Monday, December 18, 2006

No Justice, No Peas!

I attended the annual Lewisham Peace Vigil yesterday, organised by Lewisham and Greenwich CND together with Stop the War. I think this is the fourth one now and it's a bit depressing that the same wars that prompted us to start it are still rumbling on. We met outside the library then walked down to the market area carrying lanterns which spelled out 'No justice, no peace', although the person with 'ce' was a little bit behind the others so some shoppers looked a bit puzzled about what the protest against peas was all about. Music was provided by the Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir. Attendance was a little down on previous years, but it's always a busy day in the year for people to make it.
Interesting posting on Ruscombe Green about 2 campaigns calling for people to send fruit to the government. The Burma Campaign is calling for the UK government to ban British companies from investing in Burma, while the other, Blair's Banana Republic has been set up in response to the decision by the PM not to allow the police to investigate allegations that BAE Systems bribed Saudi Officials to secure a deal to sell them fighter jets. But hey, on the upside, shares in BAE Systems rose 7% on the announcement, which is good for Lewisham Council's Pension Fund, which invests in the company. Not so good for whoever the Saudis may decide to bomb with them, of course. Just seen that Matt and Richard have written about this whole Blair & BAE fiasco.
BTW, this is my 100th posting, and to celebrate the fact, I'm going to take a break from blogging until the new year. Happy Christmas and a peaceful new year to everyone.

Waste Strategy

On Wednesday evening I went to the Mayor and Cabinet meeting. The Mayor withdrew the items on the Monson consultation and the lighting PFI contract, but the main reason I was there was to here about the borough’s new waste strategy. The document looks at various options to meet our 20% recycling target for next year, including expanding the collection of kitchen/garden waste and making recycling compulsory.
While the strategy as a whole was approved, the Mayor was somewhat reticent about committing to any particular proposal out of those outlined in the document. He was concerned at the cost of implementing them, in particular the green waste collection. He's right to make sure money is spent effectively, but we will need to spend more money if we are to boost our recycling rates. I'm hopeful that this strategy is something we can get a degree of cross-party consensus on, and the Greens will certainly support any sensible plans to increase recycling in the borough, including compulsory recycling as long as it's implemented fairly and alongside a publicity campaign and making sure that everyone has access to recycling facilities.

New Loampit Vale Medical Centre Officially Open!

On Wednesday Mike, Ute and I attended the official opening of the new Loampit Hill Medical centre (next to the colourful local landmark that is 62 Loampit Hill pictured).
Personally, I think the exterior of the medical centre is rather ugly, but inside it is very modern and spacious, without the steep, pokey staircases which are a feature of so many doctors’ surgeries that are converted houses rather than custom-built. Mayor Steve Bullock gave a speech about how good he was getting at pretending to cut ribbons/turn on Christmas lights while posing for photographers, then dutifully cut the ribbon.
A number of patients attending the opening expressed concern and surprise that there was not any parking for patients, in particular no disabled parking spaces. Seems a little strange, although I understand that residents of Somerset Gardens expressed concern at the planning stage about parking for the development. Ute is going to follow up on this with highways/planning and see if anything can be done.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

CCTV in Ladywell?

A resident has lobbied me about getting CCTV installed in Ladywell on the corner of Algernon Rd with Ladywell Rd. I'm not strongly for or against CCTV, but I do know that it's expensive ie about £50,000 for the cost of getting a camera installed, linked into the Lewisham network etc, plus running costs.

There are almost 200 CCTV cameras in Lewisham now, mostly in the town centre and Catford. Arguably in all the areas around Ladywell, but not in Ladywell itself (maybe we were forgotten?). They were funded by 4 phases of home office funding, although maintenance and repairs are funded by the council on an ongoing basis. (The exception to this was £56,000 funding for a camera at the bottom of Clifton Rise (near the Venue Nightclub in New Cross). Police requested it and put up most of the money, with the remainder from the council budget.)

Apparently there is some research (but don't ask me to quote sources!) to show that CCTV doesn't work on its own, but can work in partnership with other measures and it tends to be reactive more than proactive. ie Most people don’t notice it is there and it's not a particularly effective deterrent eg for drunken fights, but if operators are aware of places/times/days when problems might occur they can monitor and send police as soon as a problem occurs. They can also look out for vulnerable (eg drunk) people and check they are ok. What CCTV is apparently most effective at is reducing people's fear of crime, rather than crime itself.

When I had my bike stolen from outside Ladywell Leisure Centre back in January there were 2 CCTV cameras - one on the street and one at the Leisure Centre, but one was broken/turned off and the picture on the other was too grainy to make anything out, so the CCTV in this case was absolutely useless. That said, there are of course lots of examples of cases when CCTV images have been crucial evidence to solve the crime.

According to the manager of Lewisham's CCTV system, there is no current funding for extra cameras, but they are trying to get funding for mobile CCTV cameras. At the moment I'm not convinced that if I had £50,000 to spend on crime reduction initiatives in Ladywell, or anywhere else in Lewisham for that matter, that CCTV would be top of my list. My inclination would be to spend it on youth provision, or maybe a couple more community support officers. What do you think?

Ladywell Youth Provision Working Party

The first meeting of the 'Ladywell Youth Provision Working Party' (to take forward issues raised about at the ward forum) will be held on Friday 2nd February 2007 2.30 - 4.30pm at the Professional Development Centre, Kilmorie Road, Forest Hill SE23 2SP. I'm not quite sure why it's in Forest Hill (I didn't arrange it), but I suspect it's because the potential meeting places in Ladywell are all being used at that time. I hope that doesn't deter anyone from going. Please let Bridget Akinbolaji know if you would like to attend.

Provisional agenda:
Welcome and introductions
Minutes from Ward Forum meeting
Background, Context and linked Strategies
Young People’s Consultation
Issues to be addressed – venues, funding etc
Further actions
Date of next meeting

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dreaming of a green Christmas?

Press release we issued today in response to a request from the Mercury. Interesting article in the Guardian today on a similar theme.

Everyone knows that turkeys can’t fly very far, so you might be surprised to learn that your Christmas dinner may have travelled a staggering 30,000 miles before it gets to your table.

From European fowl and African vegetables to Australian wine and American cranberry sauce, the ingredients of the traditional yuletide meal can notch up enough air miles to circumnavigate the globe.

But if that is worrying for the growing number of us who want to do what we can to help prevent climate change, local Green Party councillors have been spreading the message that you can still have a fantastic Christmas without it costing the Earth.

Councillor Ute Michel said: “There is no need to turn into Scrooge in order to help save the planet at Christmas time. By shopping at farmers' markets and local shops, watching our waste and reining in our spending we can enjoy a very Merry Christmas without sacrificing our Happy New Year."

The Greens have been brainstorming and have come up with ideas to make your celebrations more carbon-neutral:

Christmas dinner
Think local, think fair trade, think organic. With all the money being spent at this time of year, it is a great opportunity to support your local community by buying from small shops and market. Buying local produce also cuts down on those all-important ‘food miles’ – why buy Zimbabwean beans when great British produce is on our doorstep? You can find out about your local food suppliers on the Soil Association website.

Councillor Sue Luxton said: "By eating locally grown food we not only enjoy fresher, tastier food but we can spread Christmas cheer by supporting our local economies - and cutting out some of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the aviation industry."

With UK households already owing more than £1 trillion, festive spending risks pushing thousands deeper into a spiral of debt - a terrible worry hanging over many people at Christmas, spoiling what should be a joyful time. Giving Secret Santa presents means no one goes without, and adds some fun and mystery to Christmas morning. Or why not give home-made or edible gifts instead of spending unnecessarily? If you’re not the craft or baking kind, check out local flea markets and vintage clothing shops – you’ll be giving something beautiful and unique, and recycling without even realising it!

The Christmas tree
Save money and save resources – why not use a tree with roots? You could watch it continue to grow all year round.You can find out more about container-grown trees at Each year, 6 million trees end up in landfill sites. So if you do go for a regular tree, check out the council’s tree recycling service – there should be a drop-off place close to your home.

Cards and wrapping paper

Each year, 200,000 trees are cut down to supply the UK’s 1.7 billion Christmas cards, and enough wrapping paper is used to wrap the island of Guernsey. So don’t forget to recycle yours! Or, as your grandparents probably used to tell you, reusing is even less wasteful – why not help your children to show off their creative sides by turning those old cards into decorations for next year? Learn more here: Woodland Trust.

Christmas waste
When you go shopping, cut down on yet more waste by taking your own shopping bags with you – and avoiding presents with lots of unnecessary packaging. All those vegetables that go into the roast don’t need to come in plastic packaging – buy loose! And when your clueless auntie gives you that present you know you’ll never use, don’t throw it away – join your local Freecycle group and give it away to someone who will appreciate it. You never know what you yourself might get for free when you become a member – and it all helps to avoid adding to our bulging landfill sites.

Going abroad for Christmas?
Consider taking the train to destinations within Europe - it’s far less polluting than air travel, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. And if you know where to look – Seat 61 is a great place to start – it can be cheaper and quicker than you think. With no check-in, baggage reclaim, stale cabin air or cramped seating, avoiding the airport is really a Christmas present to yourself, and the amazing views from your train window are the best way to get know the continent on your doorstep.


The horrific murders in Ipswich have once more thrown the issue of prostitution, the law and the safety of sex workers into the spotlight. Sadly the murder of women sex workers is all too common, and sometimes it seems that it's only when a serial killer is on the loose that it attracts much attention.

I could be wrong, but I think the Green Party is unique amongst the main parties in having policies to decriminalise prostitution, with the primary aim of protecting the rights and safety of sex workers. Our policy can be viewed here (scroll down to where it says Prostitution and the Sex Industry). I attended a packed workshop on the subject at the Autumn Conference, where the vast majority of those present supported the policy as a whole, though some felt we didn't give enough attention to supporting women who wanted to move out of the industry, as well as protecting those who didn't. I'd be interested to hear people's views on the policy.

(and on a lighter note, it will also be interesting to see how many extra hits the blog gets just by having the words 'sex' and 'prostitution' in a posting !).

Addendum: Having posted this, I've just seen that Jim has beaten me to it with a much more detailed and coherent posting on the same subject over on his Daily (Maybe) blog.

Follow up to Ladywell Forum on Youth Provision

Apologies for the time it has taken me to post this report on our ward forum as promised.

Our first forum (Nov 9th) was reasonably well-attended with about 30 people. We had a number of people attend with a specific interest in youth provision - eg council officers from the extended schools and youth services teams, representatives from church youth clubs, one of the young mayor's advisors, a number of young people and parents from the area, PCSO Graham Andrews, who has been carrying out surveys on youth provision with local young people, a representative from 'Teach Sport' the organisation that ran the 'Summer Alive' sport activities that took place on Hilly Fields this summer. Thank you to everyone who took the time to attend, as well as those who couldn't attend but expressed an interest in being involved.

Below are notes from the meeting (not necessarily my views, but reflective of opinions expressed at the meeting by both young people and adults). Gill Wills, the Extended Services Manager, has agreed to set up a steering committee to take things forward and is hoping to organise another meeting/taster activity event early in the new year. If you would like to be involved with this steering group, please contact either me or Gill directly. I will also post up soon a summary of the feedback from the surveys that PCSO Graham Andrews carried out with young people in the ward.

What’s happening/What Facilities are available at the moment in and around Ladywell?
Plenty of open space/green space in ward.
Ladywell Leisure Centre (not being closed anymore!)
Ladywell Centre (Dressington Avenue) – but public access to facilities limited and it may be demolished.
Prendergast School (indoor cricket annex planned)
Gordonbrock Primary School (after-school club)
Ladywell after school club (where?)
St Mary’s Centre has a youth club on Fridays and Tai Kwon Do and they are keen to do more youth work.
Anything happening at St Cyprian’s Church Hall on Brockley Road?
London & Quadrant ran a football programme in Slagrove Place and the police fund-matched some football coach training with one of the housing associations.
Crofton Leisure Centre will re-open to the public in 2008 (when Crofton School’s rebuild is completed). Any chance of a gymnastics club there?
XLP Youth Work Charity with double decker activity bus (but not in Ladywell?).
Crofton Baptist Church has a weekly youth club on Wednesdays for 30 -35 young people. Nearing capacity and hoping to expand soon. JUMP.
Summer university (primary)
Skate Park in Ladywell Fields
Summer Alive (sports on Hilly Fields) was a success – can it be expanded to be all-year?
Youth club at St Andrews (they have plans to expand and make their basement a ‘youth space’ – but need lots of funding to do this!)
Brockley Baptist Church have an after school club 3 days a week for younger children.
Felix School of Rock (New Cross?)

Previously – Ladywell Gymnastics Club, but moved to Bellingham now. Also, Street Vibes – moved to site on TESCO car park. More used to happen at St Mary’s Centre. Ladywell Centre sports hall threatened with demolition.
Sure Start opening next year in Dressington Avenue, but may not have rooms for hire/community use.

What is good about existing facilities?
Street Vibes (music production)
Table tennis and Playstation, Pool, snooker, workshops, café, dance, drama and art (Crofton Baptist Church youth club)

What would you like to see in the area?
Organise trips (eg Quasar), Cinema, More performing arts, More youth clubs, More counselling, An adventure playground, Cheerleading, Computer consoles, Nightclub for under 18s, XLP double decker bus, Trampolines, Go karts, Theme park (!), Gymnastics, Nail salon (?!), Partnerships, Funding for all-weather sports facilities, Joined up provision and winter provision, More variety to include all, including kabbadi, badminton.
Need to bring together buildings, funding, facilities, expertise and staff.
Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Team – keen to see space alongside Viney Road flats turned into some kind of football pitch for kids there to use.

Proposals to take forward
More consultation with children
A list of activities for children to choose from
Identifying buildings – visit existing buildings to see what is currently going on and what can be developed.
Set up a steering group
Audit of existing provision and facilities and anticipated future need.
Useful contacts, networking, partnerships
Link in with Sure Start?
Some attendees expressed opposition to plans to demolish the Ladywell Centre Sports Hall and wanted to use the green area in Dressington Avenue for activities (Abbey Manor College wanted to put an all-weather basketball pitch there).
Build links with local schools
Can derelict changing rooms on Ladywell Fields (end of Malyons Rd be renovated for some kind of youth space?
Smthg at Old Bothy on Hilly Fields now it has been vacated by Envirowork (too noisy for residents on Shell Rd, and there may be plans for the site already?).

Possible sources of funding:
Youth Opportunities Fund and Youth Capital Fund
Jack Petchey Foundation (match funding youth initiatives)
Lottery money
Youth Services existing budget (!)
Housing associations
Locality Fund (only £10,000 and lots of interest already though!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Local Party Meeting: Monday 11 December, 7.30pm

Lewisham Green Party's monthly meeting:
Monday 11th December, 7.30pm, at Brockley Social Club, Brockley Road.
There will be a brief business meeting followed by our Christmas Social. All members and supporters welcome.

Locality Fund - further info

Further to my earlier posting on 29 November about the locality fund, I've pasted in below the letter we are sending out to local groups with further details of how to apply:

Ladywell ward Councillors
c/o Cllr Ute Michel
Tel: 020 8691 5212

c/o Governance Support
Civic Suite, Lewisham Town Hall

6 December 2006

£10,000 Community project funding for Ladywell ward – how should it be spent?

In November the Mayor and Cabinet approved the Localities Fund for 2006/07 – each of Lewisham’s 18 wards is allocated £10,000 for activities and projects supporting community initiatives that directly benefit the local neighbourhood, make a visible difference and deliver sustainable improvements to the area. We have a number of ideas about how the money could be spent in Ladywell ward, but we would like to hear suggestions from as many residents and local groups as possible.

Examples of possible projects include:

  • Hanging baskets/street planters/street trees
  • A youth project Park benches
  • A community art project
  • A local event (eg a football tournament or an outing)
  • Playground equipment/solar panel for a local school
The £10,000 can be allocated to one project or split between a variety of smaller ones.
Last year’s (2005/06) fund allocation was £5,000 per ward; in Ladywell this paid for hanging baskets along Ladywell Road and this year’s Christmas tree.

If you have an idea for an activity/project you would like to receive funding for, please submit a brief outline, which must include the following information:·
  • Details/Description of the planned activity/project including the benefit(s) to the local community and how engagement with local residents is achieved·
  • Geographical location (if appropriate)·
  • Dates the activity/project will take place (if appropriate)·
  • The amount of money requested·
  • Name and contact details of person/group submitting application.and provide any other information you find useful in support of your activity/project.
Please e-mail or send your proposal to Cllr Ute Michel (contact details above) by Friday, 5 January 2007. One of the conditions of the funding is that the money needs to be allocated and spent by 31 March 2007 (even if the actual activity takes places later as would be the case with plants). Money can be given in addition to funding already secured for a particular activity. If you would like to discuss details further, please contact Cllr Michel.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Cllrs Mike Keogh, Sue Luxton and Ute Michel
Green Party Councillors for Ladywell ward

How can Labour improve your environment?

Just got a 'Labour Action' newsletter through the door - have to say it's more carefully thought out than the 'Mayor Saves Ladywell Pool' leaflet. It's focussing on the environment and has a picture of J.R crouched down in front of Brockley Common. On the back it asks "How can Labour improve your environment?". Well, in the interest of cross-party co-operation, here are a few suggestions for Labour locally and nationally:

1. Stop all airport expansion - aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and any efforts we make elsewhere to reduce our carbon emissions will be cancelled out by a huge increase in air travel. Levy green taxes on air travel and subsidise rail more heavily so that there is a financial incentive to take the train to destinations within Europe, rather than flying.
2. Introduce personal carbon quotas, which are arguably more equitable than green taxes. See here, here, here, here or here for more info on these.
3. Don't put 500 car-parking spaces in the Lewisham Gateway development - make it a car-free development - it's right next to the borough's main transport hub for goodness sake.
4. Make sure the new local development framework has ambitious targets set for energy efficiency and renewable energy for ALL new developments, even a single building. Maybe starting at 20% to match the London Plan, then rising incrementally to 30% over the next few years? (I'm quietly optimistic that this one is going to happen)
5. Encourage people to shop locally, supporting small shops and farmers' markets. Stop giving planning permission for out of town shopping centres that threaten the livelihoods of town centre shopkeepers. Stop the great food swap and localise food production. This doesn't mean we all have to live like Tom and Barbara in the Good Life, but it is crazy for us to export British Lamb to New Zealand and import New Zealand lamb, or import green beans from Kenya in August, when they can be grown in the UK.
6. Introduce a 10p/bag tax on plastic bags and force supermarkets to stop excessively packaging products.
7. Fine TESCO/Sainsbury/TK Maxx/Lidl etc £50 for every one of their shopping trolleys that gets dumped on the streets of Lewisham, and then maybe they would look after them more carefully. (You may be starting to detect a trend here about my views on supermarkets ;) ).
8. Start taxing motorists according to mileage and how polluting their vehicle is.
9. Make sure there every child has a safe route to school and do much much more to encourage parents to let their kids walk/cycle to school. While we're at it, let's have a 20 mph zone borough-wide too, and some enforcement of that 'don't use your mobile while you're driving' law that is so often ignored.
10. Support allotments and community gardens, community planting days, river clean-ups, don't build on parks and green spaces etc etc.

That's probably enough to be getting on with, though I haven't even started on nuclear trains, Trident, SELCHP . . .

Now over to you - how can Labour improve your environment?

So much for a quiet week!

Last Sunday I made the mistake of saying I thought the week was going to be quiet with not many meetings. ..

On Monday we had a briefing from the council chief exec, Barry Quirk, on the new monthly report of performance indicators that the council is going to publish. Looked like a generally useful document, though of course statistics can be manipulated to say whatever you want them to potentially. A couple of things that lept out on the 'areas for management attention' page were that the council is not reaching its targets for take up of free school meals by those entitled to them, the percentage of household waste recycled/composted, the time to relet properties or the number of library borrowers. A few areas we are apparently doing well in are reducing the number of children killed/seriously injured on our roads, the occupation rates of Lewisham and Deptford markets and with planning application turn-around time.

On Tuesday I went with Mike to Hilly Fields Users Group, Ladywell Society and then the Pool Campaign Victory Party at the Rising Sun pub. Wanted to make sure HFUG and Ladywell Society knew about the locality fund. Discussed the state of the footpaths in Hilly Fields with HFUG and am following up with highways. (Footpaths in parks are normally the responsibility of the parks dept, but in this case they may be passed over to highways). HFUG have been successful in getting lottery funding for a project to install new decorative iron gates by the entrance to Hilly fields on Eastern Road (current ones are bent out of shape and not particularly attractive). The gates will be made by Heather Burrell, a local artist who made the gates at the Creekside Centre, among other things. She will be basing the design on an art project carried out by Prendergast students.

Ladywell Society members raised several issues I am following up with highways on their behalf (cars pulling up onto the pavement by Ladywell Supermarket, the state of the railings along Ladywell Road) and a member expressed an interest in setting up a ‘Friends of Brockley Cemetary’ society ('users group' didn't seem to be the right word!). Impressive turnout at the victory party, which we managed to get to at 10pm, by which time everyone was feeling pretty happy and victorious.

Didn't make it to the Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Panel meeting on Thursday, as it clashed with my work Christmas Party, but Ute went along.

Quiet surgery at Hilly Fields yesterday, after which we went to Gordonbrock's Christmas Fayre. Impressive range of stalls, including a very well-stocked cake stall; testament to an active PTA. Gordonbrock teachers, parents and governors are concerned at the time it is taking to get started on repair works to the school and the continuing uncertainty over whether they will get a rebuild within the next few years or not. They are also awaiting the outcome of the Primary Review to see if they can drop from 2 ½ form entry to 2 form entry. Work to clear/contain asbestos on the site is taking place next weekend, then hopefully a survey can be done early in the new year to work out what needs to be done most urgently and what can be done within the budget.

Monday, December 04, 2006

New School Consultation has started

The consultation on the proposed Lewisham Bridge Primary School site for the new school has started today and runs until 15 January. See here for further details and to download a copy of the consultation document. I found this table from the DfES website useful to give an overview of the difference between a hard federation and the various other governing options proposed.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Being nosey

Ute and I had a meeting on Tuesday with the director of Abbey Manor College and the head of their Dressington Avenue site (the John Evelyn Centre). V useful to meet them, find out more about their work and how they felt plans to demolish the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre would affect them (their students currently use both the hall and the adjacent grass regularly). Abbey Manor College has 2 sites - one in Lee Green and the other in Dressington Avenue. They cater for students who have already been or are likely to be permanently excluded from mainstream education. Students work towards qualifications in various subjects including (hope I get this right) sports and leisure management, graphic design, hairdressing and constructions skills, as well as having classes in basic skills (maths and English).

As a nosey person, it was also interesting to have a look inside a building with such a rich history. A grade two listed building, it's one of the few remaining bits of the vast Ladywell workhouse which once covered all of what is now Slagrove Place, Dressington Avenue and Foxborough Gardens. The picture above is of the dining hall, which is where most of the classrooms for Abbey Manor college are today. The building has been pretty well preserved, but with classrooms 'plonked' in the middle of the hall, and flats in other parts of the building. Other bits of the workhouse that have survived include the Watertower in Dresssington Avenue and the Ladywell Training Centre (the building behind Ladywell Tavern). While searching for a picture of how it used to be, I've found several interesting websites about workhouses and lots of old photos of Lewisham and south-east London. Oh, and I came across another interesting blog about south-east London, see Transpontine.
On Thursday I met up with some students from Goldsmiths who are interested in setting up a 'Green Democratic Society Party'. We didn't have Freshers' Fayre stall at Goldsmiths this year, unlike the previous 3 years, when we got a really good response on the day then didn't find anyone willing to get the group off the ground. Possibly not having a Freshers' Fayre stall was the answer, as its absence was apparently noticed and prompted this group of students to look into setting up a society of their own. I'm trying to persuade them to be a Young Greens society, but we'll see.

From Goldsmiths I went straight on to a short Overview and Scrutiny Committee (full council minus the cabinet) meeting to set up a housing sub-committee (!) to look into how ALMOs and PFI schemes are being set up in the borough and the implementation of the decent homes programme. I am going to be the Green person on the committee and am looking forward to delving more deeply into the ins and outs of housing in Lewisham.

I was back at Goldsmiths on Friday for an event to mark World AIDS Day. There was a speaker from The Positive Place talking about the crucial work they do there and someone from the NUS talking about a recent visit she'd made to southern Africa. One shocking statistic I took away from it was that 200 people around the world die of AIDS every five minutes. Positive Place are waiting to hear if they have got their funding for the next year, which normally comes via the NHS, but they are rather worried how the budget deficits of various PCTs will impact on them.

On Saturday I went to a 'market research viewing facility' off Oxford Street to watch a 'focus group'. All sounds a bit New Labour and not the kind of thing the Green Party usually has enough money for. Basically it was two groups of people who were paid £40 to take part in a focus group on politics. They started off with a general discussion on politics, their view of political parties, if you were prime minister what would you do etc, then they were told that the research was for the Green Party, and asked for their views on the Green Party and various posters and slogans that are being considered. We sat in another room behind a one-way mirror. Very interesting to see how we are perceived by others, and very useful to get others to look at what we thought were good ads/posters, but some of which, in retrospect don't work. Again, it also appealed to my nosiness to eavesdrop on their conversations! Of course, I couldn't possibly divulge what they said!

When I came out of the focus group thingy, I wandered down Oxford Street, which was closed off to all traffic in a special bus and car-free pre-Christmas extravaganza. Lots of street entertainers, lots of promotion of cycling and walking by good going and those organising the Tour de France, which of course is coming to London and (ever so briefly) Lewisham next year. Well, it pops into the borough along Evelyn Street then goes back into Greenwich but it does, nevertheless, pass through Lewisham! Oxford Street is considerably more bearable without the traffic, but the shops still seemed to be selling the usual tat and I wasn't inclined to linger long. Popped in to the art sale at St Andrew's Church on Brockley Road on my way home and got some great hand-made Christmas cards.

Today I abandoned Ladywell once again and went to the Animal Aid Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre in Kensington, which is an annual pilgrimage for me, then went on to help out Camden Greens with a by-election they have this coming Thursday. Sian Berry, the Green candidate, is one of the Green Party's principal speakers (the closest we have to leaders) and a founder of the Alliance against Urban 4x4s. Fingers crossed.

Not many council meetings between now and Christmas, so time to take stock of first few months as a councillor, try to wrap up any outstanding casework, start to look ahead a bit, binge drink etc.