Labour ‘Rackman’ Landlord Behaviour

I’ve have had a number of residents contact me from East Dulwich and neighbouring areas living in Southwark Council street properties with rotten windows. I’ve even had neighbours of such properties contact me.

These ancient sash windows are rotten, without locks, victims of burglary, breezy from ill fitting, wet from condensation, stop residents heating their homes because the heat blown straight out of the home.

I’ve tried working with council officers but they’re stuck. When Lib Dems ran led Southwark Council we replaced such windows.

Last night I asked the Labour councillor in charge the following question:

“Why is the council not implementing its Warm, Dry and safe policy of ensuring “windows in good condition or double glazed with secure locks” for acquire street properties and instead leaving tenants with cold, we, dangerous ancient sash windows, well over 40 years old, which consist of more putty, fuller and rot than wood and are often without window locks?”

Answer

“The Arm, Dry and Safe standard ensures that all residents’ windows will be wind and water tight.

The current Warm, Dr and Safe brief for street properties is to repaid the existing windows and decorate as and where required to ensure that this standard is achieved and are in a secure state. The council will also renew sections of any such windows that are beyond reasonable repair on a like for like basis.”

To push the point I spoke solely about this during the debate about Southwark Council spending £2 billion pounds of capital works over the next 10 years. But still they refuse to replace windows in street properties.

All of these properties are worth more than £500,000 and the council has a policy of selling such properties when they’re no longer tenanted.

A cynic would suggest they’re not replacing the windows because they’re waiting for the tenants to leave from desperation or die. Rackman landlord behaviour that Labour Southwark should be ashamed of.

Ending Generation Rent

Under Lib Dem manifesto plans announced today, young people will be able to buy their own home without needing a deposit.

The Rent to Own scheme will help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder by allowing them to build up a share in their home through renting without the need for a deposit.

This is a revolutionary shift in housing policy that will give young people caught in ‘generation rent’ a chance at home ownership

During the last decade home ownership for those under 35 years has plummeted. The percentage owning a home has gone down from 59% to 36%.

I was able to buy my first flat – or at least get a mortgage on my first flat – when I was 28. I could not do that now as prices and salaries stand.

So the Lib Dems in the next government partnering with housing associations and other providers would launch a Rent to Own scheme.

Rather than being trapped in rental accommodation forever, working young people who are unable to afford a deposit would be able to become home owners.

Rent to Own will see first-time buyers steadily build up a share in their home through monthly payments equivalent to rent until they own the property outright after 30 years, just like a normal mortgage. with monthly payments no higher than market rent.

This is forms part of Liberal Democrat plans to deliver 300,000 new homes each year, with the government bridging the gap between private sector building and demand.

It is only fair that working young people also have the dream of home ownership. Prices are so high now that renters cannot afford to even save for a deposit, which means they can never take that first step onto the housing ladder. Young people deserve better. Rent to Own will mean, regardless of their background and family circumstance, they will be able to make this a dream a reality. They will have the same opportunity I had.

This is about building a stronger economy and fairer society, and making sure Generation Rent has the same opportunity to get on in life as their parents and grandparents before them. Roll on the Lib Dems in the next government.

 

Drugs Reform – Long Overdue

The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party. At long last.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made the commitment at an event alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

The manifesto will include commitments to:

Adopt the approach used in Portugal, where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.

Legislate to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead, as a first step towards reforming the system.

Continue to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.

Establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay, in relation to public health and criminal activity.

Legislate to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public.

Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.

Put the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy.

I am anti-drugs, but as a society we have a responsibility to look at the evidence of what actually works to reduce drug harm.

At the moment, the level of harm to individuals and communities – here and around the world – is still unacceptably high. We need to practically solve this problem. So, if you’re anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform like me. Brave political leadership to openly acknowledge that new ways of controlling illegal drug markets and discouraging use are required.

We need to accept the overwhelming evidence that things are not working, the war on drugs has been a failure, that politicians are letting down the victims of the drugs trade by failing to engage with the evidence.

Talking tough while acting weak may be tempting, but it no longer fools anyone. It is time to commit to a radically smarter approach to tackle this problem head-on.

Point Seven Percent – Success

Lib Dems celebrated as the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill passed its Third Reading in the Lords yesterday.

This Private Members Bill, introduced by Michael Moore, ensures 0.7% of our national income is devoted to aid spending each year. This builds on the Coalition’s achievement of reaching this target. we won't to lock it into future governments. With no amendments made to the Bill in the Lords it will now proceed for Royal Assent.

Phew! It has been a long campaign and I'm proud of this Lib den achievement.
Not only is the UK the first of the world’s wealthiest nations to reach the UN target but also that we are the first country to make a recurring commitment to the target in law. We can now move the debate forward, focussing on how we can transform lives in the developing world by spending aid effectively and transparently.

Dulwich Community Solar – when ?

Chase Community Solar, working alongside Cannock Chase District Council has what appears a ground-breaking initiative. They’ve created a Community Benefit Society to install PV solar panels on the roofs of council properties.

The council tenants or leaseholders will receive £100-£200 of their electric bills for hosting PV solar panels on their roofs.

This is funded by people investing a minimum of £100 with a 7% projected rate of return for 20 years from selling electricity generated by the solar panels to pay this interest and expenses. Bit better than 0.5% with any money sitting in the bank. The capital raised pays for PV cells to be bought and installed. Additionally community shares are eligible for 30% tax relief through the Enterprise Investment Scheme. So this appears a cracking deal for local investors as well.

Solar energy can play a key part improving energy efficiency, as well as helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions, but the cost of installing panels is a deterrent. Community share issues such as this may be an ideal solution. Those who put up their cash not only help to improve their community but may also get a decent rate of return. The project is also very attractive to councils as it helps both their tenants and their carbon footprint.

When will we create Dulwich Community Solar?

2015 Secondary School Admissions

Today is secondary school admissions being announcement day – from 5pm online and letters overnight. 2,637 on time secondary scghool place applications, 42 higher than last year.

Summary of preferences allocated to Southwark residents Secondary 09-15

Slight reduction in people being offered their first preference 59.6% (61.4% in 2014), first three preference 86.5% (88.5% in 2014), 93.2% first 6 preferences (94.4% in 2014), 6.8% none of their choices (5.7% 2014). So 179 children not allocated any school their parents and they wished for and 355 families didn’t get one of their first three choices.

If anyone needs help please get in touch. It is amazing how much of s shake down happens and families ultimately getting acceptable school places.
Secondary Transfer 2015 QA Information Pack

All going well the following year families will have an extra local secondary school to choose from.

Reduce The Strength

Reducing-the-strength2-650x280

Some UK councils led by Ipswich and then Portsmouth have introduced Reduce The Strength campaigns to reduce alcohol misuse. In Portsmouth alone they’ve calculated alcohol abuse costs £74m annually across the NHS, Police, criminal justice system and council alone. In Ipswich they report a 31% drop in crime.

The idea of Reducing The Strength is to ask off-licences to volunteer to NOT sell beer or cider over 6.5% proof. Shops supporting the scheme are given a sticker to show how responsible they’re being for their local community.

One shop owner said “when we stopped selling high-strength lager there was an immediate change, and the staff say they now feel a lot safer”. As of last summer over 40 councils have introduced this scheme.

One street in Portsmouth has seen a 50% reduction in violent crime.

Do you think such a scheme should be introduced in Lambeth and/or Southwark ?

Green Coverage

Some considerable time ago Lib Dems in Southwark ensured that the Southwark Plan encouraged developers to include green roofs and green walls into their plans. They’re even mentioned on the checklist for major developments but pigeon holed into Landscaping.

Paris green wall

Green walls and roofs can be amazing. Green walls for example can reduce daily temperature fluctuations of external walls by 50%by shading walls and insulating them. With ever hotter temperatures this is booming really significant reducing the need for air conditioning and where needed the amount of energy they consume. If deciduous climbers are chosen then they can also reduce wind chill of external walls by 75% which in turn reduces winter cooling by 25%. They also capture dust making air cleaner but also can house wildlife.

 

So why have we not seen a real surge in green walls and roofs across new Southwark buildings?

 

Making Local Stations More Passenger Friendly

Calculations of local station passenger numbers show that East Dulwich and West Norwood are each handling over 2 million people using them each year. East Dulwich station in just one year has seen growth of 5% in passenger numbers and West Norwood 2% :

Station Name District or Unitary Authority Station Facility Owner 1314 Entries & Exits 1213 Entries & Exits
Brixton Lambeth Southeastern 942,548 896,848
Denmark Hill Southwark Southeastern 5,166,040 3,935,776
East Dulwich Southwark Southern 2,119,018 2,104,766
Gipsy Hill Lambeth Southern 1,992,136 1,943,522
Herne Hill Lambeth Southeastern 3,308,970 2,918,610
Loughborough Junction Lambeth First Capital Connect 1,386,290 1,182,914
North Dulwich Southwark Southern 869,276 839,378
Sydenham Hill Southwark Southeastern 643,928 585,176
Tulse Hill Lambeth Southern 2,442,126 2,145,064
West Dulwich Southwark Southeastern 1,025,312 949,754
West Norwood Lambeth Southern 2,118,260 2,073,698

Weirdly, neither have in station shops or caffe’s or newsagents. The journeys can be pretty tough these days and having concessions could improve people’s journey. Neither are that friendly. East Dulwich the platforms are really low compared to the train doors. The platforms aren’t well covered to keep passengers dry.

Would a concession selling coffee and snacks on the platforms facing into London make your journey a little more bearable?

Should we get the platforms raised at East Dulwich and more platform covered from the elements?

(Between all the above listed stations they now see 22 million people enter and leave shooting up 12.5% in just one year)

Metal Theft Plummets

Just over three years ago I urged people to sign a petition supporting a bill to licence all Scrap Metal Dealers. Thank you to those who helped push for this change.

The Act was passed with support from the government and came into force October 2013. All scrap metal dealers had to obtain a licence from local council to trade. Near 8,000 have been issued across England & Wales.

Already a dramatic reduction in metal thefts down from 59,788 2012/13 to 40,680 in 2013/14. As the new system settles down I expect the level of theft to decline further. WELL DONE to those who made it possible.

If you have metal that could be stolen – please do also consider property marking it. Either SelectaDNA or Smartwater. Please do make it even harder for thieves.