Kingston Labour 2022 Manifesto
A RECOVERY PLAN FOR KINGSTON
Labour will put people at the heart of our policies. Our manifesto sets out how we will help Kingston recover from austerity, the pandemic, and years of Lib Dem-Tory mismanagement.
Housing & Development
Kingston has the fourth highest waiting list for social housing in England. The housing crisis has been made worse in Kingston through a lack of strategic leadership from successive Liberal Democrat and Tory administrations. Too often, when our Council makes decisions on development, their focus is on making our Borough desirable and profitable for the development sector rather than on serving the needs of our community.
Short-term thinking from local authorities has led to the sale of land and assets. Time and time again, this has not been a good deal for our Borough and for residents. We want a council that can think strategically and invest in housing and development in a way that helps tackle our housing crisis and builds a sustainable borough. A win-win for Kingston.
The Lib Dems’ and Conservatives’ definition of affordable housing is not fit for purpose, and the revolving door they have created between our local Council and the property development sector disqualifies both parties from making decisions on our behalf.
A Labour Council in Kingston would put community needs first. This means truly affordable homes and appropriate development, with appropriate infrastructure. Working alongside the Mayor of London, we would promote the role of the GLA and local authorities as a developer, in order to produce more genuinely-affordable housing, build additional social housing and improve existing stock in line with our green agenda. This would reduce our dependence on the private development sector, which too often sees housing as a vehicle for commercial interest rather than social need.
We would put an end to our Council’s out-of-touch approach of tokenistic consultation and fake listening exercises. We would champion real community involvement in decision-making around development that understands Kingston’s need for appropriate development with appropriate infrastructure, serving the public interest, not cronyism.
Our housing and development aims:
- Tackle our housing crisis locally.
- End short-term thinking and the sale of key assets.
- Champion local investment in affordable and social homes.
- Embrace the role of the Council as community developer.
- End fake consultation and stand up for residents.
Local Services & Community Wellbeing
Following an incredibly difficult and turbulent time due to the coronavirus pandemic, and already stripped back services due to austerity, Kingston and Surbiton Labour knows that investment in public services is vital.
Many people have struggled, and existing inequalities have been heightened. Older people, working people, disabled people, and children – everyone should have high quality services available to them at the point of need. Good public services are vital to help people thrive, and a council that invests in its community is a council that cares about its community.
Investment in services is also a much more pragmatic approach financially, than service cuts. Services are a form of prevention and de-escalation. Without good support, problems can develop or becoming more complex and harder to resolve – costing the council more in the long run, and also, in worst case scenarios, costing people’s lives.
Our voluntary sector plays a vital role, but a reduction of public services, and the financial implications and increased pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, has put enormous demands on their capacity. Labour would work with, and support the voluntary sector. We recognise these organisations and groups as experts in their fields, and would include and consult with them on all areas of our work.
- Labour will invest in children’s centres and provide grants for community play cafés.
The UK has the second most expensive childcare system in the world and London’s maternal employment is the lowest in the UK. For many, early years education is unaffordable before the age of 3. Even before Covid-19, the Council moved to reduce service provision, and we saw the closure of a number of children’s centres and sessions. The pandemic has impacted our children’s development and wellbeing further. Reduced provision, the closure of many community playgroups and cafés, restricted opening of children’s centres (centres open by invitation only or to restricted age groups) following lockdowns has meant pre-school children missing out, and parents have missed out too, on vital peer to peer support.
- Labour will make eliminating child poverty a key measure of all Council activity.
Nearly a quarter of children in Kingston live in poverty. The pandemic saw an increase in the use of baby banks across the UK. This is unacceptable, and we need to work to lift people out of poverty and prevent people falling into it. Poverty limits the opportunities, life chances and choices for our children and young people. Actions to alleviate the pressures facing low income households, to maximise their income from employment, reduce their costs of living and widen awareness of, and eligibility for benefits will ensure that Kingston is a place where everyone can thrive, and where our communities are prosperous, healthy, and have access to support and opportunities.
- Labour will work with Public Health to ensure investment and excellent services for people in Kingston.
Social care and health care funding cuts have left many older and disabled people without the care they need. The local Liberal Democrats promised a dementia care home for the community but have allowed it to be sold as an asset for private profit. Good quality social care should be available to everyone. We will invest in social care to reverse the damage done by cuts. We will provide additional care packages to support both older people and working-age adults living independently in their own homes.
- Labour will work with Public Health and the voluntary sector to improve the quality of mental health services and prevent escalation of poor mental health.
The mental health and wellbeing of the public has seen a huge decline during the pandemic and its implication will be felt for a long time. Many people who seek help for poor mental health face long waiting lists, or find they are pushed from pillar to post, with services saying they are unable to provide the support needed. Labour will work closely with Public Health to make this a priority to address, as well as set up a grant scheme for people to get funding for therapists and councillors. This will decrease waiting times for NHS services and allow timely support before mental health issues escalate.
- Labour will work to create safe and empowering public spaces for women and girls, and ensure investment in the domestic violence services.
Women and girls experience and fear different forms of sexual violence – from unwelcome sexual remarks and gestures, to rape and physical violence. It happens on our streets, on public transportation, in our schools and workplaces, and in our local shops and parks. They are also at risk of abuse their own homes. The UK lockdowns saw a rise in domestic violence. Over 70% of women in the UK say they have experienced sexual harassment in public, which is why this is such an important policy pledge. Labour would invest in the safety and economic viability of public spaces. We would take a gender approach to planning which ensures that the needs of both women and men are taken into account. We would campaign to change attitudes and behaviours to promote women’s and girls’ rights to enjoy public spaces free from violence. We would engage influential champions, public bodies, and key organisations and local businesses in transformative activities to promote respectful gender relationships, gender equality, and safety in public spaces.
- Labour will invest in Youth Clubs and children’s playgrounds.
Kingston has a lack of youth clubs, and affordable activities for young people. Kingston Council should work across departments and with partners and community groups to support all young people to do this. They should be able to access support and life enhancing activities that young people need, want and value.
Every child has an equal right to play, yet many disabled children cannot enjoy their local playgrounds.
Many of Kingston’s playgrounds were not designed with disabled children in mind. This creates barriers such as:
- lack of inclusive and accessible playground equipment
- inaccessible pathways and tight spaces
- challenging and uneven terrain
- Accessible toilet and changing facilities
There a few local examples of accessible roundabouts and swings, but most fall far short of what can be achieved or considered truly inclusive, and a number of our playgrounds have fallen into disrepair.
Arts & Culture
Kingston’s focus for many years has been on retail but, in the post-Covid world, it will be more about seeing and buying on-line, with shops likely to become viewing centres and, therefore, having to function on a different financial model to the present. The result will be that town centres will have fewer traditional shops and may be allowed to die. Does Kingston allow the centre to die slowly in the way its once famous markets have dwindled, or does it find a new focus? Fortunately, Kingston is the centre of a rich cultural heritage. Unfortunately, its heritage has been treated as a garnish for its retail presence. Now is the time to do something about Kingston’s heritage before we become Anywhere-on-Thames.
The current administration wants to replace the Kingfisher Leisure Centre. We will bring a fresh pair of eyes to analyse the costs to see what the best value for money options are. There is, though, an opportunity to complement the leisure centre with a King Athelstan Visitor Centre and a local history centre, creating a ‘Cultural Quarter’. This is likely to provide a much better benefit-to-cost ratio for the site and is therefore more likely to attract funding.
The King Richard III Centre in Leicester celebrates a past King and provided a focus for a renewed emphasis on heritage to regenerate Leicester. In just 2 years, Leicester received 830,000 additional visitors, generating a Gross Value Added income of over £79m. A new King Athelstan Visitor Centre would celebrate the unique Saxon heritage of Kingston, highlighting King Athelstan, in particular, and the part he played in shaping our country at a time when there was disunity, civil strife, and invasion. There is no other Saxon centre. Ours could chart the history and provide experiences utilising new forms of historical experience pioneered in Leicester and York amongst other places. For example, we might experience being immersed in a defensive Saxon ‘shield-wall’ with Vikings trying to break through. With the global interest in this era demonstrated through Netflix’s ‘The Last Kingdom’ and Amazon Prime’s ‘Vikings’ we know the demand is there to discover more about the Anglo-Saxons and King Athelstan in particular as the first King of England.
This is an opportunity to revitalize Kingston, its culture, and its economy. We fully support a King Athelstan Festival in 2025 to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the Coronation of Athelstan and will aim for the Visitor Centre to be opened in 2028, to coincide with the anniversary his installation as King of All England. Kingston would therefore be in a strong position to lead on the celebrations of the birth of our Nation. Just as Athelstan was able to bring different communities together, the celebrations would stress the importance of inclusivity. As part of the National celebrations, we will encourage local sports clubs and cultural organisations to start reaching out to their counterparts in other parts of the country to build relationships. For example, Surbiton Boxing Club invited East Hull Boxing Academy from our namesake, Kingston upon Hull, for a cultural, social and sporting experience in autumn 2019 as part of Kingston Labour’s ‘Project Athelstan’ programme. It thus brings communities and our country together.
In line with bringing communities together, we will provide allotments on our council estates to give opportunities for communities to grow vegetables; and we will encourage ‘cooking together’ sessions using the produce at special ‘taster’ events in community facilities. This will allow our diverse communities, such as the Tamils and Koreans, to show off their unique cuisine, and give people new ideas to explore.
We will also invest in sporting opportunities, such as the annual River Festival, with Kingston Regatta as the key event and work with the Regatta Committee to see how we can make it even bigger. We will support a special event for state schools so they can compete for a ‘Kingston Schools Trophy’, thus opening up the sport to those who do not currently have the opportunity at their schools. We will also continue to support Kingston Carnival and bid each year to become the London Borough of Culture. We will ensure our green spaces are protected and maintained, and where necessary improved, to provide those outdoor life-enhancing opportunities. We will also explore the viability of opening up the Hogsmill so it can be walked as a trail from Old Malden to where it meets the Thames at Kingston.
Kingston Labour Party believes it is time to re-direct the Town’s focus to celebrate our history and provide an opportunity for our residents to participate in sports and the arts and enable us to better understand our heritage, so we can take pride in our town once again, whilst at the same time boosting our local economy.
A Green New Deal for Kingston
Despite having declared a Climate Emergency in June 2019, the Lib Dem administration in Kingston Council has failed to take any meaningful action to tackle climate change and ecological breakdown. Their lack of transparency, imagination, and commitment to meaningful change has led to Kingston having some of the worst green credentials out of all London Boroughs.
Across the UK, the Tories have wasted a decade in tackling the climate emergency by serving the interests of big polluters. This involved slashing support for renewable energy, whilst pushing through fracking. These dangerous decisions were supported by the Lib Dems, including Ed Davey who served as the Coalition Government’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change between 2012 and 2015.
Kingston Labour understand that our society needs to pursue radical action to pave the way for a green recovery. So, we are offering a Green New Deal for Kingston. A Labour-run Kingston Council will take urgent action to help tackle climate change. Our commitment to environmentalism will be reflected in all aspects of our policy-making.
We believe that climate justice has to be linked to social justice. This means that green policies should address issues such the cost of living, public health, and creating new jobs. Our Green New Deal will not only build towards a sustainable future for our community, it will also have an immediate positive impact on the daily lives of local residents.
Vote Labour for a Kingston Council that will:
- Retro-fit all social housing properties to ensure they are energy efficient, to help fight fuel poverty and to make drastic energy savings across the Borough.
- Improve our cycling infrastructure and the accessibility of local public transport.
- Invest in record levels of tree-planting, following in the footsteps of Labour-run local authorities such as Hackney, where the Council has announced the largest street tree and mature parks tree planning programme in the UK.
- Protect and promote biodiversity, by supporting re-wilding schemes and ongoing community wildlife projects.
- Better enforce regulations around the relationship between planning applications, development sites, and carbon emissions as well as local habitats.
- Work closely with London’s Labour Mayor to continue reducing toxic levels of air pollution.
- Divest Council pensions from fossil fuel funds.
- Aim for all Council-owned vehicles to be energy-efficient, moving towards a fleet of electric vehicles.
- Appoint a Council sustainability officer and use our lobbying role to pressure Central Government to plan policies that favour refurbishment rather than demolition.
Our Borough has a rich history of economic development, from the historic royal laundries and the manufacturing of the Hawker Hurricane Aircraft to the retail offering in our high streets and the locating of major multinational companies today.
However, following the coronavirus pandemic and after more than a decade of austerity, it’s clear that development has been deeply unequal and unsustainable, proving it’s time for the Council to take a leading role in building a new more resilient local economy.
For Labour, this means the Council and other key local organisations taking a leading role in using their purchasing power to support local business, investing in developing locally-owned co-operative businesses and tackling the cost of living in our Borough. This programme is known as “Community Wealth Building” and has successfully been implemented across the United Kingdom but most notably in Preston, which has been named as the best city to work in the North West and saw a lower proportion of employees being furloughed during the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a time when the Liberal Democrats are seeking to sell off our community assets, including our historic Guildhall, we aim to plot a new course to a healthier happier borough.
A Labour-run Kingston Council will:
- Commission a review of council economic strategy and embed Community Wealth Building throughout.
- Add responsibilities for co-operatives and community wealth, where relevant, to all portfolio holders.
- Create a new network for local anchor organisations and commission a joint study on our existing impact to better understand where intervention is most needed.
- Support anchor organisations to re-visit their commissioning and procurement strategies to seek greater benefit from their spending.
- Provide support to local businesses, co-operatives and social enterprises to tender for work or subcontract into the supply chain of anchor institutions.
- Support communities to take on redundant or at-risk land and buildings, to enable them to create or retain assets of social good for their community such as; returning Seething Wells Filter Beds to community ownership; and creating new allotment plots and gardens on council-owned land such as council estates and parks.
- Set up and underwrite the Kingston Community Development Fund, tasked with developing local co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises in the Borough. This Development Fund will be financed through patient capital.
- Commit to spend thousands of Kingston Pounds (K£s) each year to support local businesses.
- Replace the Councillor Ward Funding (£96,000 per annum) & Neighbourhood Community Grants Schemes (£80,000 per annum) and return real power to local communities through trialling participatory neighbourhood budgeting, with a view to expanding its scope if successful.
We are also supporting the following campaigns:
Mums for Lungs, who want to ensure that strong action to tackle air pollution is high on council agendas. Read more here.
Ramblers, who want councils and councillors to make it easier for everyone to enjoy a walk in nature. Read more here.
United Response, who are committed to helping people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs. Read more here.