19 January 2011

Harris Girls' new wing opening

The report below is from Renata:

I've just been to Harris Girl's Academy ED for the opening of their new wing by Lord Adonis. Lord Harris, Harriet Harman MP and Cllrs Peter John, Catherine McDonald and Althea Smith also attended. This school has fantastic facilities and under the Head Jane Fletcher is going from strength to strength. We heard that the school is performing above the national average at GCSE and it has a thriving mixed sixth form, with 50% of pupils joining from other schools. We listened the school choir sing and were dazzled by an array of outfits produced by year 7 to 13 students in their textiles classes. The latter included winning designs in a competition where pupils redesigned the school uniform. Well done Harris Girls!

15 January 2011

A report about housing repairs statistics - less boring than it sounds

I've mentioned my role as Chair of Southwark's Housing Scrutiny committee a couple of times on this blog. Since taking this on in May last year our biggest piece of work has been an investigation into the statistics used to measure performance in Southwark's housing repairs service. Sounds technical, remote and boring doesn't it? I will do my best to convince you otherwise.

Back in July 2010, the committee had to decide which housing issues we wanted to look into. Councillors on the committee (from all parties) had just been through an election campaign in which we'd knocked on lots and lots of doors. Among Southwark's tenants, by far the biggest concern was the quality of the contracted-out repairs service.

But there was a problem. All of the statistics used to measure the quality of the service showed not just good, but brilliant levels of performance. 99.9% of appointments made by contractors were kept. Satisfaction levels hovered around the 94% mark. 90%+ of repairs were completed on time. Even more striking was the fact that, based on these stats, Southwark had won a national award for its repairs service from Inside Housing magazine, describing Southwark's repairs service as "the best in London".

Faced with these contradictory messages, we decided to try and do something different. Instead of doing a general scrutiny of the repairs service, we chose to investigate how the stats were gathered and calculated. Even the most cynical of the committee members could not have imagined what we would find. The stats were not just flawed, but rotten to the core. Just a few of the things we discovered were:

- most of the stats come from the contractor operatives themselves via mobile PDA devices. This means they completely control the information for each job they had been asked to do.

- concrete evidence of mis-reporting of the completion of work and attendance at appointments by contractors, found during a "case-tracking" process.

- satisfaction levels are measured with a survey which excludes anyone who has an ongoing problem with a repair.

- Satisfaction is measured with a five number rating system which is rarely explained to tenants doing a phone survey, and which is weighted in favour of higher levels of satisfaction.

- the results from a new (and reliably conducted) survey which show dramatically lower levels of satisfaction (69% compared to 88.4%), appointments kept (78.9% compared to 99.9%) than are shown in the official stats.

- contractors themselves admit their performance doesn't live up to anything like levels shown in the stats. One representative said: “I don’t recognise the performance of my operatives in these statistics.”

The report, which is still in draft form, concludes: “Southwark’s housing repairs Key Performance Indicators currently provide little or no insight into the actual quality of service being provided by SBS and Morrisons” It goes on to make constructive proposals for the creation of a system that can be relied upon, including:-

- A new texting system that will enable customers to verify if a call is complete via their mobile phone

- A satisfaction survey which accurately measures real levels of satisfaction with the repairs service

- a recommendation that the council makes sure it is no longer paying multiple times for single repairs. This will save the council money.

Through this scrutiny we found that the stats which have so often been wheeled out to prove how good Southwark’s repairs service is, are inaccurate and unreliable. For tenants this has meant unattended appointments and incomplete repairs going unnoticed. I hope this draft report will serve as a catalyst for improving the repairs service which too often lets down tenants in Southwark.

The draft version of the report can be found here from page 7 onwards: http://moderngov.southwarksites.com/mgConvert2Pdf.aspx?ID=4339&T=9

This will now be subject to some minor changes following last Tueday's meeting and will then go before the full Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The sub-committee is optimistic that the report will eventually go before Southwark Cabinet and the recommendations will be implemented.

12 January 2011

You're recycling more!

Peckham Rye Residents will recall that during the 2010 election campaign the issue of recycling rates was a huge issue. People we spoke to on the doorstep simply could not believe that the Liberal Democrats who had run the council for 8 years had left Southwark as the 6th worst recycling authority in the country. In November 2009, official league tables showed that in Lib Dem Southwark less than 21% of household waste was recycled. In that year, the recycling rate had risen less than 1%.

Southwark Labour candidates made a pledge during that election campaign to double our borough's recycling rate. In order to meet that pledge Labour needed to prepare the ground for some big changes. The new Cabinet Member with responsibility for recycling, Barrie Hargrove, immediately took steps to introduce a pilot scheme in six wards, including Peckham Rye. In October the pilot started, introducing a weekly food and garden waste collections and supplying people with compostable bags to enable the recycling of food waste.

Well, the interim results of the recycling pilot are now in and it has boosted recycling rates to . . . wait for it . . . 50%. This is absolutely fantastic news!

When it started, instead of getting behind the pilot, Lib Dem Councillors carped from the sidelines and tried to play up concerns about the changes. They penned some rather intemperate letters to the press and posts on their blogs listing a variety of reasons why we should all be desperately concerned and worried that somebody was at last doing something about boosting recycling rates. My personal favourite was when one Lib Dem bemoaned that the pilot had "... lots of potential to go wrong." Well, so does stepping out of the door in morning. I hope they'll now join us in supporting this new approach.

When we were knocking on doors recently, I was struck by how many people said they liked the new system, and felt that it made it easier for them to recycle. Of course, with any change of this sort there will always be teething problems. That is why Southwark Council is now carrying out a consultation on how the pilot has gone from your point of view. To contribute your views to the consultation click here: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/foodwaste

8 January 2011

Ivydale/Cheltenham Road surface and bus issues - meeting on the 10th February

As mentioned in the post below, finding a solution to the issues the road surface and speed of buses on Cheltenham and Ivydale Roads is a top priority for people in that area. Numerous people have contacted us about this issue.

As you will see from posts here, here and here – this has been a long running issue.

This is now on the agenda for the Nunhead and Peckham Rye Traffic and Transport Sub-Committee meeting taking place at 6.30pm on the 10th February at Southwark Town Hall, 35 Peckham Road SE5 8UB, Room B.

If you're concerned about this issue, do come along to discuss it and help us to agree a way to resolve these issues.

In the interests of openness and clarity, I should declare a personal interest in this issue: I am a resident of Ivydale Road myself. As Chair of the Committee it may be that I will need to "stand down" for this item. I'll be consulting with council officers to clarify if I need to do this.

Bus and road surface issues on Cheltenham and Ivydale Road

Below is an anonymised version of an email from Victoria (one of my fellow Ward Councillors) to a resident of our ward who contacted us about their concerns regarding the road surface and speed of buses on Ivydale Road. This is also an ongoing issue for a number of people on Cheltenham Road too. The email gives a full and detailed account of this issue and sets out a way forward. Clearly it is now important that we move this issue on by putting together a firm set of actions at the forthcoming Nunhead and Peckham Rye Traffic and Transport sub-committee meeting on the 10th February. More details on this to follow.

Read on to find out more:


Dear ------

I understand that you have also contacted my fellow councillors about this matter - I am cc'ing them in so that they are aware of the latest progress on this issue which I have been dealing with.

I live at 340 Ivydale so am very aware of the problematic road surface and also the impact the buses have.

I guess there are really three different issues with the road but all connected - the road surface, the traffic calming measures and the impact of the buses.

I'm not sure how long you have lived on Ivydale but it's probably two years ago now when residents were surveyed about changing the previous traffic calming measures to the current ones. About 70% voted in favour of change and as a result the old bumps were taken out and the pinch points were put in. The whole process was very delayed and communications with residents were consistently poor. I was torn about the new scheme but the old scheme didn't stop traffic driving over 20mph so on balance I thought we had to try something new. Work on the scheme suddenly ended in early April last year without works being completed. One key part of the scheme that wasn't delivered was the resurfacing of the road. From the letters I received from the council (last one dated March 2010) there was no indication (in fact every indication) that the work would be completed. After being elected in May I have chased to get these works done but there has not been any money remaining to finish the scheme or even resurface the road. The budget for the next financial year will be set in February so I'm now trying to push as hard as possible to get some money for Ivydale. I'm hoping that I will get some feedback next week.

In the meantime, we managed to get some temporary repairs to the speed ramps done a few days before Christmas and the ramps will need a more permanant fix to stop them subsiding/disintegrating. Test holes should be dug very soon so the council can work out how best to repair them. This week I have also reported the new pot hole [on this part of Ivydale Road] and also the holes on the raised ramp with Merttins Road.

Just to quickly say that we managed to secure funding for Cheltenham Road to be resurfaced in October and this work should happen in February or March.

It's clear that many residents are not supportive of the measures that have been put in place and this will be the case even if the pinch points are made 'good' in the coming weeks. I've asked officers to attend a community council meeting in February which I hope that residents will also attend. Once this is finalised I will let you know and would encourage you to attend. With three quarters of the council's highway spend dependent on the central government grant to Southwark (and you'll probably be aware that we received one of the worst financial settlements before Christmas) I think we need to be realistic about removong traffic calming measures that were installed less than a year ago on this wishes of the majority of residents. That's not to say residents who are unhappy won't be listened to but we may have to be realistic about what is possible. Your suggestion about 'redesigning' is probably something worth raising at the February meeting.

On the buses, we are in regular touch with the local Assembly Member Val Shawcross about the speed at which the drivers drive and about the frequency of the service. The 343 has huge capacity issues from Rye Lane onwards, through the Aylesbury etc. which is why the buses are double deckers and why there are so many. The solution might be cutting the route at Rye Lane/Nigel Road with only some double deckers coming this far and having additional single deckers - I don't know but I hope that Val will be at the February meeting to see what can be done. I know she met residents about the 343 service just yesterday evening but she came across very divergent views - people in Peckham and the Aylesbury desperate for more buses, people round here with concerns for the impact on the roads and the noise.

Hope that this is a good update for now - I'll be in touch again shortly and please visit www.peckhamryelabour.blogspot.com for more updates.


7 January 2011

Councillor's report - January 2011

Each month Victoria, Renata and I produce a written branch report for our local ward Labour Party. At last night's meeting we circulated a report which included an update on a number of local ward issues and news on campaigning. Councillors producing a written report like this for the branch is a long established convention, but for some reason we've never made it publicly available before. Well, we thought it was time to change that and to put the full report up on the blog on a regular basis. So, here is the January Councillors' report to our local branch. Get in touch if you have any views or comments on the issues raised:

Branch report

Forest Hill Road/Colyton Road Traffic Lights

Although the traffic lights here were put in on a ‘temporary’ basis we supported them remaining in place longer in the hope that the Council secured funding for improvement works along the length of Forest Hill Road. Approx. £560k has now been secured from TfL for improvements to FHR and some of the money will be brought forward and spent early to look at what the best options are for this junction and that any changes fit the plan for FHR as a ‘whole’.

Honor Oak Recreation Ground
Following substantial levels of theft and vandalism to Camberwell New Cemetery and Honor Oak Crematorium officers and police recommended that the pedestrian access to Honor Oak Rec be locked from approx. dust until dawn. We have been supportive of this idea as the levels of damage were so costly to the council and because the police believed this to be the best option. However, a number of local residents, particularly early morning dog walkers, have raised concerns about this and Vikki met with them and walked round the rec area prior to Christmas. We are now trying to see if a compromise can be found so that legitimate users of the rec are not inconvenienced.

Friern Road traffic problems
There have been problems with increased levels of traffic on the lower part of Friern Road as a result of the opening of the Harris Boys Academy. Gavin arranged a joint meeting between officers, representatives of the school and local residents to help sort out these problems. Various measures are being looked at and there will another update meeting in February.

Housing Repairs KPI Scrutiny
As Chair of Southwark’s Housing Scrutiny Committee Gavin has been leading an investigation into the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the repairs service. The KPIs show outstanding performance whilst anecdotal evidence suggests the service is poor.

Through the scrutiny process carried out over the last few months we have found:-

- The interim results from a newly commissioned repairs survey show dramatically different levels of satisfaction, appointments kept, etc, than are shown in the KPIs

- A high proportion of missed appointments were found during a listening in exercise on in-bound calls to the repairs hotline

- We also discovered during the the listening-in exercise that a significant proportion of repairs are being left incomplete, but reported by the contractors as complete.

- A significant proportion of respondents to the satisfaction survey (which is used to measure satisfaction with repairs) stated that their repair was not complete, even though the survey is supposed to only include those who have recently had a repair completed.

- Evidence of mis-reporting of the completion of work and attendance at appointments by contract operatives was found during a case-tracking process.

- The fact that officers have already made changes to two of the KPIs (overall satisfaction rating and appointments made and kept) pre-empting this report.

- Contractors themselves have admitted that their performance does not live up to the KPIs.

The draft report, which also makes reccomendations on how to improve the KPIs, will be discussed at next week’s scrutiny meeting. There may be a number of additions/changes to the report following that meeting. It will then go to Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and then, hopefully, before Southwark’s Cabinet.

Borough Wide Campaigning this weekend
We need as many local members as possible to come along to the borough wide campaigning weekend this Saturday and Sunday. If you can make it, come along at 11am or 2pm if you'd like to ensure you go out in a larger group. The place to come to is 340 Ivydale Road, Nunhead, SE15 3DG. Do give me a call or email if you need more information on 07866022825 or gavinhome@hotmail.com

1 January 2011

Southwark Labour comes to Peckham Rye - 8th and 9th Jan

A quick advert for Southwark Labour's campaigning weekend in our ward on the Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th January. Labour Councillors and members from across the borough will be coming to Peckham Rye to talk to local people about the issues that concern them.

Lots of people in our ward are concerned about the impact on local services coming from the coalition's draconian cuts - so it's really important that people know that there is a progressive alternative to the Lib Dem Tory approach. Talking to people face to face is best way of finding out what they're thinking and informing keeping them up to date about Southwark Labour's work in running the council. If you're one of the many new Labour Party members in Peckham Rye or just interested in getting involved in your local party, come along and join us. You don't need to be experienced in knocking on doors and talking to people. There will always be people on hand to help out, and nobody is left on their own.

If you're interested, we'll be going out between 11am and 5pm on both days. Arrive at 11am or 2pm if you'd like to ensure you go out in a larger group. The place to come to is 340 Ivydale Road, Nunhead, SE15 3DG. Do give me a call or email if you need more information on 07866022825 or gavinhome@hotmail.com.