(East) Dulwich Baths

Dulwich Baths is one of the jewels of East Dulwich. It was built by that breed of municipal Victorian politicians who took a real pride in their community and were determined to improve the lives of local people at a local level.

But just like our great Victorian parks, Dulwich Park and Peckham Rye Park, Dulwich Baths were neglected to a scandalous extent  – seemingly by every generation that followed them.

The parks have been beautifully restored over the past few years and now the spotlight is falling on the Dulwich Baths.

As local councillors, we have been campaigning with local residents to save the pool – and it has been a very popular cause!  Happily Southwark council is funding a multi-million pound refurbishment.

The building’s charm also makes refurbishment a difficult job but the plans include improved changing facilities, a café and poolside viewing area and an expanded gym.

Planning permission for the work was granted earlier this year and the refurbishment works have now begun. This means that the pool has been taken out of service but the good news is that despite the scaffolding, gym facilities will be available throughout the refurbishment works.

The final scheme also has great green credentials with a dramatic reduction in the energy required to heat and light it. Modern insulation has been used where ever possible.

The new swimming facilities should be available from spring 2010 and I’m sure will be well worth the wait. After all we’ve waited over a hundred years for this sort of investment!

Making Lordship Lane safer to cross

For most of us who live in East Dulwich, Lordship Lane defines our community.  Its importance to East Dulwich as a commercial, social and cultural centre is clear. But it also serves many other purposes too – as a bus route and a through route for traffic.

It is not surprising that everyone has a view about Lordship Lane.

Road safety is always top of the list when we ask people about how Lordship Lane could be improved – what has not always been clear is what should be done to improve the situation.

So we commissioned Living Streets to help us identify the problems on Lordship Lane. The Living Streets approach is simple but effective. They walk up and down the road with a group of local people and a clip board, identifying issues and talking about possible solutions.

This is exactly what a small gang of us did.  We identified loads of things that would improve the shopping experience on Lordship Lane.  But overwhelmingly, the one issue highlighted was that people shopping on Lordship Lane tend to walk up one side of the street or down the other. They rarely cross the street to reach a shop on the other side of the road and when they want to – they find it unpleasant, off-putting and down right dangerous.  That’s not just bad from a road safety point of view. By degrading our shopping experience it threatens the lifeblood of our local shops and encourages particularly the elderly and families to head for the safety of Sainsbury’s or White City. Better crossing points – especially outside Somerfield – was the number one way to improve things.

So that is what we have been working on and we have now got to the point where we have designed and consulted upon new crossings on Lordship Lane – at the Goose Green roundabout and outside Somerfield.

The initial results indicate that the plans are supported by over 80% of people who responded.

There is still some way to go – not least to persuade Transport for London that providing a safe crossing point won’t interfere too much with the bus timetables. I hope that in the end the road safety arguments and the need to promote our local shops in the current climate will win the day.

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.

CBI demand public sector pensions enquiry

I read this with amazement. In Southwark the council has a pensions hole which we’re on track to fill. Much of these problems were when central government disbanded ILEA and other pan London bodies and didn’t ensure the pensions pots were filled at that time. Southwark picked up a mess and we’re gradually fixing it.

However, many other public sector areas have no pension funds as such. Fire Brigades typically pay pensions from current incomes. The audit Commission explained a decade ago that this was going to get worse and no plans for a pension funds have been put in place. So the CBI is right to point out that Public sector pensions are messy and need a proper plan to resolve.

While investigating and deciding what to do with public sector pensions a look at private sector pensions should take place. It is universally prevalent that executives reward themselves with extremely generous pensions – often final salary – while removing and reducing such benefits from all other employees. This is crass hypocracy and the CBI should seek its membership to get their houses in order. Equally the government could pass legislation that private companies are only allowed to have one pension scheme. I suspect personal interests of executives would ensure all employees pensions would then improve.

Zero residential burglary

East Dulwich has had ZERO residential burglaries for two months. Zero residential burglary for two month. That is amazing.

In the summer East Dulwich councillors Richard Thomas, Jonathan Mitchell and myself agreed funding a crime prevention fund of nearly £50,000 from our bit of the annual Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding.

A large slab of this has been spent on over a 1,000 SelectaDNA (www.selectadna.co.uk) property marking kits. Aiming for every fifth home to have this property marking and homes that have been previously burgled or are in the proximty of homes that have been burgled. The East Dulwich Safer Neighbourhood Team has been helping residents install these marking kits. Every school in East Dulwich has been given these kits. We also purchased UV lights for the Police to quickly spot marked property.

Even business burglaries are down. Four over the last two months. Two were pubs. They have now been property marked and helping promote these property marking kits.

Fingers crossed zero burglaries continues. As all the property marking kits are used the chances of burglars being caught and successfully prosecuted rises making East Dulwich an increasingly inhospitable area for burglars.

If you live in East Dulwich and have’nt yet had a SelectaDNA property marking kit installed by the Police then please do get in touch with me. 

East Dulwich Police station

Today East Dulwich cllrs Jonathan Mitchell and I (cllr Richard Thomas is on holiday), along with Greater London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon met with Southwarks Police Commander Malcom Tillyer along with other Police and MPA officers.

A very useful third meeting to discuss the future of East Dulwich Police Station.

We discussed the East Dulwich councillors proposals of how a Police station as we would see it could be kept on the current site, combined potentially with other council facilities, while meeting Police aspirations for new facilities commensurate with their requirements while obtaining capital receipts for the site.

Unfortuntely everything is on hold while the Metropolitan Police Authority reviews it property plans. Hopefully, in 4-8 weeks time we can continue these discussions.

Southwark Council and Southwark Police have been recognised for excellent partnership working. Hopefully we can deliver a role model in East Dulwich that takes such partnership working to an even higher level by sharing facilities and increasing how joined up services are for the general public. If successful this could be a model for other sites in Southwark and London as a whole.

Crime reduction in East Dulwich

This year the East Dulwich councillors Richard Thomas, Jonathan Mitchel and I have allocated £42,450 out of our £120,000 Cleaner Greener Safer funding allocation towards Crime Reduction. We’ve met the East Dulwich Safer Neighbourhood Team Sgt. Duncan Jackson and agreed the initial spending. These monies are on top of the £35,000 last year and £15,000 the previous year.

175 Alertboxes – proven to reduce shop and busines crime by over half

2,000 Smartwater/Select DNA type property marking kits to make burglary pointless

New Neighbourhood Watch signs

Laser speed camera and mobile traffic calming message board 

When I was elected in May 2006 East Dulwich ward was 267th out of all 625 London wards, with 1st being best, for rates of crime per thounsand population.  We’ve helped improve this so that in East Dulwich we’re now 221st in London and improving. Roughly this means 130 fewer reported crime victims last year.

Caffe Nero – decision

During January a Planning Inspector held two appeals about Caffe Nero on Lordship Lane regarding Enforcement Notices to remove illegally installed airconditioning units and against a Change of Use. Caffe Nero also requested that all legal costs be born by Southwark on the basis they thought Southwark Council had been so very unreasonable.

The inspector decision was announced yesterday. She found that Southwark Council should not pay for the appellants costs – so clearly Southwark Council has acted reasonably. She upheld the enforcement notice against Caffe Nero about its illegal airconditioning units and they should be removed. She accepted that evidence from the council that the balance of shops to non shops on Lordship Lane had changed since the original decision and that this unit use as a cafe should be allowed.

Overall, considering the changes Lordship Lane has had this was that best possible decision. Residents have a ray of hope that Caffe Nero will finally resolve the illegal sleep disturbing airconditioning units which have frequently operate 24/7 even when the cafe is closed. What amazing eco credentials Caffe Nero must be aiming for!

The coffee lovers of East Dulwich can sleep easy at night knowing that caffiene will still be available locally.

Hopefully Caffe Nero will now clean up its act and will conform to the planning laws of this land.

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.

Tough times

In the last three years Southwark has moved from being the 17th to 20th poorest part of England. 

Central government provides roughly 70% of all the money local councils spend. Central Government also passes laws on what as a minimum they expect councils to deliver. Southark Council is no different. The Labour Government has decided to adjust the formula for calculating allocations. Firstly they’ve decided to use 2004 population estimates rather than the readilly available 2006 population estimates. This penalises London but especially Southwark. Instead of receiving a grant towards 272,000 residents the calculation will be based on 2004 266,000 residents. Various other changes to the formula mean that in real terms for the next three years Southwark Council will be getting a cut in funding from the Labour Government while contending with a rapidly aging population.

You’ll be surprised to hear that Rotherham, the 50th poorest place in England, is getting 6.6% increase this year in its allocation. I’m sure this has nothing to do with having a Labour Local Government Minister John Healey as the local MP but you can see how a cynic might make such an unfounded connection.

Needless to say Southwark Counil and thE Liberal Democrats are appealing this decision. I have to remain hopeful that common sense will prevail.