Council approves strategy to fight ‘inequality’ in Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest has outlined its multi-pronged strategy to tackle inequality in the borough by 2030.

The council will adopt six new directives to address issues in the borough and four to “transform” how the authority operates as part of ‘Mission Waltham Forest’.

In Waltham Forest, the authority plans to “tackle the housing crisis head on” and build affordable homes, while “building an economy that works for everyone” and “ensuring every family and every child are given every opportunity”.

The strategy also includes missions to “lead the way for a net-zero borough,” ensure the existence of “safe, green neighbourhoods where everyone can thrive,” and “make Waltham Forest a great place to live and age well”.

As part of its plans to strengthen the borough’s financial situation, the council says it will convert some of its public spaces into workspaces and support “lifelong learning” through its adult learning and employment services.

Investment in childcare provision, it says, would address “intergenerational poverty” and provide more possibilities for mothers.

Internally, the council hopes to achieve a “firm financial footing” by adopting a “well-managed and sustainable” approach to investment and to nurture an “inclusive workforce that reflects our community” at every level, particularly by closing pay gaps.

Officers will also focus more on “services designed around residents” that they “deserve,” alongside plans for a “preventative approach” that will strengthen communities by offering support “in the right place, at the right time, in the right ways”.

Grace Williams, the leader of the Labour-run council since 2021, said during a full council meeting on Thursday, 29th February: “We need to stop doing business as usual.

“Our reforms will unlock savings, maximise income generation for the purpose of serving our residents, accelerate the work we need to do to tackle inequalities, and improve the quality of residents’ experiences.”

She argued that inequality in the borough had “grown” since 2010, with more residents reportedly struggling with poverty, the cost of living, racial discrimination, and scarce healthcare. However, inequality data was not in any of the council’s documents on ‘Mission Waltham Forest’.

Paul Douglas, cabinet member for finance, added the council would remain “resolute” despite “growing needs and diminishing resources”.

The project would involve a “realignment” of resources, according to a council report, though spending pressures on the authority are expected to be reduced.

The council says improving prevention and early intervention would lessen the cost of adult social care – and savings across the board could help ease budget shortfalls in 2025/26.

However, concerns were raised about its tangible impact.

Conservative group leader Emma Best said: “There’s nothing new. There’s nothing substantial.

“They are warm words for answers you do not have.”

Fellow Tory councillor John Moss dismissed it as “vague, vacuous and valueless”.

Mission Waltham Forest was approved by 45 votes to ten.

Earlier in the meeting, the Conservative leader clashed with Cllr Williams over her remarks about the challenging economic climate she said had been caused by the 14 years of Tory rule.

Cllr Williams described Brexit as an “act of self-harm” that had allowed inequalities to “fester,” while Cllr Best pointed to the £39m in Levelling Up funding earmarked for the council in early 2023.

Advertisement

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter