30 September 2010

Ed's no mug

We don't ordinarily give much coverage to national politics on the Peckham Rye Labour Blog. Parochial to the last, you'll find more on this website about the Clock House pub than the House of Commons. That said, we thought we'd make an exception following the election of Ed Miliband as the new Leader of the Labour Party.

It's been a difficult time for supporters of the Labour Party watching a supposedly left-of-centre Liberal Democrat Party form a Coalition with the Tories, providing cover for cuts which are clearly too early and too deep for our recovering economy. In very testing circumstances our local MP Harriet Harman has done a fantastic job as the Acting Leader of the Labour Party, holding the Government to account every step of the way. Nevertheless, the people we've been talking to on the doorstep have been very curious to know who would be the new Leader of the Labour Party.

Victoria, Renata and I are delighted that Ed Miliband is now in the hot-seat. Rightly or wrongly some people judge a political party based on their view of its leader. We can do our best locally to show what the Labour Party is all about, but that task is made much easier when a permanent leader is in place, arguing for Labour values day in and day out in the national media and in Parliament.

There was one part of Ed Miliband's Party Conference speech which struck a chord with me and the issues that we are facing in Peckham Rye. He said:

"But what we should not do as a country is make a bad situation worse by embarking on deficit reduction at a pace and in a way that endangers our recovery. The starting point for a responsible plan is to halve the deficit over four years, but growth is our priority and we must remain vigilant against a downturn.

You see, it's obvious really, when you cancel thousands of new school buildings at a stroke, it isn't just bad for our kids, it's bad for construction companies at a time when their order books are empty. It's not responsible, it's irresponsible.

And nor should we reduce the deficit without learning the basic lessons of fairness. We must protect those on middle and low incomes. They did nothing to cause the crisis but are suffering the consequences"

The savagery and the timing of the cuts which the Lib Dems and Tories are imposing on local councils will inevitably damage services and regeneration projects in our area. Southwark's Labour run council is totally committed to protecting the most vulnerable from the severity of these cuts, but there will inevitably be difficulties ahead. It helps then to have a Labour Leader elected who is willing and capable of making the case for sane deficit reduction. We can only hope that the message will get through to the Lib Dems.

Perhaps some of Southwark's Lib Dem Councillors could have a word with local MP Simon Hughes (in his own words, a "rock solid" supporter of the coalition) and suggest that he might want to rethink the depth, pace and timing of these ideological cuts. Former Lib Dem supporters across the country now know that there is a credible and progressive alternative to the Coalition in Ed Miliband's Labour Party. Our local party has seen a dramatic rise in the number of members since the election. If you believe in a building a fairer society both locally and nationally, think about joining up.

23 September 2010

Extending the 63 - Next step is to gather the evidence that an extension is needed

I thought I’d give a slightly overdue update on how things went at the last Traffic and Travel Community Council 'Sub Group' when we discussed how to take forward the campaign to extend the 63 bus.

I gave a bit of the background and informed the sub-committee that TFL are claiming that extending the route would cost £470,000. Val Shawcross, our London Assembly Member was attending the meeting to give us her view on what the next steps in the campaign should be.

Val explained that the contract for the route was renewed a year ago and contracts get re-let every 5 yrs. Transport for London can tweak a bus route mid-contract but it needs demonstration of a clear demand. Considering the current climate, the picture is not optimistic, however if there is a case it needs to made and be persistent.

One suggestion is that since all the passenger number studies are pre-east London extension, post-East London line data might demonstrate a need so the council might ask for more data regarding the East Line effect.

Councillor Barrie Hargrove, the Southwark Council Cabinet member with responsibility for Transport, said that the Labour administration would be happy to support the campaign even if it’s for the long haul. He also said that the council would also help with getting the necessary surveys done.

Residents attending the meeting also suggested the possibility of running the bus for a few weeks as a trial run with Val Shawcross explaining that they can do that sometimes and sometimes councils and/or developers can subsidise trial runs, so this may be an option we could look at.

Residents were also concerned that a new school with 950 kids was opening soon and the 63 was the only bus for it. The school will be at full capacity by 2014, the time when the next contract is due.

All in all it was an extremely constructive discussion. We concluded by agreeing that I would, as a next step, speak to all of the local Members of Parliament to see if they would be able to sign a joint letter asking TfL to look again at extending the route. I also agreed to look into what additional survey work could be done to support the case for the extension following the opening of the East London Line and the Harris Boys Academy. I’ll report back soon on how I get on.

18 September 2010

Mundania Road Street Party

Victoria, Renata and I today attended the Mundania Road Street Party. This was a fantastic event entirely organised by people living on Mundania Road. Thankfully the summer held out for another day to allow people to enjoy themselves. There were bookstalls, face-painting, football and lots of cake for people to enjoy.

Some of the funding for the event came from the Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Fund, which is allocated by local councillors. I think this kind of event is a superb way of building community spirit. Though there are many great things about living in London, life in a big city can all too easily isolate people from their neighbours. But today on Mundania Road the atmosphere was more like a village fete than a street in a city 7.5 million people.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the event.

14 September 2010

How Labour is making a difference in Southwark

I've said before on this blog that the nuts and bolts of local authority politics can squeeze the enthusiasm out of even the most hardened campaigners. But it is crucially important that all those leaflets, all the time talking to you on your doorstep, and all those votes actually achieves something for the people of this borough. It's been just over four months since the people of Southwark voted for a change in who runs their council. So, has it made any difference?

Southwark Labour was elected on a manifesto of creating a fairer, more equal borough and giving people a council that provided good quality services. Whilst doing this Southwark Labour is also having to contend with 25% + cuts to our budget made by the Coalition Government.

Given this context, I've listed below Labour's top 10 achievements in Southwark since 6th May. Labour has:

1. Entered a Regeneration Agreement for the £1.5 billion redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle - a deal which includes a minimum guarantee of 25% of affordable housing - following eight years of Lib Dem dither and delay;

2. Taken steps to pilot (in November) our pledge to provide every primary school pupil with a free healthy school meal;

3. Published Fire Risk Assessments for all council blocks in the borough following the tragic Lakanal fire in July 2009, in order to provide reassurance to worried residents;

4. Cut councillors allowances in order to save over £70,000 for use on front-line services;

5. Agreed a set of principles which will guide our budget-making decisions and ensure that we deliver on our manifesto commitments, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the Government's cuts. This includes given residents and backbench councillors more say over how decisions will be made.

6. Established a Democracy Commission to produce a report on how we make our council meetings and procedures more open and accessible;

7. Introduced tough new measures to limit the amount the Council spends on external consultants;

8. Commenced work on plans to regenerate Camberwell, Nunhead and Peckham – areas ignored for the past eight years;

9. Taken steps to prevent any development on vital green spaces in the borough at Nursery Row and Brayard’s Green in Nunhead;

10. Agreed to pilot food waste recycling across the borough – five years ahead of the Lib Dem’s timetabled introduction.

None of these achievements would have occurred if thousands of people in Southwark hadn't chosen to vote Labour on 6th May. It's become fashionable to say that politics doesn't make a difference. The list above shows that, even in these early days, Labour in Southwark has been able to make some really worthwhile changes.

There is another important difference which a Labour administration has brought to Southwark which isn't as easy to spot over a short period but which, in the long-term, is going to be incredibly important. Southwark now has a group of Cabinet members and councillors in control who aren't afraid to take responsibility for their actions and to make difficult (sometimes very difficult) decisions. As a new councillor it's been striking to see the Liberal Democrat Opposition consistently duck out of taking a firm position on a whole range of issues. It is partly this approach which lead to so many important decisions being kicked into the bureaucratic long grass during their eight years of running the council. So, of course, there are differences of policy and values in how Labour runs the council, but perhaps just as importantly, there is a difference in competence.

9 September 2010

Boosting Recycling in Southwark

In October 2010 your newly elected Labour Administration in Southwark will start to deliver on our manifesto commitment to expand the variety of materials that can be recycled in order to boost the recycling rate in the borough. One of the major failings of the Lib Dem-Tory Administration which we have replaced was their refusal to prioritise recycling - leave Southwark with the 6th worst recycling rate in the country. Labour is determined to change this.

In October, parts of six wards, including Peckham Rye, will take part in a six month pilot. The most significant change will be the introduction of weekly food and garden waste collections. As part of the pilot you will be supplied with compostable bags which will allow you to collect all food waste. Food waste can then be put into your brown garden waste bin. The council will then collect your food and garden waste each week. If you don’t have a brown bin, the council will supply you with one, in a size suitable for the space available.

The council will continue to collect blue box recycling on a weekly basis, but you won't need to separate the items. To help you to recycle more you can also order an extra blue box.

This new system will enable residents of Peckham Rye to recycle more than two thirds of waste, all of which will be removed on a weekly basis. The remaining, currently non-recyclable waste, will be picked up once every other week. Full details of the scheme are contained in a letter sent to all those residents who will be part of the pilot - I got mine this week!

Obviously this is just a pilot scheme at this stage but it is hoped that, based on the results, it will form the basis of a scheme that will be rolled out across the whole borough in the future. I think we will find that some things work well but equally I know it will be a challenge for all residents to recycle two thirds of their waste. However, I think the pilot is a good way to test what's possible.

If you'd like to know more about the pilot, take a look at this webpage.

4 September 2010

Update from Community Safety Ward Panel meeting

A local resident recently posted on our "Peckham Rye News" Facebook Page asking for an update from the latest Community Safety ward panel meeting. I thought our blog readers might also like to see the response, so I've copied and pasted it below:

"The local police team gave an update on their work. They have been particularly focusing on the crime and anti-social behaviour being committed by a small number of individuals in the Peckham Rye area. Their work on this over the summer seems to have been very succesful.

There was also some discussion on the issue of dangerous dogs. The police explained that they will act whenever they have reports of people failing to control their dogs or of dogs posing a danger to the public.

There have been a small number of burglaries in the area over the last month or so, and the police gave their view that these were opportunistic. They emphasised the importance of locking doors and windows to avoid this kind of break in. On the whole though, they said crime and anti-social behaviour in Peckham Rye is generally low. Finally, there was some discussion of the threat to having a local police team at all.

Due to Government cuts there is a possibility that their area may be extended, which means that they will be less able to do the kind of preventative work that has been so successful in Peckham Rye. I should stress there are no firm plans to make changes yet. I have offered the assistance of all the Peckham Rye Councillors if we need to run a campaign to protect our local police team."

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