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Alert boxes

In October the three East Dulwich Liberal Democrat Councillors Cllr Richard Thomas, Jonathan Mitchell and I allocated £25,000 to help fight shop crime in East Dulwich. This was the number one priority for investment from the local Crime Prevention Officer.

Just before Christmas another 100 traders in East Dulwich signed up for Alert boxes – a proven method to reduce shop crime by typically 57%. The Alert Boxes have been programmed and will be delivered during mid January.

Big thanks to the East Dulwich Safer Neighbourhood Team and council officers nad project managers for making this happen – Andrea Allen, Sarah De Souza and all the traders who have joined in the scheme.

Digital tax

We’ve all grown very used to how to make a television work. Get a licence, aerial and TV. Simple. The government has decided to really complicate this. The ‘old’ system uses analogue signals which are very forgiving when things not tuned correctly or aerial not pointing correctly and yet will still work. 2012 the analogue transmitters will be closed down. This is so the government can sell the radio spectrum. They don’t know what this radio spectrum will be sold for yet, but after making £21billion from selling radio spectrum for 3G phones they’re sure they want another sale. So everyone and anyone who uses a TV will have to buy a set top box or new digital TV and potentially a new aerial, etc.

Southwark Council controls 55,000 properties. All these properties need to have solutions to this government created problem before 2012. Estimates of what this cost vary but it will cost several tens of millions of pounds.

Is this something you think the country needs to be worrying about now?

Sadly the 3G phone people have been licking the wounds from that 3G auction. No one in business will pay such ridiculous prices again. So the premise of closing the analogue transmitters seems false.

This is effectively a regressive digital tax – i.e. the poorest pay a higher proportion of income buying set top boxes/digital Televisions compared to the richest to still have access to TV. We will all pay for every council in the country being partly distracted from delivering crucial services while they sort this unnecessary pickle out.

Riverside new councillor – déjà vu

A by election in the Riverside Ward in Southwark gave me a huge de jevu feeling. While canvassing for the excellent Liberal Democrat candidate Anood Al-Samerai I kept coming across Labour leaflets with covers identical to those used in East Dulwich in 2006. Same broken windows on estates not located in Southwark. Same Police officers in uniforms that the Metropolitan Police have never used – looked like West Midlands Police officers. All stating that Liberal Democrats are soft on crime. Err, that would be Southwark with crime down ahead of tough targets set by central government through hard work of Liberal Democrat run Southwark Council working with the Police.

I also had the same de jevu that voters in Riverside would see straight through such rubbish. They duly did and Anood virtually received 50% of the votes – 1,114 out of 2,248 and extended the majority over Labour.

Well done Anood.

Graffiti at height

Southwark Council graffiti removals service is second to none. 24hours removal once the site owner has agreed and no charge even for businesses. Just one small caveat. Although five of the officers are trained to work at heights they don’t have a vehicle with a crane or cage to support this. Colleagues in other departments, such as street lighting, have such vehicles but due to government best value rules they have to cross charge to hire these between departments. How complicated. Also, to park such vehicles they need to officially close road lanes unless an emergency. Failed street lighting is currently considered to meet this criteria but removing graffiti isn’t. Currently another Southwark Council department Highways require 6 weeks notice and an expensive traffic management order to close a lane of traffic. Hence such graffiti at height stays around for a very long time.

Now the Executive Councillor Paul Noblet, accountable for all these departments, knows how disjointed this is it shouldn’t take long to fix.

Mobile Operators…propaganda?

As a councillor I receive lots of post – typically 12 inches high a week and about 200-400 emails on a typical week. Boy does it take a lot of time to ensure I read everything that could be useful for me and the residents in East dulwich.

One newsletter caught my eye and thankfully I read it cover to cover – the Mobile Operators Association newsletter. It started by saying how much money has been spent on research proving mobiles and base stations are safe. It then talked about how every public authority in UK has been sent a list of all the mobile operators combined plans. Then buried on later pages how research so far indicates more medical research is needed to be sure.

1stly. Checking with Southwark officers they haven’t received such combined mobile operators plans.

2ndy. Why not state this last part about more medical research being needed on page 1. Could it be they just don’t expect many councillors to read that far into the newsletter.

How cynical is that?

Lordship Lane

Good news.

The Lib Dem East Dulwich councillors Richard Thomas, Jonathan Mitchell and myself supported a Living Streets pedestrian audit of Lordship Lane. To make more of the recommendations possible we ensured that Southwark Council applied for £100,000 to improve Lordship Lane for pedestrians. We need to make it easier and more pleasant to get from one side of Lodship Lane to the other.

We have just heard that we’ve been successful and can spend the money during the next financial year from April 2008.

What do you think is needed – get in touch.


Last year I applied for 32 Alertboxes costing £5,000 – little boxes that send alerts to neighbouring businesses who can rush to help resolve a problem. Really useful at getting people to talk to neighbouring shops and offices and has a happy benefit of building up a community feelingh. They were installed in Lordship Lane and Northcross Road. If you look carefully in shop doors and windows you’ll see little stickers telling you shops that have them. During the first year the Crime Prevention Officer reported a 57% reduction in crime where these Alertboxes have been installed. WOW!

On this basis the East Dulwich coucillors – Richard Thomas, Joanthan Mitchell and myself – have allocated £25,000 to saturate East dulwich with this technology before March.

If only fighting all crime was this obvious and straightforward.

Be a Streetleader

I normally cycle to work. Due to a mishap while playing with my children I’m using buses this week. On a bike you whizz along. With a bus commute you get time to contemplate as it’s a much slower way to travel.

So what to do on a bus journey. Today I just couldn’t help myself but email graffiti problems that need be fixed. I reported eight in just one journey via the Streetleader scheme.

Inspecting over 650km of roads every day is just not possible by the council but if the community keep an open eye and report problems they get fixed thsat much quicker.

If you’d like to be a Streetleader as well, call Dave Taylor on 020 7525 2455 or email him at

New Grove Vale library….

Eighteen months ago I approached developer St.Aidan’s who’d applied for planning permission to redevelope the Dulwich Garden Centre, 18-22 Grove Vale. Personally it’s sad to see the demise of a a garden centre – that’s where we buy our plants from for our garden. But if it is going to be redeveloped then I wanted to ensure that any scheme benefited the local community in East Dulwich.  So I proposed the current charming but pokey Grove Vale library be moved to a proposed new development across the road on a peppercorn rent. I attended the previous schemes planning appeal in January’07 to help ensure it didn’t proceed as it was an ugly pastiche with no community benefit.

The new scheme, progressing through the planning process, includes 24 flats and a new 230m2 Grove Vale community library. The current Grove Vale library is only 144m2. So the new library would be big enough for school classes from Dog Kennel Hill, Goose Green and other local schools to visit, hold adult education, have lots more study desks and computers and be a much bigger asset to the community. If approved it would be on a peppercorn rent for circa 125 years. The would release money that would enable it to be open much more than the current four days per week.

My calculations show this as having a potential net present value of £2,000,000 for East Dulwich.

Still quite a few issues to work through but I’m really excited by how Southwark Council Officers have been able, working with a developer, to get this scheme submitted. Hopefully it will be approved in December or January.

Watch this space for updates.

Dulwich Library – open 20% more often

Dulwich Libary is the most popular library in Southwark. It’s located a few feet from the boundary of East Dulwich ward and an incredibly useful resource for the area. I’ve often visited and had to wait some time before I could find a desk position to work from.

Starting this week Dulwich Library is now open EVERY Wednesday from 9am to 8pm. This means Dulwich Library is now open 7 days a week. The number of hours this library is open has increased from 55 to 66 hours per week. Additionally the very large meeting room opposite the study area, when not booked for events, will be set up for students to study. Each of these improvement is a step increase in facilities for library users and students studying at this library.

The new arrangements follow a pre-election promise from all three Liberal Democrat East Dulwich councillors Richard Thomas, Jonathan Mitchell and myself to get longer opening hours for local libraries.

This has all been possible by reaarnging staff time and at no extra cost to tax payers. So a big thank you to all the staff and union representatives who have made this possible – thank you.