A belated start to blogging in 2008, but no shortage of things to write about! Last Tuesday I went to a meeting with John Healy, the Local Government Minister, to make the case for even greater funding for Southwark over the coming three years. The meeting was a cross-party event and I was happy to put the interests of the borough as a whole above purely partisan politics.
Central Government funds about 70% of spending in the borough, and the increase which we will be receiving in 2008/09 is 2% more than the current year. This is just on the Government's inflation target, so it does not provide any real scope for growth in spending, and could mean that the Council will have to review its expenditure in certain areas. The Leader of the Council has spoken of the need to close 3 leisure centres, or putting key regeneration projects on hold as a result of the limited increase, but I think this amounts to a degree of scare-mongering. At the end of the day the decisions about how money is spent in our borough will reflect the political choices and priorities of the ruling LibDem/Tory coalition.
I was keen to stress to John Healy that people will not understand if the Council does not deliver on our major regeneration projects, so I hope that a future meeting which we agreed to have will find some additional funding to secure the regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate and Elephant and Castle.
The LibDem's Executive member for Regeneration announced his resignation last week. Richard Thomas has served on the Executive since 2002 and been in charge of Regeneration since 2006. I am truly surprised at his decision to quit, although the local newspapers say he will be the first of many this year. With limited talent on the LibDem benches it is not obvious where his replacement is likely to come from.
Finally, the Camberwell Grove Working Party met last week to discuss plans for the re-opening of the road. There are still huge problems with any traffic light "solution" on Camberwell Grove, as it has the potential of creating real gridlock in the area. So the latest proposal involves the re-opening being limited to the south to north carriageway (the only carriageway which will be open after the repairs in any event) with north to south traffic continuing to be diverted. This is not a perfect solution, but with the severe limits resulting from the bridge repairs no solution is 100% acceptable. This proposal at least has the advantage of keeping traffic moving on Camberwell Grove, especially during the morning rush-hour. Officers have gone away to consider the proposals in greater detail, and I will update this page with any further information I get.