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UK tops Endemic surveillance league

The latest annual report by the UK based Privacy International advocacy group tells us that an increase in survelliance and decline in privacy safeguards globally has occurred during the last year.

The UK earned top place for having the most endemic surveillance due to having the biggest network of CCTV in the world + Labour plans for a national compulsory ID card rich with personal and biometric information, and minimal comeback for citizens when the government looses this information. And you know they will loose that information.

The report states that the UK Labour government “has access to its people and technology that China doesn’t”. We seem to have runaway adoption of such technologies with little or no progress in safeguards to ensure fair play for you and me as private citizens.

The latest cost estimate by the London School of Economics of the Labour governments ID card plan is £12 to £18 billion during the next ten years. Think how many Police officers that could pay for. Or how fantastic the reabilitation of prisoners could be, dramatically reducing reoffending rates.

The Youth Justice Board, which runs the Labour flagship Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme, said the re-offending rate was “very high” or in plain english 91% re-offended within two years!

What do you think the Labour government should spend our tax money on – ID cards, more Police or getting criminals rehabilitated?

Reflection on losing

Apparently the smoking ban introduced in 2002 to Australian gambling venues has reduced gambling by 14% following its introduction. Hopefully we’ll see a similar affect in East Dulwich as a result of this years smoking ban.

Twenty years ago I spent a glorious six months training to be a betting shop manager in the west end and soho. I’d never been sworn at before then! Those six months were a real rights of passage for me. But the one thing I really vividly recall is how sad I felt seeing people blow a wage packet. As a husband and parent it makes me shiver at the potential implications of that. Hence my delight at the propsect of the smoking ban potentially reducing gambling.

Betting shop craze hits Lordship Lane

A new law passed by the Labour government in 2005 came into force September 2007. In the past to obtain a betting shop licence from a magristrate an applicant had to prove a need. This meant that others could prove the existing shops had plenty of capacity. The new Labour law means an application can only be blocked if you can prove the applicant is not “fit and proper”, or is unfair to punters, a source of disorder, putting children or other vulnerable people at risk. So legally its now near impossible to block new betting shops – even if it wrecks the balance of shopping high streets.

So why the sudden demand for new betting shops – because betting shops can have upto four electronic touch-screen roulette machines. Such machines mean the average betting shop can make £2,000-£2,500 profits a week from these machines alone. The Financial Times reported that “In essence, in the past five years, the nations bookies have become fantastically lucrative slot-machine arcades”.

How does this affect East Dulwich?

A new super sized betting shop is being applied for where the old Woolwich Building Society used to be at 109 Lordship Lane. The deadline for objecting to it is 18 January.

However East Dulwich has three of the five Community Mental Health team for Southwark.

I will be objecting on the grounds that Lordship Lane has 60% of community mental health team users visiting and these patients are vulnerable.

If you want to object, and try holding back the tide of Labour caused betting shops, then send your objections to:

Tel: 020 7525 2000
Fax: 020 7525 3077
Licensing unit,
Chaplin Centre,
Thurlow Street,
London SE17 2DG

Cllr Richard Thomas

Sadly yesterday my ward colleague and friend Cllr Richard Thomas resigned his executive councillor Regeneration position. Richard has been on Southwark Councils executive since 2002. He led the successful charge of a step increase in recycling. He has profoundly moved the environment and regeneration agendas on. I do feel deeply saddened as he is so passionate for positive change. A sad day for any one who cares about Southwark.

I used to cynical about politicians saying they were taking a step back to spend more time with their families. Even as a back bench ouncillor with a young family I can absolutely sympathise. To also be head hunted shows what an asset Richard is and that we’re losing. It really does highlight how we expect local politicians with incredibly big responsibilities to do the job for largely the love of it. Perhaps this is why such a disproportionate number of councillors are retired or have no family responsibilities.

However, I do know that Richard will still be a great local councillor for East Dulwich.

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.

Planning applications go on-line

This Thursday 10 January new Planning Application will go on-line. During the following six months the existing planning applications since 2003 will be data captured and added to the on-line system.

Considering that currently people who want to view a planning application have to make a special trip to the Planning Department offices at Chiltern House, Portland Street, SE17 this new on-line capability will be a real benefit. It will enable anyone to view a scheme remotely from the Planning Department from the comfort of their office, own home or local library.

I suspect many people will feel relieved to see plans for proposals and that fears they have are often not necessary. For many others, especially campaigning groups, it will give them a capability to get involved that practically they didn’t have before without taking time away from work, family or studies. Before becoming a councillor I spent many a lunch time dashing to Chiltern House to view a scheme and dash back to the office having viewed a planning application. Not something I could do more than very occassionally.

Well done to the Planning Department and the various IT suppliers for making this possible. Good luck for Thursday. Hope it all works!

Heber School

Heber School is a good, increasingly successful school. During the last year it completely renovated the ground floor toilets that had been in a disgusting state for over a decade. The buildings are old so this work was extremely overdue. However, this still leaves the first floor toilets in a dire, smelly state. Not somewhere we can all be proud of.

The schools governors asked for support from the Dulwich Community Council Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding. This didn’t seem right as that funding is meant for works that make the community Safer or Greener or Cleaner.

So started over six months of discussions and badgering on how to find nearly £80,000.

Just before Christmas the finances were finally sorted out. Southwark Council Education Department will fund 50% directly and the other 50% will be funded by Heber school yearly devolved capital fund. As Heber have been busy improving the school this will have to be an advance, from Southwakr Council Education Department, on its 08_09 devolved capital allocation.

The work is so major it will need a whole summer holiday to complete.

I’m really chuffed that everyone has pulled together to be creative and flexible with the finances and make this happen at the earliest possible time.

176 bus route

Transport for London has asked for feedback regarding renewing the 176 bus route contract.

If you have any thoughts tell me.

The feedback the East Dulwich Liberal Democrat Councillors Jonathan Mitchell, Richard Thomas and myself have given so far is that it has to be one of the slowest bus routes around. Those sections where it runs in parallel to other bus routes such as the no.68 the 176 appears pedestrian and very slow. The other issue is that all the 176 bus stops need to have the Countdown system so passengers know how long they’ll have to wait.

What do you think?

Rubbish Bin collection strike

To reach government future targets for recycling a huge £30,000,000+  investment is required in new state of the art facilities on the Old Kent Road. Apart from all our desires to minimise the waste we individually and Southwark collectively generates the government charges Southwark £12 per tonne Landfill Tax. Additionally, if Southwark doesn’t meet ever tougher recycling targets the Government will fine Southwark a lot of money. The Landfill taxes and fines are getting bigger.

So Southwark has to make a huge investment in waste services.

‘helpfully’ the Labour Government has decreed that such huge investments should occur via Private Partnerships. No Liberal Democrat likes these partnerships, better ways to do this exist, but the government has made it abundantly clear that this is the ‘only show in town’.

This month the contract with Veolia to make this huge investment and run waste services with ever tougher recycling targets is due to be signed. Now the Unison union representing all of the employees involved are considering strike action. The same Unison that gave the Labour Party £464,434.00 during July-September 2007 alone.

I think Unison needs to makes it mind up. Either it supports the Labour Party and the near imposition of Private Partnerships and all that entails or it doesn’t.

For the individual Unison members in Southwark. You don’t have to pay the political levy. You can opt out if you think this Labour government policy affecting you is crass. 

New Grove Vale library – Dulwich Garden Centre

Southwark Council Planning Officers are currently preparing a report on this scheme. They will decide early next week whether to recommend this planning application be Granted or Refused. Since 19 November, when I last posted about this new Grove Vale library, the scheme has been revised. Unfortunately the library height proposed has been reduced. The top floor is now proposed to be set back and overall the building will appear less bulky. It also has lost much of its copper banding and wont be as striking. Shame.

If you want more details, want to support or oppose the scheme, then please get in touch with me.

The final decision by the full Planning Committee is expected to be taken 7pm 22 January at the Town Hall. These meeting have very long agendas so be prepared to wait some time and bring a book, snack, drink.