In a speech to an Anglo-Dutch conference on housing associations the Labour member for Thornton used examples from his ward like the Weir Link and Clapham Park New Deal for Communities area to demonstrate that government must continue invest not solely rely on the ‘trick’ of the ‘Big Society’.
He told delegates at the Close Neighbours event in central London: ‘After 18 years of a “no such thing as society” attitude from Tory governments Clapham Park Estate had gone from a model community to an inner–city failed estate. It would not have been turned round without the combination of government resources and local people taking the decisions – in other words it would not have been turned around by the Big Society – it needed empowerment of residents AND government investment.’
The Lambeth Council Labour group chair said that the borough’s co-operative model was reforming public services to make them more responsive and efficient whilst supporting residents.
As one example of the co-op council in action he said: ‘The Weir Estate was being dragged down by an abandoned communal laundry block that was vandalised and covered in graffiti. Now thanks to Labour investment it is now a co-operative community resource housing a Sure Start centre and with a range of other facilities giving local people skills and training opportunities paid for by government but run by a board of local people.
‘Since that building was renovated and turned over to the community as part of Lambeth’s co-operative council model it has remained entirely free of graffiti because young and old alike feel they own it – they are not the passive recipients of government services, they are integral to their formation and delivery.’
Ed added that other Labour initiatives like Safer Neighbourhood team Panels, where local people hold the police to account, showed government policy could empower communities and make a difference unlike Tory/Lib Dem gimmicks attempting to disguise massive public service cuts.