Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why do the Lib Dems Lie?

Today an advert appears in Southwark News promoting Simon Hughes and his colleagues. In the small print of the advert allegations are made about Labour wanting to move services to Brixton Town Hall and Labour's plans to introduce an Arms Length Management Organisation ('ALMO') to manage Southwark's housing stock.

Both of these allegations are lies. On the first the Lib Dems have chosen to deliberately twist a perfectly reasonable proposal to try and cut waste and back-office costs across two boroughs. As I have said before, the Lib Dems have no positive proposals about how they are going to try and deal with the difficult financial times ahead, but they are happy to attack anyone who has!

On the second, I have no idea where the allegation comes from! It is simply made up. Purely and simply - a lie, an untruth.

Not even Simon Hughes beleives it. On 7th April 2010 in a Parliamentary debate on housing he said this:

"There are currently four parties on the council: there are councillors from the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives, along with one Green councillor. All those parties in Southwark have always supported the view that the council should retain control of its housing stock and not divest itself of that stock."

That remains the case today. As the Lib Dems well know.

So why does Mr Hughes deliberately try to mislead voters now. It is pathetic politics and he should be ashamed of himself for being party to it.

Peckham Rye candidates report that Lib Dems in that ward are telling Labour voters that there are no Labour candidates standing in the elections - so they have to vote Lib Dem! You make your minds up - does it sound like new 'breaking the mould' politics to you?!


I doubt that there is any politician - or even political activist - who hasn't walked away from a door they have just canvassed or a voter that they have tried to persuade and made a wry or dubious comment to a colleague about the voters' true voting intentions or views. And I doubt that there are many people who can honestly say that they have never said anything out of earshot about a friend, family member, colleague or acquaintance which they would not want to say to that person's face!

So just think how horrific it must be if those private words were repeated back to the other person. How would you feel? Horrifed? Embarrassed? And if the words you used were excessive - the horror and embarrassment must be so much greater. And what would you think of the person who had gone back and repeated your words?

So it must have been great fun for the media yesterday to report to Gillian Duffy what Gordon Brown had said about her. I don't suppose for a moment they thought about the hurt they might cause to her - no doubt they were just interested in landing the Prime Minister in a whole load of trouble.

Of course in a perfect world nobody says anything about anybody else behind their back which is disrepectful or hurtful. But we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where human beings act in a human way and make mistakes.

So I just think that this is a story about human nature - which has hurt and embarrassed everyone involved.

But does it make me think that Gordon Brown has got the big decisions about the economy wrong over the past 2 years? Or that his knowledge and experience are not the best on offer for the future of our economy as we emerge from this recession? No, not at all. At the end of the day it is the decisions on the big issues which matter. And Gordon Brown has got those right.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

East Dulwich Estate Hustings Meeting

The East Dulwich Estate Tenants and Residents Association organises a local election Hustings Meeting every four years and invites all parties to send a speaker. Last night I was joined by Oliver Wooler, one of the Tory candiates for South Camberwell, and Jenny Jones, a Green Party candidate, for a good debate on some of the issues and challenges facing us.

It was clear from the questions put to us that people on the East Dulwich Estate are really dissatisfied with the housing management service in Southwark. Labour has already pledged to reintroduce a Strategic Director of Housing and have a clear management structure re-imposed on this failing department.

But I thought it was really telling that despite numerous e-mails to their Group Leader, the Lib Dems chose to send no one to represent them at the Hustings. It just shows how little they care about South Camberwell ward and Camberwell in general.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Reality Check!

Before anyone gets too carried away with the idea of Saintly Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems providing the answers to all of our political ills, it is worth just remembering a few facts about the Lib Dems record here in Southwark. After all, they have been "breaking the mould" by running things here since 2002!

1. We now have the worst run council in inner-London. That's not just my verdict, it is the verdict of the Audit Commission.
(Southwark is rated as 'adequate' - all other Inner London boroughs judged to be performing 'well' ore 'excellently')
2. We have the 3rd worst council tax collection rate in the country - over £7 million goes uncollected each year. In the rest of the country they would collect at least another £5 million!
3. Our recycling rate is the 6th worst in the country. See the story below!
4. Our adult social care service has fallen from an excellent rating to being one of the 8 worst in the country - again, not just my view, but the view of the independent CQC watchdog.
5. Our housing service has been red flagged by the Audit Commission - they don't think the council is capable of bringing our council housing up to an acceptable standard with the plans currently in place. This is a truly damning indictment for the second largest landlord in the country - with 18,000 unfit homes.
6. We have the highest levels of childhood obesity in England.

And after 8 years in charge the Lib Dem Council Leader says Southwark should be treated like a country in the developing world! [South London Press - 16th April 2010]

This is not "a new politics". It is a real demonstration that the Lib Dems in charge of Southwark have made things worse and not better.

So don't get drawn in by any media hype or imagine that Mr Clegg and his party offer some politial utopia. We have seen them in charge in Southwark for 8 years - and the reality is terrible!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Southwark Labour's Manifesto

If you haven't already received a hard copy of Southwark Labour's manifesto, you can read it online here

I am really proud of our positive commitments and pledges for the next four years.

Labour's Pledge to Double Recycling

In the local election campaign here in Southwark Labour has pledged to double recycling. The last full year figures showed recycling had reached 21% in Southwark - so our pledge means that we will take it to 42%.

The national average last year was nearly 38%, up from 22.5% four years before. That's an increase of 15.5%. In contrast Southwark has only increased its' recycling rate by less than 10% in the same period. So not only are we far behind the national average, we are not keeping pace with the national rate of improvement.

We can do far more to make recycling easier, by offering food recycling; by recycling tetra-pak; and just by increasing the range of items which can be doorstep recycled. As a flat-dweller I know that it has been difficult to recycle in Southwark - even when you want to.

In contrast to Labour's clear pledge, the ruling Lib Dems are pledging to make the borugh's recycling rate more than ten times the rate achieved under Labour. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm guessing that it's a pledge to increase recycling to between 30% and 40%. In 2006 the Libs promised to increase recycling to 30%, but they have fallen way short. They appear to be apologists for the contractors Veolia, and once again do not demonstrate any leadership or passion on this subject.

They need to understand that in order to make things happen you need to show political leadership, even if that involves making tough decisions. But I know that in Southwark recycling is a clear priority, and a Labour Council will deliver on its' pledge.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Road Ahead

I've just been catching up with last night's Labour election broadcast - it's well worth a look here

What's your plan Lib Dems?

Two weeks ago Southwark Labour launched its' manifesto for the local election campaign. You can read it here. I think we've got a full programme for the next 4 years, with many good ideas for sorting out some of the big problems for Southwark. I was particularly pleased to see that Labour's national manifesto published yesterday included a commitment to provide free healthy school meals - echoing our own local pledge to introduce free healthy school meals for all of our primary school pupils.

But I have been baffled by the absence of any manifesto or ideas from the Lib Dems who run the Council. Three weeks before they are asking people to support them in the local elections I have yet to see a leaflet which says what they will do, rather than what Labour won't do! After 8 years in power you would have thought that they would want to take pride in any achievements and set out their agenda for the next 4 years. But try though I might I can find nothing, anywhere!

Perhaps it is because we have the worst run council in London (that's official - don't just take my word for it!), the third worst council tax collection in the country, the sixth worst recycling record in England and a housing department which has been condemned by the Audit Commission that the Lib Dems are avoiding talking about their record. But to have no ideas for the future is just pathetic. I have to say it is consistent with everything which senior officers have told me over the past two years - that the Council's political executive have provided absolutely no leadership.

It is great to have good 'pavement politicians', people who will stand up for your street, but you also need people in charge of the Council who have a strategy and a vision for where our borough should be. Labour has such a strategy and vision, and at the moment we seem to be the only party which does. We don't just want power for the sake of it, or to share out the special responsibility allowances. We want power so that we can make Southwark a better place to live, and create a future which is fair for all in our borough.