Choosing Our Secondary School Provider

April 14th, 2014 by James Barber

Since launching the campaign for a new East Dulwich secondary school we’ve had many suggestions for who could provide it. East Dulwich councillors worked our socks of to find supportive families. The total of families is now at 540.

We thought it important that parents make that decision of who the provider should be. WE expect this school to be around for not just decades but centuries to come. This was the driving force for us creating the Parents Steering Group – I wish we’d done it sooner.

The following document explains the thinking behind choosing Haberdashers’s Aske’s over The Charter School. We had thought the decision would be much tougher than it proved to be. In the end despite so many on the Steering Group thinking they were clear cut for The Charter School it was unanimous for Haberdashers’ after all the evidence was reviewed and studied at length.

Please do read the document. Email me your thoughts. We didn’t take this decision lightly.


‘Wonder Woman’ councillor gets set to run marathon

Friday, April 11th, 2014 by Southwark Lib Dems

Cllr Lisa Rajan tests out her Wonder Woman costume ahead of the marathon!

Cllr Lisa Rajan tests out her Wonder Woman costume ahead of the marathon!

A local councillor will become a real-life Wonder Woman this weekend – when she runs the London Marathon to raise money for a local charity.

Cllr Lisa Rajan will join thousands of other runners for the annual event on Sunday, which passes through Rotherhithe peninsula and her own ward of Surrey Docks before heading over TowerBridge into the city. But not content with completing the course in regular sports gear, Cllr Rajan has chosen to run the 26 mile course dressed as super-hero Wonder Woman!

The Liberal Democrat councillor is raising money for Rotherhithe-based charity Time & Talents, and has already raised over £2,000 for the cause. Further donations are still welcome, and can be made online at

Commenting before the race, Cllr Lisa Rajan said:

“I have been training hard, in between everything else, and although I won’t break any records I hope to make it to the finish line ahead of at least two rhinos!”

“Time & Talents are a fantastic Rotherhithe-based charity that has helped young and old for many, many years. They really deserve our support, so it’s not too late to donate!”

Lib Dem campaign victory as new school announced

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Southwark Lib Dems

Cllr James Barber

As reported on Cllr James Barber’s blog, ‘outstanding’ school provider Haberdashers’ Aske Federation has announced it will open a new secondary school in East Dulwich, which will help tackle the shortage of permanent school places in the area.

The campaign for a new school has been led by the three Lib Dem councillors for East Dulwich – James Barber, Rosie Shimell and Jonathan Mitchell – who have been working hard to secure support for the project from Haberdashers’ and Southwark Council. Despite previously saying it would oppose a new school in the area, claiming no more were needed, the council has now been convinced to get behind the idea.

The Lib Dem councillors initiated the campaign for a new co-ed secondary school in 2013, following their successful campaign for new local primary schools, and have been canvassing residents about the idea ever since. They were also spurred into action after dealing with a number of cases of local families being offered secondary school places outside the area.

Southwark Liberal Democrats will continue to push for more new schools – primary and secondary -  and have committed in our 2014 local elections manifesto to getting more new schools in Southwark where there is a need.

The East Dulwich Liberal Democrat team still welcome further support from local parents via their dedicated website at

Haberdasher’s Aske’s East Dulwich College

April 3rd, 2014 by James Barber

I’m delighted to announced the new Haberdasher’s Aske’s East Dulwich College.

The East Dulwich Lib Dem councillors initiated a campaign in 2013 for a new co-ed non-faith secondary free school. This followed their experiences helping to avert the pending primary school places crisis by leading a successful campaign for new local primary schools. It was also informed by casework from distraught local families being offered secondary school places outside the area – places like Catford, New Cross, Walworth. It became clear that a new local secondary school was urgently needed to meet local demand and no later than September 2016. We even brought education minister David Laws MP to East Dulwich to discuss the problem last July.

When we met Southwark Council officials they were clear that no new school was required expecting local kids to travel across London for places and that they would contest any new school we campaigned for. Ouch!

After many months of us leafleting and canvassing homes, schools, street stalls, online we found more than enough support for our campaign and a new free school application to be made. We’d proved the officials wrong. We then moved onto finding a  great school provider. For this we initiated a Parents Steering Group which successfully took on this task and also helped increase the numbers of supporting families. We’ve now reached 454 supporting families.  Working with this group, who have met four times and with us visited various local schools on fact finding trips, and after considerable deliberations, a unanimous decision to work with Haberdashers’ Aske Federation was taken. Haberdashers’  have now announced that their governing body has approved taking this project further. They plan to model a new Haberdashers’ Aske’s East Dulwich College (secondary school) on their outstandingly successful Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College. The school would be for around 180pupils per year group include a sixth form  and open September 2016.

To further support this project East Dulwich Liberal Democrats in February submitted a Right to Contest application, using legislation created by Liberal Democrats in government. The application is about freeing up the two-thirds of the Dulwich Hospital site which has remained unoccupied for over 20 years. The Parents Steering committee agree with us that this space represents the minimum space for our new secondary school.

We look forward to continue working with Haberdashers to support them submitting a free school application November 2014. We still welcome further support via our website or email us directly [email protected]

We also welcome the support both Southwark Labour and Conservatives have now given to this project and that officers have now confirmed a new school is needed.

Councillor James barber ” it has been a long journey to reach this stage but I’m truly delighted to bring on board such a prestigious and renowned school provider as Haberdashers’ Aske’s and to model our new school on their Hatcham College”.

Councillor Rosie Shimell added “having denied any need for a new secondary school its great that Lib Dems have won the argument and Southwark Labour are now saying they support our campaign. We just need to see them practically support it now”.

COuncillor Jonathan Mitchell also said “I’ve slogged my guts out canvassing for support for our idea of a new secondary school. So I delighted all our hard work has born fruit attracting such a great school provider to our area who will complement all our existing outstanding schools”.




Not Sitting Pretty Traditional

April 1st, 2014 by James Barber

Terrible news that at Planning Sub-Committee B the planning application that will drive green grocer Pretty Traditional out of North Cross Road was granted planning permission.

As Lib Dem East Dulwich ward councillors Cllr Jonathan Mitchell, Rosie Shimell and myself insisted this planning permission was called-in.

I argued that the plans were an overdevelopment of the site, would cause noise for neighbours with a first floor terrace, and have access problems.

Sadly the committee discounted these issues and granted planning permission. This allows the site owner to terminate the lease kicking out Pretty Traditional.

So we now need to find another site while Chris looks at how to enforce the verbal contract allowing him to stay.

For this to happen the day medical advice tells us to eat more fruit and veg and see’s this the last green grocer in such peril is appalling.

Council Assembly report, March 2014

Friday, March 28th, 2014 by Southwark Lib Dems

The final Council Assembly meeting of the current administration took place on Wednesday (26 March), discussing the various parties’ ‘Vision for Southwark’ in the run up to local elections on 22 May.

Southwark Liberal Democrats’ report from the meeting is now online.

All New Chinese Crystal Palace

March 27th, 2014 by James Barber

The Chinese Zhong Rong Group are proposing to rebuild a pastiche of the great Victorian Crystal Palace.

It’s clear from their representatives who spoke at the Dulwich Community Council that they really arent sure what they’re proposing. It might include a 6* hotel, it might include an auction house, it might include exotic galleries. Yet before knowing what they’re proosing and the related transport requirements they’re asking people whether they support it or not.

What they do know is theyre not planning transport upgrades such as extending a tube line or reopening the high level Crystal Palace station. But witohut a step change improving public transport it wont work without terrible congestion for locals. My fear is massive car parking.

But removing the car parking that has taken over the core of Crystal Palace Park would improve that space. The accomodation blocks and other structures don’t make the park feel parky. So clearly something needs to happen with the park.

So personally I’m against the amorhpous scheme until I see credible plans addressing my fears.

Jimmy Savile Tragic Southwark Involvement

March 27th, 2014 by James Barber

The Secretary of State for the Department for Education has received information that children at 21 children’s homes and schools may have been abused by Jimmy Savile. He has initiated work to have these cliams investigated thoroughly.

Child abuse scars peoples whole lives. I dont think it’s something that truly goes away from people. They just learn to manage and hide their feelings. It can lead to self harm and suicide and feelings of self-loathing. Truly awful thing to happen to anyone.

Southwark Council had a children’s home called the Hollies in Sidcup between 1965 and 1989 ans this is one of the 21 to be investigated.

If you were at the Hollies and experienced anything untoward please call the NSPCC on 0808 800 500 or email [email protected] for help and advice. It’s crucial lessons are learnt from the disaster that Jimmy Savile has been found to have been.

Fingers crossed the investigation by Southwark will quickly reach a thorough conclusion for all the now adults who could have been affected.

Council tax write-offs cost us £135 per household!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by Southwark Lib Dems

pound notes scrutiny 240pxSouthwark Labour’s poor record collecting council tax has cost every household in the borough £135, according to new figures.

Labour-run Southwark Council has given up on over £12m in unpaid council tax in the past four years – an average of more than £3m per year. It puts Southwark amongst the worst-performing areas in London for council tax collection, ranking 20th out of the 32 boroughs in the capital.

With 88,830 council tax payers in the borough, it also means every household has paid out a total of £135 since 2010 to subsidise the non-payers.

Southwark Liberal Democrats have already made a manifesto commitment to get better value for money for residents by increasing collection rates, passing all the extra revenue on to residents through a council tax cut of at least 1%.

London Bridge Chaos

March 26th, 2014 by James Barber

London Bridge is ungoing many years of beung rebuilt to enable Network Rail to serve long distance commuters better. Long distance commuters are more profitable and they spend more at concessions. It has already seen the South London Line closed to make way for the rebuild and seen no increase in other rail services to Southwark rail stations.

To add insult to injury while the building works go on the services have become so unreliable that British Transport Police have had to deploy a visible presence during rush hours:

Police at London Bridge







Next week the new platform 14 & 15 open. Network Rail are fanfaring that they will be partially covered – but the old platforms 14 & 15 were fully covered and we also had a platform 16 Network Rail decided to remove. All those hundreds of millions to be treated as susipcious with permanent cop presence and platforms less protected from the weather. 

Why can’t we have great public transport rather this dumming down to mediocre but yet at hugbe expense?


James Barber

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Southwark Liberal Democrats
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SE16 3UQ
T: 07903 964130


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