Rotherham abuse / children missing in care
Caroline Pidgeon AM

Caroline Pidgeon AM

Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon has been on London Live TV today talking about children missing from care, in relation to the recent abuse scandal in Rotherham.

Watch the clip here

Caroline has done a lot of work on this topic, including putting together a full report on London’s missing children earlier this year. She also raised this issue personally with London Mayor Boris Johnson.

A very important issue, and one we will be raising again at Council Assembly.


Ensuring Proper Dulwich School Provision

Southwark Council is about to embark on the journey towards a new Southwark Plan.

We have three local problems around the planning designation we need to resolve to ensure proper state school provision in the Dulwich area.

I have formally requested the councillor Cabinet member for Regeneration who is responsible for this [email protected] please let him know if you agree with me and copy me. Without these changes we will not have enough primary or secondary places in the right cirumstances and places:

1. Dulwich Hospital. After new health care provision that the remainder of the site, circa 18,000-20,000m2, be allocated for a new secondary school. Without such a planning designation change the government DfE will be unable to afford this much land as the cost would be more than £60m. (The East Dulwich Police station was sold for £6M and is 1/10th of the space because it wasn’t in planning terms protected as a site for eudcational use).

2. 520 Lordship Lane (former Harvester pub) That this be designated for education use. This would enable the Harris Primary school looking for a home to be placed there. Without this it seems likely that the new Harris Primary school will be placed at the Dulwich Hospital site OR they will apply to build on the East Dulwich Harris Girls Academy Metropolitan Open Land. Both of these options are much less desirable than 520 Lordship Lane.

3. 62-68 Half Moon Lane. The Dulwich Estate carved the absolute minimum space from the former Kings Biological Sciences centre for the Judith Kerr Bilingual Free School that opened 2013. Effectively they provided the main building and a tiny tiny playground – fencing off most of the site for future residential use. The lease includes a condition that the school must never talk about the minimal space leased to them. Ideally the whole site would be designated for educational use helping to push the Dulwich Estate towards being more charitable and the whole site being made available for the Judith Kerr Bilingual School. Effectively the Dulwich Estate have carved 2/3rds of the site for future residential building so that they provide more subsidy for private schools more over the state provided free school pupils having reasonable outside space.

To see the full email comunications – Dulwich Education Planning Status Request Email 26 August 2014

What other planning designations do we need changed?

Lib Dems Bring Greater Fairness For Council Leaseholders

One of the biggest problems is local councils out of the blue charging council leaseholders huge amounts for general maintenance. Often this appears to come from councils just not professionally planning ahead.

I’m proud to say that A cap has just been introduced to limit the amount local authorities and housing associations can charge leaseholders for repairs to council homes.

The new directions limit the amount authorities can charge for future major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when they are wholly or partly funded by the government.

Outside London the maximum amount residents can be charged for repairs on a property will be £10,000 in any five-year period. In London, the cap is £15,000 over the same time period.

If repair works cost more than the set limit, authorities will have to pay the rest.

New petition for a Bakerloo line extension

OKR2A new petition has been started to get the Mayor of London and TfL to agree to a two-branch extension of the Bakerloo line. Please support the campaign by adding your name!

The campaign for a Bakerloo extension beyond Elephant & Castle is a cross-party campaign organised by Bermondsey & Old Southwark MP Simon Hughes. The petition is hosted on his website.

There is also a Facebook campaign page at



Postage Stamp Secondary School

Since starting the secondary school debate and campaign in East Dulwich the key has always been where to put it. The only obvious space is the two-thirds of the Dulwich Hospital site that are no longer required for health facilities.

So the site for both secondary schoo,l campaigns is key.
I’ve written an open letter to Southwark Council Leader about this – Open Letter to Southwark Council Leader Peter John 25 July 2014

As things stand with Southwark Council marking out most of the Dulwich Hospital Site for housing the land values are so extremely high only a tiny portion of the site will be affordable for a new secondary school.

Southwark Council need to explain how it will avoid this situation, or as I’ve previously requested change the planning expectations for the hopsital site.

So far instead of practically trying to sort this out they’ve been raising the spectre of a Harris primary school also going on the site.

Without the council leader getting a grip, apart from the universally agreed replacement health provision, we will have both a secondary school and primary school on ridiculoulsy squeezed postage stamp sized spaces plus housing.

Harris ED Free Primary School – Temp site

Last night the planning application submitted in May was finally granted planning permission for the temporary site to house the Harris East Dulwich Free Primary School. The planning application was submitted 23 May and should have been decided by 16 July but Southwark Council didnt wanted to give planning permission to a Harris school and was using Metropolitican Open Land as a reason to consider resisting.

At the planning committee Labour councillors repeatedly haranged the agent about a late application – when the lateness was caused by Southwarks own officers. Even the planning chair admitted she was blaming the wrong messenger.

Weirdly Southwark Council has approved numerous uses of MOL for private schools but their hate of all things Harris is even more consumnig than their hate of private schools in Southwark!

Eitherway we now have the temporary site needed until such time the permanent school can open on the former East Dulwich Police Station. Well done Harris and EFA for reaching this point but even more so to the parents who children will start school there on the temporary site on Homestall Road in just 6 weeks time.


Success as council reviews housing sell-off policy

Liberal Democrats have welcomed a change in heart by Southwark’s Labour administration which could see an end to the sale of all council homes worth under £500,000.

All council properties valued at more than £300,000 are currently considered for sale when they become empty. However a Cabinet paper next week could see this minimum value threshold pushed up to £500,000, meaning that homes priced beneath that amount will be safe from sale.

The rise in the sale price threshold was a central part of Southwark Liberal Democrats’ recent local elections campaign in May, with Lib Dem councillors consistently arguing that the sale price threshold should be raised to £500,000.

The proposal to change the policy marks a notable shift in the Labour administration’s approach to council housing, after they had previously argued that selling-off lower value homes was necessary. On taking office in 2010, one of the first decisions of the Labour administration was to reduce the threshold down from the previous amount of £400,000 to ensure more homes could be sold-off.

Speaking at Council Assembly last week (Wednesday 16 July), Southwark Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Anood Al-Samerai thanked the council leader for reviewing the policy. She also asked if he would consider another Liberal Democrat policy of allowing residents to fix up council homes in exchange for a reduction in rents, instead of homes in need of repair being sold at auction.

The proposed change to the sales threshold value will be agreed at a council Cabinet meeting today.

Commenting, Southwark Liberal Democrats’ housing spokesperson Hamish McCallum said:

“I welcome the change of heart by Labour on this issue. For a long time, Southwark Liberal Democrats have pushed for an end to homes at the lower end of the market being sold-off, given the huge and growing demand for council homes in the borough.”

“I hope Labour will also consider some of our other ideas on housing, such as allowing residents to fix up empty council homes for a reduction in rent, and investing in new homes through the council’s pension fund.”

More Poor Southwark Uni Kids

London and Southwark have seen a dramatic increase in the number and proportion of our poor children going onto university.

At 63% of young people from the poorest families going onto university this is a higher proportion than children from wealthier families in all other parts of the country.

Well done to all those schools, teachers, staff, governors, parents and of course the hard working children. And despite pessimists the tuition fee changes have not deterred this incredible change.

Southwark Council Fraud

Southwark Council officers have won a number of awards for cracking down on fraud. It’s been a long journey over many years working well with the Police, fraud specialists and supported by all councillors to get serious about fraud.

Reactive fraud work for the last financial year resulted in 290 sanctions around council rented properties – recovered tenancies, benefits sanctions, etc. Another 151 properties were recovered. But the National Fraud Authority estimates 4% of Southwark’s 45,000 tenanted properties will be done so fraudulently – that’s 1,800 properties. So we clearly still have a huge problem to solve. This would make a huge dent in our council housing list.

This technique has also seen:

1. 434 blue badges and concessionary passes cancelled

2. £0.7M of housing benefit overpayment identified

3. 619 housing application cancelled

4. 1,988 singles person council tax discount wrongly claimed

Proactive anti-fraud work. 20% of new applications to join the housing waiting list are now being rejected as a result of data matching and identity checking. 12% of those already on the list about to be offered a property are being found out as not meeting the criteria. Sadly this data matching hash;t been applied to all those on the waiting list. This would remove 12% immediately and make it much clearer who should be on the list. I’ll continue to push for this.

What next?

We need to apply these techniques to school place applications to ensure confidence in the system.

Prodding for voter registration – nudging people to register to vote.

What other council areas do you think needs extra anti-fraud scrutiny?


Southwark Says Economy On The Up

Southwark Council has to record all the risks it is at risk from.

The latest report from Southwark Council officers to the Audit & Governance Committee I sit on stated that risk from the economy have dropped from 8% to 6%. That’s a big drop and good news of how council officers responsible dispassionately for judging risks now see the economy seriously picking up.