Council Housing lift contract terminated

Some months ago the then council leader Nick Stanton started the wheels in motion to review the council Housing lift contract. It’s just been announced by the new Labour councillor. Great news that they’ve followed up the hard work started.

Hopefully the new lift service once the current contract is terminated in August will give a better service.

I’d like to see all lift status reported on-line in real time. Residents being able to register a contact method such as mobile phone so they can be texted or emailed or phone message when news about a lift they’ve registered an interest. That way people can be kept updated in real-time and plan their lives accordingly.

Great opportunity to improve many people’s lives.

East Dulwich Cleaner, Green, Safer 10_11

The East Dulwich councillors have selected the following schemes for Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding:

– Traffic calming in East Dulwich bounded and including Lordship Lane, East Dulwich Grove and Melbourne Grove specifically including Matham Grove. £25,000.

– East Dulwich Carbon Fund funding measures to reduce CO2 and fuel proverty in East Dulwich. £30,000. First £25,000 allocated to addressing the 647 homes without loft insulation in East Dulwich which is the most cost effective way of reducing CO2. Last £5,000 to try other ideas.

– Goose Green school greenwall planting along Grove Vale. £5,000. Reducce the visual impact of Goose Green school on Grove Vale and as important create a much better play environment for school kids both visually, but also green wals absorb pollution and noise.

– East Dulwich Crime Prevention Fund. £10,000. Further projects to build on the huge success of preventing crime in East Dulwich.

– Gating alleyways. Installing more alley gates in East Dulwich specifically on Northcross Road and Shawbury Road. Eliminating more anti social hotspots.

– Street trees. £12,400. Planting more street tress in East Dulwich. So far around 220 tress planted in last four years. Plan to experiment with planting them in new build outs further from peoples homes and calming traffic.

– East Dulwich station extra covered waiting area. £6,000. Matched funding with Southern Railways. Make using East Dulwich station into central London more comfortable and pleasant to use.

– Bicycles for Schools. £8,000. Offer every East Dulwich school access to bicycle pools.

– Eco dry cleaners. £2,000. Encourage East Dulwich dry cleaners to become eco dry cleaners. Currently dry cleaners use Perchlorate chemicals which can be carninogenic. Other chemicals can be less eco damaging.

 I had also applied to other wards for CGS projects which were rejected:

– Expanding Dulwich Library £5,000

– Crime prevention funds for Village ward, College ward, Peckham Rye ward. Really disappointed by this as easy cheap measures to reduce crime have not been adopted. Some fellow councillors seem to view crime prevention as purley a Police matter.

Southwark declared 4th best for affordable housing

Shelter, the homelessness charity, has created a housing league table. Southwark ranks 19/323 councils nationally and 4/33 for London council’s.

The table is based on the percentage of affordable housing provided of the 2009 afforable housing requirement. Shelter calculate that Southwark Council delivered 74% of the amount of affordable housing that was needed. Despite being declarded 4 th best in London Southwark’s council housing waiting lists have risen to 15,000. Under current council financing rules Southwark Council are not allowed to borough money at current low interest rates to renovate and build council housing. Crazy as what a boost to the local economy we could provide if we were allowed to borough at markets interest rates.

Missing 50,000 residents

One of my councillor colleagues testified to the London Regional Parliamennts Select Committee regarding the 2011 census. The MPs heard a unified message from Newham, Southwark and Westminster councils about how hard it is to count residents.

Each resident attracts roughly £600 of funding from central government.

Currently central government believes 270,000 residents are residents in Southwark. Southwark currently has 320,000 people registered with GPs. That means roughly £30M of central government grants are not being made to Southwark.

It seems unlikely as planned the 2011 Census will close any of that gap. Worringly it could well open it up further.

Sustainable Communities Act

This act enables residents to indetify and suggest ways to improve local areas. Only 1/3rd of local councils took part. 293 ideas were proposed of which 8 came from Southwark.

These have been short listed to be discussed by government ministers and 7 of Southwark’s 8 have made it to this final list:

1. Southwark camera partnership – Transfer of funding to a Southwark camera partnership, which would redistribute revenue towards services such as road calming measures and have the power to move existing cameras.
2. Relax the requirement for 20mph zones – It should be at the discretion of the council whether there are self enforcing calming measures and what form they take
3. National plastic bag free day – No exchange of plastic bags between retailer and customer on a given day.
4. A duty on Network Rail and any other rail operators – A duty to be imposed on Network Rail and any other rail operators to work in partnership with local authorities and local communities to safeguard and improve the environment directly relating to railway land and infrastructure
5. Smooth leaseholder repair bills – Change in the rules to allow councils to take deposits and prudently invest leaseholder funds, on a voluntary basis, to help smooth leaseholder repairs bills.
6. Unlawful use of properties – Penalties for unlawful use of a property, with the council having the ability to impose civil penalties on the freeholder to cover the costs of planning enforcement.
7. Permaculture design principles – A permissive regime that enables Council to prioritise permaculture design principle in local planning policy.

All great ideas (the first was my idea) that would make a real difference to Southwark.

Fingers crossed they don’t get lost in the general election period but that most proceed.

Council Housing Fire Risk Assessments

In the week I attended the Dulwich Housing Forum. This forum covers all the housing is East Dulwich, College and Village wards. East Dulwich actually has a lot of social housing. Around 500 acquired streeet properties, 200 other council houses. Equally Housing Associations have around another 500 properties. So in total 1,200 social housing properties out of 5,100. Around the national average.

Eitherway, the topic of Fire Risk Assessments (FRA’s) was discussed. Southwark Council about a year ago bought in London Fire Brigade expertise to train our housing officers in undertaking FRA’s. After lots of training a nine month details programme started in May. To everyone’s huge shock the tragic Lakanal House fire happened. So the nine month programme has been drastically accelerated and on 22 September the 350 Dulwich area FRA’s were successfully completed.


Several weeks ago we suddenly heard the terrible news a registered private day nursery called Bojangles  close to the junction of Barry Road with Upland Road was threatened with closure.

It has run up signficant debt with Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue. It was advised by accountants to go into liquidation. Bojangles changed its legal entity to Fingerprints (Dulwich) Ltd. Unfortunately that meant the lease with the church expired. So the church served a notice to quit on them. Overall this meant its Ofsted status ended and had to be reapplied.

Lots of worried parents contacted us. We quickly escalated this to Cllr Lisa Rajan who heads up Childrens Services. Quickly Southwark Council Early Years officers stepped in to try resolving the dispute between the church and Bojangles/Fingerprints without success. All parents were contacted and public meeting took place to help find other nursery places. Currently 95% of deposits have been returned to parents with remaining £6,000 to be returned. More importantly these young children have been offered places.


This is the fourth nursery in Southwark to take such actions to avoid HMRC tax debts. Officers are planning to proactively give advice to all such nurseries to reduce the risk of this happening again.

Why does government blocks anit fuel poverty bill?

On Friday the Labour government blocked a bill to end fueld poverty by 2016. Fuel poverty is wher epeople have to decice whether to eat of heat their homes. Erradicating fuel poverty involves installing lots of insulation. Installing insulation is labour intensive. Saving fuel bills reduce climate heating. People without either enough heat or food are more likely to be ill or stay ill or worse.

The bill has the support of Help the Aged, Friends ofthe Earth and many other worthy organisations.

It seems truly bizarre that a Labour government blocked such a clear anti povery measure that helps prevent people being ill, fight climate heating and creates employment very efficiently.  

Bank bailouts over council rents

The Labour Government has mismanaged the UK economy to the degree where apart from Northern Rock chaos two multi bank bailouts have been required. Schocking times. All the citizens of the UK and our children will be paying for this debacle for decades to come.

At the same time the Labour Government is setting inflation busting Council rent recommendations. If councils don’t follow the recommendations they get severely penalised.

I guess ‘recommending’ a 5.8% increase in council rents when retail price inflation is at 0.9% is one way the Labour government will start paying for the bank fiasco’s. A stealth tax on the poor and neady.

Who would ever have thought a Labour government would be driven to such retrograde policies.

Leaseholder building insurance

Southwark Council has 13,000 leaseholders where it is the freeholder. After a very thorough consultation process with leaseholders Zurich has been the supplier of building insurance for two and a half years. The renewal date is April 2009.

Due to the lengthy consultation process required it’s considered too late to consider a full tendering process so officers are recommending the Zurich contract be extended by one year.

Zurich appear to have very carefully selected the date to consider any increase in charges via the rebuilding prices index produced by the Royal Institute of Charterered Surveyors as October. October was a high at 6.6% per annum which Zurich proposed to round up to 7%. How thoughtful. Whereas December is 5.2% and we can reasonably be sure in the current economic climate will fall further.

For leaseholders of Southwark council properties the difference between 7.0% and 5.2% will be an average of £2.68 for every leaseholder.

Clearly this is wrong and I will endeavour for more rigourous supplier management of Zurich to take place to get these increases minimised.