20 August 2011

Southwark Labour - working hard for young people

There has understandably been lots of concern in recent weeks about the levels of help and support for young people in Southwark. I thought I’d post some information about what the Labour Council is doing in this area.

First things first, Southwark’s Labour Council believes in investing in our young people. That's why, despite receiving the worst government budget cuts in London, we are:

- keeping all our Children's Centres open and funded at last year's levels

- bringing in universal Free Healthy School Meals for our primary school pupils

- helping tackle child obesity and putting money in parents' pockets just when they need it most

- creating a new Youth Fund - investing £3m in helping young people stay on in education and get a foot on the jobs ladder.

There are three strands to the youth fund: support for further education, support for tuition fees for higher education and employment opportunities. The higher education tuition fees strand was launched this week. The other strands will launch in the next few weeks and months. You can find out a bit more about the youth fund in this Guardian article. Southwark Labour’s work for young people is led by Catherine McDonald.

The council is seeking to counteract the Lib Dem-Tory government’s policies which are moving in the opposite direction. In my view they have done more to close off opportunities to young people from deprived areas than any government in living memory. They have:

- scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance (and replaced it with a scheme worth a third of the value and that only guarantees funding to 12,000 pupils across the country)

- hiked tuition fees to an average £8161

- allowed youth unemployment reach record highs.

Southwark Labour will keep young people at the top of the council's agenda so that they can make the most of their talents and fulfil their ambitions – it’s good for them and it’s good for our future economy.

I would encourage any interested residents to apply for the Youth Fund by clicking here.

9 August 2011

Riots

Victoria, Renata and I would just like to add our voice to the many others calling for calm after the recent outbreaks of rioting and criminal behaviour. We welcome the decision to put more police on our streets, as reassuring local residents and shop owners at this time has to be everyone's top priority.

The police have asked that people stay home tonight and encourage their children stay home as any disturbances will be easier to police as there will be less by-standers. If you encounter any disturbances yourself they have asked that these are reported to them by phoning 101. Obviously, if you consider the matter to be an emergency, dial 999.

We're very proud that the council street cleaners, accompanied by local volunteers, made sure that our street were cleaned first thing this morning. We hope to see our community come together in the same way over the coming days and weeks, and not spoiled my a minority intent on violence and destruction.

1 August 2011

Leaseholder charging review


Below is a news release from Southwark Labour which gives some details of a forthcoming review of leaseholder charging in the borough. My involvement comes from chairing the Council's Housing Scrutiny Committee. Leaseholders living in Peckham Rye may want to keep an eye on this. I'll post further updates as the review progresses.

The original release is here (with a pic of me looking even more grumpy than usual!)
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Leaseholder charging review announced

The Labour Chair of Southwark’s Housing Scrutiny Committee has announced a review of leaseholder charging in the borough. The review will look into all aspects of leaseholder service charges - including customer service to leaseholders and the accuracy of billing arrangements – as well as charges for communal repairs and major works.

The review will also look at the progress being made in implementing the recommendations of the Grant Thornton audit of leaseholder service charges that was published in September 2009.

Southwark Council has responsibility for over 12,000 leasehold properties, 3,200 freehold properties and 40,000 tenants. Average leaseholder service charges in Southwark are: £1,130. Labour Councillors believe that efficiently administered leaseholder charges will benefit tenants and leaseholders alike – ensuring that money is not wasted on tribunal and court disputes.

Councillor Gavin Edwards, Chair of Southwark's Housing Scrutiny Committee said:

"We want to take a close look at leaseholder charging to see if improvements can be made. It’s in everybody’s interests for Southwark to have an accurate, fair and transparent system of charging leaseholders for the services they receive.

"Last year we showed what progress could be made when scrutiny and the cabinet work together to improve the repairs service. This year I hope we can do the same with leaseholder charging.”


The review comes at a key time for leaseholders – as Southwark’s Labour Cabinet announced last month its huge 5 year housing investment programme, leaseholders will be eager to know that any charges they incur through improvements to estates are clearly explained and accurate first-time.

Councillor Ian Wingfield, Southwark Labour’s Cabinet Member for Housing said:

“I welcome this review whole-heartedly. We have a responsibility to get these charges right and any recommendations which help us to improve our leaseholder operations must be seen as a good thing.”

“We will not be defensive. Unlike the last Lib Dem administration we will work with scrutiny to make sure that Housing Services in Southwark work for residents, not against them.”