Why is Labour still dithering on cycle lanes?

bicycle mural 240pxSouthwark’s Labour administration must “stop dithering and start delivering” on improving cycle safety in the borough.

That’s the call from Lib Dem opposition councillors following news that the Aylesbury Estate redevelopment will not included segregated cycle lanes – despite it being promised by Labour councillors on a number of occasions.

Instead developer Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) – with the apparent backing of the council – seems set to offer only painted cycle lanes on new roads, which will run alongside busses and cars.

It marks another policy u-turn on cycle safety by the Labour administration, which had previously indicated it had come round to the idea of segregated lanes. In pre-election hustings earlier this year, the Labour council leader said he was in favour of segregated cycle lanes. Just two weeks ago, the Labour cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport told local media he had asked NHHT to “look at the options for segregation” on the new roads.

Liberal Democrat councillors are backing campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists’ call for segregated lanes to be included in Albany Road and Thurlow Street in the new Aylesbury masterplan.

The Labour council needs to stop dithering and start delivering on cycle safety.

Liberal Democrats to triple early years cash for disadvantaged kids

The Liberal Democrats will more than triple investment in the early years ‘pupil premium’ cash for children from disadvantaged backgrounds under manifesto plans announced by Schools Minister David Laws.

The early years funding was announced in March 2014 and is currently worth £300 for every disadvantaged child. Liberal Democrats want to extend this to £1000, helping to ensure that every child has got a fair start in life and is ready to learn when they start school.

As children in early years are only in part time education this represents an equivalent investment higher than the primary school pupil premium, demonstrating the huge importance that Liberal Democrats place on early years education.

This will benefit over 170,000 disadvantaged children from 2015-16.

Commenting, David Laws MP said:

“Investing in early years is one of the best ways to build the fairer society that Liberal Democrats want to see and we are ambitious about delivering for future generations. This extra investment will mean a huge amount of support for the people who need it most and demonstrates our strong commitment to education.”

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 www.facebook.com/bakerloocampaign.



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.