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Medicalise Drug Users

Britain has a long history of criminalising drug use. The war on drugs is a well documented failure. It has created a huge criminal community where the profits are so huge that violence to maintain them takes place.

A new Home Office report comparing the UK’s approach to drug misuse with that of 13 other countries concluded that drug use was influenced by factors “more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone”. It then explains that Portugal where drug users are treated as a health problem has seen a considerable improvement in drug user health. Portugal has taken this approach since 2001. So it’s well established. For Portugal decriminalistion has clearly worked saving many many lives.

The report also believes there is “no obvious” link between tough laws and levels of illegal drug use. That’s a pretty damning indictment of a huge anti drug user industry we have in Britain. This means we have a huge misallocation of precious national resources. Wasting billions of £’s each year which means we don’t have nearly enough cash to help drug users get better and kick addictions. The only people to benefit from the war on drugs are drug barons making huge illegal profits. We need to concentrate on those Mr.Bigs.

I’m proud that Lib Dem Home Office minister Norman Baker said the report, comparing the UK with other countries, should end “mindless rhetoric” on drugs policy. He made it clear the Tories have been suppressing this report for months.

We need a grown up policy about drug taking. One that is based on real evidence rather than hysteria. One that will help our country be better.


Tory Euro Pickle

Blimey, what a Tory pickle over Europe. This week they scuppered their own proposals for a law making an In-Out referendum on Europe happen in 2017. They had a the chance to lance the UKIP boil.

Instead of allowing both a Lib Dem bill to fix the bedroom tax and their bill for a referendum to make a Euro referendum happen in 2017 they spiked both. It is clear the Tories are more concerned about maintaining the bedroom tax than their flagship EU referendum pledge.

Why would the Conservatives sabotage a chance to legislate now for an EU Referendum?

Perhaps they simply don’t want to enshrine an In-Out referendum in law before the General Election. If they did David Cameron would be forced to reveal his hand by either backing calls to leave Europe or fight the pro-EU case. He simply can’t make the sensible case for Europe and keep UKIP voters and his Eurosceptic backbench MPs happy.

The Lib Dems back an EU referendum and we want Britain to stay in because that is how we keep our country strong, prosperous, safe and green.

It isn’t perfect but we believe Europe is vital to our economic recovery and we can only make it better if we stay inside influencing from it from the centre. I’ve spoken to people who actually do the negotiations with Europe. Being outside but wanting to trade with Europe we’d have to accept unpalatable changes. The EU would lurch without the UK towards a federal Europe making us a very marginal country on the periphery.

So come on Tories get your act together – either you want a referendum or you don’t.

East Dulwich 185 Bus passengers Boost

East Dulwich bus services are to get a further boost from this Saturday 1 November, as Transport for London (TfL) increases the frequency of the 185. Hooray.

Route 185 is operated by Go-Ahead for TfL between Lewisham and Victoria Station via East Dulwich. It will see its frequency increased from a bus every 10 minutes to one every eight minutes Monday to Saturday.

This follows feedback from local residents and councillors.This is great news.

What other bus routes need changing?

The 185 buses are also knackered so hopefully TfL will also listen to that feedback from Cllr Rosie Shimell and myself.

2015 Early Years Pupil Premium

Nurseries, childminders and other early years providers in Southwark and Lambeth are respectively set for a £354,088 and £483,977 cash injection to help three and four-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Children from low income families have often fallen behind more well off classmates before they even start school.​ But from April 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium – which has been backed by groups like Barnados, 4Children and the Child Poverty Action Group – ​will mean extra money to make sure every child gets a fair start.

I am delighted by this investment in our part of south London to help the most disadvantaged three and four-year-olds. Lib Dems are ensuring that all children get the best possible start in life.

All the evidence shows that helping children as early as possible is key to making sure they do not fall behind. This is why I’m so chuffed by this announcement which is fantastic news for local children. This is all part of Lib Dems creating a fairer society and opportunity for everyone.

It comes on top of other Lib Dem led changes in Government to help families, which include shared parental leave, tax free childcare, Free School Meals, and a pupil premium for school age children.

Safer London Lorries

Transport for London (TfL) and London Councils including Southwark Council are reviewing their consultation on the Safer Lorries Scheme based on the TfL report Safer Lorry Scheme The Way Forward. This would see a ban on most lorries over 3.5 tonnes that do not have safety equipment to protect cyclists and pedestrians from the capital’s streets.

The exemptions are wrong – lorries carrying containers for example – and hopefully the final scheme will remove such daft exemptions.

A close friend Brigitte Robinson was dragged under a lorries back wheel and died in this way some years ago. It left many of us heartbroken. Tragically this is still happening too often in London and even if the final scheme is implemented as proposed, with daft exemptions, it would improve the safety of all road users – cyclists, pedestrians and others.

The scheme will use a combination of powers held by TfL and London Boroughs to deliver a simple, quick and complete solution across all London roads. The proposed ban will require every vehicle in London over 3.5 tonnes, which are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal collisions with cyclists and pedestrians, to be fitted with sideguards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision. It will also require them to be fitted with mirrors giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles.

The ban would operate across London 24 hours a day, seven days a week, covering the same area as the London Low Emission Zone. It would be enforced by on-street enforcement and should move to CCTV cameras to ensure thorough compliance. Sadly this last part is subject to further approval by the Department for Transport and London boroughs.

Sainsbury’s have just revealed their new lorry for London with 360 degree CCTV coverage and working with Mercedes and body builder Solomon is hopefully the first of many companies confirming they will use Safer Lorries BEFORE the Safer Lorries Scheme comes into operation. Well done Sainsbury’s.


Lambeth Living ALMO Banished

During the last Labour government they demanded that councils make their social council housing decent on the one hand, but then refused to support council who tried doing it. They insisted council relinquish control to housing association and Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO).

Lambeth created an ALMO called Lambeth Living in 2008. It has been a disaster. Southwark under the Lib Dems resisted this.

in 2010 the coalition government reversed that disastrous national policy. It has made councils fully accountable for their housing finance and given large sums to help make council housing decent.

Things have changed so much for the better that Lambeth Council as now proposing to close Lambeth Living and invest £490m in improving the council housing stock of 24,000 tenanted homes and 9,000 leasehold homes. Staff will transfer back into Lambeth Council. Unison described the Lambeth Labour policy “Unison welcomes today’s announcement that Lambeth council intends to bring an end to the failed experiment”.

Greener Travel Plan Enforcement

At Southwarks Planning sub-Committee A 15 October we had to decide on a Dulwich school re organising its parking. It caters for 5-13 year old boys.

This application was designed to enable a more secure site for child safety and while doing this upgrade the playground. This was in response to Southwark Council highlighting child safety concerns.

Sadly it also requires the loss of depending how you read the plans 4 to 7 car parking spaces for staff. I read the before and after plans as reducing staff parking from 36 to 32 car parking spaces while doubling cycle parking.

Residents highlighted that a few parents while dropping kids double park or block driveways. Police officers have been subject to verbal abuse. It sounds so familiar of other schools.

We approved the planning application but will new conditions we’ve not tried before:
1. Green travel required to be reviewed within 6 months, 1 year at 18months and then annually.
2. That the green travel plan includes a protocol for working with local police where the school will take sanctions against families whose parents abuse the police or break parking rules.

I’m keen to see the final green travel plan to ensure the committees intentions that I led on are implemented as we anticipated.

Farcical Southwark Cycle Strategy

Tuesday evening Southwark Labour agreed their Southwark Cycling Strategy. It has a number iof flaws. One of the most stark omissions beign around ensuring cycle facilities stay open.

One of the key objectives from a cyclsits perspectibe: “Objective 2.6 Maintain cycling infrstructure and surfaces as part of our maintenance work programmes”

While they were doing this officers under their direction were arranging the closure, announced in Southwark News on the Thursday, of the closure for 18 months starting 3 November of one of the most key pieces of existing cycle infrasdtructure in Southwark. So much for maintaining cycling infrstructure.

Churchyard Row is an integral part of the Elephant & Castle cycle bypass. It is also a key part of Cycle Superhighway no.7. An alternative via St.Mary’s Churchyard Gardens has been suggest.

Churchyard Row is one of the most cycled parts of Southwark by far. It is baffling why Churchyard Row is being closed. Southwark council states to enable building works by Mace on the adjacent site but I can not imagine they would allow a Red route or A or even B road to be totally closed for 18 months and this cycle route is the equivalent for cyclists.

Cyclists are clearly second citizens to Southwark Labour.

Churchyard Row is an integral part of the E&C cycle bypass – the northern roundabout being the most dangerous junction in Southwark by far for cyclists and in the worst ten junctions for London. The proposed alternative will be significantly less desirable. It will deter some from cycling at all and push others away from the bypass and Cycle Superhighwat and into using the most dangerous junction in Southwark for cyclists.

On this basis I have formally objected to this Traffic Management Order. The likely changes in cyclists behaviour from the proposal and resulting risks weigh far out weigh any inconvenience for Mace building works. The alternative route is also not a road which I understand is a requirement under the 1984 Traffic Act.

I have asked Council officials to explain why they think cycling through the adjacent park is a legal alternative road?

On a personal note I am shocked that the same week Southwark’s Labour Cabinet approved its Cycling Strategy for Southwark it has agreed this closing of one of the most important cycling facilities in Southwark. Farcical at best.

Private Sector Licensing

Southwark Council at last has been exploring licensing private sector landlords.

Sadly this isn’t proposed so much to ensure better housing conditions and to resolve rogue landlords but rather to reduce anti-social behaviour (ASB).

The plan will add landlord licensing for all Homes in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s), single family homes in streets with ASB with Lordship Lane being a prime example.

To obtain a licence a landlord will need to meet specific standards, pay £60 per bedroom each year but importantly take steps to reduce or prevent ASB.

Do you have or have had anti-social behaviour problems from a privately rented home?
If so please get in touch – we may be able to extend these rules to your street.

London Airport Auctions

Considerable business pressure built up until the airports commission was created. This was despite residents close to London airports and along flight paths frankly having had enough of aircraft noise.

Things like the tiny number of night flights still being allowed have really antagonised many many Londoners.

Labour politicians are for Heathrow expansion. The Conservatives were against but now many of their politicians have broken ranks and are for Heathrow expansion. The Liberal Democrats are still against Heathrow expansion and despite their leadership flirting with an extra Gatwick runway are still against London airports expanding.

To pile on the pressure airlines are saying they won’t quit Heathrow for Gatwick even if Gatwick was expanded with an extra runway.

A really simple solution would be the government auctioning take off and landing slots at airports with a shortage of them such as Heathrow. It would raise significant sums that could be ring fenced to improve public transport. The auction would help airlines by rationing something they all say they want and could create the spare capacity needed to cope with disruption. Currently Heathrow operates at 99% capacity allowing only 1% of capacity for problems leading to chaos if a flight is early or during bad weather.
The added costs from such auctions should be offset by airlines valuing such slots much more and maximising the occupancy of flights and size of aircraft used.Such a policy would be a radical solution rather than pandering to airline demands.

How do you think London airport capacity should be managed?