambeth Council since 2012, and a councillor for Thornton ward since 2001.
“During my time as leader there have been huge challenges to overcome, as well as huge achievements recorded. My fellow councillors, Lambeth council staff and our partners in the borough have worked together throughout to deliver for our residents. There is much that I am proud of.
“One of those challenges has been tackling youth violence, where Lambeth has taken a leading role.
“I have also been involved in Greater London Authority’s new Violence Reduction Unit since its inception in 2018 as part of my role as deputy chair of London Councils and executive member for crime and public protection.
“When the opportunity arose to lead the unit tackling this issue at a London-wide level, I felt this was an opportunity I must take.”
Lambeth council chief executive Andrew Travers said: “Working with Cllr Peck has been a pleasure and I’m sure I speak for everyone in saying we wish her all the best in her new role.
“I have no doubt that the council will continue the good progress made under her leadership as we move to new arrangements in due course.”
Niven Rennie, director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, said: “I wish the new director of London’s VRU well. We know that violence isn’t inevitable and communities working together can create lasting change. I’ve seen a real determination in London to create a safer and better future for the young people of the city. It won’t be easy but with long-term commitment lives can be saved. Violence is preventable.”
Vin Diwakar, medical director and interim director for NHS England (London Region) said: “We look forward to working with Lib in her new role as director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit. London’s major trauma hospitals are among the best in the world and often deal with the impact of serious violence. We are working closely with the Mayor as no single organisation can tackle this complex issue in isolation. NHS England strongly supports the coordinated approach led by the Mayor”
Chair of London Councils, Cllr Peter John said: “It is good news for London that someone of Lib’s calibre will be taking on this critical role. Her experience of working closely with communities will be a big asset. Lib’s passionate commitment to combating serious violence has been a feature of her work leading on the Crime and Community Safety agenda here at London Councils and where she has won widespread respect.”
Pastor Lorraine Jones, director Brixton’s Dwaynamics ABC boxing, said: “It is of great confidence comfort and strength to me and many others that Lib Peck has been appointed as the director for the VRU. I personally know her as she been fully supportive of me as a bereaved mother in dealing with the ripple effects of youth violence.
“She is a woman of great expertise, experience, compassion and seriousness in tackling youth violent crime which is a disease in our capital, having supported initiatives of community groups like Dwaynamics ABC who support vulnerable youth having to deal with the disease gangs abuse causes and the effects of mental illness. I am pleased to see that London will be taking the violence reduction initiative public health approach to tackle youth violence and that the Mayor is relentless in his pledge to end this nightmare.”
The Violence Reduction Unit has been set up to divert people away from violence by making interventions at an early age and providing young Londoners with better, positive life opportunities. Before Christmas, Sadiq proposed £1.8 million in annual funding and an one-off £5 million for the unit, on top of an initial £500,000 investment to mobilise the unit. He believes this approach must work alongside enforcement – so continues to support the Met and its City Hall-funded Violent Crime Taskforce, which the Greater London Authority says has made more than 2,300 arrests and removed more than 1,000 knives and dangerous weapons from the streets of London.
The unit is currently undertaking an urgent review of homicides and the most serious violent incidents in the capital. Its aim is to help to develop a long-term public health approach to tackling serious violence in London. It will also help to determine where to focus early interventions to help reduce the spread of violence across the city.
A replacement for Cllr Peck as leader will be appointed at a future meeting of Lambeth council. Labour’s candidate for the role, who is likely to be the next incumbent, is yet to be announced.
Opposition leader Cllr Jonathan Bartley, national joint leader of the Green party, said: “This episode typifies the shambles of the last six years – six years of managed decline. Cllr Peck championed a council tax freeze but we are now scrabbling around trying to fight cuts to services to the most vulnerable because we do not have the money to cover them.
“Her legacy will be the £100million spent on the new town hall, in an era when cuts are being made to the hardest-hit people in the borough – and the social cleansing of our estates.”
Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, said: “I am surprised and utterly disappointed to see a Labour politician appointed to head the new Violence Reduction Unit at City Hall. If we are to turn around the growth in violence across the capital we need professional experts in this field heading up this unit and delivering, not career politicians who are the mates of the Mayor.
“Sadly Sadiq Khan has been too slow to act in adopting a public health approach to tackling violent crime and now he is failing to find the best people to deliver the changes London so desperately needs.”
The only Conservative on Lambeth council, former opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs said: “So Lib Peck has been asked by the Labour cronies at City Hall to head up the response to the spike in crime under Sadiq Khan.
“She was leader of a council that has had the worst youth knife crime figures in the whole of London since 2015, but only sought to publish ‘a strategy’ in 2018 just before the local elections.
“I cannot think of anyone less qualified to take on this job, having spectacularly failed the victims of crime in Lambeth.”