Aylesbury Estate

In April the main Planning committee agreed to the demolition of the 2758 homes that form the Aylesbury estate. The vast majority being social rented council homes, all 2,249 of them + 509 leasehold homes.

The replacement will be 2,745 new residential units in tower blocks up to 20 storeys high with only 37.5% social rent and 12.5% shared ownership with the remaining 50% private homes. So a huge decrease in social housing.

I sat on that planning committee and we heard much contradictory evidence. Assertions such as the estate had high levels of crime, ill health and low employment levels. But after 20 years of low investment is this surprising. The crime rate was an odd one as past years when they had their own Police Safer Neighbourhood Team they reported record lower levels of crime compared to the surrounding areas. We heard the heating was unreliable. But we also heard how for long periods it hadn’t been maintained properly. Much of the ill health is probably from poverty rather than the homes they live in.

Democratic
Several times residents have been asked how they would like to see the future of council housing. Overwhelmingly they’ve said they want to live in council homes rather than Housing Associations homes.
Other consultations people have said they like the vision for the Aylesbury estate but we heard from a number who didn’t agree. No one attended to support the application which I found telling.
For leaseholders it was suggested years of agony arguing over the value of their properties with offers falling woefully short of the replacement cost. From the heygate debacle it looks like social cleansing of leaseholders from the area.

Environment
From an environmental perspective it didn’t feel good.
The plans will see more than a one third reduction in open space. From 4.8 hectares down to 3ha. No segregated cycle paths. Routes within the park don’t all align with paths in Burgess Park.
The target is to only reduce CO2 emissions by 30% when we know the planet needs 80% reduction. But this will be more than swallowed up by the huge loss of embedded carbon in the current structures. We heard and I’ve visited a number of blocks that could be kept and urgent residential leaseholders
Could be decanted to them over time. But the applicant rejected this out of hand.

Safety
We heard that the building weren’t safe and could collapse like a pack of cards. Objectors pointed out it was the same design as the Heygate estate which didn’t fall down like a pack of cards during demolition. So the expert evidence just did;t come across as credible compared to real world experience in Southwark.

Conclusion

So I found myself unable to support these plans and no longer supportive of the general Aylesbury plans. They appear wrong headed on so many levels now that the detail has been fleshed out. Problems could be fixed through helping people find work to boost their incomes. Through long-term proper maintenance. And yes I have visited homes on the estate. AS a minimum many blocks are perfectly sound.

So I voted against the plans and application which I was surprised at as I had anticipated before reading the report that it would have been well thought through and convincing

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children

I was shocked to hear that Lambeth Council has been judged as “inadequate” about how our children in care are looked after. Things like taking an average of 1,081 days – very nearly 3 years – versus the UK average of 453 days for Lambeth children in care to be adopted. it describes across the board failures. Lambeth has lamely stated it has started to address the issues – but the report effectively contradicts these. Only 3 years ago the service was rated as “outstanding” so an incredible deteriation of this crucial service for our most vulnerable children.

Lambeth Council has vowed to fix the problem within one year. As important is creating mechanisms where such a service can’t implode again.

How does this compare with Southwark. They were also last inspected in 2008. Southwark was rated as “good”. Hopefully Southwark will be shortly inspected to reassure us that we don’t have a systemic SE London issue across more than just Lambeth Council.

Children only get one chance at a decent childhood. Councils and their councillors must ensure they’re are decent childhoods. Lambeth is very nearly a one party state. So Labour councillors must sort this problem out quickly without fear or favour.

Dulwich & West Norwood – my local priorities

If elected as your MP this Thursday my local priorities – above and beyond the Lib Dem national manifesto are:

  • Helping solve the local schools crisis through opening new schools, building in the right places. I have already ensured an extra 3,100 primary and secondary schools places locally. But we need at least another 1,500 school places.
  • Saving local libraries. Lambeth Council is planning to close 5 libraries and downsize two others. We have shown through building new libraries such as John Harvard Library that if you build better libraries more people use them more. I’ve persuaded developers to give us a brand new Grove Vale Library in 2016. I will work to persuade Lambeth Labour to reverse these avoidable cuts.
  • Creating more apprenticeships and jobs. Local unemployment claiming benefits has fallen to 3.5% but the UK average is 2.5%. Apprenticeships have more than doubled under the coalition government – they’re a Lib Dem priority – but we can all do better at creating them helping to ensure lower unemployment and higher incomes over the longer-term.

 

My MP Contract

If elected as your Dulwich & West Norwood I will always:

  • Hear the people: I will use e-polls to proactively listen to constituents’ opinions on parliamentary votes.
  • Respect the people: Provide 100% transparency on all resources (financial or other) received and spent.
  • Trust the people: Poll constituents on key parliamentary decisions – and vote accordingly.
  • Hold 150 advice surgeries a year, spread across our local area.
  • Have a constituency office in the constituency.
  • Not have a second job. Working for you will be enough.

GOOD LUCK – Gipsy Hill Federation New Secondary School Application

In the last Labour government over 250,000 schools places were removed from the system. They must have thought this a sensible plan. But it has contributed to the massive shortage of school places building up since 2009/10.

Locally I have initiated and led new free school campaign that bring an extra 3,100 school places to Dulwich & West Norwood. Not a free school in the area has not had lots of local Lib Dem involvement. Some of these have been directly opposed by Labour councils.

But we still have a looming shortage of secondary school places in West Norwood/Gipsy Hill area. That’s why I support the Gipsy Hill Federation of primary schools to create a new secondary school. They made an earlier application that didn’t succeed. They’re about to submit their second application – GOOD LUCK. We’re all rooting for you to succeed and bring outstanding secondary school places to the area.

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.