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.


Ending Generation Rent

Under Lib Dem manifesto plans announced today, young people will be able to buy their own home without needing a deposit.

The Rent to Own scheme will help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder by allowing them to build up a share in their home through renting without the need for a deposit.

This is a revolutionary shift in housing policy that will give young people caught in ‘generation rent’ a chance at home ownership

During the last decade home ownership for those under 35 years has plummeted. The percentage owning a home has gone down from 59% to 36%.

I was able to buy my first flat – or at least get a mortgage on my first flat – when I was 28. I could not do that now as prices and salaries stand.

So the Lib Dems in the next government partnering with housing associations and other providers would launch a Rent to Own scheme.

Rather than being trapped in rental accommodation forever, working young people who are unable to afford a deposit would be able to become home owners.

Rent to Own will see first-time buyers steadily build up a share in their home through monthly payments equivalent to rent until they own the property outright after 30 years, just like a normal mortgage. with monthly payments no higher than market rent.

This is forms part of Liberal Democrat plans to deliver 300,000 new homes each year, with the government bridging the gap between private sector building and demand.

It is only fair that working young people also have the dream of home ownership. Prices are so high now that renters cannot afford to even save for a deposit, which means they can never take that first step onto the housing ladder. Young people deserve better. Rent to Own will mean, regardless of their background and family circumstance, they will be able to make this a dream a reality. They will have the same opportunity I had.

This is about building a stronger economy and fairer society, and making sure Generation Rent has the same opportunity to get on in life as their parents and grandparents before them. Roll on the Lib Dems in the next government.


Reduce The Strength


Some UK councils led by Ipswich and then Portsmouth have introduced Reduce The Strength campaigns to reduce alcohol misuse. In Portsmouth alone they’ve calculated alcohol abuse costs £74m annually across the NHS, Police, criminal justice system and council alone. In Ipswich they report a 31% drop in crime.

The idea of Reducing The Strength is to ask off-licences to volunteer to NOT sell beer or cider over 6.5% proof. Shops supporting the scheme are given a sticker to show how responsible they’re being for their local community.

One shop owner said “when we stopped selling high-strength lager there was an immediate change, and the staff say they now feel a lot safer”. As of last summer over 40 councils have introduced this scheme.

One street in Portsmouth has seen a 50% reduction in violent crime.

Do you think such a scheme should be introduced in Lambeth and/or Southwark ?

Making Local Stations More Passenger Friendly

Calculations of local station passenger numbers show that East Dulwich and West Norwood are each handling over 2 million people using them each year. East Dulwich station in just one year has seen growth of 5% in passenger numbers and West Norwood 2% :

Station Name District or Unitary Authority Station Facility Owner 1314 Entries & Exits 1213 Entries & Exits
Brixton Lambeth Southeastern 942,548 896,848
Denmark Hill Southwark Southeastern 5,166,040 3,935,776
East Dulwich Southwark Southern 2,119,018 2,104,766
Gipsy Hill Lambeth Southern 1,992,136 1,943,522
Herne Hill Lambeth Southeastern 3,308,970 2,918,610
Loughborough Junction Lambeth First Capital Connect 1,386,290 1,182,914
North Dulwich Southwark Southern 869,276 839,378
Sydenham Hill Southwark Southeastern 643,928 585,176
Tulse Hill Lambeth Southern 2,442,126 2,145,064
West Dulwich Southwark Southeastern 1,025,312 949,754
West Norwood Lambeth Southern 2,118,260 2,073,698

Weirdly, neither have in station shops or caffe’s or newsagents. The journeys can be pretty tough these days and having concessions could improve people’s journey. Neither are that friendly. East Dulwich the platforms are really low compared to the train doors. The platforms aren’t well covered to keep passengers dry.

Would a concession selling coffee and snacks on the platforms facing into London make your journey a little more bearable?

Should we get the platforms raised at East Dulwich and more platform covered from the elements?

(Between all the above listed stations they now see 22 million people enter and leave shooting up 12.5% in just one year)

Metal Theft Plummets

Just over three years ago I urged people to sign a petition supporting a bill to licence all Scrap Metal Dealers. Thank you to those who helped push for this change.

The Act was passed with support from the government and came into force October 2013. All scrap metal dealers had to obtain a licence from local council to trade. Near 8,000 have been issued across England & Wales.

Already a dramatic reduction in metal thefts down from 59,788 2012/13 to 40,680 in 2013/14. As the new system settles down I expect the level of theft to decline further. WELL DONE to those who made it possible.

If you have metal that could be stolen – please do also consider property marking it. Either SelectaDNA or Smartwater. Please do make it even harder for thieves.

Post Office Move – 369 Lordship Lane

The Post Office at 369 Lordship Lane is proposed to move to 394-395 Lordship Lane during May/June 2015

A 6 week consultation will start shortly – comments to comments@postoffice.co.uk – before 24 March 2015. Ideally any comments to post office please copy me cllrjamesbarber@gmail.com

369 Lordship Lane Post Office Consultation

The new post office will be open for business 7am-11pm Mon-Sat & Sun 8am-11pm vs. current 9am-17.30 MOn-Fri, Sat 9am-1pm & Sun closed.

The new Post Office won’t be able to do Transcash without barcode, NS&I Premium Savings Bonds, On demand travel insurance, payment by cheque.

My feedback will be great to move from 46.5 hours of opening each week to 111 hours of opening. That I would like to know why the 4 services can’t be provided – I’ll try and find out how much each represents to East Dulwich residents.


HSBC Organised Tax Crime

Thanks goodness for Herve Falciani . If it wasn’t for him in 2008 whisking away 106,000 records of illegal tax evasion that via the French authorities reached the UK government in 2010 we wouldn’t know of the degree this British bank colluded with tax evasion by British citizens. But Herver also tried engaging the UK Tax people in 2008 but was blanked.

But what of the others banks who Herve is clear are just as involved in this industrial scale tax evasion?

The Swiss authorities keep trying to extradite Mr.Falciani for whistleblowing. Clearly they want to collude with illegal tax evasion. What disreputable behaviour for a nation state.

As the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has pointed out the HSBC scandal demonstrated that tax avoidance was a “sophisticated global business”.

Adding: “Tax evasion is illegal, the full force of the law needs to be brought against tax evaders. Tax avoidance, where people do everything to avoid paying their tax, is something a lot of people rightly don’t like. We made 40 changes to the tax code, we’ve put a billion pounds extra in to enforcement, we’ve recouped £80bn of tax.”

Personally it comes across as a sophisticated global racket. This is organised crime.

1,100 Brits have now paid £135million in tax, interest on tax and fines.

We should go further. Their names should be published. Who are these people?They are clearly not fit to be company directors and should be banned from such roles. If they have gongs they should be striped of them. Tax evasion on this scale is the behaviour of organised criminals. They are not Robin Hoods. They have behaved as common criminals and should be treated as such by our society.

But I fear it will all be swiftly forgotten. The super-rich will close ranks. They will remake their money circulating in our societies upper echelons. Depressing.

The Government has the powers to prosecute and make examples. The state can remove gongs. Directors can be banned for their cmpanies not paying correct tax. But all this should have started in 2008 when the UK tax people were first alerted.

Solving Cold Private Rented Homes

Lib Dems in government have announced new regulations that up to 1 million tenants renting energy inefficient homes can benefit from – warmer homes with cheaper energy bills:

  • From April 2016 residential private landlords can’t unreasonably turn down a tenant’s request for energy efficiency improvements. This will mean landlords have to accept the request if they can get help through widely available support like Green Deal finance, the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), or grants from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.
  • From April 2018 private landlords will not be able to rent out properties which do not meet minimum energy efficiency standards.

They will help reduce fuel poverty as many privately rented homes already cost much more to heat than the average home.

In East Dulwich we’ve seen that around 600 of the 4000 roofs of homes have no loft insulation from aerial thermal imaging.

The problem is landlords don’t pay energy bills so many have shown no interest in investing in energy saving measures. These new regulations should make them interested. And clearly it’s only going to affect dodgier landlords.

Another great policy from Lib Dems in government – well done Ed Davey.

New East Dulwich Cinema

I’m sure almost all East Dulwich residents are aware that a new cinema is being constructed on Lordship Lane – the East Dulwich Picturehouse Cinema – at number 116A Lordship Lane.

It is now proposed to open in March.

A key aspect will be how this cinema will operate. Today I was notified that their proposed Cinema Management Plan has been submitted to Southwark Council planners – it is a planning condition that this plan is agreed with Southwark Council officers.

I’m really keen that local residents have an opportunity to look at this plan and tell council officer Michael Glasgow (michael.glasgow@southwark.gov.uk) and fellow East Dulwich Cllr Rosie Shimell (rosie.shimell@southwark.gov.uk) and myself whether you think this plan is fit for purpose – has it missed anything?

Rosie and I look forward to hearing from you.