Sam Thurgood is the Chairman of the Lewisham East Conservatives.
Housing has risen to the top of the list of concerns for many voters, especially in London. With ever increasing rents, and ever increasing house prices it is not hard to see why – but in Lewisham instead of acting on the issue, Labour are all words.
Lewisham is a real urban stronghold for Labour – the borough covers three parliamentary constituencies, all of which they hold with substantial majorities. Since 2002, we have had a directly-elected mayor in the borough – a position that has only ever been held by Labour. At the last local election they won 53 of 54 seats, the other held by the Green Party who have provided no opposition for the last four years.
Anyone who cares about democracy knows that one party dominance is deeply unhealthy and Lewisham has been a case in point. With no official opposition Labour has been running rampant over the local area, with disastrous results.
In Lewisham, we can judge Labour by its record. In the 10 years between 2006 and 2016, Lewisham Labour built only six council homes – six in ten years! It is worth noting that the Labour candidate for Mayor, Damien Egan, is the cabinet member for, you guessed it, housing – his record is one of failure.
Polling in London by Lord Ashcroft shows that housing is now the second most important issue for Londoners, with 30 per cent putting it in their top four most important issues. For people who voted Labour in 2017, and live in a Labour borough, this rises to 38 per cent – voters we need to win over if we are going to take seats from Labour in this election. Building more houses in London has now become a must. If you do not have a stake in capitalism, then you have no reason to vote for the party that stands by it.
Building more homes doesn’t have to mean huge tower blocks. There are areas of Lewisham which have remained empty for years – Citibank tower right in the centre for example. Instead, Lewisham Labour has been allowing developers to build taller and taller structures around Lewisham station, severely impacting local residents. We need more houses, but they need to be homes people want to live in. By intelligently and sustainably developing spare council land we can increase supply in our borough whilst respecting residents, and building homes for all, including families. Sadiq Khan may not be committed to delivering family-sized homes for Londoners, but for a lot of people that is exactly what they need, and that is what we need to build.
We also need to build a place where people want to live – and that means supporting local shops and businesses. Again, under Labour, Lewisham has fallen behind. Whilst Tory-controlled Bromley’s high street bustles, Lewisham’s centre has collapsed as a shopping destination. Where people once flocked to Lewisham to shop, now they leave to do their shopping. Support for our high-streets is key.
It is only Lewisham Conservatives who will take action on this issue and build the houses we need in Lewisham, whilst respecting local residents. That is why we have pledged to build 3,000 new homes a year with 40% being genuinely affordable based on local wages – delivering homes for working families! We have also committed that new ‘non-chain’ shops opening across the borough will be given a 100 per cent discount on business rates for their first year of trading. We want to build a Lewisham that people want to live in, and that people can afford to live in. Labour continues to over promise, under deliver, and let Lewisham down.