Unnecessary 6% Council Tax Increase

Southwark Labour will be raising the basic level of Southwark council tax by 6% this year, which is the maximum they are legally allowed to without triggering a local referendum.

Council Tax is a totally regressive form of taxation.

The Liberal Democrat opposition produced an alternative budget which allows for the same increase in spending, but delivered through efficiency savings rather than a council tax increase.

It is a legal requirement that all budgets and amendments must be examined and signed off by the independent finance council officer as being ‘legal, balanced and implementable’. That means the savings found by Southwark Liberal Democrats to cover the increase spending on services have been established as accurate and deliverable. They have proposed cutting the number of Council spin-doctors, stopping production of the self-promoting magazine ‘Southwark Life’, and ending ‘Golden Goodbyes’ to Cabinet members who decide to resign months in advance.

Other sources of revenue have been found by providing more flexibility on annual leave to council staff and incentivising staff to take cheaper options on travel and hotels.

I would support raising council tax if it really was necessary but the first step should always be to look at how savings can be made. The Finance Chief has signed off that our plans to deliver the same front-line services without raising council tax are sound and implementable.

This is the second year in a row that Southwark Labour have taken the lazy option of increasing council tax to the max, rather than looking at Lib Dem ways of being smarter with people’s money. People are struggling. When there are proven ways to avoid increasing the cost of living above and beyond inflation and wage increases, then the council should take it.

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.

Labour’s ‘Right to Remain’ shambles is terrible for the NHS

The Labour party has recently had one of its biggest meltdowns yet. They voted for, then against the amendment to protect the rights of EU citizens who already live in the UK to stay here. Unreal.

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

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said Labour had the chance to block Theresa May’s hard Brexit, but chose to sit on their hands. There will now be families fearful that they are going to be torn apart and feeling they are no longer welcome in Britain. Shame on the government for using people as bargaining chips, and shame on Labour for letting them.

Locally the NHS relies on many many 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 but especially the Dulwich area, and we shouldn’t let hard working EU nationals and their families be treated as second class citizens.

As Lib Dems we believe in an open, tolerant and united future for our country. We want them 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. Join the Lib Dems.  If you agree please join us.</a></strong>

MPs voted down the amendment on EU nationalsí 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 band only possible with Labour colluding with the Tories.

London National Park City

A great charity is trying to make London a greener place to live, work and study. The idea is to use U National Park methodologies to promote the greening of our great city. To make it happen they need to get two-thirds of london councillors to support them scheme. If they dontreach this target by Summer 2018 they have to start again after new local election for London.

As you can imagine Lib Dem councillors are fully signed-up to support this. Both Cllr Rosie Shimell and myself pledged our support several years ago as East Dulwich councillors when we first heard about it. But try as we may we can’t get Labour councillors in Southwark to sign-up to this.

How can we break this deadlock? Why would the East Dulwich Labour councillor in East Dulwich not support this?


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.

Ward of Nation

Terrorist attacks often leave children without parents and real economic struggle on top of all the emotional turmoil and pain.

France’s minister for the family, Laurence Rossignol, has encouraged the families of children who lost a parent in the 13 November attacks to request the status of “ward of the nation”, which dates back to World War One and could entitle the child to grants and subsidies for their education and early adult life. It;s a small compensation for their loss and the sacrifices they have given for their country.

Why don’t we do that in the UK?

This would send an incredibly strong message that we all society supports them.


Making Lordship Shops All Shops

20-22 Lordship Lane were originally shops with flats above them. For a very long time they’ve bene used as offices for one of Southwark’s Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT).

Since 2005 we’ve been asking what are the plans for these offices. Breaking up the line of shops with two non shops with blank frontages doesn’t help keep Lordship Lane vibrant.

I’ve now had a Freedom of Information response back. Previously I had Southwark Council officers saying they were awaiting Maudsley people to respond. I’ve Maudsley people saying thy’ve been waiting for Southwark Council officers. You could not make this up.

So I’ve now escalated this to the Chief Executive Of Southwark Council in the hope they can resolve this. If they can’t then I’ll use my last resort of a Councillor Call for Action. Yes, Minister have nothing on this!

London One Hour Bus Tickets Coming

Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London has made his first big transport announcement, one hour Hopper bus ticket.

This isn’t an original idea from the new London Mayor. Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon has been campaigning for this since 2009. This photo was taken in 2009 in tandem with this article in the Standard and the policy was in the 2012 and 2016 Lib Dem London manifesto.

Boris blithely dismissed it in the same way Cameron dismissed the raising of the tax threshold policy, saying it was too complicated and costly.

His successor has seen the sense in it and used Caroline’s idea in his manifesto.

Is this the start of more collegiate politics in London? Hopefully Sadiq will hopefully go further and also implement Lib Dem policy for half price travel for journeys on the transport network before 7:30 am.