Friday, November 20, 2009

Did you know...?

That LibDem/Tory Southwark has the worst Council Tax collection rate in London, and the third worst in the country, with just 93% of council tax collected each year.

That means that each year £7 million of council tax is not collected - £7 million which could be spent on front-line services; which could have been used to keep the Livesey Children's Museum open and reversed the 50% increases in Meals on Wheels imposed last year.

Since 2006 Labour in Southwark has been arguing that the council should get rid of its council tax collection contractors, Liberata, but until a few weeks ago we were told that we were wrong and that things would improve. Sadly it seems we were not wrong and very belatedly the administration has realised the extent of the problem.

At the same time the LibDem/Tory administration has overseen a £150 million move to new offices in Tooley Street, spending £5 million on new office chairs and £35,000 on televisions.

I'm not sure that they have got their priorities right!

Southwark's Awful Recycling Rate

Souhwark's recycling rate has fallen to the 6th lowest in the country - down two places on its' position last year - with just over 20% of our waste recycled. Compare this with Labour-run Greenwich where 42% of waste is recycled.

In 2006 the LibDems pledged to increase our borough's recycling rate to 30% by 2010. They will have failed massively to meet this target. The truth of the matter is that there are still corners of the borough where recycling is not available to households, or recycling centres are located far from residents' front doors.

Labour in Southwark is committed to making recycling easier - by more single bag recycling and by introducing recycling for tetrapak and food waste. This issue is too important for us to fail to meet achievable targets.

John Friary's Deselection

On Tuesday night my Camberwell colleague John Friary was deselected by his ward party, after having served 15 years as a Camberwell councillor. John lives on Camberwell Green and has lived and breathed Camberwell politics and issues during his time on the council. He is a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the Council and has an unrivalled knowledge of the way in which the council works. He is also one of the nicest people I know.

So his deselection was a shock. He is loyal and hard-working, a real campaigner and a champion for Camberwell and all those who live there.

I hope that John's deselection last Tuesday will not bring an end to his involvement in Camberwell and his determination to make it a better place to live.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Labour is the same as the BNP" - Transcript of what was said!

This is a transcript of what was said last night which has been prepared by Council officers:

"Wednesday November 4 2009

Extract from debate – Councillors Columba Blango and Adele Morris

Item 5 – Members’ Question Time: Question 16

Councillor Blango
Thank you very much for your answer, which I think is very appropriate and up to the point. On to the point; does it not go to show that, in private, the government’s agenda is not very different from that of the BNP? And; and, when it comes to multi-cultural and multi-racial boroughs like Southwark, is it not a double standard they are playing?

Councillor Morris...

Councillor Blango
Yes, thank you.

Councillor Morris
Well, you know... I – I – yes, I’m inclined to agree with the – sorry, I – please forgive–

Quiet – can the executive member give a reply, please.

Councillor Morris
Thank you Mr Mayor, and I’d like to thank Councillor Blango for his supplementary question. And, I would – I’d be inclined to agree with him, that it – I think it does show a misunderstanding – [am I not allowed to agree, am I not allowed to agree, Councillor Stanton?] It shows a complete lack of understanding of the way that real communities work, and in particular about the way myths are spread and the kind of hatred that that creates in boroughs like this, and absolutely I agree with him.

Thank you Councillor Morris. (315)"

[My emphasis has been added]
I would repeat everything I have said in my entry below - this is crass and stupid politics from Cllrs Morris and Blango.

I have now written to the LibDem Leader Nick Clegg asking if he too agrees with these ludicrous comments and will await his reply with interest.

"Labour is the same as the BNP" - Outrageous Slur at Council Assembly

Cllr Columba Blango has always been semi-detached from reality, but in an extraordinary outburst last night he equated the aims and policy of Labour and the Labour Government on council housing with those of the BNP. What is more extraordinary is that his colleague Cllr Adele Morris, Executive Member for Citisenship, Equalities and Communities (responding to his question) agreed with him completely and even the Leader of the Council nodded his agreement!

Have the LibDems in Southwark taken leave of their senses? Do they know what the BNP policy is on council housing? I've looked it up on their website and can tell you that BNP policy is to make all benefits and social housing only available to British citizens and make the length of residency in an area the key criterion for council house allocation.

It is the sort of inward-looking and racist policy which you would expect from the BNP. But it is not the Government's policy and it is not Labour policy, which bases allocation of council housing on need. We are not an inward looking Party but recognise the challenges which we face in an ever inter-dependent world.

So for Cllrs Blango and Morris to equate Labour with the BNP was wrong, stupid and fundamentally insulting to every Labour member who places equality and the fight against racism as central to their core beliefs. For such an insult to come from Southwark's Executive member with responsibility for this area of work raises a serious question over her fitness to hold that post.

The BNP has always faced united opposition from the main political parties, so it is incredibly disappointing that the LibDems in Southwark have chosen to take this line. I am sure it will only give succour to the BNP. Maybe that is what they intended? I have no explanation for this insulting comparison.

I invited Cllr Stanton to distance himself from the remarks last night, but he would not do so. There was no apology or any contrition from the LibDems.

As soon as I have the transcript of the comments I will be writing to Nick Clegg asking if he agrees with his colleagues in Southwark. I hope he at least has the common sense to distance himself from remarks which were genuinely insulting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Labour's Team for South Camberwell

On Saturday Labour members in South Camberwell met to choose our team for the local elections on May 6th next year. I am delighted that the ward selected Veronica, myself and Stephen Govier to be the candidates.

Veronica and I have been councillors in South Camberwell since 2002, and we hope that Stephen will join us as part of our campaigning team on the council. Stephen is the Chair of the East Dulwich Estate Regeneration Project Team and has been incredibly active on the Estate getting the best deal possible for its residents.

We were all out carrying out one of our mobile surgeries on Saturday afternoon along Coplestone Road, Hayes Grove, Oxenford and Everthorpe. We met many residents and picked up a huge amount of casework. A lot of residents were baffled about why new lighting installed in their streets had not yet been turned on, and why old lamp posts had been left.

Our mobile surgeries remain unique in Southwark, and are a good example of Labour councillors working hard throughout their 4 year term, and not just at election times! It is vital that we do not allow the Tories to run Southwark again after next May, and only a majority Labour Group can do that. So Veronica and I know how important it is that South Camberwell elects Labour councillors!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Council Tax Collection - the worst in London

Southwark has the worst Council Tax collection rate in London and the third worst in the country. This fact means that 7p in every £1 or £7 million of Council Tax goes uncollected every year. This is a truly appalling figure and is one of the reasons why I get angry when the LibDems and Tories who run Southwark start scaremongering about cuts from Whitehall. If they did their job properly we would have an extra £7 million a year to spend on front-line services - we could help people deal with the worst effects of poverty; we could improve our recycling and push forward with new green technologies; we could help our older residents and roll back some of the spiteful cuts made by the administration over the past 7 years.

We are in this sorry position because the LibDems and Tories have persisted with Liberata as the council's contractor, 2 years after we asked them to re-tender and find a better alternative. They arrogantly refused our proposal then and have been far too slow to respond to the deteriorating performance of Liberata since.

So the consequence is that we are now bound into a further 2 years of a contract with a company that knows it will lose that contract - with little or no incentive for them to improve. I just hope that our collection rates do not fall even lower in that period.

The LibDems are always anxious to try and blame anyone but themselves for things that happen in Southwark, but this is one result that is down to them. It is just a pity that all of the residents of the borough have to pay so highly for their incompetence.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Labour Party Conference 2009

Last week I was in Brighton for the Labour Party Conference. It certainly did not feel like a conference of a party which was lost and on the way out of government, but was alive with ideas and optimism. It was absolutely right to emphasise the fact that the Tories had no response to the economic crisis last year, and that the Government's response is recognised internationally as having been the right thing to do. I am sure that the electorate will weigh this up in due course, but it is a message which it is difficult to get past the media which has already collectively called the election for David Cameron. I thought the Sun's decision to back Cameron after Gordon Brown's speech was wholly unconvincing. I overheard the interview between the BBC and the Sun's Trevor Kavanagh - who appeared to be fairly lamely following his boss's orders. At the end of the day the decision of the Sun to back the Tories reflects the business interests of one businessman, Rupert Murdoch, and we should not attach too much weight to it.

I was also pleased that Gordon Brown set out a positive agenda for us to campaign on for the General Election. The aspiration of a National Care Service to complement our National Health Service seems to me to be a talismanic policy which should energise Labour voters and supporters. Our whole agenda of equality and opportunity represents so much which is the best of Britain.

Three days into the Tories "Austerity Conference" I think that there going to be a real choice for the electorate to make, and a real fight for Britain's future ahead.

Grove Park - Clarification!

A reader of the blog has commented on my post below and asked what "improvements" mean. Hopefully improvements in the context of the pavement in Grove Park means doing something about their extremely uneven condition and making them safer for pedestrians. Having visited Grove Park on numerous occasions and spoken with residents I know that this is a concern which is often expressed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It Just Gets Better!

No sooner have I finished celebrating the good news about The Hamlet than I discover that Grove Park, another road which has suffered with a terrible carriageway and pavements, will get some major work done this year. Money has already been allocated for the carriageway works in this year's main Council budget, and now we have been able to allocate some further funding for at least some of the pavement to be improved this year from our Camberwell budget.

Veronica has been badgering officers for ages about Grove Park - so a big "well done" to her for getting such a great result.

This really does show that even though it might take time, councillors can make a real difference in their wards!

The Hamlet Will be Resurfaced!

Ring the bells and sound the trumpets! The Hamlet - untouched by new tarmac for over 40 years - is to be resurfaced!

After a prolonged campaign Veronica and I got our colleagues agreement to spend £80,000 on resurfacing the road. It has been a long haul, as it has been an issue raised throughout the 7 1/2 year period that I have been a councillor. But our persistence has paid off!

Working with the residents of The Hamlet we have got press coverage of the issue and it has been raised in Council Assembly a number of times.

The campaigning meant that in the last couple of months The Hamlet found itself on a list of roads in Camberwell which might be suitable for work - although officers did not give it a high priority. However, as other roads fell off the list The Hamlet rose to the top! And in a final selection we won for The Hamlet and South Camberwell! This is great news and I know that the residents are delighted.

This Weekend

Residents in South Camberwell might get fed up of seeing Veronica, myself and our colleagues this weekend, as we undertake our latest Mobile Surgery and have an Action Weekend in the ward at the same time!

For those we will be visiting on our mobile surgery you are welcome and encouraged to raise any issue that is concerning you concerning your area and council services.

But around other parts of the ward we will be asking residents questions about recycling and how we can make it easier. In Southwark we recycle just over 20% of our rubbish, but we need to see a major improvement and increase in that figure.

Some parts of the borough have single bag recycling - all your recycling material goes into one clear bag and is collected weekly. Would you like to see this in your street and for your home? Some people with single bag recycling on estates would like to see a collection point for the bags, rather than having to keep the bag until it is collected. So we will be asking about that as well.

Hopefully we will get a clear view of what residents of South Camberwell want and how we can improve our borough's low recycling rate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Southwark Labour Conference 2009

Saturday saw the 3rd Annual Southwark Labour Conference, which we held in Bermondsey at the Beormund Centre. It was a terrific day with speeches from Harriet Harman MP, Ed Milliband MP, Cllr Steve Reed and Val Shawcross AM.

We also held two working group sessions which discussed policies for the local elections which will be taking place on the 6th of May next year.

The day was really well attended,and it was terrific that so many members wanted to contribute to the debate about ideas for making Southwark a better place to live.
Ed Milliband, the Environment Secretary, spoke about the need for us to make the case for wind farms - over 70% of the population think they are a good idea, but 'NIMBY'ism takes over when a planning application is submitted. Even on the Isle of Wight, where the Vesta Wind Turbine factory has recently closed, the Tory Council and Tory MP opposed the erection of wind turbines! So people have to be consistent in how they want us to generate power in future.

In Southwark the administration cannot portray itself as 'green' yet sell off our metropolitan open land and green spaces. We do have to preserve what little green space we have in our borough!
Harriet Harman has been a great supporter of our borough conferences - and I hope that we will be able to welcome her back next year when we celebrate the first 100 days of a Labour Council back in Southwark!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Springfield Lodge

The Salvation Army has proposals to rebuild Springfield Lodge on Grove Hill Road and last week held an Open Evening for local residents to look at the plans and make comments on the pending planning application.

There are undoubtedly some problems with the current plans - the size of the building will be substantially increased in order to house only one additional resident (35 instead of 34), and neighbouring properties will be overlooked and suffer a loss of daylight. These are all problems which I am sure can be resolved before the planning application is formally considered.

It was significant that all of the residents of the neighbouring properties who attended the Open Evening were extremely supportive of the work of Springfield Lodge which resettles young men aged between 16 and 21. It has been operating for over 20 years. So I hoep that the Salvation Army will take on board the comments of its neighbours so that Springfield Lodge can continue its vital work in 21st Century premises.

Malfort Road Traffic Calming

A new traffic calming table has been installed at the top of Malfort Road at the junction with Grove Hill Road. It looks like some "finishing-off" work still needs to be done, but with the installation of speed humps on the road it can be hoped that residents will see a decrease in traffic speeds by car drivers.

Although Veronica and I have continued to argue for a 'Home Zone' in this area, local campaigns which we have been involved with have already seen the diversion of the P13 onto its' new Pytchley Road route away from Malfort Road and the introduction of these new traffic calming measures. Small steps, but hopefully a big improvement in making this a safer and quieter road for residents.

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Denham's Response

On Monday my colleague Cllr Ian Wingfield and I wrote to John Denham MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking him to order a public inquiry into the fatal fire at Lakanal House a week ago.
Today we received his reply in which he assured us that he has not ruled out a full public inquiry into the fire. In his letter John Denham wrote that he is “keeping an open mind about the need for a public inquiry and can assure you I have not ruled this out as an option”.
The minister’s remarks follow similar calls for a public inquiry from Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman and the Fire Brigades Union and a unanimous motion from Southwark’s Council Assembly calling for a public inquiry on Wednesday.

The Secretary of State also wrote that he has issued national guidance on a new dedicated web page on the CLG website, including advice for residents, tenants and landlords, and details of local authorities’ and registered social landlords’ duties under the law.
So an encouraging response to our request.
The photo shows me laying flowers on behalf of the Labour Group at Lakanal on Wednesday.

Ondine Road House Conversions

Last night when I was talking to residents in Ondine Road, several raised with me their concerns that a number of properties in the road were being converted into three flats. At a Camberwell Community Council Planning meeting about 18 months ago I spoke against such a development and fortunately the planning committee threw out the application on the basis that the proposed room sizes were too small.

Unfortunately the applicants appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and were granted planning permission there. This has set a precedent in the road, and there are now a number of such developments taking place. Residents are rightly concerned that a road of single family houses is being turned into a road of flats and the essential character of the area is being changed.

There is always a tension between the need to make more homes in London and the need to preserve the character of an area. There also comes a point where a road reaches 'saturation point' and the area and amenities cannot take any more people or their cars! Therefore, the fact that a precedent has been set in Ondine Road does not mean that every other application will always succeed. The impact of any proposed development on the character and amenity of an area will always have to be considered.

But this development in Ondine Road does highlight one of the frustrations of being a local councillor. For good reasons an application was refused by elected councillors who know and understand an area well. For unknown reasons an unelected official in Bristol granted the application on appeal. Surely there must be grounds for saying that developments up to a certain level should have no right of appeal - so that there remains proper and accountable local control over the planning process.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lakanal and Marie Curie Residents Meetings

Last night I popped into meetings for residents of Lakanal and Marie Curie following Friday's fire. Marie Curie is identical in design and structure to Lakanal, so the residents of that building are naturally anxious to know whether their block is safe.

The Lakanal meeting was packed and very emotional. People are clearly still traumatised about the events of Friday, and with no idea when they may be able to return to their homes or reclaim their possessions tempers were running fairly high. It was disappointing that the meeting was being held in a hall which was not big enough for the numbers who attended, and it was difficult to hear some of the questions and answers at times. There are many questions that need to be answered and I felt that many of the residents needed an urgent face-to-face interview with council officers, rather than trying to make themselves heard in a public meeting.

One of the questions which troubles me is whether we should be housing young families and older people above a certain level in tower blocks. The fact that three of the Lakanal victims were children raises a question over how easy it is to organise a family's escape from a fire.

I walked with Harriet Harman to the Marie Curie residents meeting which had been moved to the Town Hall. Reports from the meeting suggest that the fire service is still at something of a loss to explain why the fire spread as it did through Lakanal. The advice being given to residents of Marie Curie was to stay in their flats in the event of a fire and move to the balcony for rescue. But this is exactly the same advice that was being given to residents of Lakanal on Friday.

So some very serious and very worrying questions remain. I hope that the fire service and Council act with real urgency to address those questions - in hours and days rather than in weeks and months.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fire at Lakanal House

Friday night's fire at Lakanal House on the Sceaux Gardens Estate has left us all shocked and deeply saddened. It is hard to comprehend that six people lost their lives in this fire in the heart of Camberwell, just behind the Town Hall.

I had visited the block on a number of occasions and recall it well. There was a security entrance system on each side of the landings and the communal areas had a fairly claustrophobic feeling. But this is not uncommon in many blocks of a similar age in the borough - so I can't imagine that it contributed in any way to the tragedy.
There are clearly lessons which need to be learned from these awful events, and I hope that there will be some things that can be done sooner rather than later. For example, fire drills in our council blocks might offer some reassurance to residents and give them vital information about what they should do in a fire. Can we introduce sprinkler systems to our blocks which only have limited emergency exits? Should we install US style fire escapes on buildings?

Council Assembly will be meeting on Wednesday evening where I imagine that many of these issues will be raised. I know that many people on the estate and living in similar blocks are very worried at the present time, so we must act to reassure them as quickly as we can.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Save the South London Line!

It is so long again since I last posted on the blog! But despite this I thought I should write an update on the campaign to Save the South London Line, which had a brilliant launch last Friday morning at Denmark Hill Station.
The South London Line runs between London Bridge and Victoria twice an hour, and is one of the oldest commuter services in London. Local historian John Beasley has told me the date the service started on more than one occasion but I am afraid I have forgotten! Either 1865 or 1885 sticks in my memory.

If you have ever used the service you will know how useful it is, particularly for any users who are travelling to either Guys or Kings College Hospitals. Whenever I use the service, and at whatever time of day, the train is full. A couple of years ago we fought successfully to prevent the service being stopped, and had hoped that Transport for London would leave the SLL alone.
Then again last year a proposal came to cut the SLL but to replace it with a Victoria to Bellingham service. This would have meant four trains an hour would pass along the line, but passengers would need to change at Peckham Rye. Not ideal, but better than no service at all. The next twist was the decision to drop the Victoria to Bellingham service, meaning the end of any recognisable service between Victoria and London Bridge.
The campaign has cross-party and cross-community support, but special praise must go to Val Shawcross, GLA member for Lambeth and Southwark who has co-ordinated much of the campaign.

The campaign launch was attended by Harriet Harman, Tessa Jowell, Martin Linton, other GLA members and councillors and an array of local residents from along the Victoria to London Bridge line. You can get more information about the campaign at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jack Jones

I was very sorry to learn of the death of Jack Jones, the former TGWU leader once regarded as 'more powerful than the Prime Minister' of the day. Jack remained a stalwart member of the Labour Party right up to his death, and will be particularly remembered in South Camberwell where he lived in Ruskin Park House for many years.

I met Jack on a number of occasions since becoming a councillor in the ward in 2002, and throughtout that time he was always courteous, friendly and supportive of all that we did. He always made an effort to attend our Christmas social gatherings. He was always such a gentleman that it was hard to realise that this was the same man who was treated with such discourtesy by the press during the 1960's and 1970's - although that probably says a lot more about our press than it does about Jack.

Jack had a wonderful life and career, from his days fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, right through his Union heyday, to his leadership of the National Association of Pensioners.

He was made a Freeman of Southwark in 2004, and I was delighted that he was able to attend that ceremony and speak there.

The photo is of Jack from 2006, which I took for use in a local election leaflet we produced then. He really will be missed by his many friends and admirers.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

44 Grove Park and Crossthwaite Avenue

Last night I chaired a meeting of Grove Park residents with a number of senior council officers to dicuss what might be done to improve the appearance of 44 Grove Park. Although in a conservation area the house is blighted by breeze blocks at its front, and an owner who appears to have no interest in how his property might impact on other people.

The discussion was useful and wide-ranging, and I think that we explored a number of future possibilities as to how the council might help. The best route would be for the council to exercise its powers and acquire the hoouse under a compulsory purchase order, but in these difficult economic times I am not sure that those resources will be available. So my role is to lobby for funds to follow this route! The residents of Grove Park should be congratulated on keeping this issue so high up the council's agenda, and also for putting up with an eyesore for far too long.

Afterwards I attended the Camberwell Community Council and was delighted to learn that £325,000 of business support grant is going to be invested in Crossthwaite Avenue, the parade of shops which Veronica and myself have been campaigning for throughout our time on the council. This money could make a real differece and revive this shopping area which is such a lifeline for so many residents. There are currently three empty shops in the parade, and it is hoped that this money might go some way to enticing new occupants into those shops.

So altogether a good news night for South Camberwell!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Safer Neighbourhood Police Meeting

South Camberwell's Safer Neighbourhood Police Team meets with local residents tonight at its regular panel meeting at Sainsburys on Dog Kennel Hill. I have been a big fan of Safer Neighbourhood Teams - the South Camberwell team certainly has a great deal of knowledge of what goes on in the area, and we have seen really encouraging reductions in crime figures as a result.

The team is led by Sgt Pete Smith and tonight's meeting will agree local priorities for the coming month. Once they have been agreed the SNT will prioritise those issues and report back at the following meeting. If you have time, come along to Sainsburys at 7pm and find out more.

The LibDem/Tory 'Do Nothing' Budget

Last night Council Assembly set the budget and council tax for the forthcoming year. Despite the LibDems cries of "wolf" last year; claiming that the Government was making huge budget cuts to the borough; they were able to propose a budget which will freeze council tax for 2009/10.

Sadly the good news ends there, as the LibDems and Tories who run Southwark are pressing ahead with their cuts to adult social care services, a cut to the budget for the voluntary sector, swingeing price hikes and some crazy spending on apparently gold-plated bikes! Curiously, Cllr Adele Morris, who is in charge of grants to the voluntary sector argued that although she was cutting the grants budget, it wasn't really a cut. So if someone asks you when a cut is not a cut, tell them to go and speak to Cllr Morris!

There will be price hikes for many residents on estates, with the cost of parking permits for visitors being increased by 208% (you did read that correctly, it is 208%!) and the Executive is pressing ahead with spending £50,000 on bikes for community wardens. Good news you may think, until you hear that £50,000 only buys Southwark 50 bikes! Not good value surely?! And an utterly bizarre decision to spend over £500,000 from the revenue budget on the Canada Water Library, which will not even open during this financial year. Presumably the LibDems and Tories will come back next year asking for money to fit out their offices on Mars!

All this and 180 job losses for Council employees. As my colleague Cllr Aubyn Graham pointed out in debate last night, it would be surprising if a disproportionate number of those job losses were not from BME members of staff.

Labour proposed an alternative budget which would have reversed some of the most damaging cuts for vulnerable residents of the borough, together with a £5 million Economic Stimulus Package. Over the past 12 months the LibDems and Tories have salted away over £9 million of extra Government money into reserve funds. So we argued that we should use just £5 million of that to help residents and businesses in Southwark through the current economic difficulties. Sadly, this was rejected in a weirdly dogmatic way by the other parties. Their answer to the present recession is to do nothing. Doesn't it remind you of the worst of Mrs Thatcher's government in the arly 1980's?

Perhaps the most surprising vote was the decision by the LibDems and Tories to vote down our proposal for the Council to investigate entering the mortgage market in some form in order to help home-buyers through the recession. Until 1985 many councils and the GLC gave mortgages to residents, and there is an argument that we should be using our 'AAA' credit rating to help some of our residents now. Councils of every political colour are looking at the options to become mortgage lenders or partners with mortgage lenders. But Southwark's LibDems and Tories simply said it couldn't be done and voted against our proposal. Their completely incoherent argument against the proposal led me to the conclusion that it was arrogance rather than careful consideration which was driving their voting decisions last night.

The award for most curious speech of the night went to Cllr Caroline Pidgeon, who holds a number of offices and candidacies across the capital. In her most sombre and portentous tones she read a quote talking of the needs of Councils at this time of recession - concluding that they were not her words, but those of a Tory Councillor. As she was supposed to be making an anti-Labour point and as most listeners thought she was going to reveal that the quote came from either Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, I am not sure that she had thought through the full impact of her remarks!

So while I welcome a Council Tax freeze, I don't welcome the decision of the LibDems and Tories to spend the money they do collect in such a wasteful way.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Basingdon Way

There are plans to renew the green space in the middle of Basingdon Way on the Denmark Hill Estate. With proposals which include an art work visible from space (I think I've got that right!) and new play and seating areas, the plans could make a real difference to this underused piece of ground.

They are due to be discussed at the next meeting of the local Tenants and Residents Association which will take place on the 2nd of February at 7pm in the Tenants Hall at the bottom of Blanchedown, so please go along and find out more or contribute your own thoughts to how the plans should be taken forward!

It is so long...

Since I posted anything on this blog! Christmas and new year have come and gone, and the world has continued its' incredible economic decline. But in Southwark it is business as usual, with the ruling Executive spending millions on new office chairs and council publicity whilst claiming it has got no money for front-line services.

As I have said before - it is all a matter of priorities, and if you think that £5 million for council publicity and £2 million on new office chairs are the most important things to spend council tax income on, then that is a choice you can make. But I am not sure that it will impress those people who used to rely on Age Concern Southwark for their social care assistance, and now find that the contract has been axed. I know that we will hear a lot from the LibDem/Tory Executive over the next few weeks blaming the Government for everything from its budget cuts to the weather! But don't forget about where their spending priorities appear to be.