31 January 2010

More 343 buses are on the way...

We’re delighted to tell you that Mayor Boris Johnson has at last listened to our calls to improve the frequency of the 343 bus in the morning peak. Following representations from Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross and a number of local residents, TFL are proposing two extra buses towards London Bridge during the morning peak period.

On a separate but connected issue, Val Shawcross has recently met with the new company running the 343 to ask them about the poor reliability and the difficulties getting on the bus at Elephant and Castle in the evening rush hour. Val came to Peckham Rye to speak to residents in November last year, and this was one of the issues that came up. Val would like to know whether you see any improvements or not. Contact her on val@valshawcross or 020 7983 4401.

29 January 2010

Peckham Rye joins Green Chain Walk - try it out THIS SUNDAY 31st

The Green Chain Walk, which started back in 1977, was set up to protect green spaces from development, and promote the enjoyment of the outdoors. Some locals will be aware that it’s now, pretty much, reached our bit of Southwark.

This Sunday 31st January, Walk London is offering a guided walk of the Southwark extension from Nunhead station to Crystal Palace, which will pass through Peckham Rye ward.

Leaving Nunhead station, the Green Chain will pass through Nunhead Cemetery and then to Camberwell New Cemetery. It will then head up the steep path to the top of One Tree Hill.

The Oak of Honour

This Sunday they’ll then be a chance to meet with resident, Ian White, at the pioneering self-build housing in Walter's Way for a talk. Then on to the Horniman for lunch.

The walk continues on to Sydenham Hill Woods Nature Reserve, past the modernist 'Six Pillars' and the 'Dulwich Wood House' into the former Upper Sydenham railway station, then a look at the Paxton Tunnel, a climb up the slope to Sydenham Hill before ending up in Crystal Palace Park. At this point they’ll be a chance to feed the Dinosaurs with walkers afforded the rare privilege of getting onto their island. (I’m very excited about this bit as I’ve admired the dinosaurs for years....)

The walk is free of charge and there’s no need to book. Meet at Nunhead station 10am. It’s about 6.5 miles and should be finish by 4.30pm. You can view the route here.

The guide is Ian Bull who can be contacted on 07799810178 and who has helpfully posted all these details on the SE23 website.

For those interested in the extension of the Green Chain Walk to Southwark, Sunday’s walk does seen to essentially follow the route one that has now been formally identified by Southwark Council.

Some local readers may have been aware of past attempts to get the extension to pass through the Aquarius Golf Course but this isn’t happening.

This route is accessible now (as we’ll prove on Sunday) but the next step is to improve signage and accessibility along the route. I understand, via council officers, that funding has been approved for the signage on the Green Chain in Southwark and this should be installed early in 2010 – presumably in time for the ‘official’ opening that’s planned for April. There is also a “pot of money” that parks and green spaces can access to help pay for improvements (this again is via the council so sorry if it sounds a little vague). Finally, the Peckham and Nunhead Area Action Plan provides the potential to set aside further investment to improve our own bit of the Green Chain.

Love the dinosaurs!

28 January 2010

Lib Dems politicise school admissions committee

We’ve just been given some really shocking news about the school admissions forum – the body which oversees almost all aspects of Southwark’s school admissions.

Many readers will already know about the chaotic allocation of primary school places in East Dulwich and Nunhead for 2009-10, when the council hugely underestimated the demand for places in local schools and failed to provide enough staff to administer the process adequately. Having a cross party appraoch on the admissions forum was essential to ensuring that officers were challenged to improve the process this year.

With the apparent support of Peckham Rye Lib Dems, Southwark’s Lib Dem/Tory coalition, have thrown the Labour representative off the committee, without any explanation. Southwark Labour’s Education spokesperson Cllr Veronica Ward had been a member of the School Admissions Forum for almost four years, before being chucked off at a meeting of Lib Dems and Tories on Monday night. She had attended the forum far more regularly than either the Lib Dem or Tory representatives. It is suspected that the parties running the town hall were not comfortable with a Labour member being present to challenge their approach.

Both the Lib Dems and Tories have kept their place on the forum, despite the Conservative Party holding less than a quarter of Labour’s seats in the council chamber and despite them only managing to attend four meetings, to Veronica's 14, over the last three years.

Back in October the admissions forum was given the specific task of reviewing the unintended consequences of the admissions 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. It now remains unclear if the Lib Dem-Tory Committee will be taking this task seriously.

Southwark Labour’s Education and Children’s Services spokesperson, Cllr Veronica Ward said in reaction to the move:

“I just can’t understand what’s happened with this decision. Parents in East Dulwich and Peckham Rye have genuine concerns about the way the admissions process for primary schools is handled and I want to fight their corner. But the Lib Dems and Tories have chosen put their own interests ahead of the interests of the parents they’re here to serve. “

“They’d rather pretend that everything’s OK than resolve the serious issues.”

25 January 2010

Peckham Rye Common Toilets and a new Community Council Group

This evening, Victoria went along to the sub-group set up at the last Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council. This group was initially set-up to discuss how the closed public toilets on Peckham Rye Common might be put to a more appropriate use than that originally suggested by the council. Between the decision to set up the group and tonight's first meeting, things have changed significantly

To cut a long story short, the council's preferred commercial tenant pulled out and a much more attractive bidder (in local community terms) in the shape of "Peckham Rye Projects" moved to the front of the queue of potential tenants. Peckham Rye Projects are a not-for-profit gallery offering outreach programmes to local schools and groups. Their intention is to restore the building, maintain the gardens and to open the gallery toilets to the public.

It was confirmed tonight that Peckham Rye Projects (PRP) have now signed the lease on the building. However, this does not quite mean that the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. PRP are still waiting for the outcome of their bid to the local pot of "cleaner, greener safer" money and still need planning permission to be granted. We've e-mailed Anna at PRP to see if she can give us any further details on PRP latest plans.

With the the issue of the public toilets largely taking on a life of its own, the sub-group tonight widened its remit to discuss how the council consults local communities on the use of their assets. It also tried to identify key projects or developments that community groups and local residents would like to play a role in shaping. A brief summary of the actions arising from these discussions is as follows:

1. The group will formally request a list of all council owned properties in the Nunhead and Peckham Rye Area.

2. The group will also ask for a list of empty properties, both private and council owned properties, in the same area.

3. A request will be put in for the council to allocate a senior level council officer to coordinate the development and regeneration of Peckham town centre and Rye Lane. Senior officers will be invited to next the sub-group meeting to discuss upcoming projects for this area.

4. Keen that the group doesn't just talk about Rye Lane, Victoria suggested that the group also look into the development of smaller shopping parades in Peckham Rye and Nunhead. These small parades could become focal points for the communities around them and improvements could help them avoid being blighted by empty properties. The group will ask if the council can allocate an officer to the various smaller shopping parades in Nunhead and Peckham Rye.

5. The group wants to try to alter council processes so that local residents and community groups are consulted at an earlier stage in the planning and development process - many conversations take place between council officers, developers and businesses before planning applications are submitted. The group will ask that the Community Council meeting on 8th February supports a proposal to amend the council's constitution in May so that council officers are required to consult community councils before talking to developers about local community buildings. The change would give the community council an automatic right to formally comment on possible uses for the buildings.

6. Finally, the group will investigate how it might change the council's 'Statement of Community Involvement' which in reality involves a lot of statements and little community involvement. A better policy could again ensure an increased voice for local communities.

I'll give another update soon on the prospect of Peckham Rye Projects taking over responsibility for the old toilets building.

24 January 2010

Food waste collection, thrifty shopping and 10:10

Southwark Labour are committed to improving recycling rates should we win control of the council in May. Recycling has suffered years of neglect under the Lib Dems and Tories culminating in Southwark being rated the 6th worst council in the country for recycling. 2010 is the year for change!

One of the things that Labour could do to boost recycling would be to collect food waste. Food waste accounts for about 40% of household waste and, at the moment, unless you compost at home, it’s just ending up in landfill where it will give off methane as it rots. Sadly the Lib Dems and Tories have ruled out even considering the introduction of food waste collection until at least 2014.

Southwark Labour’s plans are backed up by plans announced this week by Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s Environment Secretary. He revealed that a Labour Government would introduce a ban on food waste ending up in landfill – great news. Councils will have to collect food waste and use it for composting or generating energy. The ban would likely come into force in two years and would apply to businesses, the public sector and homes. The policy is in response to a survey of 4000 households which revealed that 78% of people supported separate food waste collection. From speaking to residents in Peckham Rye, it would certainly be a popular initiative here.

There is of course another side to what is a great policy. Britain throws away 8.3 million tonnes of food each year, costing families with children around £680 each year. Composting food waste still generates carbon dioxide – although there are ways to avoid this by the use of some modern composters. Really, alongside food waste collections, we need to promote more thrifty and sensible shopping policies, plan meals and eat up leftovers. This way, the only food waste we would generate would be a few peelings.

On average, each person in the UK is responsible for about 14 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. So, if like me, you have signed up to the 10:10 campaign that means you need to cut your emissions by about 1.4 tonnes this year.

Global food production is a huge source of GHGs. Yes ‘food miles’ and packaging contribute to this but the main source of emissions is from livestock farming and the heavy use of fertilizers. The best way to reduce your food-related emissions is to reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products and avoid processed food and ready meals. However, if veganism doesn’t appeal, by just buying food more carefully, so you only buy what you’ll actually eat and by not throwing away food, you could reduce your GHG emissions by 0.2 tonnes.

22 January 2010

Denial is not just a river in Egypt

One of the reasons Southwark’s Lib Dems and Tories are failing to improve services in our borough is because they seem to have fostered a town hall culture which refuses to acknowledge poor performance. Both politicians and senior managers often appear incapable of admitting that some services are in urgent need of improvement.

When an independent inspectorate recently published a report on council services, Southwark’s reaction said more about them than they might have wished. The Oneplace report on Southwark was not exactly complementary. It ranked the council as the third worst in London and stated:

“. . . performance in adult social care and housing is not strong. The Council did not meet its decent homes target and has not identified all the resources to allow it to do so over the next two years. It is behind the pace on modernising its adult social care services to give people more choice over the services they receive.”

This is pretty damning stuff, but, in fairness, Southwark was not alone. 152 Oneplace reports have now been published and many local authorities have been forced to explain why some of their services are not up to scratch. The difference is, most other councils took the criticism on the chin and pledged to make improvements. Take a look at Waltham Forest’s reaction for example.

But not Lib Dem/Tory Southwark. They decided to accuse the Audit Commission of incompetence and damn the entire local government inspection regime as flawed. They also do a little spinning of the facts to make the various inspections appear contradictory. Chief Executive Annie Shepherd is quoted in numerous publications as saying “The Audit Commission says that we are one of the higher spenders in the country on adult social care, the Care Quality Commission says we are low spenders”, adding “they can’t both be right”. In fact, the Care Quality Commission did not say Southwark was a low spender on social care. What it did say was: “The proportion of council spend [in Southwark] directed to adult social care was in the lowest quartile nationally.”

As an inner London Authority, Southwark receives and spends more money than most council’s in the country on many of its services. The CQC is saying that the proportion of its gross expenditure on adult social care is lower than other councils. So there is no discrepancy between the two inspections, just a misrepresentation of their findings by Southwark council.

The important point behind all this is that we have a council in denial. Some senior officers and their Lib Dem and Tory masters would rather moan about the inspection regime than take its recommendations seriously. Vulnerable people receiving sub standard social care and council tenants in poor quality housing shouldn’t hold their breath in waiting for improvements whilst this remains the case.

As they say, the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one.

19 January 2010

East London Line nears completion...

Could Honor Oak Park become a travel gateway for residents, should the 63 bus route be extended?

The East London line extension is one step closer to opening after the line’s construction site was handed over to Transport for London yesterday.

I'm an occassional user of both Brockley and Honor Oak Park stations so have been following the East London Line extension plans with interest. Who knows, if the 63 bus route is extended to Honor Oak Park station, maybe Peckham Rye residents will become regular users of the new line...

TfL are currently hoping that a limited four trains per hour service will begin from New Cross and New Cross Gate to Dalston Junction from 4 April. A full service would then begin along the whole line from 23 May.

The next few months will see TfL trainning staff, installing ticket machines in stations and running final tests on the line and trains as well as conducting emergency drills. Any problems could push the launch dates back.

A spokesman from TfL said, “We have now entered the final stages in the development. Stations along the line require finishing touches.”

(With thanks to the excellent Brockley Central and East London Lines blogs for bringing this latest news to our attention)

**Meeting TONIGHT** Peckham Rye 'central area' options

There will be a consultation meeting, on the Peckham Rye 'central area' development, TONIGHT 19th Jan, from 6:30pm-8:30pm in the Park Cafe

This will be a drop in event where you can come in any time (between those times) and talk to the architects and the council about the options for both the cafe area of the Common and Homestall Road.

Information about the two options for the location of the one o'clock club, changing facilities and play area, plus the re-jigging of the car park, roads and footpaths can be found here.

17 January 2010

Out in Peckham Rye with Harriet Harman MP

As some readers will know, Peckham Rye ward currently has two MPs. Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, currently represents about 40% of the ward on the Nunhead side. Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, represents about 60% of the ward covering Honor Oak and East Dulwich.

Boundary changes mean that all of Peckham Rye ward will fall into the Camberwell and Peckham constituency from the next General Election onwards.

Yesterday, people living on Forest Hill Road and Mamora Road had a good chance to size up their potential new MP - Harriet - and the residents we spoke to all seemed really pleased to meet her and to tell her what matters to them and their neighbours.

15 January 2010

Free films in Nunhead

This is notice of films being screened, free of charge on a big screen, locally:
WHEN: Every Friday lunchtime in February at 1.30pm.
WHERE: Buchan Road Tenants and Residents Association Hall, Buchan Road SE15 (near Smiths the butcher).
WHAT: Casablanca (1943) Friday 5 February
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) Friday 12 February
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) Friday 19 February
Old London on Film (1896-1953) Friday 26 February

Watch a great film on a big screen and have a chat with your neighbours before and after. Enjoy free tea, coffee and biscuits. There's no need to book and everyone is welcome. Call 020 8480 1921 if you have queries.

With thanks to the Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council for funding this and thanks to Nunhead Forum and Nunhead Rocks! for bringing this to our attention.

12 January 2010

Why on earth are the Lib Dems paying council chiefs bonuses if Southwark is failing?!

Last night I went along to a council Overview and Scrutiny meeting to see the Lib Dem Executive Member for Resources, Cllr Tim McNally, being quizzed about council finances.

One of the issues that was discussed was the payment of bonuses to approximately 40 of the most senior staff at Southwark. As Cllr McNally explained, there are two ways to pay people, either by a fixed salary or you can incentivise pay and make it performance related. Fair enough you might think. However it seems that the Lib Dems and Tories running Southwark have devised a third way to pay staff - paying a 10% or even 15% bonus to the highest paid staff that bares no resemblance to council performance given that, just a few weeks ago, Southwark was officially rated the worst council in inner London!

We are in difficult economic times and you and I are counting our pennies. In the coming weeks it's increasingly likely that a whole host of council schemes will be cut as the capital programme spending is reviewed, and as Cllr McNally freely admitted last night, various council services, such as crematorium fees, will be the subject of above inflation price rises. Unlike neighbouring boroughs, Southwark has refused to commit to freezing council tax. Yet, on the very day his own party leader, Nick Clegg, said that public sector pay increases should be capped at £400 and against the backdrop of the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, re-writing the rule book on bonuses by taxing those of bankers, Cllr McNally refused to hold senior officers to account for Southwark's failures. By refusing to review the system of payment of bonuses or being clear on whether bonuses would be paid this year the Lib Dems are not showing the fiscal leadership that is urgently needed at Southwark.

Utterly ridiculous.

Recycling in Southwark: A summary

Speaking to people when we're out and about in Peckham Rye, there does seem to be some confusion about how well Southwark is performing on recycling. Tory and Lib Dem canvassers seem eager to muddy the waters on this important issue. What follows is a quick summary of the facts and our own position on recycling.

In November 2009, the latest official league tables for recycling rates in England were published. Incredibly, the figures reveal that Southwark council has become the 6th worst council in the country for recycling. Southwark recycles less than 21% of household waste and the Lib Dems and Tories couldn't even manage a 1% increase in the recycling rate over last year.

When they took charge of Southwark in 2002, the Lib Dems and Tories 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 dramatically moved backwards. Recycling rates in neighbouring Labour Lambeth have doubled in recent years. In Labour-run Greenwich prioritising recycling has boosted rates to 42% and has provided a service that is regularly rated the best in London.

We know how much effort local residents put into recycling, and we believe that Southwark's unnecessary restrictions on what can be recycled should be changed. Southwark doesn't recycle collected food waste, Tetra Pak cartons or plastic bags, and only some residents have access to kerbside recycling for the plastics used in yoghurt pots and margarine tubs.

We believe that recycling, re-using and reducing the resources we use are a crucial part of the battle against climate change and are vital if we are to protect our environment for the benefit of future generations. People have a right to expect leadership from their local authority on this issue and right now we are not getting it. Southwark Labour is committed to increasing the range of materials recycled in our borough.

It’s time to make recycling a priority in Souhwark and the only way to achieve this is for us to have a change of leadership in the town hall.

9 January 2010

Your local Labour team will work 365 days of the year!

Thanks to the weather we had a challenging day talking to local residents but it proved well worth it. We hope we have persuaded you that we'll be working for you every day of the year!

Lots of issues came up including recycling, schools, road and pavement resurfacing and, of course, why streets haven't been gritted. A lot of people clearly feel let down by the Lib Dem/Tory council and basic expectations simply aren't being met. If Southwark is spending money it certainly doesn't seem to be here in Peckham Rye.

As local candidates, committed to working tirelessly for the area we live in, we hope that our dedication today helps persuade you that we'll do all we can to make Peckham Rye a better place to live.

Gavin explains to a local resident that Southwark council has let us down on recycling...

8 January 2010

More on the 63 bus extension...

Just a very quick update to tell you about Val Shawcross' (our Labour London Assembly Member) question to the Mayor of London about the extension of the 63 bus route that we're campaigning for. Val asked what the prospects were of getting an extension but was given this dissapointing response.

Nevertheless, residents of Peckham Rye shouldn't give up hope of us eventually getting a result on this. It may take some time, but I'm sure we can get there in the end. I recently wrote to Southwark News to promote the campaign and we've got further activities planned for the future. Watch this place for more on the 63.

P.S. If you find the link to Val Shawcross' question isn't working, this is because of a temporary problem with the GLA website. You might need to keep refreshing the link before you can see it.

6 January 2010

Where we stand on primary school places in East Dulwich and Nunhead

Many readers will already know about the chaotic allocation of primary school places in East Dulwich and Nunhead for 2009-10. The council hugely underestimated the demand for places in local schools and failed to provide enough staff to administer the process adequately. As a result, many children were allocated to schools far away from where they lived and many parents were left in the dark about the status of their applications.

Following pressure from local parents, Labour councillors and MPs, the council has promised to provide extra classes in local schools for 2010-11 and to employ more staff to improve the administration of the applications process and communication with local parents. In recent weeks, after a successful campaign by our local MPs, Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman, highlighting the acute shortage of primary school places in our area, the Government has reacted by allocating an additional £12million to Southwark council to address this problem. This is a serious amount of money that, as long as the council plans carefully and soon, will go a long way to ensuring there are enough places in local schools.

However, it is not clear that the Lib Dems and Tories running the council have reacted sufficiently to local concern. They've still not told us if they will spend the majority of the £12 million on extra places in East Dulwich and Nunhead (where it is most needed) and they've still not employed the permanent extra staff in the schools admissions team, four months after announcing that they would so.

In consultation with local parents, we will putting as much pressure as possible on the council to act. Your local Labour candidates will be campaigning for the following actions from Southwark council:-

1. Every child must be given the option of a place at a local school. We want every child to be able to walk to school.

2. The bulk of the extra £12 million allocated by the Government should be spent on permanent, extra classrooms in the areas where it is most needed: East Dulwich and Nunhead.

3. A reversal of the Lib Dem/Tory decision to delay the allocation of places until May, so that the announcement falls after the local elections. Parents must be informed of the outcome of their child’s application by April – as they were in 2009. Any delay, for purely political reasons, will cause more confusion and concern.

4. The council must take sensible steps to ensure that the many local children, who live just too far away from their nearest school to get a place there, do not end up in schools miles away from home. Parents must be confident that ‘bulge’ classes at popular local schools benefit local children rather than attracting children from other areas.

So that's where we stand on this issue. We would urge the Lib Dems and Tories who control the council to put these policies in place as a matter of urgency. Further delay and indecision will only lead to more problems down the line.

4 January 2010

Extending 63 bus to Honor Oak Park & traffic management on Forest Hill Rd

Like other daily users of bus services in Peckham Rye we want a local transport system that meets the needs of local people. One improvement that we’ve been campaigning for is the extension on the 63 bus to Honor Oak Station. We’ve asked residents about this on the doorstep, through a bus survey and we were also delighted when Val Shawcross, the local Labour London Assembly Member spent time in Peckham Rye talking to residents about local bus services.

Val has now submitted a suggestion for the extension of the number 63 bus route to Network Planners at TfL buses. This will now be considered when they look at reconfiguring bus services around the new East London Line train services – this may allow for some local changes/improvements despite previous responses that the extension was not possible on cost grounds.

During our conversations with local residents we’ve heard a great deal of concern expressed about whether extending the 63 service to Honor Oak Park might reduce its frequency - so Val will be asking for reassurances about this.

The other issues that have come up time and time again are the problems of heavy traffic, parking, speeding and often dangerous driving on Forest Hill Road, particularly corner near Cabrini school. Alongside Cllr Aubyn Graham we’ve been pressing these concerns with the Community Council Transport sub-committee and council officers for some time. Many residents are worried that adding a 63 bus to these problems, without adding in additional traffic safety measures, could increase the problems so it needs to be carefully thought through.

There is a strong case for better traffic control at the junction with Brenchley Gardens, extending the lollipop lady’s hours (she doesn’t cover the nursery changeover at lunchtime or after school activities), and a pedestrian crossing at the top of the hill where it’s a real nightmare to cross with cars whizzing round the corner and where children from both Cabrini and Fairlawn cross.

So that’s the situation as I see it. We’ll be pressing for an extension of the 63 bus route, but only alongside a campaign for the protection of its frequency, sensible traffic management and good new crossing points. Further updates on this campaign will be posted here as soon as we get some progress.

3 January 2010

Monthly bus pass up 20%... Happy New Year from Boris!

I renewed my monthly bus pass today and duly received my Happy New Year gift from Boris Johnson - a massive 20% hike in the monthly price from £53 to £63.80.

Despite blogging about these increases I was still taken aback at what this would mean on a monthly basis. On top of the 11% increase last January, and Boris' promise that there will be more inflation busting increases to come, bus passengers have been hit pretty hard. Couple this with the threat to cut schedules and as buses get more expensive they'll get more overcrowded and less frequent too.

We lost lots of things when Ken Livingstone lost the mayoral election in 2008 - one of these things was a real champion for bus passengers... do you remember when a bus fare was just 90p?

2 January 2010

Oyster Pay As You Go Introduced

Just a very quick reminder that today sees the introduction of Oyster Pay As You Go on Southern and South Eastern trains. After a very, very long wait, this means that people travelling from Nunhead, Peckham Rye, East Dulwich, Honor Oak and Brockley can now travel using this form of payment.

Frustratingly, some stations don’t yet allow you to update your card at the station, meaning you might need to go to a local newsagents instead. Also, some of the changes to ticket prices don’t see that fair. You can see more info from the train companies here and here.

It may have taken years to reach this point with the train companies, but its better late than never.