31 December 2009

Happy New Year from Peckham Rye Labour (and the Ivydale cats..)

We hope that readers have had wonderful Christmases and we wish you and your families the very best for 2010.

In a shameless attempt to convince you that 2010 is the year to end the Lib Dem/Tory administrative chaos in Southwark, we're introducing a new extreme tactic to our campaigning - the endorsement of the beautiful Ivydale Road cats, Noel and Liam. For some months now Noel and Liam have been hanging out with lots of other Peckham Rye cats and the message in our gardens is clear - cats everywhere would do better under Labour!

We look forward to talking to even more residents in 2010 and making sure that we keep speaking up for Peckham Rye and getting the improvements to schools, recycling, housing and crime prevention that our area needs.

Best wishes,
Victoria, Gavin & Renata.

(Please be reassured that no cats were harmed in the production of this blog.)

22 December 2009

Update on Peckham Rye Common toilets

An important development regarding the former toilets on Peckham Rye Common.

It seems we may have had some success in convincing the council that this shouldn't be a commercial enterprise. We've just received an e-mail from "Peckham Rye Projects" saying that the council have now offered them the contract to restore and maintain the toilets building. For those who haven't previously heard of Peckham Rye projects, I'm sure they won't mind me briefly quoting their e-mail here:

"We are a not-for-profit gallery offering outreach programs to local schools and groups. We intend to sensitively restore the building, maintain the gardens and to open the gallery toilets to the public. We also intend to offer the building to community groups for use when the gallery is closed for business. We are aware that M.O.L and common land restrictions apply to any alteration of the building."

They applied for a Cleaner Greener Safer grant to restore this building before the council offered it as a commercial contract - an application that was supported by the Peckham Rye, Lane and Nunhead councillors. Although it wasn't successful in the 2009 round they were encouraged by the councillors to re-apply for 2010 - something they have now done. They are also seeking the support of the sub-group set up by the Community Council for their bid.

Personally, I think their suggestion is the best I've heard for the re-opening of this building and their willingness to make the toilet facilities open to the public will overcome objections from many people hoping to see the building returned to its former use.

Obviously, this is not the end of the story, as Peckham Rye Projects will need to await the outcome of their bid to the CGS fund. Events have overtaken the sub-group to some degree, but in this case I think this is positive.

20 December 2009

Peckham Rye - 'central area' options

Local residents and blog readers may remember previous posts about the plans for what Southwark Council calls the 'central area' of Peckham Rye - essentially the area around the cafe near where the Common and Park meet.

In summary a new One O'Clock club is planned, as is a natural play area. New changing facilities will follow although funding for these is still to be secured.

Last Wednesday, like many other locals, I turned up at the cafe to see the initial plans. I'm not sure what had happened but because the cafe wasn't open the meeting could not go ahead. I've subsequently been sent the plans. I was expecting a little more detail on what the new buildings and development might look like but below are the two options currently being proposed. They are are really just an overview of how facilities might be laid out.

I've emailed the council to find out when the meeting might now take place - the drawings are helpful but I think we all need to know a little bit more and chat to the architects before it's possible to really work out which scheme will work best.

OPTION 1 (click on the picture below and it will enlarge)
Cafe Area
- Car park reconstructed as a green car park.
- Removal of path which currently runs behind the temporary changing rooms (Strakers Road).
- One O'Clock Club remains in existing location but in a new building.
- The new natural play area will be combined with the current play area for the One O'clock Club. This will be fenced off when the One O'Clock club is in operation but then opened when the club is closed so that there is one larger play space.
- The changing rooms will be relocated to where the existing silt mound stands.
- There will be a small car park for the changing rooms and the recycling centre will be located here.
- There be be a new path leading from the cafe into the park.
Homestall Road & Other Sports Facilities
- The football pitches in Peckham Rye Park will be reconfigured so that more pitches are provided.
- Homestall Road will have one all weather pitch and three mini pitches.
- There will be car parking and new changing room facilities at Homestall Road.

OPTION 2 (again click the picture to see the detail)
The great majority of the changes outlined in Option 1 will made. The major difference is that the main car park is moved to the silt mound area and the changing rooms (complete with a small car park), rather than being relocated here, would instead be be relocated to the current park maintenance facility. This would mean that the current car park would be be grassed over and be part of the Common again.

The council officer working on the project tells me that both options will increase the amount of green space provided within the Common. The idea behind a combined play area is that it reduces the amount of play facilities spread throughout the Park and Common - I guess opinions of this will vary depending on where you live, which bits of the Park and Common you use and whether you have children or not.

So, what do you think? Do you have a preferred option or do you have any improvements you'd like to make to either option?

As soon as I know any more about the rearranged meeting I'll post details here.

18 December 2009

Ivydale Road - update from the council

Update from the Council on Ivydale traffic calming and road works. This letter should have dropped with residents in the last day or so. If you click on the image it will enlarge and you'll be able to read it.

17 December 2009

Send a message to Southwark on Recycling

We recently reported the news that Southwark’s recycling rate was sixth lowest in the country. The Lib Dems pledged to increase the recycling rate to 30% by next year, but they’re missing that target by almost ten per cent.

To get some pressure put on the Lib Dems on this crucially important issue, Southwark Labour have set up a petition calling for a recycling system which which is easier to use and deals with a wider variety of materials.

If enough people take the time sign this petition then would can present it to the Lib Dem environment boss at the January council assembly meeting. This would force him to explain what is going wrong in Southwark and to tell us directly what he is planning to do to improve the recycling rate.

If you want your borough to improve its recycling rate and catch up with all the hundreds of councils currently putting Southwark to shame, I would strongly urge you take a moment to sign the petition here

16 December 2009

Ivydale Road - update on the chaos... which will reach Peckham Rye but not until Feb 2010

Many residents (including myself) have been trying to find out what's going on with the traffic calming measures on Ivydale Road, Nunhead. Back in November I blogged on news that work had started between St Asaph's Road and Athenlay Road (Nunhead ward) and that residents who lived beyond this (Peckham Rye) ward should expect work to start around 30th November although the council would write to us first.

However no letters have been received by residents who live on this bit of Ivydale (including myself) and when a written statement from the Council, presented at Community Council on 9th December, declared that work had started on the 30th November it was clear that things were going a little awry!

I've been in regular touch with Cllr Fiona Colley of Nunhead ward about this as I was particularly concerned about what was happening with the 343 and 484 buses that many locals are reliant on. I've heard from her today about the chaos that is reining on the Nunhead end of Ivydale Road where works have started.

She's received huge numbers of complaints about the terrible communications regarding the closures, parking restrictions and bus diversions. Many residents are under threat of having their cars lifted if they get in the way of the works (and then being charged for it!) yet no one has told them what's going on.

Fiona's blogged today about the problems and her attempts to get hold of Lib Dem Cllr Paul Kyriacou (the Executive Member for Transport) who it turns out is away for three weeks leaving an out of office that unhelpfully only suggests an alternative contact for issues in South Bermondsey...

However Fiona has managed to meet with Highways Officers today and reports that they agree information has been poor and they are writing a new letter to be hand delivered over the next couple of days.

The road works will stop for two weeks over Christmas with Ivydale totally reopened from Friday 18th Dec evening until Tuesday 5th Jan. Works on the section from the junction with Linden Grove to Athenlay Road are expected to be finished by 20th February. Only then will work start on the section from Athenlay Road to Cheltenham Road.

The Highways officer are having meetings with TfL about bus diversions but no firm decisions about the 343 or 484 are expected in the near future.

** Watch this space for further updates **

15 December 2009

What would you like to see happen to the former public toilets on Peckham Rye Common?

As I've mentioned in a previous post, last Wednesday's Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council passed a motion regarding the former public toilets on Peckham Rye Common. The motion set up a group, lead by local Labour Councillor Gordon Nardell, which will make suggestions to Southwark Council on alternative uses which might be made of this building. Those present at the meeting rightly felt that local people should come up with some alternative proposals to the current plan: Southwark Council seems hell bent on renting the building out as a shop, despite the fact that it's on common land.
In case you're not sure which building I'm writing about, it's located near East Dulwich Road here.

At the meeting I asked Councillor Nardell if I might become a member of this sub-group. He agreed, and I think membership is open to anyone who is interested in joining. The group will be coming together in the near future to hold the first meeting.

Personally, I'm inclined to argue that the building be returned to its original purpose as public toilets, but I've have an open mind the subject. I'd be open to other, perhaps more imaginative, suggestions. What I do feel very strongly about is that historic common land should not be used for commercial purposes. Our local shops and businesses do a tremendous amount to boost the profile and economy of our area, but it would not be appropriate for a shop or business to be located on this site. For me, it is the thin end of the wedge. Green spaces on park and common land should be jealously protected from development, particularly in inner London where such areas are all too rare. Turning this site into a shop opens the door to further development in the future which infringes the principle that land open to all local residents.

Before the first meeting of the Community Council sub-group, I thought I'd ask for the views of local residents on what they would like to see done with the building. Would you like to see it returned to it's former purpose as public toilets? Or do you have other ideas for how the building could be put to good use? Let me know your views by completing this very short online questionnaire here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LPMCF2T

12 December 2009

Southwark's housing failure 'red flagged' by Audit Commission

Gavin and I spent today delivering our local newsletters. The lead story is on housing and sets out Labour's action plan to tackle the terrible state of social housing following seven and a half years of neglect by the Lib Dems and Tories running Southwark Council.

The council’s failure to improve social housing was singled out by the Audit Commission this week. Southwark is one of only two councils in London to receive a ‘red flag’ for its housing services, which means that housing problems are “not being tackled adequately”

Yet the response from the Lib Dem Council Leader Nick Stanton was out of touch with reality - he has failed to acknowledge that the council has been reprimanded by the Audit Commission in any of his statements to the local press.

We've picked up lots casework from Peckham Rye residents living in social housing in recent months but one sticks in mind as particularly upsetting.

A few weeks ago I met a young man who had been housed by Southwark because he's considered to be vulnerable. We had a really nice chat about a whole host of things and he told me about how he struggled with feelings of isolation. We also spoke about the state of his flat which had bad damp and generally needed redecoration. I've since raised these problems with Southwark and I'll be pestering until they take action. However what's particularly sad is that Southwark housed a vulnerable person in such a badly maintained flat in the first place. As we talked it became clear that this young guy didn't know where to start to get the work done and he really needed some support - why on earth didn't Southwark realise this when they housed him?

It's not good enough Southwark and as long as the Lib Dem Council leader Nick Stanton keeps failing to acknowledge the crisis in housing I fear that many, many more people are going to continue to suffer.

11 December 2009

Bog standard update (Part 2)

The Kafkaesque saga of the former public toilets on Peckham Rye Common (East Dulwich Road) continues unabated. For those of you not familiar with this situation, here's a very brief summary. Earlier this year, Southwark Council decided to rent out this building as a commercial venture. Without stopping to check if they were allowed to do this with a property that is situated on common land, they advertised for tenants. Someone responded saying they wanted to open a cycle shop and the council agreed. Since then little has happened and the building remains closed.

Four months ago at Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council, a number of local people, including myself, Victoria and Renata asked officers why they had not checked on the legal status of the common land and why the building could not be put to community use or even reopened as toilets. "We'll come back to you" they said. Since then they have consistently failed to give a straight answer to these questions. Meeting after meeting has taken place and they have simply ignored us.

So at Wednesday's Community Council meeting we had the latest installment. Officers returned with this report (page 25) on the situation. What you'll notice straight away is that it fails to answer the central question. Is the council allowed to rent out this building? Reading between the lines I think their view is 'We can probably get away with it, but we're not entirely sure.' When I asked for a verbal answer, all we got were vacant looks and further promises to "look into it".

One part of the report is particularly is laughable. It states that one of the restrictions on the land is that developments must be "essential facilities for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation..." It goes on to say that, because the council is trying to rent the building out as a cycle shop, it meets this condition. Get it? People ride bikes outdoors! See what they did there?

Anyway, an additional update from officers was also given stating that the cycle shop owner had now pulled out, and that other tenants were now being considered. In short, they are going ahead irrespective of the views of local people, the community council or possibly even the law of the land.

Labour Councillor Gordon Nardell proposed setting up a sub-group of interested parties and local residents to put alternative proposals to the council on how the property might be put to good use for our local community. I've asked to become a member of this group which I hope can now become the focus of a campaign to stop Southwark council from trying to make money out of a community building sited on historic common land.

10 December 2009

Southwark given £1.2 million for one to one tuition for local school children: a teacher tells us more...

The Government’s one to one tuition initiative is something that Labour should be proud of – it’s a really simple policy that will transform the learning of those who are struggling with English and Maths and I think it will ultimately benefit all the other children they learn with.

This week Southwark was awarded £1.2million to help fund one to one tuition for local 7 to 16 year olds who are most in need. The scheme was originally piloted back in January and has been a huge success.

To help convince you I asked my Mum to tell me a bit more about the scheme. She was was a state primary school teacher for over 30 years until she retired two years ago. She’s recently gone back to work a couple of hours a week as a one to one tutor. She’s passionate about teaching and has a real insight into this subject. Here's what she told me:

I've helped children with maths and literacy. The selected children are given extra tuition for an hour per week for 10 weeks, this hour takes place out of school time so parents need to give permission and possibly meet their child after the lesson. There is a form for the parent to sign after each lesson. I've not been part of the selection process but the children I've had are those who, with extra help, would hope to gain a "comfortable" Level 4 in the May KS2 SATS.

Before I start the set of 10 lessons, I speak with the class teacher and get their thoughts on the help needed. I also speak to the pupils and they say what they feel would be useful. I’m also given the level that the child gained in their most recent assessment. Starting from what the teacher and pupil have said, I then plan the lessons.

For literacy, I may start with a word game e.g. making up sentences with alliteration. This might be followed by spelling practice if that is needed or work on starting sentences in a variety of ways or making up complex sentences, in fact anything that should improve their written work. I then have a main focus which will be a particular genre of writing e.g. writing a persuasive leaflet. During the writing process the child discusses his/her work and we improve and correct it together.

For Maths I might start with a mental starter e.g. doubling or multiplying by 10 or some work on times tables. Next I'll have a main activity - addition and subtraction word problems, fraction or percentages. We'll finish with another mental activity.

The initiative is good because:
1. The pupil is having the tuition he/she needs. If they are struggling to understand decimal fractions, then that’s what they will get help with (though obviously not for the 10 lessons).
2. In a one to one situation the child can ask for help and not be worried by comments other pupils may make.
3. If a parent meets the child after the tuition you can discuss concerns immediately.

Some recent initiatives have been designed in such a way that non-teachers can give instruction, a set programme is followed. I think that one to one tuition should be planned for an individual pupil so it is probably best given by a qualified teacher.

7 December 2009

Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council - THIS WEDNESDAY

Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council, which covers Peckham Rye, Nunhead and Lane wards, takes place this Wednesday 9 December at 7:00pm at St Mary Magdalene Primary School, 48 Brayards Road.

Community councils are a good chance to get involved with council plans and ideas for our local area, ask questions and get questions asked of you.

Local Councillors and council officers attend and sometimes members of the council executive come along too. Public participation is important and there are usually 30-50 local people there. If you live locally you are very welcome to come along - the more the merrier!

You can check out the full agenda and reports and other information on the Southwark Council website. Big issues for this meeting include a large section on local arts and culture and the 2012 Olympics and the start of the 'Cleaner, Greener, Safer' Programme for 2010/2011. CGS money is available every year and local groups are encouraged to apply for it to help make or support community and environmental improvements to our area.

Why not come along. We'll be there and we'll be happy to chat to people during the breaks.

5 December 2009

A different approach on housing

In recent months, we've been pretty strident in our criticism of Southwark council's mismanagement of the housing maintenance budget. It's a crucially important issue for people living in social housing in Peckham Rye and we clearly think the Lib Dem/Tory leadership is letting tenants and leaseholders down. That said, it isn't enough for us to simply carp from the sidelines. Southwark's Labour candidates and councillors also have a responsibility to say what we would do differently if Labour were to run Southwark council.

Southwark Labour has been looking at alternatives very closely and the outline of an alternative approach is taking shape. As we get closer to the 2010 local elections, more specific proposals will be put forward, but for now, some general principles are already in place. Southwark Labour's six point plan for improving housing services in the borough looks like this:-

1. Appoint a separate, professional Housing Director. (Amazingly, Southwark doesn't have a senior officer in this role)

2. Prioritise fire safety. (Recent tragic events have shown that fire safety needs to be urgently pushed up the list of the council's priorities)

3. Review the call centre contract and develop alternatives.

4. Strengthen tenant and leaseholder rights by granting increased consultation and involvement powers.

5. Change the basis on which leaseholder's charges are raised to make them reflect the individual costs incurred. (Too often charges have been levied on leaseholders which have little relation to the improvements made)

6. Be transparent about the options facing housing in the borough. (The Lib Dem/Tory executive has sought to hide away the huge funding problems facing housing in Southwark)

Clearly, Southwark's Labour front bench will be putting more flesh on the bones of this plan in the Party's election manifesto. But for now I think this gives a good indication of the new direction that Labour wants to take on housing in Southwark.

More focus from senior officers will help avoid the kind of incompetence we've seen in recent years. A review of the call centre contract will also concentrate minds on what the kind of service that tenants and leaseholders should be receiving from their landlord. An end to leaseholders being charged huge sums of money up front, sometimes for tiny improvements, then followed by the council being forced to refund the money would make sense and would relieve the financial stress that many feel. Watch this space for further updates...

3 December 2009

Peckham Rye Project - display of options

Just a quick notice. I've just recieved the e-mail notification from Southwark Council about the display of development options for the Peckham Rye Project. Details of the options are going to be put on display on 16th December from 6:30 - 9pm at the Cafe on the Rye.

I'd encourage anyone interested in this vital project to try and get along to this event. According to the e-mail, it is going to be an open meeting at which people will be able to discuss the options with the designers and park staff themselves.

Southwark adult social service quality plummets

The quality of social care provided by Southwark Council has fallen from ‘excellent’ to ‘adequate’ in just a year, according to an inspection report published by Care Quality Commission yesterday. The report also said that the council’s prospects for improvement were ‘uncertain’. This is awful - looking after vulnerable and older people is something that should be top of the council's priority list, regardless of which political party is in charge.

Southwark received an ‘excellent’ rating for social care services from the CQC’s predecessor the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2007/08. Subsequently the Lib Dem/Tory executive has forced through a series of changes to the service - withdrawing social care for those with moderate needs (around 900 people), hiking meals on wheels prices up by almost 50% and scrapping on-site wardens for sheltered accommodation. Presumably these policies have contributed to this terrible drop in quality.

Labour opposed these changes as we were very concerned that they would damage the quality of support for the most vulnerable people in our community. However, time and again our concerns were ignored.

With the cold weather here, I find some of the following comments from the report really worrying. This isn't anyway to treat our elderly and vulnerable:

“capacity to improve in Southwark was uncertain”
“I’ve tried the call centre – have you? I won’t again"
“safeguarding of adults in Southwark was adequate”
“Out of hours services appeared increasingly stretched”
“One older person we met was referred for review after over two years without one”
“Practical plans were not yet in place to offer the prospect of sustainable delivery of the council’s vision and strategy”

Even more worrying - the Lib Dem leadership chose to put the council Chief Executive up for media interviews this morning. The buck stops with our elected leaders. I really do hope they soon have a plan of action that they are prepared to talk about.

Stop press: just heard that local MPs Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman will be contacting various local organisations such as the Southwark Pensioners' Action Group so that they can monitor the experiences of people using the services that Southwark provides. They will also be asking the CQC to provide regular reports on Southwark's progress towards improving standards.

2 December 2009

Some candidates are more local than others . . .

Cheeky, I admit, but we’ve decided to make an offer to our Lib Dem opponents in Peckham Rye.

Some of the recent statements made by Lib Dems standing in this ward for the council elections have been a little wacky to say the least. They seem determined to steer clear of the issues and their local newsletters routinely deny any responsibility for running Southwark council for the past 7 ½ years.

We thought that maybe their refusal to talk about the concerns of local people (such as the allocation of primary school places, the hole in the housing maintenance budget and the council’s poor recycling record) might be down to the distance they live from the ward. You see, none of them live in Peckham Rye and two of the three live a twenty minute bus ride away. Maybe they’re having trouble getting over to our part of Southwark? Maybe the recent rain and cold weather has been putting them off making the trip?

It’s relatively easy for us to talk to people in Peckham Rye because they’re our neighbours. Not exactly fair is it? So we thought we’d offer to pay the Liberal’s bus fare for them. If any of the Lib Dems not-so-local candidates would like to get in touch with us, we’ll gladly top up their Oyster cards to help them get back in touch with local residents.

Obviously, this touching act of cross-partisanship has nothing to do with highlighting the fact that Peckham Rye Lib Dems live miles away from Peckham Rye!

30 November 2009

Labour gives £12million for new permanent primary classrooms

Some good news for the primary school places campaign - the Labour Government has announced that Southwark will be given over £12 million for new permanent primary classrooms.

This year dozens of parents were left without an offer of a local school in East Dulwich and Peckham Rye as the number of applications outstripped the Lib Dem executive’s expectations.

Together with Southwark’s Labour councillors we are now calling for details of how and where the money will be spent so that the classrooms are built by the government’s deadline of September 2011 and so that the lion's share of this cash is spent in our area.

Southwark Labour’s Education spokesperson Cllr Veronica Ward has welcomed this much needed cash boost:

“The Government has recognised that there’s a long-term shortage of school places in the borough, despite the Lib Dem Council Leader’s complacent claims that we ‘coped relatively well this year’.

“This is great news and a serious amount of money, which will go a long way to building the extra primary school places that Southwark needs, particularly in Dulwich. The Lib Dem executive now needs to set out how it’s going to spend the money and where the new classrooms are going to be built so that they can be ready for 2011.”

As a bit of background information for those that have been following this issue - back in July, Secretary of State for Education Ed Balls announced that £200 million would be made available nationally for local authorities facing the greatest pressure on their primary school places. This has now increased to over £271million and Southwark has secured over £12 million of this. Great news for the campaign!

Southwark Council is now responsible for how it delivers the extra school places with these additional resources provided by the Government. A new school would cost at least £10million so is really only an outside possibility. As we need a solution to the population bulge now and there is general consensus that we lack a suitable site in our area, the £12million will probably instead, go a long way to building permanent additional classrooms at existing schools that are oversubscribed.

We will now be doing all we can to make sure that the lion’s share of this cash in spent in East Dulwich, Peckham Rye, Nunhead where there is the biggest shortage of places.

28 November 2009

The co-ordination of road works? Surely not?

For anyone frustrated by the same roads being dug up over and over again to do different jobs, help may be at hand.

Val Shawcross' report on a new scheme that would enable the highways authorities to coordinate road works shows that common sense may at last be coming to the fore. Our London Assembly member is right to encourage as many of London's local authorities as possible to participate in this scheme. It's clearly idiotic for the same road to be dug up twice, when all the work could be done in one go. It costs more money and causes more disruption.

But as of 16th November, Southwark Council was still one of 15 London Authrorities that hadn't signed up to the scheme. Peckham Rye Labour will be writing to the council to urge them to do so.

Demand action on climate change: Join The Wave on Sat 5th Dec

None of the great changes in our history have come without popular pressure, and action to tackle climate change will be no different. In the few days we have left before the Copenhagen climate talks it is vital that people and campaigners from all walks of life act at home and abroad to help build the momentum we need to get the right deal for the planet.

So what are you doing next Saturday? Why now join thousands of people in central London - for the UK's biggest ever climate demonstration - as we demand that political leaders commit to a fair and robust climate deal in Copenhagen that puts the world's poor at its heart.

The plan:
Assembly & rally: 12.00pm, Grosvenor Square
March sets off 1.00pm (please see route below)
Climax: 3.00pm Encircling of Parliament
Dress code: Blue! Please bring blue gloves if you have them, or paint your hands blue for the 3.00pm climax!
Lots more info is available from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

I've volunteered to help steward and will be at the huge ecumenical service at Methodist Central Hall which will begin at 11.00am and will be led by Archbishops Rowan Williams and Vincent Nichols before I join the march.

27 November 2009

More on recycling

Firstly, sorry about the silence from Peckham Rye Labour over the last week. The combination of a trip away and a spot of flu has kept us uncharacteristically quiet.

We'll start up again with a reference to a Southwark News story which reiterates something we were blogging about last week: Southwark council's terrible recycling rate.

Take a look at the story for some further details on this issue, but the most interesting thing is the quote from the Council Spokesperson. They say that the increase in recycling achieved since 2002 is a "massive increase which we should be really proud of." Come again? We're the 6th worst council in England and we're supposed to be proud?

If every other local authority in the country had not increased their recycling rates over the last 7 1/2 years, they might have a point. But clearly this is not the case. Southwark needs to get real about just how far behind the rest of the pack they are when it comes to recycling.

19 November 2009

Ivydale road works and traffic calming update

I posted about the Ivydale Road traffic calming last month and this is just a quick update.

Back in October the council told me that the work, initially planned for late spring/summer, would eventually begin in November. The first stage is the resurfacing of Ivydale Road from its junction with St Asaph's Road to its junction with Limesford Road (in Nunhead ward). This work was scheduled to start on 12th November but I understand that it actually started today. That bit of Ivydale Road is now closed with the P12 on diversion via St St Asaph's road and the Honor Oak estate before going back on route at Brenchley Gardens.

Stage two is the resurfacing of rest of Ivydale (this is the bit in Peckham Rye ward and is where I live). The start date I had was 23rd November but if things are a little behind, and I haven't heard anything, I suspect this means this might still be a week or two away. I'm waiting to hear what this means for the 343 and 484.

Stage three is the construction of the buildouts on Ivydale Road and rolling closures of the road will occur between December and February. Final works to the junction of Kelvington and Hawkslade Roads are programmed for February.

Trying to do my bit to protect our environment...

We're now just days away from the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen where political leaders really need to make some big and bold commitments about cutting emissions and making money available to fund mitigation of, and adaptation to, the impacts of climate change in developing countries, where some of the world's poorest people are already experiencing changing weather patterns.

It's a big challenge and despite the tireless work of Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband (come on, give them a break - you really can't knock them on this one..) it seems that the summit might not deliver all it needs to - but I'll blog more on this later.

However, what can we as individuals do? After all domestic emissions count for about 40% of all UK CO2 emissions.

I'll blog more about my campaign to recycle and compost as much as possible, insulate the loft, the recent installation of an energy efficient boiler and perhaps even my make-do-and-mend living room which features some lovely freecycled furniture... but this blog is in preparation for my train trip to Germany this weekend.

Last November, I set myself the goal of giving up flying (for at least a year... maybe more, eek!). I think it's all too easy to sign this pledge or that but you've got to get on and make sure you take action!

I'm very proud to say that as of this weekend, I haven't flown for a year! In terms of holidays, I had a fabulous few days of honeymoon in Devon back in February and summer hols involved time at home in Peckham Rye and a visit to the in-laws in Wales. And, when I visit friends in Germany for some thanksgiving and birthday celebrations this weekend, I'll be taking the train.

Obviously this isn't a realistic option for everyone. It's costing me £150 to travel from London to Hamburg, Hamburg to Berlin and then Berlin back home. No doubt flying would have been cheaper and I'm lucky that I can afford a bit extra. Time-wise it's nine hours there and nine hours back - I'm sure that other people have more pressure on their time or perhaps get less holiday from work. And obviously there are limits to where you can get to on the train. If my American friends were back in the States, or if my family lived overseas, I wouldn't be able to visit them this way.

However, I think that alongside bold and imaginative action from the Government, which we absolutely should be demanding, each of us needs to try to do out bit. Our emissions must peak by 2015 if we are to avoid global temperatures rising more than 2°C (scientists largely agreed that above this level the impacts would begin to be catastrophic for many). We can't simply rely on technology being developed in the next few years that will solve everything - we have to change the way we live.

Anyway, rant over... There are loads of useful tips on reducing emissions at Act on CO2 and why not commit to cut your carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 at the 10:10 Campaign. You've got to do more than sign up mind! If you currently lead a jet-setting, gas-guzzling lifestyle, saving your 10% should be as easy as cutting out a couple of flights, however, if you're already making steps to do your bit, it may require a bit more thought. Good luck!

(The new boiler that was fitted in the Mills home this summer)

18 November 2009

Recycling in Southwark - 6th worst in England

Under the control of Liberal Democrat councillors, Southwark council has officially become the 6th worst council in England for recycling it’s rubbish. New figures released by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs have brought the incredible news that Southwark has dropped in the national league table of councils from 10th worst to 6th worst. That means there are now 388 local authorities in England who do a better job of recycling than Southwark.

The council’s woeful performance on this issue is bringing national attentionto our part of south London. An inner London council with a population which is desperate to see more of their waste recycled is being seriously let down by the ruling parties.

When they took charge of Southwark in 2002, the Lib Dems promised to increase the borough’s recycling rate to 30% by 2010. Not only have they failed to meet that promise, but when compared to the rest of the country, they have actually taken the council backwards.

Recycling rates in Labour Lambeth have doubled in recent years. The council there has introduced kerbside collections for Tetra Pak cartons and single bag recycling. If they can do it, why can’t Southwark?

Recycling, re-using and reducing the resources we use is a crucial part of the battle against climate change and the stewardship of our environment. People have a right to expect leadership from their local authority on this issue and right now we are not getting it.

Clearly the politicians who currently run Southwark do not take recycling seriously. It appears that the only way to boost recycling in our borough is to get a change at the top in the Town Hall.

17 November 2009

Primary school admissions in Southwark: What's the Story?

Victoria and Gavin with Cllr Fiona Colley, who chaired the meeting which looked into the council's handling of primary school admissions in our area.

Those of you who attended last month’s public meeting on primary school admissions in our area were treated a good deal of bluff from both Lib Dem councillors and council officers. At times they made it sound as if local parents were being positively rude for asking questions about the council’s administration of this year’s admissions.

But the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. We know the process has been poorly handled because of the huge levels of concern demonstrated by local parents. This didn’t happen in other boroughs, and it happened in Southwark for a reason.

Peckham Rye’s Labour Councillor Robert Smeath recently sought to get to the bottom of the situation in Southwark with a question at the last full council meeting. Councillor Smeath asked the Leader of the Council to:

“Please detail the percentage of new applicants for primary school places [in 2009] that did not receive a) their first choice of school ; b) any of their top five choices of school, in the borough by ward.”

The response from the Leader of the Council was:

“Just over 89% of new applicants received one of their four preferences, with 76% receiving their first preference. The council neither plans primary school places nor records applicants’ locations on a ward basis.”

So even taking into account the additional pressures on councils in London, Southwark’s performance is poor. A recent survey of 42 local authorities in the UK revealed that on average, across the UK, 10% of children are refused entry to their first choice primary school. According to the figures above, in Southwark that figure is 24%.

Take a look also at the recently released figures on appeals against Primary School allocations released from 2007/08. These are the most up to date figures available which allow us to compare local authority performance. Among Inner London local authorities Southwark is placed 11th of 14, with 17% of all its allocations being appealed.

After much pressure from local MP’s, parents and Labour councillors, Southwark is finally putting some extra resources into its admissions team. I hope this will help to boost the council’s performance, but we must be vigilant to ensure that we do not see a repeat of this year’s debacle.

Southwark's Lib Dems are clearly struggling to administer the primary schools admission process competently. I suspect this is more cock-up than conspiracy, but that doesn't make it any less harrowing for parents when things go wrong. Your Peckham Rye Labour candidates will be keeping a VERY close eye on this issue, keeping the pressure on for some much needed improvement in the council's handling of this service.

16 November 2009

Sad and shocking day

Just a short post about the sad news that the cafe on Peckham Rye Common suffered a fire last night. On the positive side, the fire was restricted to the office accommodation at the rear of the cafe. The building's fire doors prevented the fire from spreading and the alarm system alerted the fire brigade who responded promptly. Good and robust design are essential (sadly) for buildings such as this and it would seem that the cafe has been well built. Whether further preventative measures or CCTV can now be usefully installed is something we will raise with the council.

On an even more shocking note is the news that Delroy Grant, a resident of 'Brockley' was today charged with five rapes, six indecent assaults and 11 burglaries. From the media and police presence I came across on my way home this evening, it appears that Mr Grant lived just within the Southwark boundary, in Peckham Rye ward. My thoughts are with the victims of these crimes and local residents.

14 November 2009

Val Shawcross joins us in Peckham Rye to talk buses

We braved the rain and wind earlier today to talk to people on St Aidan's Road, Marcus Garvey Mews and Dunstan's Road about local bus services.

We know that in Peckham Rye ward lots of people, including ourselves, are reliant on bus services. That’s why we’re particularly worried by the Mayor’s recent proposals to cut bus services and funding.

We were delighted that our London Assembly Member, Val Shawcross, who is also deputy chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee and Labour Spokesperson for Transport was able to join us. You can read Val's response to the Mayor's proposals here.

Generally, people are pretty happy with bus services, particularly the 63 and 363. However, many shared our concerns that less buses could have a big impact. I don't have a car so comments about making sure that you give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get somewhere on the bus ring true. Often you get lucky and a bus turns up straight away, but sometimes you don't, meaning reduced frequency could have a big impact.

Most people think that they pay a fair price for the current service they receive. However many were annoyed about the fare increases that Boris has announced. In January, bus fares will rise by around 20%. Pay-as-you-go journeys will go up from £1 to £1.20 and 7-day passes will go up from £13.80 to £16.60. Tube fares will go up too but by around 4% and most travelcards will be frozen. For people on St Aidan's Road, Marcus Garvey Mews and Dunstan's Road, who don't have a tube or train on their doorstep, it seems that as bus users they are way down Boris' list of priorities. To be honest I share their frustration. I sit on an overcrowded 343 everyday to get to and from work. It's a bit of a kick in the teeth to face such a big rise in just a few weeks time.

12 November 2009

Who runs your council?

John O’Farrell’s 1998 book Things Can Only Get Better describes local government as “Not exactly what the marketing boys call 'sexy'”. He has a point. The labyrinthine world of bureaucracy, committees and local politics doesn’t always make your local authority the most appealing subject for reflection and debate. In fairness to John O’Farrell, he does go on to write about the reasons why council services are so important, and why we should care about who is in charge of them. Nevertheless, the point remains, local government can be impenetrable to the people who pay for and rely on its services.

An unfortunate side-effect of this is that when issues of importance are debated locally (such as the hole in the housing repairs budget or the council’s poor handling of primary school admissions this year) the facts of the matter are sometimes lost. In particular, those in positions of political responsibility often attempt to hide behind the structure of local government to avoid being held to account.

In our ward for example, candidates from certain political parties often claim to be “campaigning locally” against the council policies, when in fact, they are already running the council and have been for the last 7 ½ years. By the same token, they will issue statements claiming personal credit for developments which have nothing to do with the council which they suddenly admit to being in charge of(such as Government or TfL programmes).

Granted, councils don’t operate in a vacuum. Government’s do allocate a large proportion of their funding, and decide on their responsibilities. However, some manage to make a success of their services and others do not. So local control does matter, and it is important to understand who is responsible for what.

In an attempt to de-mystify local political structures a little, I thought I would list some very straight-forward facts about Peckham Rye and Southwark council.

1. Southwark Council has been run by a coalition of Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors since 2002. Almost all decisions on council policy over the last 7 ½ years are the responsibility of the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

2. The Liberal Democrats are the dominant administration group. They have 27 councillors to the Conservative’s 6.

3. Southwark is divided into 21 wards and each ward has three councillors.

4. Peckham Rye’s three councillors are currently Labour (Aubyn Graham, Robert Smeath and Evrim Laws). The three of us are hoping to succeed them as Labour councillors in the 2010 elections. Obviously we face a tough fight against Conservative, Lib Dem and other party candidates in that election.

5. Peckham Rye ward is in the south east of Southwark on the border with the borough of Lewisham. If you’re unsure of which ward you live in, check here)

So that is how it stands. In your area, your local Labour councillors have done a great job of representing local people on the council, but ultimately, that council is run by the Lib Dems and Tories.

So next time you hear a candidate complaining about council policy or services in this area, ask them which party they represent? It might just be they're already running the council.

10 November 2009

School fairs and admissions criteria

Several weeks ago we attended the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting which was investigating admissions to primary schools and the provision of places in Dulwich and East Dulwich. The treatment of parents by Southwark’s admissions team and the action needed to ensure adequate primary school places available were, of course, the main topics discussed. Thanks to pressure from local parents and their Labour representatives, Southwark’s Lib Dem/Tory administration has been forced to add staff to their admissions teams and put in place plans for extra “bulge” classes in local schools to cope with possible extra demand in the future.

But in addition to these shorter term measures, there was also discussion about what else could be done to avoid this year’s debacle being repeated in the longer term. One telling contribution to this debate came from the headteacher of a local primary that was performing extremely well for its pupils, but which was still consistently undersubscribed. The school, which I won’t name here, had been failing several years ago but had been turned round thanks to the efforts of the headteacher and her staff. The problem was the school was suffereing from “reputational lag” – the lasting impression that a school is poor among local parents even when results and inspections say the opposite.

Sadly, local parents are not getting the chance to hear headteachers talk about the successes at their schools, which means that undeserved reputations for failure are continuing to stick. Having heard the headteacher speak, I suggested that the council should start hosting “school fairs” to bring parents looking for a local primary school for their children into contact with headteachers that they might not otherwise get the chance to meet and talk to. The contribution is recorded in the minutes of the meetig here:

"A member of the public suggested that area based school fairs should be introduced with the specific aim of pubicising the admissions process and the requirements on parents to apply for a place within the primary school system. An additional aim would be to promote those schools suffering from a “reputational lag” in respect of their improving performance."

Overview and Scrutiny Committees are able to make formal reccomendations for action to the Council’s Lib Dem/Tory Executive, who will then give their response. It’s good to see then, that my suggestion made it into the formal set of reccomendations made by the committee. The wording of reccomendation 19 is:

"That new publicity include area based school fairs at which the heads and senior staff of multiple schools can host stalls and meet parents. This will bring more parents into contact with staff from successful schools which are currently undersubscribed. One aim of the fairs should be to overcome the "reputational lag" from which some schools suffer."

Now we need to see if the council will act on this, and the raft of other crucial reccomendations made by the committee, to see if the fairs will take place. I hope they will and I hope they will help more local children find a good local school.

Admissions criteria
On a separate, but related issue, readers of this blog will know that at the same meeting, Victoria asked whether the current admissions criteria could be looked at again as they seemed to be unitentionally adding to the likelihood of children ending up at a school some distance away from home. The current system allocates first to children where it is their nearest community school and only after that to children who have another school closer to them. This means that if you live just a little bit too far from your nearest school and you don't get in there you instead you may be sent to an undersubscribed school a considerable distance away. Other boroughs treat the distance rules slightly differently, so in Lewisham for example, the admissions team is allowed greater discretion to deal with children who miss out on places at schools nearest to them.

The recomendations state:

That the admissions forum review the unintended consequences of the distance criteria whereby failure to get into the nearest school (because of its small catchment area) may work against getting into the second and other nearest schools

That the admissions forum review the unintended consequences of the distance criteria whereby failure to get into the nearest school (because of its small catchment area) may work against getting into the second and other nearest schools.

8 November 2009

Peckham Rye Common central area: Changing facilities and children's provision, Public Consultation

I love Peckham Rye Common and Park. Whether it's a for a jog or a stroll with family both the Common and Park are beautiful in all seasons. The wonderful show of autumn colours over the last few weeks has been brilliant.

Readers may know that for some time there have been various proposals floating around about the improvement and possible expansion of facilities on the Common and possibly also in the Park.

The One O'Clock Club is currently housed in the old PoW hut and, although a fascinating historical relic, £200K of funding has now been secured to build a much needed new centre. Hopefully a further £200K will be secured in the coming weeks to ensure the best possible facilities are built. Further funding is available for a natural play facility which will include a water play area.

Although funding has not been secured for new changing room facilities both on the Common and at Homestall Road these are being planned.

Where do you think these facilities will be best located? All near the cafe or spread out? Would you prefer larger facilities than currently available should planning permission be secured - the One O'Clock Club for example is immensely popular? How should the architects and council draw up plans for all the facilities even without funding being secured for all? What can be done about the car park and bin area which is a bit ugly?

If you want your say you can meet with the council officers and the local architects, Eger Architects based in Camberwell, this Wednesday 11 November at the cafe (I'll post the time as soon as I've confirmed it). This is the very start of the consultation so there are no plans to see yet - they really want to hear your thoughts and ideas before they go any further. We met with them this week alongside Friends of Peckham Rye Park, the One O'Clock Club and the various sports clubs. There isn't a huge amount to report at this stage except to say get involved this Wednesday and hopefully the initial drawings, expected in about three weeks time, will reflect the meeting last week and all the comments made on Wednesday.

In terms of a timetable after that, a presentation of a 'Preferred option development plan' will be made in December, this will include plans for all the facilities even though funding won't be secured by then. These plans are then expected to be finalised in January. After that work will focus on the detailed designs for the One O'Clock and natural play area, these will go out to tender, and should be completed by March 2011.


We've now recieved the following e-mail from a Southwark Council officer:

"Dear All

This email is to inform you that the consultation event scheduled 11th November has been postponed and will be held towards the end of November. This is to allow the architects time to work on sketch proposals and present them at the next event. I will have confirmation of the next consultation event by late next week."

6 November 2009

Update on Peckham Rye Residents Survey

I thought I'd give you a quick update on the responses we've been getting to our online survey which we began advertising last week. The response so far has been great, and there are still a more coming in. Here's a sneak preview of the results of the priorities and recycling questions so far. In response to the question "Which services does the council needs to improve most?", the results were:

Recycling and bins - 26.9
Crime prevention - 50.0
Housing - 7.7
Things for young people to do - 26.9
Other - 46.2
Respondents could pick more than one answer, which is why the percentages don't add up to 100%

Of the "other" issues, school places was by far the most common response, perhaps reflecting the anxiety created by the council's poor administration and communication over primary schools admissions this year.

In response to the question, "What do you think the council should do to make recycling easier?" the results were:

Recycle tetra pack cartons - 80.2%
One bag recycling - 35.4%
More Communal recycling bins - 30%

All these responses will be added to the responses we recieve by post. We'll report back on the full results to all of the questions early next month.

4 November 2009

The human cost of Southwark's housing repairs failure

For some, it's difficult to quantify the human cost of a £700 million black hole in Southwark's budget for bringing council homes up to a decent standard. It sounds like a big number, but does it have much of an impact on real people's lives? Isn't this just a game of political claim and counter claim?

For those unfortunate enought to be living in one of Southwark's 18,000 sub-standard homes, the impact is only too real. For those individuals and families it can mean a home which is cold, damp and without even the most basic of facilities. Southwark's Labour Councillors have recently published "No Way To Live", a document which attempts to put some pressure on the Liberal Administration which refuses to tackle this crisis through cross party co-operation. Take a look at just one of the examples given in the document:

"In February 2008, a woman living with her three young children in Peckham reported to the council that her toilet ceiling leaked with grey water dripping through. The extractor fan in the toilet was also broken, which led to a serious build-up of damp and mould

The woman was concerned about the potential health risk for her children. By mid-July, five months after the initial complaint, six appointments to fix it had been made and missed by the council’s contractors. The woman had been forced to take time off work without pay to be available for some of the appointments.

In August 2008 the council’s contractors decorated the bathroom but didn’t fix the extractor fan or theleak and so the damp and the mould returned. By the following May the leak had still not been fixed and was getting worse by the day. More appointments were made and missed until in June this year the council’s contractors discovered the source of the leak was a cracked ‘soil pipe’, which carries dirty water away from the flats above.

When the decorators returned to finally fix the problem in July this year, 17 months after it was first reported, they discovered what looked like asbestos and all work had to be stopped until tests had been done"

This sobering document shows the real human cost of administrative failure in Southwark. Last month the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition agreed their new housing strategy. In doing so they completely failed to set out a coherent strategy for bringing these homes up to scratch and even hid the fact that there was a huge funding gap.

Southwark's Labour councillors first called on the administration to set up a cross-party body to deal with this issue in January 2008. They refused then and they have been refusing ever since. Bringing Southwark’s homes up to standard is a huge challenge, we wouldn’t want to suggest otherwise, but we have to work together to come up with a solution. Stories such as the one given above clearly show that the council’s decision to put its head in the sand and to try to hide from this problem is causing misery for far too many. People living in sub-standard housing in Peckham Rye ward and across the borough have a right to expect better from their landlord.

3 November 2009

Local transport improvements - Peckham Rye/East Dulwich Road/Nunhead Lane

Improvements to these roads have come up at the last few Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community councils.

Each year Transport for London (TfL) allocates money to the council to deliver local transport improvements. For the next financial year (2010/11) the system used to allocate this funding is changing and should mean that the council, together with the community, can have more say in deciding what kind of schemes are implemented.

Back at the July Community Council meeting, the Council’s transport planners presented five potential schemes for our area (this covers not just Peckham Rye ward but also Nunhead and Lane wards) and asked us to vote on them.

One of these schemes was called ‘Peckham Rye South’ and covers both the east and west branches of Peckham Rye from Scylla Road and Dewar Street in the north down to Barry Road and Somerton Road to the south. The council’s transport planners stated: “These busy streets carry significant amounts of through traffic and crossing them can be difficult for pedestrians. The junction with East Dulwich Road has a very high level of collisions. There is a well used cycle route on the eastern side, but conditions for cyclists are patchy. Not all bus stops meet the required standards. To address these issues a review of the timings of the junctions on East Dulwich Road could be carried out. Additional raised crossings could be provided on both branches of Peckham Rye. A trial of average speed cameras could be carried out to control vehicle speeds. Improvements to the cycle route could be made by implementing additional cycle lanes and removing pinch points.”

At both the September and October Community Council meetings the area around these roads came up again following the serious accident outside Tescos on East Dulwich Road at the start of September. It was noted that there had been other accidents and near misses and that the arrival of Tescos has increased the amount of pedestrians in what was already a very busy area. As a result those attending the September Community Council meeting wondered what could be done to protect pedestrians and whether the council might consider putting in a pedestrian crossing.

The response we got back at the recent October meeting was rather negative stating that the funding bids for transport improvements for 2010/11 were done and dusted and so we would have to wait until 2011/12. Alternatively a pedestrian crossing here may be suitable for a "cleaner, greener, safer project" so we could submit a proposal to the Community Council.

However, remembering the close proximity of this to the ‘Peckham Rye South’ scheme from back in July I asked whether the pedestrian crossing might be tagged on to that scheme. Hopefully we’ll get a fuller response to my suggestion at the next Community Council meeting but in the mean time I’ve chased the transport planners about this directly.

I’m pleased to learn that the proposed ‘Peckham Rye South’ scheme has now been proposed to Transport for London following a favourable response to the consultation. Funding for the improvements outlined above should be confirmed by December. On the downside, the location by Tescos is considered to be outside the scope of the proposed project and so is unlikely to be progressed as part of this scheme. But on the upside, the council’s principal transport planner has said: “I would not rule it out entirely, however, as there is always the possibility that any underspend could be used for this purpose. I will also ask the Road Safety Team to have a look at this issue and advise me of relative priorities in the area.”

I’ll make sure we keep you posted about any further developments on both the progression of the Peckham Rye South scheme and the additional crossing.

2 November 2009

Take the Peckham Rye residents' survey online

Over the next week residents in Peckham Rye will recieve a letter from Victoria, Renata and I, introducing ourselves as the Labour candidates in our area and setting out the issues that we think are crucial to Peckham Rye.

But we don't just to tell you about ourselves, we will also be seeking your views on council services and asking what issues you think are most important. To help us get your views we have enclosed a survey form.

People will be able to fill the survey out in hard copy and send it straight back to us by freepost. But for those of you who would prefer to take the survey via the internet, we have have also prepared an online survey. If you'd like to e-mail the the survey to your neighbours and friends you can use this link:


I hope you can take the time to complete the survey to let us know what you think . . .

1 November 2009

Nunhead Community Centre - some success but campaign continues

'Peckham Rye' ward covers the south east part of Nunhead so yesterday, we went along to the Nunhead Community Forum AGM. Renata has been involved with the Forum for some time and is on its executive committee. (Residents campaigning against the closure)

The meeting started with a discussion about the next steps for securing an adequate community centre for Nunhead residents. Many Nunhead residents will have been following the campaign for a proper and adequate community centre for Nunhead for some time.

It's well over two years ago that the current centre was closed after one of the residents who ran the centre contracted legionnaires disease (maybe from the centre, maybe not). It was expected that the centre would reopen after the water systems had been given the all clear. Instead the council said it couldn't reopen without some quite substantial work being done. An initial report suggested about £300K was needed so local residents set about raising that money, knowing that the centre was a vital part of the community.

Sadly, earlier this year, with £150K secured and the hope that Southwark council would stump up the rest, the Lib Dems running the council changed their mind saying the centre would simply cost too much to bring up to good standard and to maintain.

Since then residents have campaigned tirelessly for the centre to be reopened, the centre has been temporarily occupied by some of those determined to prove the centre could be brought up to scratch and the water tanks have been cleaned and then the water tested - at some personal expense to some residents.

The local Labour councillors have been closely involved with the campaign and have kept up the pressure on the council to ensure that either the centre was reopened, or if not, that an adequate and purpose built centre was built for Nunhead.

Just a few months ago, the best the council would offer was some shop fronts in the new building by the Nun's Head pub. This was rejected - it was just too small a space and it simply wasn't designed to provide the activities that once thrived at the Community Centre.

However the council has, at last, come up with a suggestion that might just work - a brand new community centre right on Nunhead Green. Over the last few weeks, a lot of very vocal campaigning from the Labour councillors, particularly Cllr Fiona Colley, and the Community Forum's campaign committee has ensured that the suggested centre has grown in size and that the money (£600K-£750K) in now clearly in the council's budget that will be agreed in February.

The great majority of people at yesterday's meeting were relatively happy with this result, the chance to match funding, and to keep pushing to get the biggest and best new community centre. I think most are very sad at giving up the fight to reopen the old centre but it's time for the community to make sure it grabs the chance of a new centre. After much questioning, we were all confident that Cllr Tim McNally's (Executive Member for Resources) promise that the money and the new centre were guaranteed and that the council would not let down Nunhead again. On this basis, the news that work on the new centre could start early next year was a source of good news for the many residents at the meeting.

What lesson does a Labour council candidate learn from this? Well, that getting money and promises out of the Lib Dem run council can be a bit of a battle of attrition but if we continue to speak up for our communities, we can win the resources that Nunhead, Peckham Rye, Honor Oak and East Dulwich urgently need from the Lib Dems up in London Bridge.

31 October 2009

Southwark Caribb F. C. - Setting the standard

Out on Peckham Rye Park this morning, Vikki, Renata and I bumped into Carlton Scafe, President of the Southwark Caribb Football Club and other members of their coaching team. For those of you who haven't heard of Southwark Caribb before, they were started in 1999 and now run up to 15 different teams and training groups for young people in the Peckham and Dulwich area. The club is widely recognised as a model for youth football development and helped literaly hundreds of young people get active and involved in football. If you'd like to find out more about this great organisation, and maybe even offer your support, their website is here.

What I didn't know before speaking to Carlton this morning is that Southwark Caribb F. C. run an adult men's team as well. Vikki and Renata were quick to volunteer me to go along for a training session and see if I would make the grade. Carlton gave me the details for the next session, but sensibly warned me that the team was currently top of the league and hadn't lost a game all season. I will give it a go and see how I get on, though I suspect my limited skills will leave me firmly on the bench, and probably in the dressing room.

More importantly, it is crucial that local representatives listen to the views of people like Carlton over what support the council can be offering organisations such as Southwark Caribb FC, not least because their hard work does a huge amount to improve life for young people in our bit of south London.

28 October 2009

Peckham Rye Station Developments

Attended the Rye Lane and Station Action Group (RLSAG) meeting this evening looking into the development of Peckham Rye Station and Peckham Town Centre. Rye Lane and the surrounding area isn't in Peckham Rye ward but it is an obvious 'high street' area for many of us who live locally.

The meeting started by looking into the potential for the station building. itself. This bore in mind that the station is listed and is of huge historic and architectural merit, that it needs to be made accessible and that there are some really exciting spaces within the building such as the Billiard Hall/Waiting Room that could be used by the community and which have also been subject to some restoration thanks to the Peckham Society, the Cleaner, Greener and Safer Neighbourhood Fund and other local residents.

Southern Rail gave an interesting presentation of the feasibility work they have done to make the station more accessible. They seemed sympathetic to the idea that the local community would like to do a lot more than just install a lift or two and that this is an opportunity to help bring the station building back to its former glory. However, realistically, it doesn't really seem that the money to do much of the possible work is available at the moment and we were left a bit unclear about how we might make things happen. Small amounts of money from the Community Council every now and again cannot deliver the work that is needed. In the meantime plans that might culminate in a cafe or restaurant in the Billiard Hall might be a long way away.

There were then a couple of presentations from Southwark's Planning team. This covered the area surrounding the station - central Rye Lane and the area between Rye Lane and Copeland Road. These were even more frustrating as we seem to have been presented with some wonderful ideas for creating, for example, a square in front of the station but without any real political will or economic resources to make this happen. I'm torn between accepting that we do need a big and well thought-out regeneration strategy for Peckham, yet feel that perhaps if we concentrated on smaller schemes or if the council would just firmly commit to use those buildings it does own for the benefit the community we would at least start to see improvements.

Again it seems like the Lib Dems running the council fail to get their property people talking to their community people! That Cllr Paul Noblet, the Executive Member for Regeneration, was invited to the meeting some time ago but didn't attend just seems to show that the council's priorities lie elsewhere and not in really delivering for people who live in and around Peckham.

27 October 2009

Peckham Rye common toilets: a bog standard update

Peckham Rye residents will be well aware that the public toilets based on Peckham Rye Common, here, have been closed up for a substantial amount of time. The reason for this is because Liberal Democrat Councillors who run Southwark are trying to let the building out for commercial purposes, rather than investing to bring it back into community use.

At the July community council meeting we were told the amazing news that the council hadn't even checked if they were allowed to let the site out, even though they had gone so far as to secure a tenant. Despite consistent warnings from local people, they hadn't bothered to check if there were legal restrictions on the common land. (Yes, the clue should have been in the name). In any case, in July we were told that this issue was going to be investigated as a matter of urgency. At tonight's Community Council meeting local residetns were told that the council is . . . wait for it . . . still looking into the restrictions on the land.

I asked the council officer attending (who, in fairness, was not directly responsible for this debacle) if there was any explanation as to how a council could try to let out a building on common land without first checking if it had the right to do so. He was unable to explain.

My hope is that we will eventually discover that the council should not have let out ancient common land and the toilets will be returned to community use. Renata, Victoria and I will keep pushing hard for that result.

26 October 2009

Mundania Road looks for a change

A good evening out on Mundania Road this week gave us a real flavour of the kind of issues that are concerning residents in Peckham Rye. Mundania Road has a mix of residents whose views on council services provide lots of different perspectives. There are people renting from both private landlords and the council, as well as owner occupiers. Some residents own cars, whilst others rely on different forms of public transport.

What's interesting is that the variety of issues raised with us had a common thread. Far too often people are getting a wall of silence from their council when they report problems or try to access services. Victoria and I spoke to a number of residents living in social housing who had reported the need for some repairs to the council. Their issues were registered months ago, but no repairs have been carried out. They rang again, and still nothing was done. Other residents of Mundania Road told a similar story when it came to street cleaning issues. Others still were getting frustrated about poor recycling services.

We will be getting in touch with council on behalf of all the people we spoke to see if something can be done. But it shouldn't have to be like this. The leadership of Southwark Council should be investing in services to make them more responsive and driving changes which deliver high levels of customer service. One of the reasons Victoria, Renata and I are so keen to get involved in local politics is so that we can campaign for Southwark Council to become more responsive to local people's needs.

For me, that means two things. On the one hand there is the need to help people to pick their way through the council bureaucracy and get things done. On the other, it means campaigning for a Labour council which has the values and, very importantly, the competence to run a huge organisation like Southwark council. It's that second part of the equation which is probably less fashionable at the moment. But I really don't think people living on Mundania Road will see a sustainable difference in the level of service they recieve until there is a change at the top in Southwark. In the meantime, we'll keep doing our best to help people living in our area.

18 October 2009

Labour's latest weekend out in Peckham Rye . . .

I've just come in from another weekend spent out in the ward, talking to residents in Peckham Rye, and what a great weekend it was. A total of 33 Labour members came out to help knock on doors and speak to people in Peckham Rye Ward about how they feel about the services they are recieving from the Lib Dem controlled council.

Labour activists were also collecting signatures for our petition calling on the council to meet their responsibility to bring social housing in the borough up to a "decent" standard. Under Government set standards the council is supposed to make sure their housing stock is “warm, weatherproof and [has] reasonably modern facilities” by 2010. The Lib Dems had promised to go further than the decent homes standard at the last local elections in Southwark. True to form, they now tell us that they have a £700 million hole in their maintenance budget.

Of the hundreds of residents we spoke to today, most were outraged at hearing about the funding crisis. We will make sure that these views are taken to the council so that the Lib Dems get an idea of how angry Peckham Rye residents are about this issue.

Fiona Colley and Claudia Reid out and about in Peckham Rye

Talking to residents about about the Lib Dems failure to provide decent homes in Southwark

15 October 2009

Boris puts bus fares up 20%!

Boris has just announced the new bus and tube fares that will take effect in January. Not bound by any formula he has happily hiked our bus fares up by well above inflation. Pay as you go bus fares rise from £1 to £1.20 (a 12.7% rise) whilst a seven day bus pass will rise 20% from £13.80 to £16.60. And at the same time he's announced a cut in bus schedules....

It's all very well for him to say "Nobody wants to make an announcement like this, especially when Londoners are feeling the effects of the recession." But his actions speak louder than words.

Whilst tube fares also also going up it's those of us reliant on buses that have been hardest hit. Like many people in Peckham Rye, I rarely use the tube and am very reliant on the 484 and 343 - services that are always packed during the morning and evening peak hours.

So Boris' transport strategy seems to be to either price us off the buses or keep us queuing at the bus stops.

13 October 2009

Meet the train managers

With thanks to the Forest Hill Society for highlighting this:

You can meet Southern Managers on the London Bridge Station concourse this Thursday 15 October from 7.30am-9.30am. A chance to tell them about the impact that South London Line cuts will have on your commute and to show your concern.

Southeastern are running a similar session at their information stand at Charing Cross station again on 15 October between 8.00am and 10.00am.

More on the proposed South London Line cuts can be found at:

Save the South London Line Facebook Group

And at Mayor's Question Time tomorrow (Weds) at 10.00am the first question to Boris will be about the cuts - "Will you express your support for the retention of the South London rail service from Victoria to London Bridge via Denmark Hill, and oppose any reduction in this service that is carried out for financial reasons rather than capacity reasons?" We await his reponse....