Monday, April 02, 2007

It's been ages....

Since I last posted a blog here. Apologies to my many readers (Cllr K Humphries of College Ward!).

So what has been going on? Well we had another Council Assembly last week which was interesting for two reasons. Firstly, despite protests from Cllr Richard "Never Surrender" Thomas that East Dulwich would never be designated as 'Urban' for the purposes of Southwark's Unitary Development Plan, every member of Council Assembly (including Cllr Thomas) voted on Wednesday to designate East Dulwich and other areas including Rotherhithe and parts of Nunhead as erm, 'Urban'! It's not as bad as it sounds - Southwark has decided to adopt the Mayor of London's 'London Plan' densities for these areas which means in technical terms that whereas Southwark had been arguing with central government of densities in these "suburban" areas of 200 - 350 habitable rooms per hectare, we will now operate on an "urban" range of 200 to 450. In fact, this compromise will mean lower densities for certain areas.

This is a perfectly sensible way forward, and could have been adopted since last May. My colleague Cllr Gordon Nardell proposed such a solution a month ago, only to be told by Cllr Thomas that it was impossible. I just think that for the sake of trying to rubbish the Government and create an atmosphere of fear amongst his constituents, Cllr Thomas has ended up looking rather foolish.

Secondly, clear cracks began to appear in the LibDem group, with one member abstaining on a vote concerning additional changing facilities on Peckham Rye for the Carrib Football Club. Carrib have up to 12 teams of young people from right across Southwark playing football on Peckham Rye each weekend. But the changing facilties the Council currently provides are lamentable, and additonal temporary facilities are required. Local councillors had worked hard with officers to reach a compromise, only to have the carpet pulled out from under their feet by the Executive member for Culture and Sport, Cllr Lorraine Zuleta. At the meeting, following a brilliant deputation from several young Carrib FC players, Cllr Zuleta proposed a motion which required Nunhead and Peckham Rye to find the funding for the changing facilities. This completely misses the point that the club is serving the whole of Southwark, and that giving young people such valuable out-of-school activity meets so many of the targets which the Council should have for tackling crime and anti-social behaviour! And whereas Southwark has an overall budget of over £1 billion, Nunhead & Peckham Rye councillors administer just over £250,000 per year in their over-subscribed Cleaner, Greener and Safer budget.

Cllr Zuleta completely misjudged this issue, and it is no surprise to hear that she may be banished to the backbenches in May.

In any event, Nunhead and Peckham Rye councillors have risen to the challenge and agreed to meet the costs of the changing facilities from their very limited Cleaner, Greener and Safer budget. Together with my colleagues, Cllrs Smith and Friary, I have written to the Chairs of all the other Community Councils asking for them to make a contribution. So far we have received positive responses from five Community Council Chairs, including one Liberal Democrat. This just proves that when it is so glaringly obvious that a problem should be solved, backbench councillors will find a way, even if the highly paid Executive will not.