Care Act – Success

Knowing that you will receive the best care possible means the world to everyone who finds themselves or their loved ones in need of social care.

Lib Dem Care Ministers Pail Burstow, Norman Lamb and other Lib Dem colleagues we have worked hard to reform our badly out of date care system.

This April we reached a major milestone with the Care Act coming into effect. As the independent health charity the Kings Fund put it, “the coalition has made more progress [on care] in five years than the previous government did in thirteen”.

The Care Act creates new rights and protections for people who need care and new rights for the friends and family who selflessly care for them. It puts in place for the first time a national rules to determine when a person is eligible for care ending the unfair postcode lottery that existed in the past.

This means that people with the same level of care needs will now be treated in the same way wherever they live. It also puts people’s wellbeing at the heart of all care decisions, and creates new responsibilities for local authorities to make sure that support is available to stop people developing care needs in the first place.

Importantly, the Care Act finally ends the devastating unfairness that meant the most in need could be left facing catastrophic care costs.

Sir Andrew Dilnott was asked to chair a commission on this difficult issue within 8 weeks of forming a government back in 2010, and when the commission reported Lib Dem colleagues challenged Osborne’s intransigence and secured the money to fund it.

Thanks to our efforts there will now be a cap on the lifetime costs of care, giving people certainty and the ability to plan for their needs.

As the Kings Fund put it “To make any headway at all on an issue that has eluded all previous attempts at reform – and in the toughest fiscal climate in living memory – is a big achievement.”

The Care Act shows the difference Lib Dems can make in government, working together to build a fairer society for everyone.

Confidence in the Police

Crime is falling – both recorded and from the National Crime Survey – but for many they still can’t trust the Police. At community meetings Stop and Search is causing real understandable angst.

A 2013 commission found that black people were six times more likely to be stopped and search than white people, and in some areas this was as high as 29 times more likely.. No wonder for a large proportion of our community the Police are an annoyance rather than the sign of crime busters.

Some years ago locally we funded hand held metal detectors for our Safer Neighbourhood Team Police in East Dulwich. It means patting down isn’t quite so intrusive for people being searched and gives warning of metal objects such as needles for Police officers. We’ve been talking to local officers about how we can help them get body cameras.

So I’m delighted that Lib Dems have committed to making body cameras mandatory for all Police officers in ‘Section 60′ stop and search areas, officers carrying firearms and officers in Territorial Support Groups. But ideally all Police and enforcement officers would wear body cams as a matter of course.

Body cams mean that people interacting with the Police are assured everything is recorded and for the Police it gives evidence to refute any unfounded accusations. They’re a win win for everyone. The Met Police have started to trial their use – but this needs to be accelerated and made countrywide as a minimum standard.

Do you agree?


Action For Warm Homes

I’ve been approached by Action for Warm Homes. They are great Manifesto for Warmth which I fully endorse and support.

Insulating our homes, public buildings and businesses must be a strategic priority. In Dulwich & West Norwood it’s estimated that 3,514 homes or 7.9% suffer from fuel poverty. Although this is a smaller proportion than the London average in the 21st century no one should be living in fuel poverty.

It’s calculated that this fuel poverty has led to 30% of the 27 excess winter deaths in our area.

Lib Dems in government have ensured a million homes have been insulated so many more clearly need  to be insulated. And just because a family isn’t in fuel poverty doesn’t mean they don’t have huge energy bills.

We must fight this for peoples health, social cohesion – people sacrificing other family budgets to pay for heating, environmental – we must reduce our CO2 emissions. But it is also a strategic priority. We don’t want to import more energy than we absolutely must.

Is your home fully insulated. You can also save money with climbers.

For ideas and a checklist or here.


Harris Nunhead Primary School – proposal withdrawn

Today the Harris Federation requested that the proposal for a new Harris Nunhead Primary School be withdrawn.

Please see the letter here: Proposed Harris Primary Academy Nunhead 2

It seems unlikely that the Education Finance Agency will refuse this request.

The proposal had generated much opposition from people concerned it would reduce the amount of space for a new secondary school on the Dulwich Hospital site but also people not surprisingly unwilling to send their children the 1-2 miles from the Nunhead/east East Dulwich area to a new primary school at the Dulwich Hospital site. Harris Federation have listened to the consultation and acted accoridngly in good faith.

I am still unconvinced that we will have sufficient primary school places for local families – and am seeking to meet Southwark COuncil forecasters to review the numbers.

We now need to ensure that blocking this new primary school does result in the largest possible secondary school – without compromising any new health centre facilities.

What do you think?

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?”


“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?