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.