Lewisham Councillor Duwayne Brooks has spoken of his approach for a better borough following an economic study highlighting Lewisham as the “least peaceful place in Britain.”
The UK Peace Index, from the Institute for Economics and Peace was released 25 April and identified Lewisham as a Borough “scarred by gang violence.”
In an exclusive interview with East London Lines, Councillor Brooks identifies with the report’s findings and how he intends to turn the Borough around as a future Mayor of Lewisham.
In reference to The UK Peace Index, from the Institute for Economics and Peace Councillor Brooks said the current administration had “failed” Lewisham and now is the time for change:
“The same consciousness that creates the problem can’t be the consciousness that fixes the problem, simple as that,” said Brooks. “The Mayor and the administration we have in Lewisham now — that have allowed this issue to persist — cannot fix it. We need new administration with new ideas. I can do it.”
Speaking highly of Sir Steve Bullock, Brooks acknowledged he had “learnt so much” from the current Mayor, but noted that there needs to be more emphasis on providing opportunities not punishment.
“There’s no point lambasting people,” he said, “saying you’re not doing A, you’re not doing B, when the necessary means to do A and B are not being provided.”
If elected as Mayor, Brooks’ first point of call is to tackle gang crime by inviting nominal members of well-known gangs to reach a deal through mediation.
Brooks plans to provide mentors to “inspire, educate and open their eyes to the opportunities that are there for them.”
“It’s all about positive outcomes,” he said. “That’s all I’m about.”
However, Brooks stressed there would be consequences if gang crime continues regardless of his efforts.
“If you feel that’s not good enough for you, and you want to continue in your life of crime, then I will make life very difficult for you in my borough,” Brooks said. “That’s how it will be. But if you’re coming to participate in making Lewisham a safer place or a better place for employment, my administration will support you 100-per cent.”
Brooks detailed his plans to call a “knife amnesty” if he should become Mayor, giving gangs a period of two months to bring all their weapons forward without conviction.
This week marked the 20th Anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence who was fatally stabbed in a racist attack. Brooks was a friend of Lawrence and with him on the night he was killed.
As well as his plans for a safer neighbourhood, Brooks plans to build two youth hubs in the North and South of the Borough.
“They will be like the Apple store,” he said, “that kind of eco system. You come to get advice, to get support to be given the right direction. You come back the next time and pass it on to someone else.”
Brooks described the hubs as “an open house of ideas” where young people are supported and encouraged to get involved with activities and education. He is hoping to be in a position to provide subsidised meals for the young people who attend.
Brooks said that his dedication to Lewisham’s young people stems from opportunities he was given and remains grateful for.
“Lots of people have given me opportunity,” Brooks said, “so that in a sense spurs me on to help other people. The very first time somebody helps you and opens your eyes to what you’re capable of is a wonderful feeling. Being a Councillor has enabled me to do that. It’s about giving people the opportunity and helping them grab hold of it with both hands.”
Brooks is determined, stating “I will never stop, no way. We don’t start to quit.”
He outlined the importance of transparency and openness in Politics, and is certain this is what sets him apart from other politicians.
If successful in his bid for mayor he intends to hold twice annual meetings for the borough where residents will have the opportunity to discuss “absolutely anything” with his administration and “get answers”.
For Councillor Brooks, the redevelopment of Lewisham comes down to one thing: being in touch with the people.
“I’m a politician, but when I look in the mirror, I see Duwayne Brooks. I’m a person. I’m a people person. I’m here for them.”