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....

Primary School Places – report from Overview and Scrutiny Meeting

Not long back from tonight’s Overview and Scrutiny meeting which all three of us attended and spoke at.

You can read the Council’s report, which we essentially talked around here: http://moderngov.southwarksites.com/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=115&MId=2783&Ver=4

To summarise some of the key (but by no means all!) of the points:

1. We’re not sure that the council explanation was fully adequate. It should certainly have picked up the fact that there was a problem sooner i.e. before the allocations went out. The council is blaming some of the problems on late applications, but in fact there were only 45 late applications across the whole of the south of the borough. The main issue seems to be that there were too few staff in the admissions team - they have significantly fewer officers in Southwark than in Lewisham for example. Sadly, the council made the decision to have such a small team and it simply wasn’t able to provide the service that most local parents felt they needed. Three additional staff are now being recruited to the team – two will cover primary admissions and the third will have a communications role. From all the comments made at the meeting, it seems that this should go a long way to resolving many concerns that people had this year. We do hope that the council keeps its promise on this one and that the new staff arrive imminently. Additionally, although we won’t get one uniform application form for all parents in London until next year (for Sept 2011 starters onwards) the Council did agree to work more closely with Lambeth and Lewisham to help free up places earlier in the application process.

2. There was a very lengthy discussion about whether we can be sure that the current ‘bulge’ in population will revert back to around current levels in approximately 2018/2019. We’re not sure that the council can be any surer about this than they currently are but the committee did note that further investigation of all available figures was needed.

3. There were lots of comments from parents about how confusing the current admissions system is and how this exacerbates problems. Hopefully an increased admissions team will help. Gavin suggested hosting one or several ‘schools fayres’ at which parents could have face-to-face chats with teachers, find out more about local schools and receive lots of help with negotiating the admissions process.

4. In terms of parents having all the information they need about applying this year and being aware of which schools might have additional ‘bulge classes’ the suggestion is that this is demand-led. This seemed to be supported by most people present. This would mean that rather than telling parents where additional classes might be, which might encourage second-guessing of where they are most likely to get a place and inadvertently add to some schools being over or under subscribed, seven or eight schools (within the East Dulwich, Nunhead, Peckham Rye and Camberwell area) would be lined-up to take additional classes but only those with the demand for places would end up with the extra classes come next September. The council is also confident that offers of places can be made in March which is much better than the May date previously stated.

5. The current admission rules add to the likelihood of children ending up at a school some distance away from home. Victoria, along with a couple of others in the room, suggested looking again at these rules as a way of alleviating the these problems. 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, then you stand very little chance with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th nearest (due to this rule) and instead you may be sent to an undersubscribed school a considerable distance away. We don’t know whether there is scope to change this – tell us what you think.

6. The general consensus was that a new school would not solve the current problems and is also unrealistic. The GLA officer projections for the area are for a few years of baby boom with demand falling back to previous levels in about five years time. It would take nearly that long to build a new school and cost £10-20m. There also doesn’t seem to be a site where it could be located. The work the council did very recently to find a suitable location for Harris Boys seems to pretty much confirms this final point. So demand-led bulge classes plus a better and bigger admissions department are the proposed solutions.

11 October 2009

Peckham Rye Park Update

Last Wednesday I went along to the Friends of Peckham Rye Park Meeting at the cafe on the park. I'd strongly recommend getting involved in this group to anyone interested in issues relating to the park. Meetings are very relaxed and informal and a great way of finding out what is going on.

At the meeting last week we were given an update from Council officers on the planned development of new facilities including the One O'Clock Club and changing facilities for local sports teams. The officer addressing the meeting said that he hoped work would start on the new developments in the next few months, subject to some final consultation on the specifics of the plans. I'll keep you posted on this issue as it develops.

Many of you, especially those who attend Community Council meetings, will have been following the plans for the new facilities for some time. I know there were differing opinions about how the various facilities should be delivered, but I think that now a decision has been made, the council must make sure it delivers on what it has promised to local residents and groups.

We were also briefed by the park manager on recent developments, which included news of a spate of thefts of park benches. There is some suspicion that the thefts were carried out to order, but police have not been able to identify the perpetrators thus far. Enquiries are ongoing. Personally, I was shocked that someone would steal a park bench and really disappointed to hear that the thefts would put a significant hole in the park budget.

Anyway, if anybody lives locally and is interested in joining the friends of Peckham Rye Park, their website is here: http://www.foprp.org.uk/

10 October 2009

Stop the sell-off of our community buildings

One of issues that we are campaigning hardest on is the shutting down of community facilities in the Peckham Rye area. In recent months Southwark's Lib Dem controlled council have closed Nunhead Community Centre and Peckham Rye toilet facilities, without providing any alternatives.

The Lib Dems even tried to let out the toilet facilities to a private company without even checking if they had a right to do so. The toilets are based on common land. We want to see the building kept for community use.

At a time when local community groups are in desperate need of space and facilities, it is just madness to be shutting down facilities and selling them off. Peckham needs a council that will support its community, not one that is always looking to make money out of it.

Keep an eye on this blog for more news on the campaign to save our community facilities.

Primary School places shortage update

Speaking to parents on the doorstep in Peckham Rye, it's clear that there is a great deal of concern locally about the shortage of Primary school places.

We've been hearing stories of children being offered places miles away from the area, some of which would have required 3 bus journeys! Sadly, it's clear that the Lib Dems running our council have just failed to address this issue.

Labour Councillors are now working to avoid a similar shortage next year and have called a special meeting for local parents to put pressure on the council to act. The "Overview and Scrutiny" meeting will be held on 12th October at 7pm in East Dulwich Community Centre on Darrell Road. I would encourage all concerned local residents to attend.

The Lib Dems have been aware of the growing shortage of school places since well before this year's crisis. in 2007 they committed to "scope" school places provision in the area, but then inexplicably dropped this commitment the following year.

For more information about the special meeting, and to let Southwark Labour know about your experiences, go to: www.southwarklabour.co.uk/schoolplaces

9 October 2009


Welcome to the Peckham Rye Labour Blog!
Gavin, Renata and Victoria were recently selected to be the local Labour candidates for the 2010 local elections. All three of us live in the Peckham Rye area and we’ll be fighting hard to win in 2010 so that we can stand up for local residents on Southwark Council.
Keep returning here for all the news and views on Peckham Rye and the council.