4 November 2012

The Ivy House Pub: Officially a Community Asset

I know I'm a bit late posting on this, but just wanted to mark the important news about the Ivy House Pub.

Many congratulations to all the campaigners who succesfully fought to get the Pub (on Stuart Road) to be officially listed as a community asset.  Buildings listed as community assets can't be sold without first giving community groups the right to bid for them. Southwark's Labour council is the first council to list such an asset.

I also know that that Cllr Claire Hickson (Cabinet Member for Communities and Economic Development) has been working on this with local residents...so a big thanks to her too.

There is still a huge amount that needs to be done before the Pub's future is secured.  But this is a very positive step.

For those that want more detail, beneath is the text from the press release put out by the council...
The Ivy House pub in Nunhead, a classic 1930s, wood-panelled building, recently listed by English Heritage may be the first venue nationally to be protected after local people rallied to nominate it for listing as a community asset by Southwark council under the Localism Act.

The pub, which was previously known as the Newlands Tavern boasts many original features such as a curved bar and timber panelled walls. It was one of the major pub music venues in South London during the ‘pub-rock’ boom of the mid-1970s. It hosted early incarnations of many bands and performers who later rose to fame including Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer and Dr Feelgood. The pub was later renamed the Stuart Arms before becoming The Ivy House.

The campaigners see the Ivy House as a key asset to the local community in Nunhead. It is one of only two pubs at the eastern end of the neighbourhood and as such has played a pivotal role in community life both as a pub and popular venue used by the community for a range of purposes. The pub’s immediate vicinity is marked by an absence of places to meet and socialise in the evenings.

Its continued success as a destination music venue and performance space came to an abrupt end in April 2012 when it was closed to the public.

Since then, a group of local residents have battled to save the building and retain it as a community space, recognising its historical significance and merit as a community hub.

Under the Localism Act, local groups can nominate buildings for listing in a register of assets of community value, held by the council. Buildings that are successfully listed cannot be sold without first giving community groups the right to bid for them, in order to use them for community benefit. Southwark is the first council to list such an asset.

The pub was withdrawn from auction on 29 October 2012 by its current owner and now the property appears on the council’s list of assets of community value under the Localism Act. A community group could bid for the property when it next goes for sale to try to ensure its community use into the future.

Councillor Claire Hickson, cabinet member for communities and economic development, said: “I’m delighted at the strength of feeling and determination of local people to save this space for future generations. With a new school and housing being built next door, saving this building for community use can only be a positive addition to the area. The fact that Southwark is the first London council to register a community asset demonstrates the strength of our local communities and our commitment to supporting them. I would like to thank the local councillors for their contribution to this campaign.”

Plans for the venue by the group, should they successfully buy it, could range from using it as a music recording space, to an entertainment venue, community meeting space and studio room for artists and musicians

23 October 2012

New Peckham Rye One O'Clock Club Update

People with an interest in the development of a new One O'Clock Club on Peckham Rye Common (as a replacement for the current hut) maybe interested in the extract below from the minutes of our last full Council Assmbley meeting.  I asked our Labour Leader of the council for an update on delivering the new Club.

Could the leader give an update on the work to deliver on Southwark Labour's administration commitment to turn plans for a new One O'Clock Club on Peckham Rye into a reality?

A project team has been established to take forward the redevelopment of Peckham Rye One O'Clock Club, with a project manager allocated by the property team and representatives from children's services. An initial assessment has been carried out of options for the location of the proposed new building, with a further site visit for the project team scheduled for October 2012. The project is estimated to be completed by autumn 2013."

The minutes from this part of the meeting are here.

16 September 2012

Domestic violence in Southwark

I've blogged before about the work I do as Chair of one of Southwark's Scrutiny Sub-Committees.  In the past we've produced recommend-ations for changes relating to housing repairs, leaseholder charging and the large scale security works on the Four Squares Estate.  Local government scrutiny is not, I admit, a process which prompts great excitement in most people, but I think my committee has done a solid job of focussing in on people's concerns and finding real solutions.  This has been helped by the fact that Southwark's Labour Cabinet has been prepared to engage with the scrutiny process and actually implement new policies where we could show that they were needed.

We've recently completed another report on the important issue of domestic violence and abuse.  This is a difficult issue to investigate, not least because the often hidden nature of this crime.  However, the sub-committee has now produced a report which we hope will improve how the council responds to domestic violence and, in turn, improve support for its victims in Southwark.

The report will go before Southwark's full Overview and Scrutiny meeting tomorrow night (17th September) and then, if it is approved, before the Cabinet.

Domestic abuse can devastate the lives of its victims. The support that victims receive from a variety of different bodies can be crucial in helping them to move on, ensuring perpetrators are held to account and breaking cycles of violence in the home.  Our scrutiny was well timed because Southwark council has recently integrated many of its domestic violence support and response services into one contract, run by a specialist organisation called Solace.

There are four strands to the new integrated service:

- An advocacy and support service for male and female survivors
- A perpetrator programme run by Domestic Violence Intervention Project (aimed at reducing re-offending)
- A Parallel Programme for mothers and their children
- Capacity building workshops for agencies and professionals within the borough (including training for Southwark Council staff

We went into quite some detail in our investigation and you can read the full report for a complete record of the issues we identified and the recommendations for change we made.  But here is a short summary of the main recommendations:

Linking tenancy and leaseholder status to attendance on behaviour change programme - Officers and Solace report that one recurring issue is that perpetrators of domestic violence are often extremely reluctant to attend the “behaviour change programme”.  Where the perpetrator is a council tenant, the council should make attendance on the programme a condition of continued tenancy.  Officers from Solace and Housing should work closely together to use tenancy as leverage to force perpetrators to attend the programme.  The same approach could be taken with leaseholders, where the council is the freeholder

Placing a domestic abuse caseworker with police -  The sub-committee recommends that the police have a domestic abuse support worker working with them, located in their stations, at key days and times. This helps the police to understand the process and needs of  victims and ensures victims have access to support services at the point that they are reporting it.

A dedicated domestic violence court - The time between the domestic abuse incident and court hearing needs to be drastically reduced in Southwark.  Domestic violence courts have been very effective in other London Boroughs in reducing this time and consequently increasing conviction rates.  Southwark council on its own cannot deliver this much needed reform. There is a limit to what the council can do, but the sub-committee and the Cabinet should continue to lobby the government and the Court Service for the introduction of a dedicated court.

Training – The training programme for Southwark Council staff and other external agencies needs to be rolled out as a matter of urgency. Priority groups for training are: community leaders (TRA leaders, voluntary and community sector and councillors) and professionals (social workers, Area Housing Staff, council staff who have regular contact with residents).  These groups are likely to come into contact with victims of domestic abuse and it is important they know how to respond.

Risk Assessment Criteria - Concern was raised by staff working at the Southwark/Solace Advocacy Support Service that staff in different council departments and other agencies were often using different risk assessments.  This may, in part, be due to statutory frameworks requiring different focus, but should not be an excuse for making the system more complex and onerous for victims.  Officers and Solace should train/ work with agencies and council departments to ensure that the correct risk assessment criteria are used.

Additional security scheme – Given that continued accommodation is such a crucial issue for the victims of domestic violence, consideration should be given to setting up a scheme which supports victims to remain in their homes. The scheme should assist with security measures for the homes of victims of domestic violence.

Ensuring all staff in the Housing Options Unit take responsibility for reports of domestic abuse – All staff should take responsibility for dealing with those presenting as victims of domestic abuse.  This is particularly important in high risk areas such as the housing options unit.  Managers should ensure staff are trained and able to do this.  Timely and high standard bespoke action planning should be undertaken and necessary referrals made.

These are just some of the recommendations. You can read the full report here.

31 August 2012

Peckham Rye Fête 2012

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow (Saturday 1st September) it's time once again for the brilliant Peckham Rye Fête. More details are here.

The fête is organised by volunteers from the Friends of Peckham Rye Park and is always a roaring success.  Come along and enjoy the wide variety of fun stalls and activities on offer.

15 August 2012

Labour: cutting waste at Southwark Council and protecting services

One of the key commitments we gave before the May 2010 election was that Labour would cut waste at Southwark Council. Between 2002 and 2010, under the Liberal Democrats, the council had very weak political leadership which lead to large amounts of wasteful spending on things like consultants and high senior officer pay.

Since Labour councillors have taken control there has been a new culture introduced at the council which prioritises front-line services and cuts wasteful spending. The report card below gives a summary of the reduction in waste that we have achieved so far...and we are determined to maintain these high standards.

15 July 2012

Are local Lib Dems planning to slap £50 on your Council Tax bill?

Times are tough at the moment and lots of people are feeling the pinch. With this in mind, Labour Councillors in Southwark are focusing on making changes which will help people out. To give just two examples, we've introduced free, healthy school meals in all primary schools and just announced plans to build 1000 new homes to help deal with the desperate shortage of housing in the borough.

We've managed to do this whilst the government is cutting 1/3 of of the funding your council gets from the government (whilst wealthier council's like Richmond have been protected). Importantly, Labour has also prioritised keeping Council Tax down. We know that when people are struggling, the last thing they need is a hike in their council tax.

But for some unknown reason, during these tough times, local Liberal Democrat councillors have decided to prioritise introducing more council meetings, paid for by an increase in Council Tax. They are campaigning for new Parish Councils to be introduced - and they are being very hush, hush about the fact that this unnecessary layer of additional bureaucracy comes with a price tag.

A parish council has just been introduced in Westminster which will put Council Tax up (for the residents of that area) by £50 a year. Politics is about priorities. I find it staggering that Lib Dems are prioritising a new tax on hard pushed residents of the borough to pay for more council meetings.

Lib Dems are currently talking about consulting on the proposals in the northern parts of Southwark, but they have not ruled it out for Nunhead, Peckham Rye and East Dulwich. Worryingly, in Westminster they managed to sneak through the new parish council tax even though only 20% of people turned out to vote in a local referendum.Even if you leave aside the council tax issue, the proposals are trying to solve a problem which doesn't exist.

It is our job as local councillors to take your views to the council in a variety of ways. If councillors are hard working, then there is no need for extra meetings. The Lib Dems have an ongoing problem in this respect.

The only Lib Dem councillors in our area are in East Dulwich ward. So I'd like to lay down a challenge to them. Will they rule out this silly plan to increase council tax by £50 a year if you win back control of the council in 2014?

I'll update the Peckham Rye Labour Blog with their answer as soon as I get it.

27 June 2012

Better facilities for Athenlay FC kids team

There was a really constructive meeting tonight regarding works to improve facilities on Homestall Road Sports Field  (where kids teams for Athenlay FC play).  There were 60-70 people present to hear the lead council officer on the project give a presentation on what is planned.  The first stage involves the relaying of the grass pitches to improve them and important drainage works. Future works could include the creation of a flood-lit astro-turf pitch and changing rooms for the teams.

Thus far only the first stage has been fully funded and will definitely go ahead.  This is the result of the Labour Council's decision to support youth sport in the borough via the Olympic Legacy Fund.  Future works will depend on successful grant funding bids.

Volunteers who run Athenlay FC do a huge amount of work to run a club which provides lots of local kids the opportunity to get involved in healthy sporting activity.  The development of the pitches and changing rooms is intended to improve the facilities for existing teams and help the club expand provision for girls teams.

In the past there has been some worries on behalf of local residents about the extent of the scheme.  This was, in part, because an earlier, less appropriate plan which had been published by the council.  However, the tone of tonight's meeting was very constructive and there was strong support from both parents of the players and local residents for the principles of the plan.  In particular, concerns about playing hours, flood-lighting and noise levels were discussed and  the reassurances given were well received.  These, and other  issues (such as parking provision and traffic safety on weekends) will still need addressing, but there was a genuine willingness on behalf of parents, residents and the council to continue to talk and sort these out.  

Probably the best thing to come out of the meeting was that many local residents and club officials got to meet for the first time and talk.  The positive approach of both groups bodes well for the future.

Work will start on stage one very soon.  The next steps for further development will be the subject of extensive consultation and early communication by council officers.  Lots of parents and local residents are keen to get involved and ensure their views are heard.  I'll update again here when I have more news.

21 June 2012

Southwark Labour to deliver on key changes for leaseholders

Southwark’s Labour-run Council has agreed to adopt all the proposals of an independent Housing Scrutiny Committee report into leaseholder charging.

Among the key recommendations are to provide leaseholders with an individual online account so that they know exactly how much money they will have to spend at the end of the year.  They also include a new two-tier system of charges to cater for requests to make minor changes to properties; at present leaseholders are charged a flat rate of £203 simply for enquiring about making a change to their property.

The Cabinet action plan agrees to allow leaseholders to know who signed off works which leaseholders are expected to pay for, increasing transparency and accountability.  

The Council has also agreed to investigate offering leaseholders the option of a fixed service charge which incorporates both the annual services charge and major works service charges. This will help leaseholders plan for the future and avoid a situation where a leaseholder’s final annual service charge is significantly higher than they were expecting.

Labour believes that efficiently administered leaseholder charges will benefit tenants and leaseholders alike – ensuring that money is not wasted on tribunal and court disputes.

You can see the full Cabinet response here and the action plan is here.

As Chair of Southwark’s Housing Scrutiny Committee I'm delighted that the Council cabinet has agreed to accept all the recommendations of our report. It demonstrates Labour's commitment to ensuring a fair deal for Southwark’s leaseholders.”

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

“Under the previous Lib Dem administration, leaseholders were made to pay unfair charges for refurbishment and fire safety works. That is why Labour pledged in 2010 to write a new leaseholder compact on fair charging. This is a significant first step in delivering on that promise.

25 May 2012

Peckham Rye Police Ward Panel Meeting

Last night I went to our Ward Panel Meeting with our local police team. These are meetings which allow residents of Peckham Rye to raise concerns and issues with local police teams and to influence their priorities. Last night’s meeting took place in a meeting room at Honor oak Baptist Church on the corner of Forest Hill Road and Therapia Road.

Last night’s meeting was particularly timely for me because I’d just been contacted by a local resident who was concerned about several muggings which had taken place between the south part of Nunhead and the route to Brockley train station. The area in question is outside the patch covered by our police team, but they did undertake to speak to their colleagues in the neighbouring ward, check the stats to see if there was a problem and said action would be taken to increase patrols if necessary.

I always find these meetings to be very congenial and constructive. Other items which were discussed included a person pestering people around a local cash-machine, the impact of the Olympics and the level of burglary in Peckham Rye. On the last point, the police told us that there had been a small increase in the number of burglaries taking place in recent months. They emphasised that the general level was still very low when compared to other parts of inner London, but that people should always take care to secure their property. One particularly common occurrence, they said, was opportunistic burglaries happening when people leave their windows open because of hot weather and then forget to close them when they go out.

The next ward panel meeting will take place on 5th September at 7pm. Anyone who lives locally can attend, so if you’re interested, come along.

16 May 2012

How Peckham Rye Voted

Last week people across London voted for who they wanted to be their Mayor and representatives on the London Assembly. Obviously we're disappointed that Ken Livingstone couldn't quite pip Boris Johnson to be Mayor of London, but we're very pleased that Val Shawcross was re-elected as our Assembly Member. Val is an excellent and hard-working representative for our area and I'm sure she'll continue to campaign for us on issues like extending the 63 bus route to Honor Oak Park station.

One of the helpful things about the publication of the London election results is that you can get the ward breakdowns of how areas voted from the London Elects website. The results from Peckham Rye are fascinating (particularly if you're a bit of a geek and happen to be a Councillor). Each voter had the opportunity to vote on three ballot papers (one for Mayor on which you could put first and second preferences, one for the top up 'list' members of the GLA and one for your constituency member of the GLA).

The first thing to say about Peckham Rye is that turnout was slightly down on the last time people cast these votes in 2008. I haven't worked out the exact % figures for our ward, but in the first preferences for Mayor 300 less votes were cast than in 2008. However, it's worth pointing out that turnout was down across London and in 'Southwark-terms' , our local turnout was good.

Labour performed very strongly in Peckham Rye across all three ballot papers. In the vote for Mayor, the first preference vote the chart below shows that Ken Livingstone polled just short of 50%. Noticeably the Lib Dem (Brian Paddick) vote collapsed into 5th place and they were beaten by both the Greens and the Independent candidate. (You can click on the images to make them bigger).

On the GLA 'list' vote where people just had to choose their preference between different parties, Labour again polled just shy of the 50% mark. The chart below shows the change in this vote from the same election back in 2008. As you can see the Labour vote has surged (good news!) whilst the Lib Dems have dropped by almost 8% (more good news you might say!).

This trend is even more marked when it comes to the vote for who people in Peckham Rye wanted to represent them on the London Assembly. Val Shawcross (Labour candidate) secured 53% of the votes cast.

It's also interesting to see that the trends seen in Peckham Rye were repeated in neighbouring East Dulwich ward, which has had less Labour voters in recent elections and which has three Lib Dem Councillors. The reasons for this will be complex but my guess is that people are very angry about the hypocritical behaviour of the Lib Dems in government. Others are perhaps coming round to Ed Miliband as a future Prime Minister. Whatever the reasons for this voting pattern, it's good to see people putting their faith in the Labour Party. As local Councillors Victoria, Renata and I will continue to work hard to retain your confidence.

20 April 2012

Ivy House Listing

Renata Hamvas (fellow Labour Councillor for Peckham Rye) has just called with some news. She's just posted this on local forums:

 "Thank you for the many many emails I've received about the Ivyhouse, you have been keeping me very busy over the last couple of days! Just to update on the situation: I have been liasing with English Heritage over the Ivyhouse and as of today, The Ivyhouse is a Grade II Listed building. The owners have been notified in writing of the change in status of the building.


Another Ivy House Update

Just a quick update. I've written to Harriet Harman (our local MP) to ask her to write to English Heritage and the Department of Culture Media and Sport regarding the Spot Listing of the property.

Renata has been in direct contact with English Heritage about the listed building application. It seems likely that the listed status application could come through relatively quickly. We'll update again when we have more news.

18 April 2012

The Ivyhouse - UPDATE

We've had a flurry of emails and tweets today about the Ivyhouse Pub on Stuart Road closing this weekend. It seems that the current owners Enterprise Inns have sold the pub on to new owners and there are plenty of rumours that the building may be turned into flats rather than remaining as a pub.

As a private building, unfortunately we can't stop the current owners selling the building on to others who may have other plans for its use. However, the new owners would need apply for planning permission for change of use and likely for other alternations they might wish to make if they do plan to turn it into a residential property. As far as I can tell no planning application has been lodged and so no application has been granted. The planning process will allow for local residents to voice their concerns and to object to the application and in all likelihood the decision would then come to local councillors - but we do need to wait until we actually see what the new owners have planned. As I understand it, it was the planning process and the substantial number of community objections lodged that stopped the Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead development going ahead. I mention this as several locals have mentioned this to us today.

In terms of the building becoming a listed building it seems this had been mentioned in the Peckham and Nunhead Area Action plan and posts on the East Dulwich and South Central forums suggest that an application has already been lodged. I will try to clarify exactly what the status of any application is tomorrow. Anyone can contact English Heritage and request that a building is considered for listed status and I'm sure that along with Cllr Edwards and Cllr Hamvas we'd be willing to look into what this might involve. However if an application is already being processed it would be best if we tried to support this rather than starting afresh.

14 April 2012

Community Wildlife Garden opens in Peckham Rye Park

Vikki and Gavin with fellow councillor Barrie Hargrove, Cabinet Member for Transport, Environment & Recycling

Today saw the opening of the Community Wildlife Garden in Peckham Rye Park - well done to the Friends of Peckham Rye Park for making this happen!

The 'old depot' site near to the Park toilets has long been out of use and out of access. In fact many locals will have walked passed and not known this little pocket of land within the Park existed as it is surrounded by mature trees. The site originally contained greenhouses for the Park that were dismantled in the 70s and it was then used as a depot until the late 80s.

Since 2005 the Friends have been working hard to bring the site back into use as a wildlife garden. With the help of Southwark Council Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding and then a Big Lottery Fund grant that we were delighted to support, the last two years have seen the site transformed. I visited the site just after we were elected councillors and going back today you can see it has changed completely. Rather than just a waste land there are now wheelchair friendly paths, meadow areas, beehives, a pond, raised beds adopted by community groups and an insect 'loggery'.

You'll be able to visit the garden during park opening hours and there will be monthly maintenance days for local residents to get involved with caring for the garden. To get involved contact the Friends on foprp@aol.com.

25 March 2012

Peckham Rye Labour Councillor: Standing Up for the NHS

Vikki spoke at the TUC "Save Our NHS" Rally a couple of weeks ago and brought the house down.  Sadly, since then, the Health and Social Care Bill has passed through parliament with the support of Southwark Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes.

19 March 2012

Southwark Labour Leader's last-ditch effort to persuade Simon Hughes to drop support for NHS changes

Southwark Labour Leader, Peter John has written again to Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes demanding that he oppose the discredited Health and Social Care Bill.  The text of his letter, written today, is below.

Dear Simon,

I am writing regarding the letter I sent to you on the 13th February concerning your support for the Government's Health and Social Care Bill, to which I am yet to receive a reply. I note that following my letter you changed your position on the publication of the risk register which outlines the potential damage this Bill will have and which an information rights tribunal has ruled should be published.

Unfortunately, despite your apparent support for its publication, today in the House of Commons you failed to support a motion for the risk register to be debated. I do not understand why you would not want a debate to be held on something you have said yourself should be made public. All I know is that, despite you sitting on your hands, the publication of the risk register will be debated tomorrow.

I sincerely hope that you attend that debate and make clear why you have just abstained on another vote and why you are supporting this Bill. On too many issues since May 2010 you have given the impression of opposition when in reality you are one of the most loyal Liberal Democrat MPs in this government. I and my colleagues will do everything we can to ensure people in your constituency know that you are supporting this particularly disastrous piece of legislation.

I am sure that you too believe that this Bill is bad for the NHS. It is now time for you to find the courage to say that to your colleagues Nick Clegg and David Cameron. Patients, health professionals, the public, Labour and Liberal Democrat party members who are worried about their NHS, are coming together to protect our country's best-loved institution. By working together Labour and the Liberal Democrats can stop this Bill. Your opposition could be absolutely crucial.

For the sake not only of Southwark patients and NHS staff, but the future of the NHS nationally please confirm whether you will be supporting this Bill or not. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cllr Peter John
Leader of Southwark Council

13 March 2012

Leaseholder Report Update

I recently posted on the outcome of an investigation into leaseholder charging in Southwark.  The scrutiny committee which I chair has been investigating possible improvements to the rules and systems used by the council to charge its leaseholders for major works and services.  For some time there has been a feeling among the 13,500 leaseholders in the borough that more could be done to provide them with information and to ensure they were getting value for money.  Recommendations included new individual online accounts for leaseholders to check what they are being charged for and a new option for leaseholders to pay a fixed service charge (as opposed to a variable service charge).  You can see the full report here.

Last night this report went before Southwark's full Overview and Scrutiny Committee  to decide whether or not the recommendations should go forward to Southwark's Cabinet.  I'm really pleased that the cross party committee unanimously agreed to let the report go forward.  

It just so happened that Labour's Cabinet Member for Housing, Ian Wingfield, was at the meeting.  He also gave a positive reaction to the recommendations, although he will need to discuss the report with Cabinet colleagues before giving a full, formal response.  We'll have to wait until the next Cabinet meeting to see if the report's recommendations are adopted in full.

24 February 2012

Major breakthrough in campaign to extend 63 Bus route to Honor Oak Park Station

As many residents of Peckham Rye will know, Peckham Rye Labour councillors have been running a long-term campaign to get the 63 Bus route extended to Honor Oak Park Station. You'll find some background on our campaign here, here and here.

We are now very pleased to announce that Val Shawcross, our brilliant GLA member and Ken Livingstone's Deputy Mayoral Candidate, has announced that if Ken is elected as Mayor in May 2012, she will use her position as Chair of Transport for London to extend the 63 bus route. The text of Val's letter to Peckham Rye residents is below this post. If you live near the 63 route you should get a copy through your letter box either today or tomorrow.

This is a really important issue for many people living in East Dulwich and Peckham Rye. Boris has been using dodgy bus usage figures to justify blocking the extension. If Val is given the chance to fulfill her promise it will mean thousands of people in our area will find it easier to link up with the Overground services running from Honor Oak Park.

If you're supportive of Labour's plans, register your support here.


Dear Friend,

I am writing with significant news about the campaign to extend the 63 bus route.

You may know that for many months I have been campaigning alongside your local Labour Councillors to get the route extended to reach Honor Oak Park Station. Extending the 63 route would make it much easier for people living in this area to access the new East London Line.

We have been trying to persuade London’s current Mayor, Boris Johnson, to make this small but significant change, but he just won’t listen.

Labour’s candidate for Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has announced that if he is elected on 3rd May this year, he will be making me Chair of Transport for London. Therefore, I can promise that if Ken is elected in May, I will extend the 63 bus route to Honor Oak Park.

Labour is the only party making this commitment and it has only happened because local people took the time to make their views known on petitions, postcards, internet forums and through speaking to their local councillors. Thank you.

If you’d like to see the route extension made into a reality, I’d urge you to vote Labour in both the London Assembly and Mayoral elections which take place on Thursday 3rd May 2012. To register your support for Ken and the extension of the 63 bus route, please fill out slip below, fold it along the lines on the back of this letter and send it back to us. There is no need for a stamp.

Best Wishes,

Val Shawcross

London Assembly Member for Lambeth & Southwark

27 January 2012

Leaseholder charging in Southwark - draft report published

Some months ago I posted on the leaseholder charging scrutiny which would be carried out by the Housing Scrutiny Committee.  Since then lots of hard work has gone into unpicking all of the issues surrounding leaseholder charges and we've just published the draft report.   You can see it here.

The report will be discussed by the sub-committee at next Monday's meeting and so there will be changes and additions following that discussion.  However, the central arguments and recommendations of the report are in place and will be of interest to leaseholders in Southwark who want to see a Labour council responding to their concerns.

Our aim from the outset has been make recommendations which would improve the process of leaseholder charging for the benefit of all residents of the borough. We've had excellent co-operation and engagement from council officers, the cabinet member and leaseholder representatives.

There are a number of recommendations, below are just some which are worth noting:

1. The council should offer leaseholders the option of a fixed service charge which incorporates both the annual services charge and major works service charges.

2. Full details of how the actual service charge is calculated should be provided on-line, rather than waiting for individual requests for this information.

3. Steps should be taken to make available on-line details of major works and annual service charges relating to individual leaseholders. Leaseholders would then be able to see an ongoing calculation of the charges being levied and to hold the council and its contractors to account for works which are being charged for. Leaseholders should be issued with details of an individual account to which they can log-on and see details of the annual and major works service charge calculations to which they are subject.

4. Improvements need to be made in cross-departmental working. Works needs to continue to be done in getting officers in the wider Housing Department to work more closely with officers in HO &TMI, and vice versa.

5. Given the consensus that there is a clear lack of appreciation of leaseholder issues by housing management staff. The sub-committee wishes to suggest two possible options which could be considered as ways of rectifying this problem.

a) Expand the remit and function of Home Ownership Division to take on a more general housing management role and activities to cover these issues; OR

b) Have a dedicated leaseholder officer based in each of the other housing management services who may or may not come under the  Home Ownership Division but will have to liaise and report to it.

As I say, we're still only at the draft stage, so I'd be very interested to hear from leaseholders or anyone else  if they have comments on the draft.

21 January 2012

Democracy in Southwark: If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk

Turning up to meetings is just one part of a councillor’s job, but it’s an important part.  Scrutiny, Community Council and other meetings are a crucial opportunity to stand up for residents’ interests and hold the council to account.  It’s something that you know will take up lots of your time, but you’re fully aware of that before you make the decision to stand for election.  Thisthis and this show just a few examples of times when Vikki, Renata and I have been able to secure improvements for the Peckham Rye area by going along to these meetings.  I’m not saying they’re always riveting, but I am saying it’s important to turn up as often as possible.  
Since the last election residents of Southwark have been able to monitor the attendance of their councillors via the Southwark Council website.  Now, I wouldn’t have mentioned this if Southwark’s Lib Dem Councillors hadn’t been going around in recent months, telling anyone that would listen, just how concerned they were about democratic accountability at Southwark Council.   For example, Anood Al-Samerai, the current leader of Southwark Lib Dems, has been crying crocodile tears over the proposed merger of some community council areas (prompted by cuts made by her own government).  Councillor Michael Bukola  said at a recent council meeting that he was deeply worried about oversight of Housing policy in the borough (even though he's missed the last two Housing Scrutiny meetings and didn't bother to send a sub). I think if you’re going to make such a great play of this issue, then it would be fair to expect Southwark Lib Dem Councillors to have a good attendance record.  But as a group they don’t.  In fact some of them are very far from having a good attendance record indeed. 
For example Liberal Democrat Councillor for Rotherhithe, Columba Blango, has only attended 53% of his meetings since the last election. (Southwark News reported on this today, see above) In 2011 Cllr Blango’s attendance has been even lower, 44%. He has attended just 8 of the 20 community council meetings since the 2010 election and just 2 of the last 10 in 2011.  Former Southwark Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Stanton  has only attended 68% since the election (the third worst on the council). All these figures are correct up to 10th Jan 2012 – the last date they were updated on the council website

But perhaps the most shocking statistic of all is that all 8 of the bottom 8 Southwark councillors in terms of their % attendance at meetings have one thing in common: they are all Liberal Democrats.
On average Labour Councillors have attended  87% of the meetings they were expected to go along to, whilst Lib Dems have attended just 81%.  This is even more surprising when you consider that all Cabinet members are Labour Councillors.  Cabinet members have far more meeting clashes that other councillors because of their portfolio responsibilities.  Even with 9 Cabinet members in our Group Southwark Labour Councillors attend significantly more of their meetings.  

Everyone acknowledges that there will be legitimate circumstances, such as illness, maternity leave or family reasons which mean Councillors can’t make it to meetings, somtimes even over a long period.  I’ve got no problem with that and neither have residents of the borough.  But the statistics don’t lie – Southwark Lib Dems clearly have a problem in their group with turning up to these important meetings.  Some of them seem to have decided that they don’t have to bother. 

So next time you hear one of our yellow friends bemoaning their lack of opportunity to hold the council to account, ask them if they turned up to their last community council meeting.

20 January 2012

Cheltenham and Ivydale Road Road works - What is going on?

Local residents will know that resurfacing and reconstruction works have been going on over a number of week on a section of Ivydale Road (west of Merttins Road) and Cheltenham Road. The works will improve residential roads which have become very bumpy, largely as a result of 343 and 484 buses travelling on these roads.  This has become a particular problem in recent years because the combination of heavy buses and deteriorating roads has lead to serious shaking of people homes.

Through a combination of Councillors' and local residents' campaigning in 2011 we were able to secure the funding for the works.  Prior to works starting there was a joint meeting between local residents, councillors and council officers out on the street.  At that meeting we were told by officers that the works would include full-depth reconstruction of the entire length of Cheltenham Road and the relevant section of Ivydale Road.

Since works have begun it's become clear that full-depth reconstruction of the all of the roads was not in fact happening.  The worst affected sections (such as around the old ramps) were getting full depth reconstruction, but other sections were not.  As you would expect, this has caused a great deal of consternation locally.  Why would people be told that all of the road needed and would get this full depth work and then something less was being delivered? It would be fair to say that the uncertainty was not helped by the fact that we were not getting prompt answers to the various queries we were raising.

Well, to bring you up to date, over the last week we have finally starter to get some answers. On Wednesday evening councillors received an email which suggested that, because of limitations on the budget, only those parts of the roads which required full-depth reconstruction would be getting this work.  The other parts of the road would be resurfaced, but not to a full-depth. We immediately responded to say this was not acceptable to re-iterated that we had clearly been lead to believe that full-depth reconstruction would take place for the whole road.  This morning (Friday) Peckham Rye Councillors met with officers, including the senior manager with responsibility for the project, to put our case.  There was, to put it euphemistically, a full and frank exchange of views.

Officers working on the roads have now told us that in their view, the plan for the roads was to only undertake full-depth reconstruction where is was needed. In their view, not all parts of the roads need this level of work and the money available for the project is not enough to cover full depth reconstruction throughout. We have made clear that not only was this not our understanding, but that we feel that councillors and residents have been misled over the scope of the works at several meetings that were held.

As councillors we feel that we have no choice but to pursue the issue of the misleading information being given through official channels.  We made it clear that we would do this at our meeting this morning.

Unfortunately, it is clear that this process will not change the perimeters of the project for Ivydale and Cheltenham. Parts of the carriageway that clearly need full depth reconstruction on initial inspection are already being subject to this – the two pinch points on Ivydale and the area immediately around them are examples of this. Other sections of the road, where the condition looks better, will be subject to a survey once the top layer of surface has been removed. Where this reveals the substructure is failing, reconstruction will be done, where the substructure is good, it will not be. In better news, officers do not consider the works on Cheltenham Road complete.

They are also unhappy with several patches and parts of the work. The road will be inspected and further works will be done. Usually ‘snagging’ inspections lead to only small improvements been made but officers agree that on parts of Cheltenham, including the stretch that has not received any work, more substantial works will be needed.

On the speed table at the junction with Ivydale and Merttins, this will have test holes dug and will be subject to full depth reconstruction if needed – this is an improvement on the previous position of the council only resurfacing it. The raised table will remain to enforce the 20mph speed limit but the cambers will be as gentle as possible whilst ensuring the table remains an effective traffic calming feature.

13 January 2012

Nunhead and Peckham Rye Councillors get into the groove

At last night's Community Council meeting Nunhead and Peckham Rye Councillors got into a dancing mood with a little bit of help from Peckham's Recycled Teenagers. Who says council meetings are boring!

(Permission to film was sought from and granted by the Chair!)

7 January 2012

Know Your Ryes!

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with some local residents and council officers. During the meeting one person started referring to Rye Lane, when in fact they meant Peckham Rye East. Later on another started talking about Peckham Rye Common and it took us a little while to work out that they really meant Peckham Rye Park.  

You can't really blame people for getting a little confused. There are so many references to "Rye" in our little bit of South London that even the locals can get mixed up. So I thought I'd have a go at writing a little glossary of all the Ryes hereabout.  Clearly I'm making a rod for my own back here, so please point out any errors I've made in the comments box below. 

Anyway, here are my definitions of the ubiquitous Ryes. Some serious, some not so serious, and in no particular order:

Peckham Rye Ward - The council ward area. Peckham Rye Ward was created out of Rye Ward, Waverley Ward and Bellenden Ward following the Local Authority Boundary Review. See the old and new maps here. A detailed map of the ward boundaries is here.

Peckham Rye Common - The common land area to the north of Peckham Rye Park and not 'enclosed' by fencing.  

Peckham Rye Park - The Park area to the south of Peckham Rye Common. For a history of how the Park came into being see here on the FOPRP website. The great majority of the Park is enclosed by fencing.

Rye Hill Park Estate - The council owned estate to the East of Peckham Rye Park, set back from Peckham Rye (East) Road. The Tenants and Residents Association website is here.

Rye Lane - The lane made up mainly of shops to the North of Peckham Rye Common, ending at Peckham High Street.

Rye Road - A short, and very quiet residential Road in Nunhead.

Ryedale - A residential road in East Dulwich.

Peckham Rye Labour - Us! The collective term for Peckham Rye Labour Party members and the three Labour councillors representing people living in Peckham Rye Ward.  

Peckham Rye Liberal Democrats - The collective term for three people who turn up in Peckham Rye Ward  a few months before a local election and pretend to be "Local Community Campaigners"  (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Peckham Rye Conservatives - See Peckham Rye Liberal Democrats.

Cafe on the Rye - Top notch cafe on Peckham Rye Common, near Strakers Road

Peckham Rye (West) - The road that runs along the west of Peckham Rye Common and Park. It becomes Forest Hill Road at the junction with Colyton Road. Homes on this side have even numbers.

Peckham Rye (East) - The road that runs along the east of Peckham Rye Common and Park.  It becomes Cheltenham Road at the junction with Homestall Road. Homes on this side have odd numbers.

Peckham Rye Station - The overland train station which can be accessed from Rye Lane (and isn't in Peckham Rye 'ward' as we often have to point out!).

The Ballad of Peckham Rye - Novel by Muriel Spark set in and around the Peckham area.

Friends of Peckham Rye Park - Local residents and Park users action group formed in 1995. Their website is here. They also organise the brilliant Peckham Rye Fete each year.   

Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council - Community Councils are devolved committees of Southwark Council. Local Councillors and residents hold meetings to discuss and make decisions that affect the wards included in the area. Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council currently covers Peckham Rye Ward, Nunhead Ward and Lane Ward.    

The Rye - Pub and (good) food next to Peckham Rye Common and Scylla Road. Used to be called the Rye Hotel. Currently closed for refurbishment.

Peckham Rye (Slang) - Cockney rhyming slang for a tie. 

Rye Oak School - Primary School on Whorlton Road.

Catcher in the Rye - Novel about a kid who has a breakdown. Nothing to do with Peckham Rye!

Rye - A grass grown as a grain and forage crop. This is getting ridiculous...

I give up...  But have I missed any?

1 January 2012

Homestall Road Sports Ground

Residents of Homestall, Mundania and Colyton Road will be aware that there are some proposals to develop parts of the Homestall Road Sports Ground. The sports ground is the home of teams representing Athenlay Football Club.

Some residents are delighted that sports facilities are going to be improved for local young people, but for some this is tempered by an understandable concern that development will lead to over-intensive use of the site which will cause disturbance to their home life.

The problems which Southwark Council has been seeking to solve, in partnership with the club and local people, are:

- The general poor condition of the sports ground
- In particular the poor drainage and quality of the pitches
- The lack of decent changing provision on site.

I think it would be fair to say that early on in this project, the council’s communications with local residents were not good. A proposal (now abandoned) was developed with the local Harris Academy. These proposals were not informed by the views of local residents. Thankfully, this proposal is something of a red-herring, as it is not now being pursued.

At the end of October the project was awarded funding from Sports England’s Protecting Playing Field Fund, and Southwark Council Olympic Capital Legacy fund. This funding will be used solely to address the quality issues of the grass pitches, with works including improvement to the drainage and quality of the pitches. The work will not begin prior to May/June 2012. We have visited the site with council officers and it was made clear at that meeting that all that was going ahead were improvements to the existing grass pitches. Consequently, for residents the changes would result in little more than the pitches looking greener and healthier in the future.

As your local councillors we have secured assurances from council officers that any further stages in the project will be based on full, open and substantive consultation with local residents. Future developments which are being considered include a mini Astro pitch and the changing rooms being rebuilt. Certainly the latter, if built on the existing changing room ‘footprint’ would be a welcome improvement on the current very poor facilities that the teams currently have to use. Council officers (as well as ourselves) are aware of local concerns and are committed to improving the facilities. Nobody wants to see the ‘over-development’ of a site in a residential area. We will make sure we keep you up to date as the plans and consultation develop.

Following an initial meeting and correspondence with several concerned residents a larger meeting about these changes is currently being arranged which anyone can attend. Council officers and local councillors will be there. As soon as I have a date for this meeting I will let you know.

PS: Happy New Year to everyone in the Peckham Rye area!