RACHEL HEYWOOD TO STAND AS INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE IN LAMBETH: “We need to learn how to respect our electorate again, and how to trust their wisdoms and understandings.”

Rachel Heywood is to stand as an Independent candidate in next month’s Lambeth council elections – in the Coldharbour ward she currently represents as an Independent Labour candidate.

The former Labour councillor was suspended from the Labour party after taking part in a libraries demonstration. Many people regard her treatment by the party as utterly appalling.

Major points in her announcement to stand – which will result in her certain expulsion from the Labour party unless she resigns first – are:

  • In the last few weeks Lambeth’s leadership has entered into secretive funding deals with the Mayor of London to see social housing estates demolished without a ballot or consultation.
  • There is a huge discrepancy between the 950 homes at council rent the council claims it has/is building and the 17 recorded in council returns to central government.
  • An ethos of ‘command and control’ has shut down some brilliant local initiatives. Places and spaces like parks and libraries which are safe, free and full of opportunity are under attack.
  • Communities are being destroyed, along with the networks which sustain their members and keep people alive in the absence of a properly resourced health and social care system.

Residents who have pulled together their considerable expertise to offer alternative solutions for housing, libraries, open spaces, safety and education have been disregarded and small local businesses have found themselves undermined not championed.

Rachel says: “The decision to stand again has been difficult, not least because this action will result in my expulsion from the Labour party – an organisation whose real values I continue to respect and uphold, as I believe I’ve done throughout my struggles with the Lambeth Labour administration during the last few years.

“None of that is as important to me as the opportunity to continue to serve the incredible constituents who inspire me every single day.”

Further reading: OPINION: THE TIME HAS COME FOR LABOUR COUNCILLORS TO, FINALLY, STAND UP FOR THE
PEOPLE WHO VOTED YOU IN – OR TO GET OUT. NOW. An open letter to Lambeth Labour councillors: October 11th 2016

MORE THAN 400 SIGN PETITION BACKING CLLR RACHEL HEYWOOD More than 400 people have signed an online petition calling on Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn MP to lift the six-month suspension imposed on Cllr Rachel Heywood at a Labour meeting on Wednesday night. (Currently unavailable – Ed.)

FIRST LAMBETH COUNCILLOR BREAKS RANKS OVER LIBRARIES “Our libraries are already healthy living centres”
The first Lambeth Labour councillor to break ranks over the hugely controversial libraries plans has explained the reason for her decision. (Currently unavailable – Ed.)

“LABOUR COUNCILLORS ‘WHIPPED’ SO HARD THEY DARE NOT SPEAK OUT” – Bullying allegations in Lambeth finally made public April 4th 2017

RACHEL’S STATEMENT IN FULL:

After giving the matter long and hard thought I’m really pleased to tell you I’ll be standing as an Independent candidate for Coldharbour ward in the forthcoming elections on Thursday 3rd May.  My representation of this extraordinary part of Brixton, in this incredible borough, has been a source of immense pride, joy and anguish over the last 12 years.  The decision to stand again has been difficult, not least because this action will result in my expulsion from the Labour party – an organisation whose real values I continue to respect and uphold, as I believe I’ve done throughout my struggles with the Lambeth Labour administration during the last few years.  However none of that is as important to me as the opportunity to continue to serve the incredible constituents who inspire me every single day.

Sadly, I don’t believe that my residents – often living in extreme and hidden poverty in the borough with the greatest inequalities of any in England and Wales – are adequately served by a Labour administration that appears to have priorities spectacularly different to theirs.  The decimation visited upon us by the Tory government is well documented and always cited, but beyond that remains the possibility of choice, of making decisions to support those most in need of real opportunity and care, of investing in the fabric of our communities rather than in the coffers of corporations that will inevitably displace them.

And the issues are urgent: we can’t afford to wait until a Labour government comes into power.  Brixton has been my home for 30 years, a place of opportunity and aspiration that has welcomed tens of thousands of people seeking better lives and new communities.  It is a town full of hardship and of pride, of success and of immense bravery, a locus where the fight for social justice and against institutional racism has played out on an internationally significant stage. It is the place whose history of struggle drew Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali, and where the extraordinary contributions of men and women of colour are remembered in the Black Cultural Archives and Windrush Square.

The unique combination of circumstances which has enabled all this, and more, is under grave threat. In the last few weeks Lambeth’s leadership has entered into secretive funding deals with the Mayor of London to see social housing estates demolished without a ballot or consultation.  There is a huge discrepancy between the 950 homes at council rent the council claims it has/is building and the 17 recorded in council returns to central government. It has been suggested that the Planning Committee has been illegally whipped on a number of key projects. An ethos of ‘command and control’ has shut down some brilliant local initiatives. Places and spaces like parks and libraries which are safe, free and full of opportunity are under attack. Communities are being destroyed, along with the networks which sustain their members and keep people alive in the absence of a properly resourced health and social care system.  Residents who have pulled together their considerable expertise to offer alternative solutions for housing, libraries, open spaces, safety and education have been disregarded and small local businesses have found themselves undermined not championed.

In the next few days I’ll be exploring some of the key themes for this critical election: regeneration, social housing and homes at council rent; poverty, austerity and inequality; communities and cooperation; culture, libraries, parks and wellbeing; safety and opportunity; education, lifelong learning and employment.

Here in Lambeth we need to change the way we do politics and enter into new relationships with the communities we serve.  There is a democratic deficit in this borough and we must seek to address it urgently. We have made mistakes and we should make reparation and reverse decisions in some instances.  We need to learn how to respect our electorate again, and how to trust their wisdoms and understandings. Much to be done, but it isn’t impossible.

I’ll end with a quote from Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the beginning of the general election campaign last year.  For me it epitomises much of what this local election is about. “The dividing lines in this election could not be clearer.  For me it is the establishment versus the people and it is our historic duty to make sure the people prevail”.  For this soon-to-be non Labour party member there’s not a whisker between my ambition for Brixton, and the sentiment of the Labour Party’s Leader.

Rachel Heywood, Brixton 6th April 2018

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