UN drug policy report

The Beckley Foundation http://www.beckleyfoundation.org/ has produced a report about drugs policy. Its research states that alcohol and tobacco drugs are the most harmful in terms of numbers badly affected and the affects on users and society. Then other illegal drugs and lastly cannabis. They’ve suggested that most of the harm from cannabis is criminalising people, that criminals produce cannabis that is very high strength and more likely to cause physchosis as so much is now grown indoors under continuous lighting.

They will be proposing to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna during March about cannabis that “The damage done by prohibition is worse than from the substance itself”. Dynamite. They propose legalisation, taxation, controls in terms of adult use only and restricted strength. They don’t suggest its a healthy substance but that criminalising so many young people is more harmful than the ill effects it causes. Equally they point out roughly 80% of illegal drug use is of cannabis. That if cannabis use was legally controlled then crime enforcement could be concentrated on the 20% of ‘harder’ drugs. Imagine five times the resources targetted on heroin and cocaine crime.

Lambeth Police took a softly softly approach over cannabis which seemed to backfire as it attracted many people from outside Lambeth looking for drugs. That was bad news.

I don’t feel comfortable with this report and the challenges to my personal beliefs it presents. But the harm reported by keeping cannabis illegal feels compelling.

The Scientific evidence is such that the UK government should seriously investigate what would be best overall policy for fighting the harmful affects of drugs in the UK. Clearly the current ‘war on drugs’ feels lost and changing the game in some way is necessary.

Mrs Lambert

In July this year a resident in north Southwark Mrs.Lambert died under very sad circumstances. Those circumstances are being investigated by Southwark Council’s CEO Annie Shepherd via an indepedent investigator. They will report back to the Coroner. Before this detailed investigation starts Southwark Labour party requested an extraordinary full council meeting which took place last night.

Regretably it descended into a farce with Labour oppositions councillors trying to turn the evening into a kangaroo court with repeated allegations from Labour councillors of a cover up and of officers and executive members keeping it all secret. The facts at the time were issued in a council press release 4 August which were printed on 12 August in local papers. So much for keeping it all secret and a cover up.

At the time I read this story of a frail 84 yrear old lady being discovered dead at her home. It resonated and troubled me as one of my grandmothers had fallen over knocked her head and wasn’t discovered dead until the day after it happened by neighbours. Tragically sad and moving whenever this occurs.

Amazingly 28 labour councillors either don’t read the South London Press or couldn’t be bothered to ask questions about this sad death that they now claim to be so upset and troubled by. Either this implies the Labour opposition has 28 lazy councillors or are being extremely cynical.

I did ask questions at the time and have kept up on how the process to investigate this has occurred. I do await the reports recommendations and will help ensure they are carried out. This is how positive politicians should behave.

We now await the independent investigation results which are due before February.

Kings chaos

Apparently plans are afoot to close t he Lewisham Accident & Emergency service.

Where will people who need A&E, who would currently be served by Lewisham Hospital, go?

My guess is they wont go to Woolwich or Farnborough as proposed. My guess is they will travel, in distress, all the way to Camberwell and Kings College Hospital. What particularly frustrating is that Guys A&E was closed with the expectation that many users would go to Lewisham A&E.

Apart from the extra stress on the Kings A&E that users from East Dulwich ward that I represent will experience.  In these times of increased caution about a big terrorist incident reducing the capacity of London to cope with a severe incident is alarming.

Food safety

The latest board paper on Food Safety for the Foods Standards Agency shows that during the period 2000-2006 food safety did not improve. In fact has been getting worse. The most deadly, literally, issue is E.coli 0157 H7. This bug kills under 5’s and seniors roughly 10% of the time. Those not killed often suffer marginal to total kidney function lose and other issues. 

Such food safety failutes cost during 2000-2006 in the UK between £1.4bn. -> £1.7bn annually. If we had all kept food poisening to 2000 levels the country would have cumulatively saved £1bn. avoiding huge levels of suffering for many thousands of people. Many of those victoms will have long term health damage and require ongoing treatments such as dialysis.

How has Southwark performed during this period?

I don’t know but will find out.


Many people think councils collect a bit of rubbish, run a few schools and why does council tax so much for this?

One service that is never thought about unless things go wrong is Trading Standards. One particular area they are responsible for is ensuring all public scales weigh things correctly. One aspect that hadn’t occurred to and is now a national project by the trade body for local government trading standard is that hospital and other health service scales should weigh people and things correctly. Get it wrong and a child is given more or less radiation than they need for their body mass to fight cancer. Get it wrong and a 2g prescription of drugs is perhaps incorrectly 1.5g or 2.5g given and could be fatal. 

Cleaner, Green , Safer – Climate Chaos

The deadline for applications for Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding was midnight last night.

With the support of my Liberal Democrat ward colleagues cllr Richard Thomas and cllr Jonathan Mitchell I’ve applied for various schemes to help reduce emissions in East Dulwich.

The main application is for a home visitor project to talk residents through how they can reduce emissions, reduce fuel proverty and if eligible where to apply for funding. 

More symbolically I’ve also applied for a landmark windturbine for East Dulwich. We just need to find the best possible public building that would like one!  

Council budgets

This week the council executive of eight Lib Dem and two Tory executive councillors finalised budget recommendations for the next three years.  Considerable debate has taken place and several months of hard work by council officers and coalition councillors to reach this point.

The council leader Cllr Nick Stanton has done an exemplary job in keeping all the coalition councillors informed and involved.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that 70% of council revenues are provided by central government. That the Labour government has decided to use 2004 population figures and not more recent figures. As the population is dramatically rising in London and South East, 2004 population fugures results in less money for Southwark but benefits Labour heartlands up the M1. Councils with signifcant deprivation (Southwark is the 20th most deprived council in UK) are getting real term cuts from the Labour government for the next three years as opposed to councils such as Rotherham (the 50th most deprived) which is seeing dramatic real terms increased.

Considerable savings will be made by centralising many council offices into a new office on Tooley street. God knows where we’d be if this wasn’t already in progress.

Social care is being consulted on to stop providing care for those with moderate needs. Community Warden services will have fewer wardens and manager. Meals on wheels where Southwark is the cheapest in London will see price increases. Livesey childrens museum will close. A review of all three historic town halls will take place. Some council funded events will see cuts or no more funding. A whole host of other cuts will be made.

No one likes or wants cuts. Considering the dreadful hand of cards dealt by the government I think the residents of Southwark have had the best possible result.

Reflection on losing

Apparently the smoking ban introduced in 2002 to Australian gambling venues has reduced gambling by 14% following its introduction. Hopefully we’ll see a similar affect in East Dulwich as a result of this years smoking ban.

Twenty years ago I spent a glorious six months training to be a betting shop manager in the west end and soho. I’d never been sworn at before then! Those six months were a real rights of passage for me. But the one thing I really vividly recall is how sad I felt seeing people blow a wage packet. As a husband and parent it makes me shiver at the potential implications of that. Hence my delight at the propsect of the smoking ban potentially reducing gambling.

Mobile Operators…propaganda?

As a councillor I receive lots of post – typically 12 inches high a week and about 200-400 emails on a typical week. Boy does it take a lot of time to ensure I read everything that could be useful for me and the residents in East dulwich.

One newsletter caught my eye and thankfully I read it cover to cover – the Mobile Operators Association newsletter. It started by saying how much money has been spent on research proving mobiles and base stations are safe. It then talked about how every public authority in UK has been sent a list of all the mobile operators combined plans. Then buried on later pages how research so far indicates more medical research is needed to be sure.

1stly. Checking with Southwark officers they haven’t received such combined mobile operators plans.

2ndy. Why not state this last part about more medical research being needed on page 1. Could it be they just don’t expect many councillors to read that far into the newsletter.

How cynical is that?