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View from City Hall: ‘I have dived into my role’, says our new Assembly Member

I was greatly honoured to be elected as the new London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, writes Southwark and Lambeth’s new Assembly Member, Marina Ahmad…

I have dived into my role at City Hall, engaging with community groups across the constituency and attending police and crime, oversight and fire and resilience committee meetings. I am also the Labour Group lead on the economy committee which meets for the first time next month.

I asked my first questions to Sadiq Khan at Mayor’s Question Time, this time about how he plans to address London’s growing unemployment rate coming out of the pandemic.

As of April, over 20,000 people in our borough were recorded as claiming Universal Credit as they are on low-incomes, have lost their jobs or are unable to work. That’s almost 1 in 10 Southwark residents. I have received assurances from the mayor that City Hall will play its part through investment in adult education to create a new generation of high-skilled, green jobs. This has to be the foundation of London’s economic recovery.

One of the other key issues I am determined to address on the London Assembly is child poverty. We recently saw figures released by End Child Poverty, showing that over two-fifths (43%) of Southwark’s children are living below the breadline.

This is shameful in the capital of one of the wealthiest countries in the world and we can’t allow child poverty to become the new normal in our community.

We have seen the mayor take action to lift young Londoners out of deprivation and social exclusion through City Hall’s £45m Young Londoners Fund, food insecurity strategies and support for voluntary organisations during the pandemic. However, we now need to see urgent action taken by Government to address the underlying issues at a much more granular level.

Ministers have their hands on the levers of power to repair the holes that have poked through our safety net, after a decade of austerity.

Now more than ever, we need a stronger welfare system by abolishing the two-child benefit limit, making the weekly £20 uplift in Universal Credit payments permanent and scrapping the initial five-week waiting period.

We know that exorbitant housing costs are a particular driver of child poverty in London. Building the next generation of social housing in our capital is the long-term solution and I am glad to see that the mayor has been prioritising this.

In the meantime, the government can do more to help by raising the Local Housing Allowance to cover average rents and introducing a fund to help tenants who have fallen behind on their rents during the pandemic.

Finally, I would remind everyone to stay safe and vigilant as we face a third wave of COVID-19. Whilst restrictions have eased, cases are rising in Southwark, so we still need to protect each other by following the rules and getting both doses of the vaccine when invited.


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