Picturehouse Picket Line

On Saturday after promising a cinema trip to one of my children I crossed the BECTU picket line outside the East Dulwich Picturehouse.  I felt seriously conflicted but my promise to my child outweighed my intense discomfort at crossing a picket line.

Looking into the material provided by both side of this dispute I feel less discomforted. But this could change if the sacked Ritzy Picturehouse employees win the employment tribunal the BECTU union states they are pursuing for wrongful dismissal – the employer says they were sacked for encouraging people to cyber attack the company (http://www.screendaily.com/territories/uk-ireland/ritzy-staff-dismissed-in-latest-picturehouse-bectu-flare-up/5119140.article)

The only difference between the two sides – apart from these dismissals – appears to be BECTU union recognition. The argument about paying the London Living Wage the employer makes a cogent argument that they pay this, and sick/maternity/paternity/etc pay.

I would encourage any customer or members of the East Dulwich Picturehouse to look at both sides online arguments here:

BECTU – http://www.picturehouselivingwage.com/

Picturehouse – https://www.picturehouses.com/pay

You can then take a considered view of where you stand as I believe this dispute is likely to go on for a number of years and customers will face repeated picket lines. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and both sides reach an agreement.

Southwark Council IT Chaos

At a recent Southwark Council Audit, Governance and Standards Committee we heard what external auditors had found during various audits including one on IT Network Security.

For the first time ever in my 10 year of chairing or vice charing these committees we heard that an area of the council had “No Assurance”. This means the area is in a complete pickle and no confidence it will get sorted out any time soon.

Please see page 45 of the agenda pack:


The area is IT Network Security. The key findings stated were:

  • The council has deployed and is using operating systems that are no longer supported by the developer.
  • There are not adequate arrangements in place to apply operating system security and firmware patches to its IT servers.
  • The council’s corporate risk register does not accurately record the risk of an information security breach or the consequences.
  • A disproportionately high number of users have been granted elevated access rights, which includes domain administrator access.
  • The Council does not have procedures in place to identify unusual or suspicious activity, nor are existing network perimeter security controls reviewed on a routine basis.
  • Vulnerabilities, including the absence of a de-militarized zone between the Council’s IT network and the PSN, have been included within the design of the council’s IT network.
  • Firewall rules, both internal and external, are not subject to a routine review in order to determine their adequacy.
  • Anti-malware signatures are not updated on all Council devices.
  • The design and configuration of the council’s IT network perimeter security controls are inherently insecure and do not meet the requirements of either the PSN or of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). A prolonged lack of effective management has only served to undermine the existing controls, such as they are, and require that the council will need to take drastic action in order to secure its IT network.

Utter IT security chaos placing Direct debits, employee ban accounts details, etc at risk.

Fracking Madness

Amazingly the Tory government didn’t only give a green light to fracking it is still sticking to this policy.

The science is clear that we must leave carbon fuels underground. That climate change will go beyond any acceptable limits if we extract all possible fossil fuels and burn them. Fracking is part of the fossil fuels we must not recover and burn. To know this and ignore the science is either truly cynical, destroying our children and grandchildren’s futures, or plain stupid.

To make matters worse renewable energy without subsidies is now cheaper than fracked gas. Truly stupid policy making.

So for the UK government on the one hand agree to sign up to the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C of warming and on the other ensure we breach this critical agreement by allowing fracking .

To compound things the local council in Lancashire gets it. They refused planning permission because they do understand the pickle our planet is in with fossil fuels.

In fact the government has stated “The projects represent a positive contribution towards the reduction of carbon”. The shameful politics of Trump have arrived in the UK where facts are ignored and lies are presented as Tory facts. So this leaves rational law abiding people feeling they have no obvious route but to work outside of politics. I hope protesters can stop this fracking from taking place – lobbying pensions funds to not invest, lobbying and boycotting to not trade with companies supporting this fracking.

Where Is 20MPH Not Working In Southwark?

Council officials after the latest batch of speed surveys and crash reports have come up with the 12 roads where 20mph is being exceeded the most across Southwark:


Sadly many of these roads in in East Dulwich.

They will now review what measures could be taken to bring vehicles down to the speed limit of 20mph. The most effective has been shown to be average speed cameras. Close to 100% adherence where installed. But camera enforcement is a cross London enforcement via the London Camera Partnership – so we need TfL to agree as well as the Met Police.

While we wait if you’d like to try enforcing the speed limit please join us on the local Community Speed Watch – contact me directly for more details.


EU Right To Remain

On Monday the Labour party had one of its biggest meltdowns yet. Voting for, then against the amendment to protect the rights of EU citizens who already live in the UK to stay here.

Nobody knows where Labour stand on Brexit, they’re trying desperately to play both sides. Unfortunately for them people in this country are wise to it and people cannot respect a party that will not stand up for what it believes in.

The Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has pointed out that Labour had the chance to block Theresa May’s hard Brexit, but chose to sit on their hands. As Nick Clegg has pointed out there will be families fearful that they are going to be torn apart with EU citizens living here being kicked out of the UK. Many already tell me they feel no longer welcome in Britain.

In Dulwich we have 10,917 EU residents or 10% of all resident. They are a critical party of our neighbourhoods.

Shame on the government for using people as chips in a casino, and shame on Labour for letting them. EU countries will no respect a government being so very callous. It has already hardened their attitudes towards us. My day job is negotiating. This is no way to win respect or concessions from an opposite party.

Locally the NHS relies on hundreds of EU nationals, both doctors and nurses, to sure up an already underfunded service. This is a huge problem for every person in our country, and we shouldn’t let hard working EU nationals and their families be treated as second class citizens. For example at King’s College Hospital we have 282 EU doctors, 450 EU nurses and 414 other crucial staff.

As Liberal Democrats we believe in an open, tolerant and united future for our country. We want EU citizens to stay, they’re part of our country and our community. We will do all we can to fight for their rights and make them feel welcome. If you agree join us.

MPs voted down the amendment on EU nationals rights by 335 to 287, a majority of 48, with peers later accepting the decision by 274 to 135. The second amendment on whether to hold a meaningful final vote on any deal after the conclusion of Brexit talks was voted down by 331 to 286, a majority of 45, in the Commons.

Fighting for EU Residents’ Rights

Southwark’s political parties have come together to demand that the Government guarantees the rights of EU residents living in Southwark via a motion I tabled at the recent full council assembly. This is aimed to help reassure residents by calling on the Councils Cabinet to lobby the Government and the borough’s MPs to secure the right to remain for EU citizens living in the borough.

Southwark Council in its role as a community leader, should join in fighting the corner of all our residents, so I’m pleased the Liberal Democrat motion received unanimous support from all councillors and parties. Thank you.

This contrasts with the complete lack of action at a national level. Conservative Party ministers are instead using the right to remain as a crude bargaining chip in its Brexit negotiations with the EU. This is playing with millions of people’s lives and is unacceptable. As a professional negotiator the UK would also gain significantly more leverage by offering these rights straight off. It would show compassion and realism. It would be hard for thE EU to not respond in kind.

Since the referendum vote to leave the European Union on 23 June, the lack of any Government response on the future rights of EU citizens already living in the country has created huge uncertainty. There are 22,000 registered EU voters in Southwark and the EU referendum result has made many people nervous about their future here. 

There has been a rise in the number of hate crimes and incidents of racial abuse being reported against EU citizens with a 52% increase reported in London by the Police.

Liberal Democrat councillors also seconded a motion on hate crime that called on the Council to work with the police and local organisations to tackle all reported incidents of racism and xenophobia in Southwark, as well as support victims of hate crimes.

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats are calling for existing EU citizens to be given the right-to-remain with London MP Tom Brake introducing a Bill in Parliament earlier this month urging the Government to commit to this policy. The Party has also launched an online petition on EU citizen rights: http://change.libdems.org.uk/right-to-stay

Southwark Eviscerate Community Councils

Community councils were set-up by Lib Dems when they led the council in 2002. Simple idea that power should be exercised as close to residents as possible. Community councils decided local planning applications, traffic schemes, devolved budgets around investing in local areas, devolved revenue spending to help create new projects, and generally gave local residents the power to directly influence local councillors in decisions about their neighbourhood.

Sadly not everyone wants to make local decisions. Community councils were stripped of making local planning decisions when Labour took control of Southwark council. They then dramatically reduced the number of meeting down from 10 a year to 5 each year. and the number of community councils from 8 to 5 making them much less local outside of the Dulwich area.

I’ve sat on the main planning committee deciding on local planning applications where all local Labour councillors had refused to be involved in a local planning decision because it was contentious. So clearly hiding such decisions behind a town hall in Tooley Street suits such councillors purposes.

Labour are now saying they want to centralise traffic scheme decision making to a single Labour councillor in the councils Tooley Street ivory towers.The fig leaf of saving money has been given. That a council officer attending a meeting is too expensive. With 5 meetings per year for 5 community councils at  4 hours (including travel time) the saving will amount to around £2,500 each year of officer time. But we’ve been given the option of talking about traffic schemes but with no expert officer present to explain what they’re trying to do and their ideas should work and we can only ask the Labour traffic tsar to consider issues and concerns we raise.

Academic research shows more people involved in decisions the more likely they are to catch problems and make good decisions. Three ward councillors, 6 fellow councillors on the community council, neighbouring residents and an expert council officer – I’ve seen this work really well. I’ve seen it save money; of daft schemes be canned, or tweaked to actually work. I’ve seen proposed scheme forget about pedestrians which we corrected for example.

If you think centralising traffic schemes, only discussing local issues 5 times a year, not deciding local planning schemes locally is a bad idea please respond to the councils consultation and tell them what you think.

Dulwich Park Disabled Parking Chaos

Dulwich Park is looking splendid from the Heritage Lottery grant 2004-6, ongoing support and such an active friends group.

Part of this was restricting cars from using the park, sometimes at speed, using it as a short cut. Whatever possessed people to allow this in the past. Disabled people are allowed to travel at 5mph in cars to park up. For those disabled residents it’s a chance to see such a lovely park.

But things aren’t going well. The park has disabled parking spots. For people who are disabled want to park and can walk a little way. For those that can’t they’re allowed to park anywhere on the circular drive. But of course this causes confusion. The disabled parking bays are understandably parked out of sight – intended for parked cars without any occupants remaining. But when disabled people park elsewhere complete strangers harangue them.

After several complaints I’ve asked if we can move a couple of disabled bays to have proper vistas of the park. This should make the whole experience for our disabled neighbours and residents that bit more relaxing. And also ensure able body people don’t get stressed trying to enforce disabled parking bays!

Fingers crossed we can make this happen.

Fighting Dodgy Local Employer

I’ve just had the third piece of casework about an alleged dodgy employer on Lordship Lane.

The employer apparently hates paying their staff wages. Suggestion they employ illegal immigrants, and other allegations. To ensure when leaving you get paid your wages staff book holidays and then have to fight for their holiday pay. One’s not taking this approach owed many hundred of pounds. Generally not rich teenagers being exploited. This is exactly the sort of dodgy business behaviour that gives free enterprise a bad name.

I’ve contacted the local “dodgy” business person about one case and been blanked. They’ve always been very vocal to me about issues that bother them but suddenly silent. No response. The silence feels damning.

If you find yourself in this position – tell me. If I get more casework I will feel obliged to go public.

You can also follow this step by step guide, amending things with your details, to try and resolve things if you have this problem:

Send the following letter to the employer by recorded delivery.

“Dear Ms xxx

Re: Letter before action for non payment of wages

As you are aware I was employed by yyyyyyyyyy from xx to xx.
My last working day was xx
Despite numerous efforts to converse with you I have yet to receive a response as to why you have failed to pay my outstanding wages and holiday pay as follows:

– detail wages owed
– detail holiday pay owed.

This may well be an oversight on your behalf.

Please can you pay the outstanding amounts within the next 7 days.

If you do not pay the outstanding amount within the seven days I will commence proceedings against you in the employment tribunal.

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully ”

If you get no response after seven days you need to start the employment tribunal process

Three points regarding the employment tribunals:
1. Needs to be within 3 months of the last day of employment.
2. First stage is to contact ACAS for early resolution mediation which may resolve the issue if not they will provide a certificate. Need for next stage.
3. Fees – whilst employment tribunals require a fee of £160 to lodge a claim it is possible that as a student or low wage earner you could be below the monthly income threshold and exempt from paying.

If it gets this far you may want to seek Southwark Citizens Advice Bureau help.

Either way never let a rogue business person rip you of.

Peckham Lorry Death

I was initially very saddened to hear of the lady killed crossing the road in Peckham by a lorry 4 September. What a waste.

This has now turned to anger from the reports that almost no one did anything to help the tragic lady concerned in her last moments of life. Instead they gawped taking photos and videos. That’s bad enough but then posted them on online. At best this shows crass disregard for a fellow human being. At worst is just plain evil.

This case has really shone a light that we need UK laws to enforce the good samaritan principle but more importantly to create a duty to rescue that so many other, it would appear, more civilised countries have. Without this the culture of bystanding will only increase and get worse.

In the mean time I hope local newspapers can help name and shame the terrible people that didn’t allow this lady to die with some shred of dignity.