Action For Warm Homes

I’ve been approached by Action for Warm Homes. They are great Manifesto for Warmth which I fully endorse and support.

Insulating our homes, public buildings and businesses must be a strategic priority. In Dulwich & West Norwood it’s estimated that 3,514 homes or 7.9% suffer from fuel poverty. Although this is a smaller proportion than the London average in the 21st century no one should be living in fuel poverty.

It’s calculated that this fuel poverty has led to 30% of the 27 excess winter deaths in our area.

Lib Dems in government have ensured a million homes have been insulated so many more clearly need  to be insulated. And just because a family isn’t in fuel poverty doesn’t mean they don’t have huge energy bills.

We must fight this for peoples health, social cohesion – people sacrificing other family budgets to pay for heating, environmental – we must reduce our CO2 emissions. But it is also a strategic priority. We don’t want to import more energy than we absolutely must.

Is your home fully insulated. You can also save money with climbers.

For ideas and a checklist or here.


Harris Nunhead Primary School – proposal withdrawn

Today the Harris Federation requested that the proposal for a new Harris Nunhead Primary School be withdrawn.

Please see the letter here: Proposed Harris Primary Academy Nunhead 2

It seems unlikely that the Education Finance Agency will refuse this request.

The proposal had generated much opposition from people concerned it would reduce the amount of space for a new secondary school on the Dulwich Hospital site but also people not surprisingly unwilling to send their children the 1-2 miles from the Nunhead/east East Dulwich area to a new primary school at the Dulwich Hospital site. Harris Federation have listened to the consultation and acted accoridngly in good faith.

I am still unconvinced that we will have sufficient primary school places for local families – and am seeking to meet Southwark COuncil forecasters to review the numbers.

We now need to ensure that blocking this new primary school does result in the largest possible secondary school – without compromising any new health centre facilities.

What do you think?

Labour ‘Rackman’ Landlord Behaviour

I’ve have had a number of residents contact me from East Dulwich and neighbouring areas living in Southwark Council street properties with rotten windows. I’ve even had neighbours of such properties contact me.

These ancient sash windows are rotten, without locks, victims of burglary, breezy from ill fitting, wet from condensation, stop residents heating their homes because the heat blown straight out of the home.

I’ve tried working with council officers but they’re stuck. When Lib Dems ran led Southwark Council we replaced such windows.

Last night I asked the Labour councillor in charge the following question:

“Why is the council not implementing its Warm, Dry and safe policy of ensuring “windows in good condition or double glazed with secure locks” for acquire street properties and instead leaving tenants with cold, we, dangerous ancient sash windows, well over 40 years old, which consist of more putty, fuller and rot than wood and are often without window locks?”


“The Arm, Dry and Safe standard ensures that all residents’ windows will be wind and water tight.

The current Warm, Dr and Safe brief for street properties is to repaid the existing windows and decorate as and where required to ensure that this standard is achieved and are in a secure state. The council will also renew sections of any such windows that are beyond reasonable repair on a like for like basis.”

To push the point I spoke solely about this during the debate about Southwark Council spending £2 billion pounds of capital works over the next 10 years. But still they refuse to replace windows in street properties.

All of these properties are worth more than £500,000 and the council has a policy of selling such properties when they’re no longer tenanted.

A cynic would suggest they’re not replacing the windows because they’re waiting for the tenants to leave from desperation or die. Rackman landlord behaviour that Labour Southwark should be ashamed of.

Drugs Reform – Long Overdue

The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party. At long last.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made the commitment at an event alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

The manifesto will include commitments to:

Adopt the approach used in Portugal, where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.

Legislate to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead, as a first step towards reforming the system.

Continue to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.

Establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay, in relation to public health and criminal activity.

Legislate to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public.

Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.

Put the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy.

I am anti-drugs, but as a society we have a responsibility to look at the evidence of what actually works to reduce drug harm.

At the moment, the level of harm to individuals and communities – here and around the world – is still unacceptably high. We need to practically solve this problem. So, if you’re anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform like me. Brave political leadership to openly acknowledge that new ways of controlling illegal drug markets and discouraging use are required.

We need to accept the overwhelming evidence that things are not working, the war on drugs has been a failure, that politicians are letting down the victims of the drugs trade by failing to engage with the evidence.

Talking tough while acting weak may be tempting, but it no longer fools anyone. It is time to commit to a radically smarter approach to tackle this problem head-on.

Reduce The Strength


Some UK councils led by Ipswich and then Portsmouth have introduced Reduce The Strength campaigns to reduce alcohol misuse. In Portsmouth alone they’ve calculated alcohol abuse costs £74m annually across the NHS, Police, criminal justice system and council alone. In Ipswich they report a 31% drop in crime.

The idea of Reducing The Strength is to ask off-licences to volunteer to NOT sell beer or cider over 6.5% proof. Shops supporting the scheme are given a sticker to show how responsible they’re being for their local community.

One shop owner said “when we stopped selling high-strength lager there was an immediate change, and the staff say they now feel a lot safer”. As of last summer over 40 councils have introduced this scheme.

One street in Portsmouth has seen a 50% reduction in violent crime.

Do you think such a scheme should be introduced in Lambeth and/or Southwark ?

Dulwich Medical Centre

I’ve taken the unprecedented step of contacting NHS England to complain about the Dulwich Medical Centre.

I have had a number of patients highlight how impossible it is to get appointments at this GP practice. This has been the situation for more than two years. The practice have tried a number of appointment systems and non have solved the problem. They simply don’t have the capacity to cope with their patient lists.
I fear that sick patients are not being seen in a timely manner with the obvious risks their conditions will get much worse.

Urgently they need to stop taking on new patients until such time they give a reasonable and safe service to their current patients.

I have asked NHS England to tell me what steps will be taken to rescue this GP practice and when?

If you wish to complain or praise this or any other GP practice then please email and cc me on

Solving Cold Private Rented Homes

Lib Dems in government have announced new regulations that up to 1 million tenants renting energy inefficient homes can benefit from – warmer homes with cheaper energy bills:

  • From April 2016 residential private landlords can’t unreasonably turn down a tenant’s request for energy efficiency improvements. This will mean landlords have to accept the request if they can get help through widely available support like Green Deal finance, the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), or grants from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.
  • From April 2018 private landlords will not be able to rent out properties which do not meet minimum energy efficiency standards.

They will help reduce fuel poverty as many privately rented homes already cost much more to heat than the average home.

In East Dulwich we’ve seen that around 600 of the 4000 roofs of homes have no loft insulation from aerial thermal imaging.

The problem is landlords don’t pay energy bills so many have shown no interest in investing in energy saving measures. These new regulations should make them interested. And clearly it’s only going to affect dodgier landlords.

Another great policy from Lib Dems in government – well done Ed Davey.

Dulwich Hospital Spare Land RELEASED

A year ago I submitted a Right to Contest the spare land at the Dulwich Hospital site. This right was created by Lib Dems in the coalition government.

Please see the letter from the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP – Minister for the Cabinet Office – NMP625917

I’m delighted at last to report that as a direct result of my request the spare land has now been added to the Register of Surplus Public Land. This is a key pre requisite for any new use such as new schools.

NHS property have held back 11,300m3 of the 28,300m2 for the new health centre. So I will check whether more than the 17,000m2 can be released at this point. In public meeting they’ve said they’ll only need 7,000-9,000m2 for the new health centre. I suspect they’re being ultra cautious.

Patience is a virtue I have little of but I’m delighted that all the chasing by myself and Lib Dem colleagues at all levels of local, regional and national government and the support of the Cabinet Office has been successful.

This prepares the ground for the Educational Finance Agency to tell us its decision of whether they’ve selected either The Charter School or Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation to open a new secondary school for us and have a site to house it in.

Healthy Eating Tax

Southwark Council have just added 20% to the costs of fruit and veg market stalls across Southwark.

They say the costs of disposing of fruit and veg stalls have risen by 20%. The stall holders say business is down which would means less waste being generated.

Eitherway, raising the costs of health fruit and veg will mean prices go up which will mean less is bought from market stalls providing health fruit and veg. And this at a time when we have an obesity crisis.

Taxing healthy eating just does not make sense. As the stall holders ay – ‘it’s bananas!’

NHS in 2020

NHS England CEO Simon Stevens recently produced his five year ‘Forward View’. It says that the NHS needs an extra £8 billion every year above current planned budgets by 2020.

I’m chuffed that Liberal Democrats have signed up to making this happen  if in government. The NHS is a vital national institution and remarkably effective. It isn’t perfect but considering the wild swings in its structure and how it is run with every new government it has proven remarkably resilient. What an amazing dedicated workforce.

But the budget challenges of an ageing population, huge population growth and costs of new treatments and drugs mean the NHS needs sufficient stability to become more efficient and the promise of sufficient money to make long terms plans.

So the Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb has written to his Tory and Labour counterparts asking them to also confirm they will commit to providing the £8 billion extra funding needed.

With cross party support the NHS could flourish. Without cross party support for this extra £8 billion of funding NHS managers won’t have the certainty they need to ensure the system does more than just barely survive.