In the first of our series of local government blogs Sally Prentice, Labour Councillor for Ferndale Ward in Lambeth, gives PLMR a taste of local authority life.

Residents contact their councillors about everything and anything, but problems with broadband connections were a new one on me.  I wasn’t sure if I could help, but fortunately after my surgery, I attended the annual drinks of a local neighbourhood watch.  A resident who I’d helped by stopping illegal fly tipping was able to return the favour and knew exactly who I should speak to.  The following day I email a contact in Virgin Media’s head office and one phone conversation later they were on the case.  The contrast with Lambeth Living’s response times I’m afraid, could not have been greater.

The other pleasure of going to the Neighbourhood Watch meeting – as well as catching up with a great group of residents – was being presented with a detailed report on all the potholes in their road.  This isn’t the first time they have raised this issue with me – after the local elections I was presented with a piece of pavement with a bunch of red tulips.  One of the worst mistakes local councillors have made in recent decades was to neglect highways investment – alongside collecting refuse, cleaning the streets, repairing the road is what people pay their council for.  So next Monday I am going to be out and about looking at road surfaces with a local resident and the highways officer.  Fingers crossed that this won’t be the same time as the daily downpour.

A visit to Lambeth College to meet with the Principal, Richard Chambers, couldn’t have been more different, but was equally important.  In one of the Coalition Government’s crazy decisions, funding is being stopped for ESOL classes unless students are claiming job seekers allowance at the same time that David Cameron has said that all immigrants must learn English! This decision is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing in Whitehall – but not surprising as very few Tory and Lib Dem Ministers represent ethnically diverse communities.

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