8 April 2014

The 2014 Southwark Labour Manifesto

Just a quick note to highlight the Southwark Labour Manifesto ahead of the Council Elections on 22nd May. It's really important that the people running your council have clear vision of how to improve Southwark and the values that underpin that approach. This manifesto shows that Southwark Labour Party is all about making our borough a better, fairer place for the people who live here.   

Amongst Southwark Labour councillors, this document is seen as very important and will guide everything we do over the next four years (if elected!)  It is our opportunity to put in front of people a programme for change and to ask for endorsement.  That's why we were so determined to deliver on our manifesto from 2010, and why we will do so again.  

Since 2010 Southwark Labour Councillors have delivered on our promises.  This includes:
  • Free healthy school meals for all primary school children
  • A £1million-a-year Youth Fund to help young people with education, training and employment
  • Helping 1,500 find work as a direct result of our employment support programmes
  • and regeneration schemes since 2010
  • Freezing Council Tax for four years
  • Doubling the recycling rate (plus introducing food waste recycling)
  • Introducing the London Living Wage for all council staff and contractors
  • Nearly 400 new apprenticeships created
  • Halving the cost of meals on wheels
Highlights from the 2014 Labour manifesto are below.  We will...
  • Make swimming and gym use free for all residents in Southwark – the first council in the country to do so 
  • Build more homes of every kind including 11,000 new council homes
  • Support 5,000 local people into work and create 2,000 new apprenticeships
  • Guarantee education, employment or training for every school leaver in Southwark
  • Build 2 new community nurseries and invest in our children’s centres to deliver more quality affordable childcare
  • Keep council rents and council tax low
There is lots more, so make sure you take a look at the full document here.  

23 February 2014

New Peckham Rye tree carving unveiled

This morning we saw the new Peckham Rye tree carving being unveiled.  Huge credit to Morganico, the artist who created this wonderful landmark for our area.  Well done also to the local residents who had the idea and campaigned for it to go ahead.  As the local Councillors who voted through the funding for this project, Vikki, Renata and I are over the moon that it has turned out so well.

Here are some pics:

Councillor Barrie Hargrove unveils the carving

Classic councillor photo!

By the way...the wings at the top are a reference to poet and artist William Blake who, whilst on the Common, had visions  of "...a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars"

28 November 2013

A day on patrol with Southwark's Community Wardens

Out with the community Wardens on Wednesday

Yesterday I spent the day out and about with Southwark’s Community Wardens.  I think it’s fair to say that lots of people (including many councillors) know little about what our Community Wardens do each day.  I often hear people ask what wardens are doing and speculating whether or not we are getting full value for the money. 
So, as Chair of Southwark Housing and Community Safety Scrutiny Sub-committee, I asked if I could spend the day on patrol with the wardens, talking to them about their role and to the Southwark residents they came into contact with. 
There are 31 patrolling wardens and 6 team leaders, with teams focussing on three town centres Elephant and Castle, Camberwell Green and Peckham.  The teams also regularly patrol other areas, such as Peckham Rye, particularly when there have been reports of anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping. 
On the 9.30am to 1pm patrol, I went out with two wardens around Elephant and Castle.  They knew the area extremely well and it quickly became clear that a big part of their job is dealing with issues arising from drug abuse and homelessness.  What impressed me was that the wardens did not simply see their job as ‘moving on’ rough sleepers.  In the subways of Elephant and Castle they did their utmost to make homeless people aware of the support and advice which was available, and to encourage them to attend forthcoming appointments or meetings.   
This is not an easy job. On a daily basis they are interacting with people who often have complex psychological problems and have fallen on the hardest of times.  Most of the people we spoke to had drug and alcohol related issues and the wardens were trying to get them to safer places where they would find it easier to get help. 
During the length of the shift the two person patrol called in around 10 pieces of information ranging from fly-tipping which needed to be cleared and Graffiti which needed to be cleaned.  Quite rightly, they see themselves as the eyes and ears of the council. 
On our way back to the Queens Road Peckham Control Room at 1pm, the wardens helped avert what could have been a violent incident.  One of the wardens spotted that there was a large amount of scrap metal lying in a back alley off a main road.  Three men in a van had just pulled over and another man was standing by the metal gesticulating.  The wardens approached this man and found out that he had collected together the scrap and was intending to sell it at another location.  The men in the van, it turned out, were highly likely to take it away from him in their van, without his permission. 
The wardens handled the situation very well.   They confronted the men in the van and ensured they left the scene, taking a note of their number-plate.  The man who had been threatening violence to defend his scrap metal was calmed down and instructed to remove it within the hour. 
In the afternoon I spent time patrolling with the Camberwell team, who were equally diligent.  One thing to highlight is a visit we made to an elderly resident who had been recently defrauded.  The visit was simply to check he was OK and to reassure him that there were people looking out for him.  He clearly appreciated the visit.  We also visited a local shop which had recently been the victim of shop-lifting. 
Finally, I spent an hour with the warden’s information analyst, who does an excellent job of collating the incident reports from the wardens so that the intelligence can be analysed and so those managing the service can ensure the right areas are being patrolled. 
The wardens patrols are informed by tasking sheets which they are given at their morning briefing.  These come from reports from members of the public, the police and councillors.  This formal system of reporting gave me greater confidence that wardens are responding to concerns from Southwark residents, and not just doing the same patrols day in and day out. 
All in all, a really interesting day which will help inform our Committee’s report on the wardens service.  I picked up a number of small changes which I think could make a difference to improving the service, but my overall impression was that these are dedicated people doing a very good job in often testing circumstances. 
If you want to know more about the service or make a report to them you can find out more here: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200030/community_safety_and_enforcement/431/community_wardens/1

18 November 2013

Great news on Homestall Road Sports Ground

Back in 2010 when we first became Councillors, Southwark Labour committed £2million to build new sports facilities and improve existing ones. We wanted our borough to have a lasting legacy from London 2012 for our young people. 

One of the projects we fought for was £250,000 worth of improvements to the Homestall Road Sports Ground. The first stage was completed over the summer and saw new gates to improve security as well as all the great new grass pitches which reopened at the start of the football season.  

The volunteers who run Athenlay Football Club (who are based at Homestall Road) do a huge amount of work to run the teams for hundreds of kids in our area.  

The next stage is for the old artificial pitch to be brought back into use and work is expected to start in early 2014. Following that we hope that the changing rooms will also be replaced. We think it’s great that local young people will have this great new facility.  

Throughout this process we've kept in mind that the development needs to be sensitive to local residents. We know that some were concerned that increased use will have an impact on their lives. To help make sure this isn’t the case the hours of use on the pitches will be limited and there will be no play after 7pm in the evening.  

The end result of this is going to much improved facilities for a brilliant local sports club. Who says politics can't make a difference? 

24 September 2013

What the Lib Dems really think of free, healthy school meals in Southwark

(Click on the picture above to listen to the Southwark Lib Dem speech on free healthy school meals for primary school children.)

Last week Southwark Liberal Democrats got more than a little unwanted attention. They appeared on national TV a number of times and in pretty much every national newspaper because of their hypocrisy over Free Healthy School Meals.

Labour introduced free healthy school meals for all Primary School children in Southwark when we were elected in 2010, one of a tiny number of local authorities to do so. It has proved to be an incredibly successful policy, ensuring that every child is getting a healthy, hot meal inside them, boosting educational attainment, removing stigma and tackling childhood obesity.

Surprising then that Southwark Lib Dems have opposed it vehemently for the past three and a half years. Then, just before their national conference a few weeks ago they came up against a problem: Their national party was about to back the policy! This was particularly troublesome for them, because they had employed every dirty trick they could think of in order to oppose the policy, including putting out this leaflet, suggesting Labour was giving food to "rich kids" along with a picture of an Eton Schoolboy. (Anyone who knows anything about the socio-economic make-up of our borough and our schools knows this is nonsense.)

One way that they tried to wriggle out of this was by saying that they had only opposed it on the grounds of cost:

There are a multitude of sources showing this is nonsense, not least their infamous leaflet. But I think the starkest example is the speech posted above, which is Southwark Lib Dem Councillor Mark Gettleston, speaking at a council meeting in 2011, in which he claims that the council had lots of money to spend at that time, but his Party still thought spending money on Free Healthy School Meals was a waste of money.

Proof that the only way to safeguard this treasured local policy is to vote for your Southwark Labour candidates in May 2014.

13 September 2013

Talking Free, Healthy School Meals at Francesca Cabrini Primary School

It was great to speak to so many parents at St Francesca Cabrini Primary School today.  We were letting people know about Southwark Labour's hugely successful Free, Healthy School Meals policy.  Since investing in this policy after we took control of the council in 2010, more and more evidence is showing that it is helping kids to concentrate at school and tackle obesity.  Most importantly, it ensures that every primary child at school in Southwark is getting a good quality, cooked meal in the middle of the school day.

This is a great policy which Victoria, Renata and I are very proud our Party has introduced (in the teeth of some vicious and misleading opposition from local Liberal Democrats).

You may also be interested in some national coverage on Southwark's school meals policy in the past week

1 September 2013

Inaugural meeting of the Peckham Rye Responsible Dog Owners Association

On Saturday morning I went along to the first meeting of the Peckham Rye Responsible Dog Owners Association (PRRDOA).  This is a group set up by local dog owners who were concerned that their voice  was not being heard loud and clear.  Local residents Dave Hardy and Nick Simpson in particular have been leading the way in getting this group organised.
In truth, the catalyst for this group hasn’t been a wholly positive issue.  The council recently launched a survey across the borough to collect residents views about dog related issues in parks and green spaces.  I think everyone now accepts that the wording of some of the questions could have been better.  As a result, dog owners in Peckham Rye clearly felt that there was a need to get their views across to the council via a new group.

But positive things often come out of these situations.  There were at least 50 dog owners in the Clock House Pub – an excellent turnout for a Saturday morning.  The meeting was really constructive and lots of good ideas were discussed about how to improve things for local dog walkers and park users more generally.  Nick Simpson set out very clearly the aims of the group and emphasised that they wanted to encourage responsible dog ownership and walking. The PRRDOA is keen to ensure members keep dogs on leads in the designated areas and that people clear up dog mess.  Nick said he wanted the group to be a body that the council could talk to (and vice versa) about dog walking in the park.  He also said that some felt that a small minority of irresponsible owners had given the vast majority an undeserved bad name.  He wanted that to stop and for people to recognise that dog walkers are an important group of park users. 

I spoke briefly to ensure that people knew the position of the Peckham Rye Labour Councillors. On dog control areas in the park, we feel that the balance is currently about right and we don’t think they should be extended.  We also want to ensure that there is proper enforcement regarding keeping dogs on leads and clearing up mess, but that this needs to be done in a polite and respectful manner. There has been some concern about the way dog owners are sometimes spoken to by council staff.

Cllr Barrie Hargrove, our excellent Cabinet Member with responsibility for parks, also came along and spoke.  Barrie said that he didn’t think there was a particular problem with dogs in Peckham Rye Park.  Barrie also said that the council took its responsibility to ensure safety and cleanliness in parks (and on streets) very seriously and that the survey was an attempt to gather views on this.  Barrie also said he recognised there might be some issues with the survey and that the results would be looked at with this in mind. 

There was then a lively discussion which included suggestions for future activities including meet ups in the park, a “poo pick up” session and the the flagging of dog mess the highlight it and ensure it’s picked up. 

Nick Simpson is going to be circulating the official minutes of the meeting soon and is also in the process of setting up a website.  Nick and others are also going to meet directly with Barrie and council officers to get into the detail of some of the issues discussed.  I’m also going to get hold of some stats on dog related incidents in Peckham Rye and send them to the group.  Victoria, Renata and I look forward to coming along to future meetings and keeping up the dialogue with PRRDOA.