Southwark By Elections

What a busy five years we’ve had outside of the normal elections.

Amazingly in the last five years we’ve had 9 by-elections. This is when a councillor resigns whether voluntarily or because they’ve committed a misdemeanour, or passing away. Eight of the nine have been completely avoidable. We’ve seen everything from a wife beater resigning, disquiet and resigning due to Labour housing policies, finding being a councillor hard work, the list goes on. And up to now they’ve all been Labour councillors. A weird record!

Sadly a Lib Dem councillor has now had to resign. In my personal opinion one of the best councillors from any political party – Lisa Rajan. This does make me sad. She is a principled, hard working councillor. But with 3 young children, working full-time and a husband now working weekdays in Manchester I completely understand being a councillor is that final straw too much.

Before becoming a councillor I was always cynical when politicians said they were standing down due to family pressures. Now with children and a family plus demanding day time job I finally get it.

So good luck Lisa for life after being a fab Southwark Councillor – you will be missed.

PS. Cllr Richard Livingstone thoughtfully reminded me that one of the nine Labour councillors passed away. Former Mayor Situ. Clearly this was tragic and even after five years his loss is keenly felt by many.

Golden Goodbyes

Southwark Labour amazingly have just introduced Golden Goodbyes for their cabinet councillors. This is the first council to ever introduce these extra payments.

So when a Labour cabinet councillor loses an election, resigns or is sacked they will now get a pay-off. The pay-off will be one month of extra Special Responsibility Allowance and an extra week for each year of service unto a maximum of 13 weeks. This payment will be up to £12,791 and even more for the Southwark Labour leader decides to step down.

My initial thoughts were of sympathy for someone who might lose their post suddenly. People have to live. But then I started to think why someone would suddenly lose such a post.

In no other job, let alone a calling such as being a councillor, do people receive a pay-off wen they resign. So why do Labour councillors expect it?

If resigning would cause financial hardship then that person should plan ahead. They could resign with a few months’ notice. That’s how normal people in normal jobs would do it.

There is also a real concern that ‘resignations’ cover a range of situations. Examples of recent resignations such as former Labour councillors Friary and Garfield involving police or legal action would certainly not be appropriate for these kind of payments. So Southwark Labour have decided the Standards Committee would confirm or deny these payments. This means Labour councillors have to tow the Labour party line or they’ll be blocked from these payments.

With regard to the proposal for payments for Cabinet Members who are sacked by the Leader, again I would ask why? As per normal jobs, wouldn’t the strong leader give someone three months’ notice. Give plenty of warning via regular 121’s. This would again lessen any problem of financial insecurity.

Lastly, if the Southwark Labour party group elects a new Cabinet Member, why can’t the elections take place over three months in advance of the council AGM when new post holders are confirmed? This would allow better planning and a ‘notice period’ effectively for those who didn’t make the grade losing their roles.

So, overall, I can’t fathom any justification for these proposals to award new payments to Cabinet members IF people manage the situation better and consider SRA post holders’ financial insecurity. Unless of course this is all a big ruse to Southwark Labour a tool to keep their councillors under control…

Flawed Viability Statements

Southwark Council after resisting years of campaigning from the people at 35% and Lib Dem colleague Cllr Adele Morris have agreed a new policy of publishing viability reports about whether a developer can afford to provide 35% social housing in any proposed development, some reduced amount or none at all.

For years developers appeared to hood wink Southwark Council and the council appeared to collude by keeping everything secret. So it is a huge positive step forward to publish such statements in future.

These statements are produced as per Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors guidelines. But they’re flawed and the concept is flawed. They look at the viability of a proposed scheme but take no account of whether the developer is a UK or foreign investment company that won’t pay the same tax levels. So effectively it penalises any UK company and hugely encourages them to base themselves off shore.

What should happen is some kind of factoring to allow for whatever tax regime the developer is based in. It’s bad enough we have a global tax evasion industry but for our council to encourage it makes no sense.

It also means if people can prove a scheme un viable with social housing, social housing doesn’t proceed. It maximises the land value at the expense of providing social housing. IF developers HAD to provide 35% social housing then the value of land would fall enabling this. People wouldn’t buy land at a price they would make a loss on any development while providing 35% social housing.

So the whole concept of viability squeezes down the amount of social housing. And if we’re going to have such assessments then at least ensure they’re a level playing field for UK companies.

Tax credit changes hammer local families

4,600 families in Dulwich & West Norwood will lose out under Conservative plans to cut tax credits.

Figures produced by the House of Commons Library show over three million low-income working families currently in receipt of tax credits will see their entitlement reduced, as part of the Government’s proposals.

The change will mean a total loss of over £6 million to families in Dulwich & west Norwood, with the average local family losing £750 a year.

Despite claims from the Conservatives that those affected will benefit from plans to increase the minimum wage, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has said Tory figures just don’t stack up.

IFS analysis shows a £750 average loss will only be offset by £200 as a result of the new minimum wage leaving working families so much worse off.

Liberal Democrats have opposed this move and said it undermines the work of the Coalition Government, to make sure it always pays more to be in work than on benefits.

These changes to tax credits will hammer our local families in and undermines any claim the Tories have of being on the side of working families.

“What makes this even worse is that just over 7,300 local children in our area will now be forced to live in poorer households, reducing their life chances and making it harder for their parents to make ends meet.

So many studies have shown that the Conservative’s claim to be supporting low income families through a minimum wage increase nowhere near make up for these drastic unfair cuts. They really need to come clean about this ideological change and be honest with those doing the right thing and going out to work

The only ray of sunshine is how hard Lib Dems are opposing these measures. We worked hard in Coalition to ensure that work would always pay more than choosing to remain on benefits. Go on Lib Dem Lords sock it to them…

Selling School Land

Southwark Council is twisting the arms of Albion Primary School to sell a significant part of its site. With that money the school will be rebuilt. The rebuild will I’m sure be lovely. But the principle is alarming. At the same time Southwark Council is spending millions on expanding schools that could be fully funded via the free school route.

The school governors and management appear positive and happy about these plans. And I wholly agree with single form entry schools becoming two form entry schools. Two form entry schools are more viable. Although already an Ofsted outstanding school with it’s extra size it will have the ability for more teacher specialisation.

But if this school was any where but inner London and Southwark the idea of halving the site would be ridiculous. The idea that a Southwark Council primary school would need to sell so much land to have decent new buildings would be anathema to the school and parents.

Which state school will be next for this treatment?


Monstrous Tory Human Right Act Destruction

The Tories are proposing to replace the Human Right Act and block British citizens from being protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Winston Churchill led the UK’s and Commonwealth in winning help;ing win World War 2. He then tirelessly pushed for the ECHR. He considered it critical to winning the peace. So the irony of a Tory government, whilst we have the disaster of Russia in all but name invading Ukraine i.e. European peace crumbling, destroying Winston Churchill’s arguably equally important legacy to European peace as winning the war is quite simply monstrous.

If you can;t bare the thought of such barbarism please support our campaign to save the Human Rights Act.


The Future of Democracy

The recent UK general election was the most unproportional UK election of all time. When only 66% of the electorate bothered to vote and just 36% of the people who voted, voted for the winning party. It is hard to stomach radical changes from a political party with only 24% of the total electorate voting for them.

In fact just 16% of UK voters say they trust us politicians. I’m pretty tired of hearing “you politicians are all in it for yourselves”, “you’re all the same”, etc. For the record we’re not. Most politicians I’ve met are really decent public spirited local residents who want to improve things.

Clearly we need electoral reform to start changing these perceptions but winning parties in the UK are unlikely to allow this unless they feel it’s in their interests. A real Catch-22.

In the short-term a Lib Dem Lord Jeremy Purvis is proposing a new Constitutional Convention Bill about how we thoughtfully consider how we run our country – the system we vote under, House of Lords, etc. Fab. Long overdue. I suspect tories will sink it at the first opportunity but you can but hope.

Longer-term how do we make voting easier and the number of issues voters can influence far higher. In Scotland we’ve seen how passionate the referendum became and how high the turnout resulting. Locally we’ve seen huge interest generated by a junction being changed – Townley Road/East Dulwich Grove.

The flip side to this is the huge increase in support for campaigning groups, online petitions. 38 degrees is a great example of harnessing people power.

It was one of the reasons I signed-up to MyMP2015. It feels a logical extension to making myself so available on the EastDulwichForum and trying to get a step increase in how people can participate in decisions.

But with the internet how much more participatory could we be?

One successful mode is Podemos the Spanish political party. They use a mix of offline citizen assemblies and online forums so all members can get to shape party policy. Expanding this to a council or parliament would give everyone a say in how our country in run.

What do you think? How would you shape our

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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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.