Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Questions to Mayor & Cabinet

Each month councillors (and for that matter any member of the public too) are allowed to submit questions to Mayor & Cabinet and to receive written responses at full council. There is then a fixed period of time within the meeting to ask supplementary questions. Below are the questions I asked at the November meeting (seems a long time ago now) and the responses I received, and underneath that, my questions for January's meeting. The Save Ladywell Pool campaign used the public questions to great effect and meetings have simply not been the same since Max Calo and friends stopped asking questions!

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
How many Victorian properties that come under the Brockley PFI contract but are outside of Brockley Conservation area are due to have their wooden sash windows ripped out and replaced with UPVC ones? Can you confirm that leaseholders have the right to get their own replacement wooden sash windows installed instead if they prefer (with notice to the authority's contractor 3 months prior to the Authority’s contractor commencing work on the leaseholder’s block)?
On a contractual basis, the information requested has not been required and would therefore, be difficult and time consuming to collect. However we have previously been asked to gather the same information for the area between the Brockley conservation area and the St Mary’s Conservation area.
We can advise that in the area between the Brockley and St Mary's conservation areas, there are 44 properties that are likely to have their sash windows replaced with UPVC.

The Authority does permit Leaseholders to carry out window replacement, at their own cost, should they wish to do this, but there are a number of conditions attached.
The leaseholder/s must firstly write to the Authority to request permission to carry out this work.
The leaseholder must give the Authority and the Authority’s contractor at least 3 months notice of his/her intent. (This is 3 months prior to the Authority’s contractor commencing work on the leaseholder’s block). This is to give the Authority’s contractor enough time to cancel any orders that it may have placed for the leaseholder’s windows and thus not incur additional costs, which may be passed to the leaseholder.
The Authority OR its contractor, will provide the Leaseholder with a window specification which the Leaseholder’s contractor will need to comply with. In addition to obtaining the Council’s permission as landlord, the leaseholder will also be required to obtain any consents (planning approval, building control etc) which may be necessary.
The leaseholder will then need to provide the Authority with written evidence that they have engaged in a contract with a window installer/ manufacturer, to carry out the window replacement. This is to ensure that the window replace will be carried out within a reasonable time and will not over run any other works being carried out to the building by the contractor.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Mayor
Would the Mayor consider making it a condition at next year's People's Day that traders use only compostable paper plates and cups and not polystyrene, to reduce the volume of non-recyclable waste created by the event? Such a condition has worked well at Glastonbury Festival, which is now a polystyrene free zone and recycles and composts a large proportion of the waste produced.
The Arts Service are working closely with Continental Drifts, the contracted production company for People’s Day, to explore solutions to the use of non-compostable catering supplies, and investigate the policies of similar community festivals and events in order to identify a set of standards for caterers and traders.
It has proved difficult to attract high quality catering concessions to a one day event with a perceived low income visitor demographic. People’s Day has worked over several years to develop relationships with many local catering providers and works hard to offer a culturally diverse range of food options.
Many of the catering providers have expressed concern over the financial and practical implication of sourcing specialist containers for this event alone. The Peoples Day Team is keen to continue to support local businesses and maintain the Council's longstanding relationships with traders, and to adopt a phased approach to introducing new guidelines.
With these factors in mind, in 2008 Peoples Day is likely to follow the model adopted by Southwark Council Events Team and buy corn starch or paper plates and cups to sell on to caterers for use at the event. This takes away the onus from catering providers to source suppliers. The Council will make it clear that it plans to enforce strict environmental guidelines in 2009, many other festival organisers will be doing the same so that it will be in the traders' commercial interest to use only environmentally friendly products.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Mayor
Would the Mayor consider following the example set by the Mayors of London and New York in providing tap water for staff and visitors, rather than bottled water, thus both saving money and eliminating the pollution and wasted energy in needlessly transporting the water?
The Council’s bottled water contract will end in June 2008. Works are being planned to coincide with the end of this contract to replace as much bottled water provision as possible with mains fed drinking water.
Encouragement will be given to all staff to use tap water wherever practicable however, given that it is a health and safety requirement to provide drinking water in the work place there will be a need to provide bottled water where it is impractical to provide an accessible mains fed drinking water outlet.
I will also ask officers to investigate both the financial and environmental impact of current and alternative arrangements such as those referred to and also the use of refillable bottles as at Local Government House and also the bottling of local tap water as is done in Ekurhuleni, our sister authority in South Africa

Questions for January Meeting:

1) Question for Mayor
Will Lewisham Council be submitting a formal response to the public consultation on Heathrow airport expansion, given the likely negative impact on Lewisham residents' quality of life from additional noise and air pollution?
2) Cabinet Member for Customer Services
How successful have the Tetrapak recycling banks been since their installation last year, approximately how many tonnes of waste have been diverted from the incinerator as a result, and are there any plans to expand the scheme by increasing the number of such recycling banks in the borough?
3) Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Could the cabinet member for customer services please clarify how residents should safely dispose of low-energy light bulbs, batteries and waste electrical equipment? How many collection points for these items do we have in the borough and how does this compare with neighbouring Greenwich?
4) Question to the Deputy Mayor
Recent casework of mine has uncovered the fact that the council is currently working to a policy of not repairing broken benches but instead replacing them entirely even where a simple repair would safely restore it to use. Does the Deputy Mayor agree that, as we are supposed to be moving to a low-carbon, low-waste, resource-efficient economy, this is a waste of council resources and runs completely counter to the 'reduce, re-use, recycle' hierarchy that the council urges residents to adopt? How will she spread the 'reduce, reuse' culture through all council departments with responsibility for maintenance?

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