Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Been busy on both work and council front for the last couple of weeks and haven't posted much on here, but have a couple of days off from the day job this week so I can catch up on a few other things. Have been getting a few quotes for some work on my flat, which has been v neglected of late and I've got a new table made by local company Chunk Originals. All the furniture Steve makes is made from wood he has salvaged from skips, flytips etc. My table is made from old floorboards and looks great. The plan is that it is to be kept free of council paperwork as it is the replacement for our dining table which has turned into my council desk, but we'll have to see how long that lasts ;).

Surgeries and ward issues
Hilly Fields Surgery is proving far more popular than the St Andrews one at the moment, with 8 people coming along to the last one. We also held a street surgery in Somerset Gardens, Elswick Road, Grover Court and Sunninghill Road, but no one put the flyer in their window asking us to call :(, so we ended up spending some time chatting to the shopkeepers on Loampit Hill and handing out graffiti removal forms instead. The street surgery flyers seem to attract a bit of casework by e-mail in the following weeks as much as stuff on the doorstep. I've asked if the graffiti team can come along and put some anti-graffiti paint on the shop shutters on Loampit Hill like they have on Ladywell Road, which has worked well, but we need to get the shopkeepers' signed forms back first . . I've also requested for the chewing gum to be cleaned off the pavement on Loampit Hill - it's decent paving along there, but covered in black splodges of chewing gum.

Loads of flytipping in a few areas of the ward in the last few days - Elswick Rd, Foxborough Gardens, Malyons Rd - have been reporting to lovelewisham but really wish we could catch a few more of those responsible. A 'no fly-posting' sign has also gone up in Algiers Rd at my request, though it remains to be seen what effect, if any, this will have.

Empowering Communities and Neighbourhoods
I am on the Mayoral Commission on Empowering Communities and Neighbourhoods, although unfortunately the inaugural meeting this Thursday clashes with Green Party conference and I will be down in Hove. From what I can make out, the purpose of the commission is to look at ways of improving links and communication between local communities and the council. I'm hoping part of the remit will be to look at ways of devolving some decision-making down to local forums and ways of giving them a bit more clout. It sounds very green . . .

Ladywell Forum
We are provisionally looking at Wednesday 8th November for our first Ladywell Area Forum, although this has still tbc. I would welcome residents' views on what issues they want to discuss. Current possibilities we are considering are youth provision in the ward (or lack thereof) and the town centre development. Similarly, your views on ways of 'empowering communities and neighbourhoods' for me to feed through to the commission would be welcome.

Youth Provision in Ladywell
Mike, Ute and I had a very useful meeting with officers from the Youth Services team last week. We wanted to find out what plans, if any there were for further youth provision in the ward as we share residents' concerns that there isn't a huge amount going on at the moment. Besides Street Vibes and the skate park, which strictly speaking are just outside the ward, St Andrews Church on Brockley Road has a youth club, and Crofton Park Baptist Church on Brockley Grove does too, but I'm not aware of anything else. In the past there were also youth clubs at Crofton Leisure Centre and St Mary's Centre, but these are both no more. There doesn't seem to be as much in the way of clubs locally as you might hope, eg Brownies, Guides etc. I guess it's the usual story of not having enough volunteers, people working longer hours etc etc.

The lack of provision in Ladywell was recognised by the youth team and we spent some time brainstorming various options, sites and funding, and there are a few things to follow up on, but nothing definite just yet. The existing budget for youth provision in the north of the borough is very tight, but there are a number of grants available at the moment for young people interested in setting up some kind of project and sometimes match funding is available. We're looking into it, but again, your suggestions welcome.

(Un)ethical pensions
Last week was another meeting of the Pensions Investment Committee, which I am on. We were supposed to be reviewing the statement of investment principles and I was very keen to push for us to exclude investments in arms and tobacco, but in the end we ran out of time and have deferred it to the next meeting. Lib Dems have passed a motion on clean and ethical investment at their conference today, so I'm hoping they may support this, though they were rather quiet at the meeting.

Arms and tobacco only represent a tiny amount of the total investment portfolio, approx 1%, so I don't think excluding them would excessively limit the diversity of investments. Our current policy is one of constructive engagement with companies on ethical issues. I am willing to see how you can 'positively engage' with most companies, but can't see how you can do so with arms and tobacco.

We are legally obliged as trustees of the pensions fund to put fiduciary interest above all other considerations, but aren't prohibited from taking into account ethical issues as long as it is not financially detrimental to the fund. We can also argue for the exclusion of investments in a particular sector on financial grounds. For example, Newham Council have barred investments in tobacco, citing concerns over possible lawsuits. I did think of arguing that there would be potential downside for arms stocks if peace broke out, if the war on terror is won, etc, but maybe that isn't so likely . . .

Car Free Day
On Sunday I went to the open house event at the wonderful Creekside Centre and then popped into Greenwich to see their Car Free Day event. They get funding to close their high street to traffic and put sand and deckchairs there for the day and have various performers. Great idea, would be good if we could do smthg similar in Lewisham and I have asked a question to this effect for this month's full council mtg (which is this Wednesday, 20th Sept, btw). That said, Lewisham is doing some kind of promotion to encourage council staff to walk/cycles to work this Friday for In town without my car, and various events for staff as part of goodgoing week. There are also lots of events taking place in Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley for the Green Chain Festival (16-24 September).

Real Nappies for London
Today I went to City Hall for the launch of the Real Nappies for London launch. The idea is for boroughs to work together to share expertise in promoting the use of real nappies. I'm hoping that Lewisham will join the scheme and again, am hoping for a positive response to a question I have asked Heidi Alexander, the deputy mayor, on this very subject at full council tomorrow.

Healthy Brockley
Blimey, this is a long post and it's getting late. I'm off to Green Party Conference in Hove this Thursday, so will sadly not be at Healthy Brockley this Sunday. The last one back in May was great, well worth a visit.

Lewisham Green Party Meetings
Finally, we have a new venue for local Green Party meetings, which is Brockley Social Club. The next meeting is at 7.30pm on Monday 9th October. New members/supporters always welcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding 'Empowering Communities and Neighbourhoods'

You may find a news item on the Lewisham Council website of interest.

I presume all councillors agree with Ruth Kelly that local communities will be given 'unprecedented' powers.

How ironic a local council expresses it view with a press release provided by central government.

The government has set up schemes and targets (Acadamies, ALMO's, PFI funding etc.) that have reduced local influence and is now proposing to 'empower' those local communities.

To ensure local 'empowerment' happens, the ominous last paragraph states.

"Central Government will also play its part by making more space for local government to take the lead – while ensuring that important standards are met and taking tough action when things go wrong."

As you are aware locally decisions regarding a new school and leisure centre have ignored the views of the community. The press release from Ruth Kelly, (endorsed by the council?) states.

"There are already a range of powers and policies to enable and encourage local people to come together and take control of the public land and buildings that are at the heart of their communities."

Have we seen those powers embraced by the Mayor over the past 4 years?

The press statement goes on to state...

"The Government is legislating for a “community call to action” on community safety. Ruth Kelly will say that she sees no reason that this should not be extended to other local public services where local people have concerns such as street cleaning, leisure and sport facilities.

It doesn't take legislation for a Mayor to take notice of the views of the local community. The Mayor just needs to be willing to listen and act accordingly.