Monday, July 19, 2010

Southwark Trades Union Council

This evening I spoke at a meeting of the Southwark Trades Union Council. It is safe to say that I had a frank exchange of views with some of those present at the meeting who appeared to have mistaken me for George Osborne! But I suppose that some may argue that being harangued and heckled by Ted Knight is a sign of political arrival.

With absolute justification many of those present at the meeting are worried about the budget cuts which are coming - and the impact they will have on their jobs, homes, health and aspirations. We have already seen the loss of the Building Schools for the Future budget in most local authorities, and there is worse to come.

Although there are strong arguments to be made against these budget cuts I have to be realistic about the decisions which I make as Council Leader. I don't have the luxury of dealing with imaginary and non- existent budgets and will have to deal with the reality of the sums passed to us by the Coalition Government. So I say to those who oppose any cuts and choose not to accept any reality whatever it may be - I will oppose and argue against any cuts unless and until they come, but I will do nothing which jeopardises the council's ability to provide the best services which it can to those who are most reliant upon those services.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Deal on the Elephant and Castle

Last Wednesday Southwark's Cabinet took the decision to enter into a Regeneration Agreement with Lend Lease to redevelop the Elephant and Castle - a £1.5 billion 15 year project which will transform this part of South London.

In November the previous administration had entered into a Heads of Terms with Lend Lease, but those failed to include any mention of affordable housing, the shopping centre or any leisure facilities. In the 8 weeks since we took office all of these issues have been addressed. We now have a minimum guarantee of at least 25% affordable housing on the site; the shopping centre will be the subject of a compulsory purchase order if no deal can be reached between Lend Lease and St Modwens (the shopping centre owner) and there will be a new leisure centre on the site of the current leisure centre.

In obtaining a guarantee on affordable housing we have had to lose some guaranteed profit which would have come to the Council in 15 years time. We thought this was the right choice to make, as it reflects our political priorities for the Elephant and Castle to be a truly mixed community.

Amazingly the Liberal Democrats have opposed the deal! Despite the fact that they failed to progress the deal during their 8 years in office - 8 years of dither and delay - they now appear to think that it would have been preferable to have no guarantee of affordable housing.

Labour pledged to move forward with the regeneration of the borough, and the Elephant and Castle is crucial to that objective. It is a deal I am proud of and I am confident it will be one of many regeneration projects which we see in Southwark over the next four years.