Our Deep Wish Is to Be Able to Go on Supporting One Another

by Asher Robinson-Jones

Waterloo Action Centre (WAC)  is a very active highly valued Hub developed from a derelict Council building offered to the community by Lambeth in 1973. The community has raised and spent over £1.5 million in bringing the building into use and adding another floor and a lift. 

WAC helps over 30.000 people a year at a total cost under £200,000 a year (usually well under) – all those people are getting something they want whether it is free legal advice from a solicitor or a sleeping bag from me. Everything about WAC promotes health and wellbeing. 

The problem is that Lambeth does not understand or value the skills and contribution of its residents. A few Councillors think they should be the centre of everything. However the people of Lambeth are great. WAC proves it!  From the list of properties issued it seems WAC is the only big hub flourishing in Lambeth owned premises. There are other good Centres in Lambeth – do they flourish only because they are not in premises owned by Lambeth? 

After WAC  restoring this building and running excellent services and activities,  Lambeth Cabinet meeting on Monday 4th is proposing that WAC should pay the Council a vast rent ( between a third and a quarter of all the money has in a year) . Lambeth used to give grants to help with services to the most vulnerable. When they stopped, they did not check if community services were cheaper than their own or better quality – just “knew” that Council run services should be prioritised. To maximise limited resources they should compare quality and cost. 

WAC has managed to sustain services by using its premises morning to evening 7 days a week, and by relying a lot on unpaid help – people running their own activities or volunteering. So costs are kept down for all, while also subsidising those most in need. Everything in WAC generates health and wellbeing. Now they want to charge a vast rent for providing those services!!! 

I know how angry people feel because I run a recycling stall outside WAC which raises money for the Centre  but also enables us to give those in need things free. People chat.  Everyone around here values WAC, many people say what a life saver the service has been in their dark times. It is where people turn in need. It is a homely place run by us, not one of the many “thems” who run things  from above.   People  contribute to the running of things in WAC .

Lambeth Council should be asking how “we”, the innumerable people who help one another through WAC achieve it.  

Resources should not all belong to the Council. Can Lambeth show anywhere where they offer this much help to people with this low cost?  And none of it is from the rates?  Also they propose to take money from us to do building repairs – is there anyone outside the Town Hall who thinks Lambeth  is good with repairs?  Are any Lambeth buildings in a good state without the Council having spent a fortune on them? 

Lambeth did its consultation in lockdown. They presumably did not know that lots of users of community centres do not have IT . Or did they?  Lambeth did not release the list of groups affected so we could not discuss things with one another.  The questions on the Council’s website were heavily biased, too hard to put your point of view if you did not agree. This could be checked by showing it to an independent researcher.