Unnecessary 6% Council Tax Increase

Southwark Labour will be raising the basic level of Southwark council tax by 6% this year, which is the maximum they are legally allowed to without triggering a local referendum.

Council Tax is a totally regressive form of taxation.

The Liberal Democrat opposition produced an alternative budget which allows for the same increase in spending, but delivered through efficiency savings rather than a council tax increase.

It is a legal requirement that all budgets and amendments must be examined and signed off by the independent finance council officer as being ‘legal, balanced and implementable’. That means the savings found by Southwark Liberal Democrats to cover the increase spending on services have been established as accurate and deliverable. They have proposed cutting the number of Council spin-doctors, stopping production of the self-promoting magazine ‘Southwark Life’, and ending ‘Golden Goodbyes’ to Cabinet members who decide to resign months in advance.

Other sources of revenue have been found by providing more flexibility on annual leave to council staff and incentivising staff to take cheaper options on travel and hotels.

I would support raising council tax if it really was necessary but the first step should always be to look at how savings can be made. The Finance Chief has signed off that our plans to deliver the same front-line services without raising council tax are sound and implementable.

This is the second year in a row that Southwark Labour have taken the lazy option of increasing council tax to the max, rather than looking at Lib Dem ways of being smarter with people’s money. People are struggling. When there are proven ways to avoid increasing the cost of living above and beyond inflation and wage increases, then the council should take it.

National Park City

Finally after four years of saying no Southwark Labour have joined Southwark Lib Dems and even Southwark Conservatives to support the Greater London National Park City campaign.

The campaign aims to create a joined-up network of parks, water and open spaces across the capital for East Dulwich, Southwark and London residents to enjoy.

“A city where people and nature are better connected. A city that is rich with wildlife and every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. A city where we all enjoy high-quality green spaces, the air is clean to breathe, it’s a pleasure to swim in its rivers and green homes are affordable. Together we can make London a greener, healthier and fairer place to live. Together we can make London a National Park City.”

Bizarrely Labour councillors such as Charlie Smith in our own East Dulwich ward have refused to engage in this idea – until now. So well done to everyone who helped put enough pressure on Charlie and his peers to U turn on this and accept that East Dulwich deserve a greener place to live.

Southwark Council IT Chaos

At a recent Southwark Council Audit, Governance and Standards Committee we heard what external auditors had found during various audits including one on IT Network Security.

For the first time ever in my 10 year of chairing or vice charing these committees we heard that an area of the council had “No Assurance”. This means the area is in a complete pickle and no confidence it will get sorted out any time soon.

Please see page 45 of the agenda pack:


The area is IT Network Security. The key findings stated were:

  • The council has deployed and is using operating systems that are no longer supported by the developer.
  • There are not adequate arrangements in place to apply operating system security and firmware patches to its IT servers.
  • The council’s corporate risk register does not accurately record the risk of an information security breach or the consequences.
  • A disproportionately high number of users have been granted elevated access rights, which includes domain administrator access.
  • The Council does not have procedures in place to identify unusual or suspicious activity, nor are existing network perimeter security controls reviewed on a routine basis.
  • Vulnerabilities, including the absence of a de-militarized zone between the Council’s IT network and the PSN, have been included within the design of the council’s IT network.
  • Firewall rules, both internal and external, are not subject to a routine review in order to determine their adequacy.
  • Anti-malware signatures are not updated on all Council devices.
  • The design and configuration of the council’s IT network perimeter security controls are inherently insecure and do not meet the requirements of either the PSN or of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). A prolonged lack of effective management has only served to undermine the existing controls, such as they are, and require that the council will need to take drastic action in order to secure its IT network.

Utter IT security chaos placing Direct debits, employee ban accounts details, etc at risk.

Southwark School Places

Southwark still faces a school places shortfall of 1,800.

Fortunately in the Dulwich area we’ve been working tirelessly since 2009 to stop this impacting locally. Lib Dem councillors have initiated or supported practically three new Primary schools – Harris Primary Academy East Dulwich, Judith Kerr Primary School, Belham Primary School, and one secondary school locally and one in the very north of the borough respectively The Charter School East Dulwich and  Borough Academy.

All were originally opposed by Southwark Council but fortunately they’ve become a reality – else the pupil place shortfall would be even worse. Ironically Southwark Council are now claiming ownership of these schools – you know when a campaign has been successful when someone else claims it for themselves.  It means we do not have a pupil place problem in the Dulwich area. Phew!

Free Public Wifi – Long Overdue

In many parts of London free public wifi has been available for years. Shoppers and visitors take this as a given – it has become for many a public utility.

Provided for free and funded via advertising banners and or charging beyond typically 30 minutes of use.

Southwark hasn’t done this yet. I’ve asked council officers how we could join the digital age. Apparently it only needs £25,000 to fund a Project Manager to make this happen – I’ll work to try and ensure this happens

North Cross Road Market 3.0

After some time it was finally agreed earlier this year in principle to extend North Cross Road Market from its currently 30 pitches to 50. Hooray.

This has not deflected us from fixing the problems associated with the market setting up way too early, the amount of rubbish and getting it cleared away. Also the needless restricted car parking on Fridays when no market is present. All these issues and a number of others have largely been fixed. I’ve visited market set-up a couple of times to witness these problems but we must be super vigilant they don’t return. From November this year finally the Friday parking restrictions have been 90% fixed – five market pitches are still available on Fridays but that’s so much less than the previous 30.

North Cross Road is now closed to traffic from its junction with Lordship Lane to just before reaching Archdale Road. Eventually we’ll get electricity to all the 20 new pitches but for now they’ll be unpowered. We need the new pitches to face into the road to minimise the noise to immediate neighbours. This has not yet been agreed but Cllr Rosie Shimell and I are working on this.

My biggest concern is the current market where most customers are on the southern pavement with market stalls protecting them to customers being in the road. With the horrific Marseille, Berlin, Sweden and London truck, van and car attacks I am working with council officers and specialist Police to try and get physical protection for the market in the form of manually operated rising bollards designed to stop dead any such attack. I will be meeting them on site later today. While this is being researched and agreed market stall holders are placing their vehicles as protective barriers – not ideal.

What do you think is needed to make North Cross Road market even better?

Southwark Council Most £100k Pay Packets In Britain


I was stunned to hear that Southwark Council has the highest number of staff on pay packages above £100,000 of any local authority across Britain.

The list, complied by the campaign group TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), also revealed that Southwark has increased the number of staff who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 by over 26 in the past year, again more than any other council in Britain.

With tough decisions currently being made on where to prioritise limited resources in Southwark this is a contentious decision to pay out such packages.

Further questioning revealed that the of the 12 most senior staff at Southwark 7 went up pay grades so had pay rises in the year of over 3%. Most staff have 1% pay rises. Of the remaining 5 several ere at the top of their spine pay scales.

Mountainous New BT Phone Boxes

BT have applied for 48 x 2.9m(8’8″) high advertising hoardings dressed partially as phone kiosks across Southwark. Three of these are proposed in East Dulwich.

Southwark should charge rent as they do for similar 90 such installations by JCDecaux free standing advertising hoardings and Southwark taxpayers benefit.  But only where it is safe to do so.

Ironic that we’ve spent so much time reducing street clutter for BT to propose this. Clearly their phone kiosks aren’t being used hence proposal to replace them with advertising hoardings. The idea of free phone calls from phone outdoors next to main roads is at best fanciful.

17/AP/0805 157 Lordship Lane – outside Franklins.
The new Harris East Dulwich Primary Academy, with the support of the local Police inspector, have requested that the bus stop outside its front door on Lordship Lane be swapped with the Pelican crossing nearly outside Franklins.
So this applications assumptions about the pavement are wrong and the schools/Police proposal will require the current phone box be removed. This alone should be reason enough to refuse permission.
Additionally the idea of prominent advertising being so close to a bus stop or pelican crossing is contrary to TfL guidance about the placing of advertising where extra cognitive lading occurs (tfL guidance section 2.4-2.6).

17/AP/0882 junction East Dulwich Road on Lordship Lane
This junction is notorious to local residents for crashes and fear of crashes. The reported crash data for this junction is 10 crashes for 2012-16 inclusive. i.e. 2 crashes pa. The classification of slight crashes has included a lady with multiple fractures still undergoing re constructive surgery.
Placing prominent screen advertising at this junction would make the junction more dangerous from cognitive overloading.

17/AP/0883 junction Crawthew Road on Lordship Lane – outside Foxtons.
Half the pavement width is owned by freeholders of 29-35 Lordship Lane. The current and proposed phone kiosks are reliant upon this to work. If the building is redeveloped the pavement would be blocking the pavement.
Equally the more prominent advertising hoarding proposed will distract drivers who must turn right exiting from Matham Grove onto Lordship Lane.

Generic issues for all these applications:
– these applications are being made to replace phone kiosks placed under Telecoms Apparatus applications. For telecomms apparatus the bulk of income and primary use would need be telecoms. But the vast bulk of use and revenues will be from advertising. On this basis telecoms rules and strategies should be secondary to following advertising consent rules for planning applications.
– the locations of the existing kiosks was motivated by being prominent for people to spot. But that same prominence makes these locations dangerous for much greater advertising prominence causing cognitive overload for people driving past. These advertising hoardings would be significantly safer on straight sections of roads that are not close to junctions or crossings.
– national planning policing encouraging telecomms and IT are aimed at broadband roll out, mobile mast roll-out and deploying fibre optics. These application are clearly advertising hoarding dressed as phone kiosks and these national, regional and borough strategies for telecomms/IT should not be applied to promote this advertising.
– The specs states the screens can operate from 0 to 50 degrees C. Temperatures regularly fall in winter locally below this temperature range.
Are the screens safe below their safe operating temperatures?
– poor urban design with the proposed new free standing advertising/phone kiosks being much more dominant in the street scape at 2.9m high. This is significantly higher than the 2.2 and 2.4m phone kiosks they replace.
– Protection of amenity. The free phone call offer. The applications give no details about how to ensure unrestricted free phones in the public domain won’t be abused and used to make malicious calls and how these will be stopped.
– un enclosed phones replacing enclosed phone kiosks. At all three sites these proposed free phones are overlooked by victorian flats with single glazing. What measures will be made to avoid these phones ringing and being nuisance – will BT fund double glazing for these flats? Make them outgoing only – especially to avoid use by drug dealers? Have Southwark Police been consulted about potential issues of drug dealing?
– they will bring at best only a very negligible benefit to the area far outweighed by the advertising.
Why hasn’t the applicant stated how important these phone boxes are by stating current revenue per phone box to demonstrate their importance to remain occupying such valuable public highway?
– other advertising companies pay Southwark annual rental to place such advertising hoardings on Southwark pavements.
Why are BT not required to do so?
– no detailed policy of what restrictions and controls on what would be advertised are stated. All are very close to primary and imminently secondary schools for the protection of minors.

Denmark Hill Station Passenger Flows

I’ve just obtained a copy of a study undertaken by Network Rail at Denmark Hill station over two days in July 2015, approximately two weeks before the start of state school holidays. So the many local private schools would have already started their summer school holidays. Video cameras captured the tops of all stairs to the platforms and also the gateline. Counts were completed for the AM (07:00 – 10:00) and PM (16:00 – 19:00) peaks and were classified by person type (i.e. person with large luggage, bicycle etc).

Counts were provided in 5 minute intervals and showed that flows were slightly higher in the AM on Wednesday at 10,700 (10,400 on Tuesday) and in the PM on Tuesday at 9,200 (8,800 on Wednesday). On both days the AM peak was considerably busier than the PM peak.

The AM flows were very balanced with similar numbers of passengers entering and exiting the station (52/48 in favour of exits).

The Access for All footbridge is used by approximately 30% of passengers in the AM peak, the remaining 70% using the original overbridge. So the decision by Southwark Planners to block widening the original footbridge is causing much of the congestion problem. This resulted in a new ticket office entrance which already isn’t wide enough exacerbated by stairs to reach it

Platform 4 (towards Bromley) only accounts for 7% of flows in the AM peak but 26% of flows in the PM peak.

The PM peak has a more tidal flow with station entries making up 60% of gateline movements. The Access for All overbridge is used by 32% of passengers in the PM peak, slightly more (2%) than in the AM peak.

We need to find out when the extra Windsor Walk station entrance can happen. The congestions for passengers feels decidedly dangerous.

Annual footfall at Denmark Hill station

The latest ORR footfall figure for Denmark Hill station is shown below. As mentioned on Friday, some of the difference between the 2015-16 and 2014-15 figure “is due to changes to the methodology” associated with the London Travelcard. The leap in passenger numbers in 2013-14 reflected the first full year of operation of the south-western branch of the London Overground network.

Where Is 20MPH Not Working In Southwark?

Council officials after the latest batch of speed surveys and crash reports have come up with the 12 roads where 20mph is being exceeded the most across Southwark:


Sadly many of these roads in in East Dulwich.

They will now review what measures could be taken to bring vehicles down to the speed limit of 20mph. The most effective has been shown to be average speed cameras. Close to 100% adherence where installed. But camera enforcement is a cross London enforcement via the London Camera Partnership – so we need TfL to agree as well as the Met Police.

While we wait if you’d like to try enforcing the speed limit please join us on the local Community Speed Watch – contact me directly for more details.