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!