Community councils were set-up by Lib Dems when they led the council in 2002. Simple idea that power should be exercised as close to residents as possible. Community councils decided local planning applications, traffic schemes, devolved budgets around investing in local areas, devolved revenue spending to help create new projects, and generally gave local residents the power to directly influence local councillors in decisions about their neighbourhood.
Sadly not everyone wants to make local decisions. Community councils were stripped of making local planning decisions when Labour took control of Southwark council. They then dramatically reduced the number of meeting down from 10 a year to 5 each year. and the number of community councils from 8 to 5 making them much less local outside of the Dulwich area.
I’ve sat on the main planning committee deciding on local planning applications where all local Labour councillors had refused to be involved in a local planning decision because it was contentious. So clearly hiding such decisions behind a town hall in Tooley Street suits such councillors purposes.
Labour are now saying they want to centralise traffic scheme decision making to a single Labour councillor in the councils Tooley Street ivory towers.The fig leaf of saving money has been given. That a council officer attending a meeting is too expensive. With 5 meetings per year for 5 community councils at 4 hours (including travel time) the saving will amount to around £2,500 each year of officer time. But we’ve been given the option of talking about traffic schemes but with no expert officer present to explain what they’re trying to do and their ideas should work and we can only ask the Labour traffic tsar to consider issues and concerns we raise.
Academic research shows more people involved in decisions the more likely they are to catch problems and make good decisions. Three ward councillors, 6 fellow councillors on the community council, neighbouring residents and an expert council officer – I’ve seen this work really well. I’ve seen it save money; of daft schemes be canned, or tweaked to actually work. I’ve seen proposed scheme forget about pedestrians which we corrected for example.
If you think centralising traffic schemes, only discussing local issues 5 times a year, not deciding local planning schemes locally is a bad idea please respond to the councils consultation and tell them what you think.
Some good news. Wednesday night East Dulwich councillors allocated our devolved road maintenance budget as per my proposals. All this maintenance is long over due and completes partially completed work funded by Southwark Council – we’re having to use our devolved budget to finish these incomplete works,
Rodwell Road – £29,870 to resurface parts of Rodwell Road not resurfaced previously. Not enough to do the pavements as well. Another year.
Landcroft Road – £20,000 to resurface middle third of Landcroft Road not previously resurfaced.
Landells road – £47,250 to replace half of all the pavements of Landells Road.
The works should take place between November and March 2017. When we have more details of exactly when the work will take place we’ll let everyone know.
All children should attend great schools. But they and their parents shouldn’t need to be concerned about basic food hygiene of school kitchens.
When I first raised the issue of poor school hygiene in Southwark in 2013 12 of our schools had only 3 star ratings. A year ago July 2015 it had broadly improved with the lowest ratings with 2 schools with 3 stars but 2 x 1 stars Major Improvement Necessary.
Currently no Southwark school has 3 stars and one has only 1 star. So big improvement needed.
But the Southwark website listing all Southwark school ratings was updated in June 2013.
But can we trust these ratings? of the 119 ratings 69 were inspected over 18 months ago – way past the recommended re inspection rate for schools. The oldest inspection recorded was 5 year 10 months ago!
Come on Southwark – do what’s right by the boroughs children and parents
Southwark Council with so many tens of thousands of trees receives a number of lciams for subsidence caused by those trees routes every year.
The latest stats I have after submitting a Freedom of Information request:
2010 69 claims
2014 34 claims – but residents have up to 6 years to make a tree subsidence claim
Average time to resolve – 12-18 months to resolve a subsidence claim which is apparently is pretty average for councils. The council logs when a claim is raised and when the claim file is ultimately closed. However this does not measure how long a claim takes to resolve. For instance, a building insurer may raise a claim, ask for initial pruning to be introduced and then the claims handlers hear nothing further from the claimant. However they are required to keep the claim open for a significant period of time in case further communication from the claimant is received.
Tree root liability claims take longer to resolve than most other types of public liability claims as various sets of technical data are generally required along with a period of movement monitoring through a growing cycle, normally 12 months.
Top 3 Reasons cases take longer than the industry average/ best practice:
1. Technical data is not complete or provided – the council must ensure that the technical data is sufficient to show the cause of the subsidence before it moves to take remedial action, especially if it relates to a tree removal. People get very upset when well loved trees have to be removed. Occasionally a further period of monitoring may be required if the monitoring results did not show significant movement or the nature of movement was inconclusive requiring additional period of monitoring. There may be another cause to subsidence movement such as leaking drains, or unusually wet or dry periods.
2. Receipt of arboriculture reports – speeding up this process would in particular improve the average time to resolve the smaller less complex claims such as boundary walls and driveways.
3. Challenge to proposed tree removal – once the process begins to fell trees, delays can arise when challenges are received to the proposed felling. In addition this can also impact the speed at which arboriculture reports can be finalised.
20-22 Lordship Lane were originally shops with flats above them. For a very long time they’ve bene used as offices for one of Southwark’s Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT).
Since 2005 we’ve been asking what are the plans for these offices. Breaking up the line of shops with two non shops with blank frontages doesn’t help keep Lordship Lane vibrant.
I’ve now had a Freedom of Information response back. Previously I had Southwark Council officers saying they were awaiting Maudsley people to respond. I’ve Maudsley people saying thy’ve been waiting for Southwark Council officers. You could not make this up.
So I’ve now escalated this to the Chief Executive Of Southwark Council in the hope they can resolve this. If they can’t then I’ll use my last resort of a Councillor Call for Action. Yes, Minister have nothing on this!
I was shocked to receive the news via the 35% campaigning group that Southwark is one of the worst three boroughs in London for social rented housing delivery. Only 3% of the total homes delivered in 2014/15 across Southwark were affordable and -5% of the total delivered was social rented (it is a minus figure because more have been knocked down or sold off than have been built).
Across Southwark 170 fewer social rented homes were built that were sold or demolosihed but 1,914 private homes were built. So 97% of net new homes are private. But Southwark has a target of 35% of new homes beign social housing. Plus a separate target of build 11,000 social rented housing.
Brent, Cryodon, Haringey, Havering & Waltham Fore achieved more than 40% social housing. So why can’t Southwark?
Why aren’t Southwark Labour rejecting Planning Applications without sufficient social housing?
Having sat on numerous planning committees and seen Labour councillors vote en masse to grant permission for almost everything put before them I’m completely puzzled. People purporting to be socialists defending private developers from building social housing – truly bizarre.
Dulwich Park is looking splendid from the Heritage Lottery grant 2004-6, ongoing support and such an active friends group.
Part of this was restricting cars from using the park, sometimes at speed, using it as a short cut. Whatever possessed people to allow this in the past. Disabled people are allowed to travel at 5mph in cars to park up. For those disabled residents it’s a chance to see such a lovely park.
But things aren’t going well. The park has disabled parking spots. For people who are disabled want to park and can walk a little way. For those that can’t they’re allowed to park anywhere on the circular drive. But of course this causes confusion. The disabled parking bays are understandably parked out of sight – intended for parked cars without any occupants remaining. But when disabled people park elsewhere complete strangers harangue them.
After several complaints I’ve asked if we can move a couple of disabled bays to have proper vistas of the park. This should make the whole experience for our disabled neighbours and residents that bit more relaxing. And also ensure able body people don’t get stressed trying to enforce disabled parking bays!
Fingers crossed we can make this happen.
Southwark Council was created in 1965 from smaller morel local council authorities. It embarked on a hugely ambitious council housing programme. It built massive estates such as the Heygate and Aylesbury estates. Southwark Council borrowed lots of money to build them. Huge amounts.
Sadly those estates haven’t stood the test of time. Engineers have advised they’re already beyond their useful life. The Heygate estate has been demolished. Southwark Labour plan a number of phases to demolish and replace the Aylesbury estate.
Those massive loans were taken under circumstances where central government paid the debt interest. Unsurprisingly Southwark Council didn’t pay back any of those loans. It kept rolling them over. Effectively an interest only mortgage where someone else paid the interest. we now have debt for estates demolished or planned to be demolished.
Several years ago council housing finance was changed. Interest is no longer paid for by central government.
It makes sense for Southwark to change how it treats housing loans. We should ensure that each year we pay some of the principal back of the loan. For non housing loans we legally have to have a Minimum Repayment Plan (MRP). This hasn’t completely stopped some housing loan principle being paid back but it’s been voluntary and ad hoc. So debt over the last three years has been brought down by £55M to around £400M. But we should decrease it further now that interest payments are paid from actual rents collected.
Eliminating £400M of housing debt would bring council rents down by a number of pound per week.
Southwark Council needs to do much more to tackle the scandal of thousands of homes left empty in Southwark.
We face a local housing crisis with housing need rising all the time with the local population set to rise to 355,000 by 2025. The Council has sold or demolished 1,973 of its own homes but built just 65 since Labour took power in Southwark in May 2010. There are currently 13,000 people on the Council’s housing waiting list.
Southwark is reckoned to have around 2,050 empty private sector homes, including second homes and homes left empty as investment opportunities by overseas buyers. A large proportion have been left empty for more than six months.
Under powers brought in by Liberal Democrats in the last government, councils can now charge 150% council tax on any home empty for two years or more. The latest figures show that Southwark is charging just 611 of the empty homeowners in the borough.
At the last meeting of the council I urged the borough’s leaders to demand more powers to tackle empty homes. I am calling for Southwark to be able to charge at least 200% council tax on empty homes after a home is empty for a year. Scotland is allowed to do this so why not English councils. The aim would be to increase the private sector housing supply in Southwark for rent and sale.
The Council needs to do much more to bring these homes into use and make it less financially worthwhile to keep them empty. It is shameful that new homes are being built all the time but are then allowed to sit empty while overseas investors make a killing.
It is not enough to just rely on building new council homes given the snail’s pace so far. The Council needs to get tough on developers who say they cannot build the affordable homes they should. It also needs to fight for extra powers to charge more council tax on homeowners who leave their homes empty.
My Lib Dem colleagues and I will keep fighting residents’ corner and pushing the Council to increase the housing supply in Southwark.
East Dulwich Road will be resurfaced 3->5 November each night between 8pm and 5am between Grove Vale and Crystal Palace Road. This assumes no surprises or bad weather.
Noisy work will be, as much as possible, contained 8pm to midnight each evening.
I’ve asked what the diversions for bus route 37 & 484 will be and other traffic. I’ve also had an extended dialogue with council officials over the summer about taking this closure as an opportunity to renew all the road marking and zebra crossings at Goose Green roundabout. Fingers crossed this all goes to plan as well.
Importantly if you park your car of off East Dulwich Road you’ll find access harder and may wish to park elsewhere for these two nights.
If you have any problems or concerns please let me know.