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Gagged by Labour

December 17, 2009

Yesterday we had an emergency meeting for all Lewisham councillors to discuss, among other things, the housing crisis in Lewisham.

When the Labour Mayor was elected he promised to bring all Lewisham Council’s homes up to the government’s ‘decent homes’ standard – but with just four months left in office, only 3 out of 10 homes have reached this standard. Worse still, the Labour government recently withdrew £150 million of funding for the much-needed homes improvements, because Lewisham Homes (the organisation that runs the Council’s houses) only has a 1 star rating. To add insult to injury, according to press reports, the Government minister who made this decision – John Healey – made a profit of over £80,000 on the sale of his taxpayer-funded second home.

The Liberal Democrats have tried to have this issue discussed on two previous occasions, but each time Labour councillors have voted to put the matter to the back of the agenda, and then voted to close the meeting before it could be discussed.

As a local councillor, housing is the most common problem local residents ask me to help them with. For example, one mother I have been trying to help has had to sleep on the floor of a friends’ living room with her two young children for over four years! So for Labour to deliberately avoid discussion on this issue is an insult to every resident who is forced to live in a sub-standard property.

When I got up to speak, I tried to express my disgust at both the state of housing in the borough and the state of denial of the Labour party on this issue. But before I’d barely begun the Chair of the meeting told me to stop – I still haven’t worked out why – and then the Labour councillors voted to uphold his decision.

It’s pretty disgraceful for Labour to stiffle debate in this way, but when you know just how badly they’ve failed local residents, it’s hardly surprising.

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