Thursday, December 20, 2007

Staff Awards, The Year Ahead ... and Riverside Result

Two weeks ago the Southwark Team Staff awards were held at Vinopolis on the South Bank. Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey was the special guest. The awards were to those teams of workers on the Council who had achieved great results over the past year, and I was privileged to present an award to the team behind the Southwark Community Games.

There has been some negative press coverage about this event but I will not be joining in with those who have complained about it. All I saw on the evening were some brilliantly enthused staff who were excited about the event, and who were clearly motivated by being part of a great evening. It is sometimes the staff at Southwark who get caught in the political "cross-fire", so it is important to recognise the hard work they do in some really challenging circumstances.

In the year ahead I think Southwark Council will face some real difficulties over how we meet our obligation to bring out housing stock up to the Government's 'Decent Homes' standard. Current estimates are that we have a £100 million shortfall in the budget although I have heard rumours that this could rise to over £300 million. The Council simply does not have this sort of capital available - so some hard choices will have to be faced. The aggressive partisan approach taken on every issue by the current Tory/LibDem administration means that we rarely discuss issues on a cross-party basis. This is a shame - especially concerning the future of our housing stock, where I would have thought some collective thinking may be helpful. Labour's door is always open. A new approach to politics is almost the mantra of the current LibDem and Tory national party leaders, but in Southwark it has fallen on deaf ears!

After both Labour and the LibDems campaigning vigorously in the Riverside by-election, the result was virtually a 'no change' from 2006. The Libs vote increased by 34 while ours went up by 39. This has been presented as alternatively a) a swing from Labour to the LibDems and/or b) a greater increase in the Libs vote than ours. I don't understand those propositions as to me it looks like our vote increased fractionally more than theirs - albeit 5! It would have been great to have achieved a greater swing or increase in the vote, but at the end of the day we were in a LibDem stronghold, and the national picture has not been kind to Labour recently. But the parallels with the result of the East Walworth by-election in 2004 are clear, when we went on to pick up two of the Council seats in 2006. The LibDems ran an unremittingly negative campaign but at the end of the day the electorate had a good selection of candidates to choose from. Cormac Hollingsworth for Labour was a superb candidate and will make a great councillor. I do not know Anood Al-Samerai who won for the LibDems, but wish her well as an elected councillor.

And so 2007 draws to a close! May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and New Year!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Camberwell Grove - Another Update

Last night I got an e-mail from Paul Noblet, Deputy Executive Member for Transport, which was copied to all councillors in South Camberwell and Brunswick Park. Perhaps rather belatedly Paul seeks our views as to whether we share our constituents concerns with regard to traffic lights as part of the solution to the re-opening of the Camberwell Grove railway bridge.

On the basis that the overwhelming majority of those I surveyed in August/September opposed traffic lights, and given the potential for severe congestion and "clogging" which lights are likely to cause, I have told Paul that I do share my constiuents concerns!

Is it too much to hope that at last these views may be given some attention?!

Riverside Ward By-Election Update

Just over a week to go until the Riverside Ward by-election, and Labour councillors and members have been out working hard on behalf of our strong local candidate, Cormac Hollingsworth. This is an interesting election as it will be the first test of the LibDem/Tory coalition since it took office in May 2006. Riverside ward is also one of those areas where the demographics of the population continue to change significantly, so no party can take its vote for granted - although it should be a safe LibDem seat.

I have not seen as much LibDem activity as I would have expected, although they are specialists in "under the radar" campaigning, and I know that they will be working hard. What has surprised me is the fact that despite being in power for 5 1/2 years in Southwark they have not been able to offer a positive vision for the area. Every leaflet I have seen has contained numerous Labour "scare" stories about our secret plans for everything from our council housing stock to local post offices. The approach seems to be to try and throw everything at Labour and hope that some of it sticks! The problem for the LibDems is that people who meet our candidate Cormac, know that his real ambition is to work hard as a local representative for the residents of Riverside ward. And the second problem for the LibDems is that people know that this election will not change who runs the Council - so the daft scare stories are simply irrelevant!

I do know that if Riverside Ward wants the best local candidate who will serve his community and stand up for their interests they need look no further than Cormac. I hope that they will give him their support next week!