Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Camberwell Grove Update

At last night's Camberwell Community Council Andrew Downes, of the Council's Transport Group, gave an update on the collapsed rail tunnel in Camberwell Grove, which is causing the road to be blocked at its mid-point.

Apparently the tunnel is constructed of brick and iron beams. One of the iron beams has a crack in it which could cause a catastrophic failure if action is not taken. Repairs to iron beams such as this are normally carried out before the beam has actually cracked, but in the case of the Camberwell Grove tunnel matters have gone one stage further already! Andrew informed us that Network Rail intend to carry out the repairs to the tunnel in February 2007 with the intention of those repairs being completed in March 2007.

Even when Camberwell Grove is re-opened it will still be subject to a 7.5 ton weight limit which will need to be strictly enforced. This will have to be done by some width restriction measures being taken on the approach to the bridge in order to ensure that no over-weight vehicles can pass. A long term solution to the problem will only be brought about with a complete replacement of the tunnel - which will cause major disruption to Camberwell Grove and trains on the line to and from Denmark Hill.

So we can expect Camberwell Grove to re-open to vehicles with new width restrictions on the road in March/April next year.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Black Business Awards

On Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the Black Business Awards at the Hilton in Rotherhithe. The event is organised by the Black Business Initiative under the inspirational leadership of Sunny Lambe and is supported by many organisations across Southwark.

The awards prove that with the right support and in the right economic conditions small and medium sized businesses owned and run by black and minority ethnic entrepeneurs can really succeed. The evening also featured and celebrated black entertainment, with the brilliant Gina Yashere acting as host for the evening.

Too often in recent years in Southwark the story about the Council's involvement with BME businesses has been negative. This event simply showed that with a little thought the Council can be a positive force.

It was also great to meet and hear from Tim Campbell, the winner of the first series of The Apprentice. Tim has made a real success of working for Sir Alan Sugar and is hoping to pursue his own business opportunities in the near future.

I presented the award for Social Enterprise to RAP, an organisation working with young people.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Labour Conference 2006

A belated entry following last week's Labour Conference! Overall I think it is fair to say that given the difficulties leading up to conference, it was a highly successful week for the Party, with the mantra of renewal and change on the progressive left being repeated by every speaker.

There were clearly some highlights in the main hall - Tony Blair's valedictory speech reminded everyone yet again of what a superb Leader he has been. Other parties may snipe and sneer about Tony Blair, but the election results he has delivered for the Labour Party are the true testament to his political skills. I thought that Gordon Brown gave an excellent speech which began to explain what his vision for Britain is. He is a politician of substance and has a real record of achievement. I think he will be a welcome contrast to David 'Blair-lite' Cameron.

Bill Clinton's speech on Wednesday morning was also a highlight. His warning to the party that change and progress are the only way forward was a welcome reminder as we consider the future leadership of the party.

And last but not least John Prescott's final speech as Deputy Leader was a real triumph! It is really difficult to imagine any of the current contenders for the Deputy Leadership putting together such a tub-thumping speech! "Traditional values in a modern setting" was once again the core message from Mr Prescott.

Prezza and the band

Away from the main Hall it was good to see John and Pauline Prescott dancing at the Amicus reception!

Peter & Pat Hewitt
And I took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Patricia Hewitt about the "cuts" to Southwark's PCT budget ahead of her meeting with Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman. She explained to me that the £21 million was effectively being used as a loan to the PCTs who had overspent and that they would be under an obligation to repay the money to Southwark. However, there remain real concerns in the short-term and I told the Health Secretary that it was wrong for Southwark to be penalised in any way for the profligacy of others.

Following the conference I have also written to Ruth Kelly about Southwark's appeal against her decision on the 'Downtown' planning application. I met Ruth Kelly at the conference but for obvious reasons we were not able to discuss the particular issues surrounding 'Downtown'. In my letter I have echoed the views of the campaigners, and asked that she visit the site in any event before making any further decision on this application.

I also met with Ken Livingstone and other London Labour Leaders to discuss the proposed GLA Bill which will give the Mayor increased powers in various areas. I think that this will be the start of a useful discussion with the Mayor.

So on the whole a productive conference!