Thursday, July 26, 2007

Southwark Youth Summit

Last night Southwark Labour Group launched an extensive consultation exercise with young people across the borough to find out what their priorities are and what they would like the Council and Government to do to meet those priorites.

During the Autumn we will be talking to many youth groups across Southwark in what will be essentially a listening exercise for us. Southwark Council has an extensive budget which should provide support and services for young people, but it sometimes seems that that money does not meet the aspirations of too many young people.

I have to admit that last night's event at the Town Hall was dominated by the "grown-ups", but future meetings will really be targetted at young people and only they will be invited. If you have any thoughts about youth provision in the borough, or if you would like to help organise one of our meetings please get in touch.

I was amazed by a terrific card trick at the end of the evening - as the photo shows!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Camberwell Grove Update

Here is the latest information which I received today in an e-mail from Southwark Council's Transport Department. I have reprinted it in full:

The network rail bridge was closed, under emergency powers by the police following a routine maintenance inspection, which revealed a crack in the beam.
The repairs are being implemented in two parts with the final part being undertaken in July 07. As the repairs are located under the bridge, they can only be implemented during closures of the railway.
These repairs will allow the bridge to be reopened to traffic but with limitations as follows :-
* The bridge will have a weight limit 7.5tonne, which will need to be physically enforced with a width restriction.
* Only one lane of traffic can be permitted to use the bridge due to the location of the repair.
The bridge can only be open to vehicular traffic once the above restrictions are implemented. This restriction will need to remain in place until Network Rail can gain funding for a permanent repair of the bridge, which would allow the removal of the weight limit and any associated traffic management measures.
Not surprisingly during the closure there have been opposing views regarding the closure, with some residents supporting the permanent closure of the bridge and others complaining about the additional travelling time and/or additional traffic travelling on their roads.
To facilitate the above restriction and the opening of the bridge to limited vehicular traffic, Network Rail consultants have submitted for consideration, some options, which would achieve the partial opening of the bridge.
These options centre around two themes:
* Allowing alternative lane working on the bridge (i.e. allowing priority to either north or southbound traffic across the bridge at any one time); or
* Making the traffic flow on the bridge in one direction only.
Both of these would incorporate a width restriction across the bridge of 2.1m (6ft 6inches) and the traffic of cars and light vans would only be allowed to cross the bridge on the western half of the carriageway.
However, all the options require additional traffic management measures at the junction of Camberwell Grove and McNeil Road. This is due to various potential safety constraints/concerns and at this stage officers view are that only one option can be progressed, which will carry minimal risk in terms of safety. That option is for using traffic signals to control vehicles across the bridge and that also incorporates the junction with McNeil Road.
1. Mini roundabout at jn McNeil Rd Only allows north bound traffic to use bridge, southbound traffic would still need to be diverted as present. Unbalanced traffic flow would mean roundabout would not operate efficently.
2. Single flow only Northbound Only allows north bound traffic to use bridge, southbound traffic would still need to be diverted as present. Conflict point where traffic emerges from McNeil Road.
3. Two-way flow Priority north bound Allows traffic to cross bridge in both directions but southbound would have to give way to northbound traffic. Difficult for traffic to exit McNeil Road with sub standard visibility.
4. Two-way flow signal controlled Allows both north and southbound traffic to cross bridge. Allows traffic to enter and leave McNeil Road safely. Better pedestrian safety.
All the above options were considered and the only one in our view that can allow traffic to cross the bridge in both directions safely is option 4. We have been waiting for confirmation from TfL(Signals) that the traffic signals scheme is an option and they can accommodate it within their programme of works. This has now been received and we have passed this information on to Network Rail with an indication that the overall cost is estimated at £121,000 and wait their confirmation that they will cover the costs fully.
As the bridge was closed under emergency powers it is necessary to reopen it when it is safe to do so. As we believe there is only one safe way of doing this (using traffic signals) the next issue is how this is communicated with the public as in reality we will be informing and not consulting.
Currently we have no indication when Network Rail will confirm their approval to fund the works but this maybe before the next round of Community Councils.

Please get in touch with me if you would like your views to be heard on this subject.

Elephant & Castle Development Partner

Southwark's Executive today chose Lend Lease as its major Development Partner for the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle, a project which will have repurcussions right across Southwark. Already there is the potential for more jobs and retail space from the regeneration, together with the prospect of a brand new swimming pool and even a new Town Hall!

It will be at least 12 years before the regeneration of the Elephant & Castle is complete, and in those 12 years there will be real opportunities for Southwark residents to benefit from the work in the building industry which will be generated by the regeneration taking place. But those opportunites will only come if Southwark's residents have the necessary skills for those jobs. For at least 2 years I have been arguing that Southwark desperately needs a Building Skills College to equip residents of all ages for the unprecedented opportunites which lie ahead in the borough. Such a College formed a central plank in Labour's local election manifesto last year. However, we still seem to be no further forward, and there seems to be a lack of political will within the Council to urgently address this issue.

Building trades provide opportunities for good employment and incomes for local people for at least the next decade in Southwark. It is time for the Council to take a lead on equipping reseidents with the skills they will need.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Crossthwaite Avenue

The parade of shops in Crossthwaite Avenue are a vital community resource, but at the moment they are all struggling to survive. Two of the shops are currently shuttered up while the others are facing difficulties in meeting the rent increases which Southwark Council want to impose.

So I hope that a meeting between Veronica and myself together with the Deputy Chief Executive of the Council and the Head of the Property section will result in some real help for the shopkeepers. We visited the shopping parade and spoke with Mr Patelia from the Post Office, Hugh Dawes from St Faiths Church and others who highlighted the problems Crossthwaite Avenue has been facing. With uncertainty over the future of the Post Office it is really important that everything possible is done to help the shops continue trading. Although it may be difficult to do anything directly about rents, money could be spent to regenerate the area around the parade and make it a more welcoming shopping environment. Better signage would alert people to the fact that the shops are there! The shops serve the Denmark Hill and Cleve Hall Estates, together with the residents of Sunray Avenue and surrounding roads, so it would be a disaster if they were lost.

Veronica and I are committed to fighting for the future of Crossthwaite Avenue and will continue to pursue this issue until some greater help is provided by the Council.

That 'Cash for Honours' Investigation

Am I alone in thinking that Assistant Commissioner John Yates of the Yard has been allowed to go on a hugely disruptive and expensive ego trip over the past 16 months? Month after month we have all read and seen sensational stories which have warned that charges were almost certain to be brought against Lord Levy, Ruth Turner and others who have been interviewed by John Yates. The story has led the television news on numerous occasions and Tony Blair was interviewed on three occasions. So today's news that no charges will be brought as a result of the £1 million investigation make me wonder what on earth has been going on, and how Yates has been allowed to preside over this costly investigation for so long.

I still think that the dawn raid arrest of Ruth Turner was an absolute disgrace. Why could the Police have not arranged an interview with Ms Turner at a mutually convenient time? It cannot be suggested that she was a potential fugitive from justice, and lives would certainly not have been at risk if the Police had called a few hours later. My conclusion is that the arrest occurred at 6.30am in order for Mr Yates to grab the headlines yet again, and to demonstrate the macho power of the constabulary.

The whole exercise has damaged politics enormously, but it has also certainly damaged the Metropolitan Police and the reputation of John Yates.

Congratulations to Virendra Sharma!

Congratulations are due to Virendra Sharma and Phil Wilson on winning great by-election victories for Labour. After Tony Lit was shown up as a rather shallow opportunist last weekend it seemed fairly clear that he was not going to win in Ealing Southall. But yesterday as I glanced at some of the LibDem literature proclaiming their impending victory I thought that the yellow party might have known something the rest of Ealing Southall did not! Alas, the Great Ming Cavalcade failed to make any serious impression in either by-election, despite their typical fairly grubby campaigning techniques.

So great results for Labour! David Cameron is clearly not the vote-winner that his colleagues had hoped he would be, and the dynamic Sir Menzies Campbell survives as LibDem Leader.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Campaigning in Ealing Southall

Yesterday I went with council colleagues Fiona Colley, Paul Bates and Robert Smeath over to Ealing Southall to help in Virendra Sharma's by-election campaign. The election takes place on Thursday, but the big news yesterday was the huge embarrassment for the Tory candidate of having been exposed as a Labour donor and supporter until a few days before he was chosen by David Cameron to be the Conservative candidate!

While this is an example of unashamed opportunism by the Tory candidate, it also shows absolutely hopeless judgement by David Cameron and his Old Etonian cronies. The Tory candidate may have many admirable qualities, but a guiding political philosphy is clearly not amongst them. But this type of poor judgment by a Party Leader who aspires to be Prime Minister is pathetic. So desperate are the Tories to be seen as something which they fundamentally are not - champions of diversity and equality with a membership that crosses boundaries of class, background and ethnicity - that they have selected virtually the first person who they find who can possibly pass themself off as a New Tory; for that person only to be uncovered as a Labour supporter.

So good luck to Virendra Sharma for Thursday!