Most Expensive Council Meeting Ever?

A meeting to announce thew Labour Cabinet members  in Southwark has been dubbed the most expensive council meeting ever – after costing taxpayers more than £400 a minute.

On Wednesday 11 June Southwark Council held it’s annual constitutional meeting. The £12,500 meeting used chairs, tables and curtains hired in especially for the occasion, but only lasted a total of 30 minutes from start to finish. It means every minute of the meeting will have cost the council over £416.

As a Lib Dem councillor I tried fighting the annual Mayor Making and Constitutional Meeting begin separated out. But Labour refused. This is especially bizarre when Southwark Labour keep telling us how tight money is but then blow £12,000 in 30 minutes.

This is an appalling start to the new four year term they lead the council.

Think what Southwark Council could have done with £12,000. In East Dulwich it could have provided the double glazing, currently being refused, to a council home or two benefiting tenants for several decades to come.

What do you think the council should have spent this £12,000 on?

PS. I was delayed due to child care arrangements and because it was over so quickly didn’t make it in time. I hadn’t realised it would be such a race to attend!


2014 East Dulwich Election Results

The results are in.

Huge thank you to everyone who voted for Jonathan Mitchell, Rosie Shimell and me. Some really lovely feedback on the doorsteps about how hard we’ve worked as a team. But only Rosie and I are still East Dulwich Lib Dem councillors. Terribly sad that Jonathan missed remaining a councillor by 44 votes.

Thank you to everyone who voted. The East Dulwich turnout of residents voting was 43.4% which means 4,053 residents came out and voted.

Also thank you to all the other candidates that stood and all the volunteers from all the parties for working so hard. Also the families who sacrifice family time to enable campaigning to take place.

But the election is over. Rosie and I are here for four more years to fight for East Dulwich residents and to make our part of the world even better. I’m hopeful when Jonathan has dusted himself down he’ll keep giving us his wise counsel. He will be sadly missed as an East Dulwich councillor.

We’ve committed to six big local things to fix – this wont be easy as lib Dems are still in opposition in Southwark:

1. Build two new schools to ensure enough great local school places.

2. New local Police base in East Dulwich..

3. New grove Vale library.

4. Cleaner streets.

5. New East Dulwich cinema.

6. Keep East Dulwich special – working to keep our precious indie shops.

But please tell us what you think needs fixing or improving locally?

Dear Voters – Today is YOUR day

I make no apologies for having been so quiet on here over the past few weeks. It’s been election time so there has been little going on at the town hall and few new announcements. What there has been is a lot of leaflet delivery and a lot of talking to voters across East Dulwich by Jonathan, Rosie and me. I’ve been hugely encouraged and gladdened by the conversations I’ve had. Whether you are voting for me and my colleagues or for someone else, I can only think of a couple of occasions where the discussion has been of the negative ‘none of you care about anyone except yourselves’ or ‘you politicians are all the same’ type.Most people have wanted to engage, to have their say and to offer their ideas for what can be made better in East Dulwich. I hope that whoever wins in East Dulwich, Village and College wards, they (we?) will take these ideas forward and try to press whoever is in charge for a better deal.

I’ve walked over 20km on quite a few days of this campaign – as well as continuing to deal with lots of casework and attend meetings. I enjoy the work I do representing local people and I very much hope you will give me a chance to carry on doing so.

Whatever your views, please make an effort to vote. Polls are open from 7am to 10pm and you don’t need your poll card in order to vote. If you received a postal vote but have not yet sent it back, you can hand it in (with the declaration that came with it) at any polling station.

The counts don’t take place until tomorrow, so this evening after 10pm I will be enjoying a large glass of an adult beverage.

Time to say thank you.

Officially, councillors stay in office for a few days after the election. But I wanted to say a few thank you’s on the last ‘real’ day of my term of office. Hopefully I will still be a local councillor  after tomorrow, but that is up to the voters.

I could go on longer than an Oscar ceremony speech, but I will keep it short and sweet.

Thank you to my ward colleagues Cllr Jonathan Mitchell and Cllr Rosie Shimell who make great team members – we each play to our strengths and without them I would not get so much done for East Dulwich. But we also have a big team who help us leaflet, call people, run stalls at events, etc. But also our families that make it possible for us to devote quite so much time to councillor work. Thank you.

Big thanks to everyone who has supported our campaigns over the last four years. The bigger one’s being for a new primary school, trying to save our Police station, 20mph on Lordship Lane, new cinema, new crossings, North Cross Road market and the new secondary school. Thank you.

Beverley Olamijulo and Fiztroy Williams who run the Dulwich Community Council so well. Sadly no longer as often as we’d like. Sonia Watson and her colleagues for all her sage planning wisdom. Many officers in departments from parking Tim Walker, to waste Ian Smith, Community Safety Jonathon Toy, and so many others have been brilliant. Council Housing still feels chaotic despite the stirling efforts of people like Gabriella Usuanlele. Thank you for helping us solve so much casework over the last four years.

We’ve also had a lot of fun making positive changes happen to East Dulwich via the Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding organised so very capably by Andrea Allen and her team. Thank you.

The business group South Southwark Business Association have been good critical friends. We’ve made much progress but agree we need to do more to help if re elected. Thank you for your patience.

The local Police team led by Stewart Turnbull. Thank you for responding so positively to all our enquiries and efforts for more crime prevention. I’m sorry we’ll never be happy until crime is almost zero.

Lastly thank you to all those residents who trusted us with there votes in 2006 and 2010. I hope we’ve not disappointed you.


Well meaning Police?

26 June 2013 Boris closed the East Dulwich Police Station. This brought to an end our 10+ years campaign to save it. We stopped Labour Ken and Val Shawcross closing it. But Boris within weeks of promising not to close it and many other police station did the most massive U-turn.

The Met Police have used these closures to undertake a massive centralisation programme. We no longer have a dedicated team of 8 Police officers based in East Dulwich sharing cover with a similar team for Village ward. It worked well. Instead they’ve amalgamated 5 such teams and based them in Camberwell.

At last week’s Dulwich Community Council the Inspector in charge presented findings from a rudimentary time and motion study.

It showed:

–          16% of officer time is now wasted spent travelling, when assigned to Dulwich work, between Dulwich and Camberwell.

–          16% equates to the loss of 4 police officers from College, Village and East Dulwich wards combined – half a Safer Neighbourhood Team.

–          Reported crime down – roughly by the amount of crime previously reported at the East Dulwich Police station.

We’ve also stopped having regular meetings with police officers in each ward to tell them what residents and businesses are concerned about.

My experiences of Southwark and Met Police is that they could do with some real operational expertise applied to properly plan how they operate. It currently looks and feels as well meaning at best.

First Steering Group Meet

Sunday afternoon at my home the first inaugral meeting of the steering group for a new East Dulwich free secondary school met.

Inaugral new East Dulwich secondary school campaign steering group








Although I launched and have run with this campaign for many months it’s definately time to open it up to parents that have the time to help make it happen. I’m also keen that it becomes a cross party campaign. Ensuring enough good school places shouldn’t be political.

A dozen of us chewed over what we’d like to see. We agreed that it would be:

– co ed and non faith

– non selective but have good SEN provision and ensure boys and girls succeed and with gifted and talented.

– subject specialism of teachers and the school specialise working with some of our great world renouned South London institutions.

– engage with parents and supporters.

We also agreed to approach two school providers initially – Prendergast and Haberdashers – to see if either wanted or could fulfil our aspirations. At that point we would pass the baton to them to lead this campaign.

Even small gifts influence behaviour

My day job is in procurement. It really compliments my home time being a local councillor. And occasionally being a councillor informs the day job.

I came across some really interesting peer reviewed research showing that even small gifts make a difference to peoples behaviours and decisions:

Sadly almost all organisations don’t recognise these impacts and do allow such small gifts.

In both roles I’ve never accepted gifts. Sometimes I have eaten sandwiches at a suppliers remote premise. As a councillor I have never accepted anything. I have only had lunch with developers once and paid my part of the bill much to their consternation.

But some councillors haven’t taken on board this research and don’t just accept small gifts but gifts worth thousands of pounds. The research suggests it  must affect their decision making.

If you’d like to explore the interests of councillors see each councillors register of gifts and hospitalities on the Southwark Council website –

The council leader Cllr Peter John has in just the last 12 months received £1,881.15 of such gifts and over a dozen dinner and balls tickets valued far in excess of this but the value hasn’t been stated:


Southwark Council Keeps Britains Ultimate Top Secrets

Local councils such as Southwark Council sometimes require decisions to be taken about which an element of secrecy has to be kept. Home address for governors, specific contract details, etc.

Unlike central government that keeps such things secret for 30, 50, 100 years and the like councils keep their secrets for ever. They never release them. Not even a central log of secrets is kept.

When asked about this officers helpfully suggested that if a councillor were to ask to see the secret papers (usually pink paper) they could under supervision. But not knowing what has beene kept secret makes this rather tricky.

Do you think Southwark Council should be even more secretive than central government?

Right to Contest – Dulwich Hospital

 The NHS could be forced to hand over part of the Dulwich Hospital site for a new secondary school after a local councillor formally referred the matter to Government Ministers.

A decision on its future will now be made by a panel comprising of Treasury Ministers and the Cabinet Office after I invoked new ‘Right to Contest’ powers to push the NHS, which owns the land, into selling it on. WS Dulwich Hospital 131216_Right_to_Contest_application_form_final

Despite the site being 27,000m² – the size of around four football pitches – currently less than a tenth of the space is being used.

I submitted the application earlier this month (5 February). I want to see at least half of the spare land used for a new secondary school to help plug the shortfall of permanent school places in the area. Land would also be available for the health centre already being planned on the site.

I believe this to be one of the very first applications of its kind in the country, after the new powers were introduced by the Government to free up public land and help boost economic growth. Launching the scheme in late January, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP said the Government “should not act as some kind of compulsive hoarder of land and property” that could be better used for other purposes.

My application will now go forward for review by the Government panel, which will also see input from the NHS and the Department of Communities and Local Government before a decision is made.

It is amazing that after 20 years of false starts the Dulwich Hospital site is still in limbo. It is a criminal shame that so much land stands idle and under utilised for decades, especially when money is tight.

Dulwich desperately needs a new local secondary school – not children being bussed far and wide as Labour propose. That’s why we have submitted an application using new Right to Contest rules on the use of public land, which were introduced by Liberal Democrat Ministers in government.

We are on the side of local parents who want to see a new and much-needed secondary school in the area, and an end to Dulwich Hospital being left as an empty wasteland….

Dulwich Hospital cleared site

No Notice – Barry Road Resurfacing

Local councillors have just received at 16.22 today notice that council officers plan to resurface Barry Road starting on Monday 24-27 February 8am-4pm.

If you live on Barry Road and park a vehicle on Barry Road you will need to park it elsewhere. If you live nearby expect lots of Barry Road residents to park on your street!

See attached draft letter to be delivered over the weekend. After seeking clarity we now know that Barry Road will be resurfaced from its junction with Lordship to junction with Upland Road.  You could not make this up!

Barry Road letters