Exclusive: Brenda Dacres reveals plans for housing, air quality and community as new Mayor

Lewisham has made history with the first black woman winning a directly-elected mayoral role in the UK.

Brenda Dacres, who ran for Labour, was elected Mayor of Lewisham after securing 21,576 votes – a 51.5 per cent share – yesterday.

Speaking to the South London Press, Mayor Dacres said: “It is a huge honour to be representing the borough where I have lived for 40 years and brought my son up.

“Especially on International Women’s Day, it’s brilliant. I’ve always tried to be a good role model to inspire others and to be anywhere near that category is a great feeling.”

During the campaign leading up to the election, Mayor Dacres pledged to be “open, accessible and rooted” in the diverse community. Having now been elected she echoes that promise, committing to increase face-to-face services across the borough.

She said: “It’s much easier to explain something face-to-face, especially for those who are digitally excluded.

“I’ll be working with officers to make sure we are getting out in the community so we’re not just centralised in Catford.

“I’m here to put our residents first and to make sure Lewisham is vocal and engaged across London and nationally.”

Mayor Brenda Dacres at the Lewisham Mayoral Election 2024 (Picture: Lewisham council)

Mayor Dacres faces big challenges with the state of social housing in the borough.

Lewisham brought more than 13,500 homes back under its control from Lewisham Homes in October 2023. In December 2023 the council referred itself to the housing regulator in acknowledgement of systemic issues with housing stock.

At the time 17 per cent of the council’s homes did not meet the minimum standard for social housing, but that number was expected to balloon to 31 per cent by 2027 as the council diverts cash from refurbishment works to fire safety improvements. 

Mayor Dacres said: “I have spoken with residents concerned by our housing issues – some are in homes that are too small and some have damp and mould.

“This is a priority and something we are working to improve.”

Mayor Dacres said Lewisham is about to carry out a stock survey to find out more information about the state of the borough’s housing and teams are being set up to deal with repairs.

She said: “Everyone should have a decent home, it’s where you build the foundations of lives. It has to be right and decent.”

Clean air and safer roads is another priority the new Mayor said she intends to tackle. 

Mayor Dacres said she is a close friend of Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, the mother of  Ella Kissi-Debrah, who became the first person in the UK to have air pollution cited on their death certificate. 

Mayor Dacres said Lewisham will be “working together” with organisations across the borough to tackle the issue.

A councillor since 2014, Mayor Dacres has represented wards in New Cross and Deptford. She has been deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing development and planning since 2021.

The by-election saw Mayor Dacres top the Green Party candidate Michael Herron, who came second with 6,835 votes. The Liberal Democrats came third in the ballot with 4,896 votes, followed by the Conservatives on 3,784.

But turnout for the election was low, with only 20.73 per cent of the electorate taking part in the vote.

The by-election followed Damien Egan’s resignation on January 10, to stand as a Parliamentary candidate in Bristol – an election he has since won.

Pictured top: Brenda Dacres, who ran for Labour, was elected Mayor of Lewisham yesterday (Picture: Lewisham council)

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