Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ladywell Locality Fund

We've now finalised how we are going to spend the Ladywell ward localities Fund following last-minute problems with one of the projects (we had wanted to get some Christmas lights along Loampit Hill, but were told we couldn't because the lamp-posts belonged to TfL and they wanted a safety audit done first etc etc, so had to shelve that idea for now). In total we had £12,500 as last year’s funding for Ladywell was underspent:

  • Planters along Loampit Hill between Algernon Rd and Tyrwhitt Rd (£3,829)
  • Playground equipment for Gordonbrock Primary School (£4,500)
  • Streetscape improvements at bottom of Algernon Rd (to complement features on Ladywell Rd): planters (£957), Christmas lights (£1,350) and Christmas tree 2007 (£500)
  • Brockley Max festival – contribution to closing night on Hilly Fields on 9 June (£500)
  • Pool table for groups at Crofton Park Baptist Church (£739)
  • Bird/bat boxes for Hilly Fields (£125)

These plans are still subject to final approval from the community services directorate, though we don't anticipate any problems. I'm sure we won't please everyone with this, as we had far more suggestions from people than we had money for, but we think we've managed to support quite a good range of projects within the ward. Ute has also raised our concerns about the timing and timeframe of the consultation with a Council question and received re-assurance that these will be taken into account for next year’s Fund.

New Wildlife Club for Children in Ladywell!

Following our planning meeting on Saturday, I'm delighted to confirm that a new wildlife club for children is being set up in Ladywell Fields. It is going to be run by Nick Harvey, one of the waterlink way rangers, with the help of local volunteers, including me.

The club will meet on the 3rd Saturday of the month, from 10am-12pm. The first meeting will be on Saturday 21st April.
Meet outside the old waiting room, Ladywell Fields, at 10am.
It is aimed at 5-12 year olds, though under 5s can come if accompanied by an adult. There will be a small charge of 50p/meeting to contribute towards materials costs.

Plans for the group include wildlife walks, pond-dipping, making collages from natural materials, helping to put up bird and bat boxes, possibly some day trips (eg to Woodlands Farm). The group will generally meet at the old waiting room, but they also hope to do activities in Hilly Fields and Brockley Cemetary.

If you are interesting in helping out, or would like your child to join the group, please contact Nick.

Local meetings/events this week

Tuesday 13th March - Public Mtg on Climate Change

Greenwich Green Party are hosting a public meeting this Tuesday,13 March at 7.30pm, venue: Lovell Hall (just behind the Forum@Greenwich) , at the junction of Christchurch Way and Trafalgar Road:

"Climate Change is Our Future Reality - What can we do? How to get started!"

Guest speaker is Jonathan Essex, member of the Green Party Campaigns Committee, Energy Consultant for BioRegional (the organisation responsible for the BedZed housing development in Sutton) and Convener of Sustainable Redhill.

Thursday 15th March - CND Trident Debate
7.30pm, Lewisham Town Hall
Speakers: Joan Ruddock MP, Lee Willetts, Royal United Services Institute, Cllr Darren Johnson (Green), Cllr John Russell (Lib Dem), Cllr Ian Page (Socialist).
Chair: Mayor Steve Bullock
The Strawberry Thieves choir will sing at the end.

Also, for details of the Lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 14th and the events in Parliament Square - see

Friday 16th March - An Inconvenient Truth
Lewisham Oxfam and Greenwich and Blackheath UNA are
screening the Academy Award Winning Documentary
on Friday 16th March at 7.30pm.
Venue: The Bakehouse,
(Back of the Reminiscence Centre)
Tranquil Vale,
Coffee etc. at 7.30, film at 8.00, followed by
Discussion and action planning.
Free admission.

Tuesday 20th March - Public Mtg - Unearth Justice
Unearth Justice - stop undermining the poor
7.30pm Tuesday 20th March (doors open at 7.15pm)
The Parish Hall
St Saviour’s Catholic Church, 175 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham
with Paul Whittle, CAFOD Southwark Diocesan Manager

Friday, March 09, 2007

Real Nappy Week 11th-18th March 2007

Real Nappy Week kicks off this Sunday and there are a number of events planned in Lewisham. Nappies are a significant chunk in the waste stream, with approximately 8 million nappies thrown away in the UK every day. I think promoting real nappy use is an area that Lewisham has not devoted sufficient resources to in the past, on the basis perhaps that as we have an incinerator we don't have to pay landfill tax for our nappy mountain.

So I was of course delighted when we managed to get our Green budget amendment for funding for the Real Nappies for London incentive scheme passed at full council last week. This funds the cost of joining the
Real Nappies for London scheme, which is launching later this year, and for 200 local families to get £30 vouchers towards the cost of buying real nappies.
Anyway, the events:

Monday 12 March, Lewisham Town Centre - Lewisham Council will be hosting an education trailer along with Bumbletots Ltd to provide free information and advice on using real nappies.

Thursday 15 March, Lewisham Library, ground floor cafe – The Women’s Environmental Network will have a stall set up with nappy samples and will offer tutorials on how to put a real nappy on.

New mums and expecting mums will also be in with a chance of winning a nappy pack and one months free laundry service with three runners up winning a nappy pack.

Mums can enter by either visiting the education trailer on Monday 11 March or by emailing with their name, telephone number and expected delivery date/age of their new born. All emails must be entitled with the subject “Real Nappy Week”.

The advantages of using real nappies are:

  • Parents are estimated to save around £500.
  • To kit out a baby in real nappies will cost under £50. The same amount of money would only buy seven weeks of disposables.
  • Disposable nappies are made of super-absorbent chemicals, paper pulp, plastics and adhesives, while real nappies are mostly made of natural fabrics better for a babies skin.

Nappy facts:

  • It is not known how long it takes for the plastics in disposable nappies to decompose but it is estimated to take hundreds of years.
  • Nappy disposal costs hundreds of thousand of pounds per year for each local authority.

Lewisham Green Party Monthly Meeting

Lewisham Green Party's next monthly meeting takes place this Monday, 12th March, 7.30pm, at Brockley Social Club, Brockley Road. Besides the usual business items, there will be a discussion about the Lewisham town centre plans. All members and supporters welcome.

Low carbon living in Lewisham

Came across a couple of inspiring local myspace sites. Dave Dayes and family live in one of the self-build houses in Walters Way, Honor Oak. He built the house back in the 1980s as part of a council-sponsored self-build scheme and is now in the process of making it as energy self-sufficient as possible. They've already covered their roof with rows of solar panels and are in the process of installing ground heat pumps and underfloor heating.

Dave says: "As a self builder my aim is to provide a low carbon emission home to raise my family in. By example I hope I can inspire ordinary people to follow and create a new way of living which has less impact on the environment. With technology readily available it can be demonstrated that whether you live in a council flat or private house each and everyone can make a contribution to reducing global warming. Most importantly to leave a positive legacy for our children and their children."

Dave's son Kareem (pictured), is similarly enthusiastic about the environment and also makes music with well-known Peace not War artists such as the Rub.

Fairtrade Fortnight Part 2

The end of another successful Fairtrade Fortnight is drawing to a close in Lewisham.

The fashion show at the Albany last Friday was packed out and a huge success. It was billed as an ethical fashion show, so in addition to some of the bigger fairtrade companies such as Traidcraft and Think Fairtrade, there were also a number of local designers whose products were in some way ethical. Mela Boev, Rezia Wahid and Inkeri Medley are all based at Cockpit Arts. While the first two produce unique handwoven garments, Inkeri specialises in transforming second hand clothes into new items under TRAID's Re-made label. Other local designers included Fathema Wahid, Mankai Saxons, Chelline International Fashions and Robert Clayton. The clothes were modelled by students from the LABAN and other volunteers. Well done to Peter, Shola and all those who put so much work into it.

Last night I went to a reception to promote fairtrade to local business at the town hall. Although there weren't as many local businesses there as we had hoped, Ladywell ward was very well represented, with Brockley Kitchen doing the catering and Lloyd from Brockley Kitchen speaking about why fairtrade was good business for him. Clement from Cafe Neu and John from Moonbow Jakes were also there. There were also speakers from the Fairtrade Foundation and Sher Ghazi, director of a Pakistani company that grows the only fairtrade-certified apricots in the world gave an inspiring talk. These apricots are among the Traidcraft food items that I sell to other teachers at breaktime at work, so it was interesting to see where they were produced and how fairtrade has helped farmers send their children to school, invest in better tools, water storage etc. More info here.

Resonance FM Programme about Homeview

Local resident, Alex Fitch, has a weekly radio show on Resonance FM, and his programme yesterday focussed on the closure of Homeview on Brockley Road. The programme can be downloaded from Alex's blog. This photo of the demo on 11th February, where Alex interviewed me for the programme, along with other local residents, is also swiped from Alex's blog. Thanks to Alex for sending me the link to the programme. See also my earlier post on the betting shop application.


Not strictly speaking councillor blog material, but I'm rather proud of the frogspawn in my pond and wanted to post this photo! The first lot appeared on February 24th, with two more lots in the following couple of days. This is a full month earlier than last year, which was a much colder Spring. It's now turning into little squiggles, though not quite tadpoles yet. Neighbours' cats are showing great interest. Will keep you posted.

First Green Elected to Northern Ireland Assembly

Congratulations to the Green Party of Northern Ireland, who have just got their first representation in the assembly. Brian Wilson was elected in North Down constituency. BBC news.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Budget Comment (Ute)

From Ute:

As I have taken the lead for the Greens on the Council on our budget proposals, Sue has offered me the opportunity to contribute a piece on local authority budgets in general and on the Council meeting on Thursday 1 March which agreed Lewisham’s 2007/08 budget.

When we prepared our budget proposals, we decided to focus on two areas from our election manifesto – waste/recycling and support for local shops. In addition we included a proposal to continue an access to schooling programme for refugee and asylum seeker children and one to provide seed funding for renewable energy in schools which was required in order to generate considerable external funding for this scheme. Details of these are included in Sue’s previous posting.

We also looked at the budget which had been proposed by the Mayor. For any local authority there are many conflicting priorities and sometimes tough decisions have to be made as to how to allocate the money that is available. In a number of cases the Council is at the mercy of central government as funding streams and strategic priorities are decided in Westminster; this applies, for example, to adult education and adult social care. Lewisham Council has earmarked £1.3M in the 2007/08 budget to cover a funding shortfall for adult education from the Learning & Skills Council.

By far the greatest individual budget pressures exist in adult social care due to increasing demand and less funding being channelled through the NHS without an equivalent increase in social care funding for local authorities which have to pick up the pieces. In Lewisham this has led to a projected overspend of £7.2M in 2007/08 which has to be contained within the overall budget. The original proposal by the Mayor would have meant that part of this would be made available from reserves with the expectation that following statutory consultation £1.612M would be returned in savings. This would effectively have pre-empted the outcome of the consultation.

We thought that this didn’t make sense at all and proposed to fully commit these £1.612M from reserves as a one-off measure to buy time and allow for a meaningful co-operation with service users on how to shape services in the future. Clearly it is unsustainable to continue funding such shortfalls from reserves in the future, however laudable the cause. However, it is important at this stage to remove pressures of immediate savings to enable all parties involved to work in a more collaborative way which should hopefully lead to better solutions for service users.

Shortly after our budget proposal was published the Mayor announced that he was going to do just that.

In addition we included a reversal of savings for respite care and of equalising service offers in our budget proposal, which brought the total of our proposed reversal of adult social care savings to almost £1.8M – or 25% of the total budget pressure in the Mayor’s proposal.

In total our budget proposal came to just under £2.1M and we made sure it was balanced – we did not want to just come up with a wish list but identified funding for all our expenditure items. We also ensured that our proposals were technically feasible and legally sound. The Mayor eventually incorporated all our expenditure items in the budget proposal that was submitted to Council and we decided to support the budget on that basis.

As I said at the Council meeting on Thursday, I am proud of what we achieved with our budget proposals. We were the only party in the Council to even address the adult social care budget pressure and to come up with a feasible proposal that then got majority support. Whilst this will not solve all the problems of this borough, it is a starting point – it will make Lewisham greener and socially more responsible and provide support to local businesses. Opposition councillors have two options: they can simply complain that the world is bad, or they can make constructive proposals and take decisions on an issue-by-issue basis when they can make a real difference. We have chosen to do the latter.


Cllr Ute Michel

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lewisham Council's Budget - all Green amendments accepted

Ute or I will post more comment on last night's council budget meeting soon, but for now, in brief, all our budget proposals were accepted by the Mayor. These included a number of proposals to deliver additional investment in environmental initiatives and practical measures to promote local shops and businesses while reversing £1.6m of proposed cuts in frontline services for Adult Social Care.
"Lewisham's Green Party councillors last night persuaded the Mayor to make radical changes to his budget.

This means extra eco-friendly measures such as school solar panels will become reality, along with ideas to support locally-owned shops.

It also means shelving the mayor's plans to break up a groundbreaking scheme that helps traumatised refugee children to integrate into our schools. The Mayor promised to listen to what the Children and Young People committee recommends.

But the Greens would not have supported the budget if the Mayor had not agreed to make important changes to his plans for services for some of Lewisham's most vulnerable adult residents.

Green Party finance spokesperson Cllr Ute Michel said:

"Last week we said the Mayor should think again about removing adult social care services from many current users. Just hours later he agreed to do just that. Without his promise to consult with an open mind, the Greens could never have voted for this budget.

"Before that change of heart, the review would have been massively biased in favour of cuts, because the council would have had to find £1.8m of savings. Last night that pressure was lifted and now service users have a far better chance of being listened to."

Green group leader Cllr Darren Johnson added:

"We will now fight for the consultation to be not about penny-pinching but about empowering vulnerable residents to lead full lives in our community just like everybody else."

Green Party proposals accepted by the Mayor:

For the environment

* A pilot green waste wheelie bin collection for 5,000 households
* £10,000 ringfenced to promote recycling, energy conservation and other sustainability schemes
* £60,000 to install solar panels and energy efficiency measures in five schools within the Energy Action Zones
* Vouchers for hundreds of families to purchase 'real' nappies to cut down on the huge waste caused by disposables

For local businesses:

* A cheaper recycling service
* Exploring the potential of a high-tech local shoppers' loyalty card
* Thousands of locally-branded cotton shopping bags to be sold by local traders, cutting down on plastic and expressing shoppers' community pride"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Ladywell Website!

I recently bought the domain name and the plan is that it will slowly become a community site for Ladywell. As I say on the site, I'm not planning to use this for political purposes, other than that I would like to be able to put a link from it to this blog. I can then put a link from my councillor page to and hopefully make more local residents who visit the council website aware that their councillor also has a blog (sounds terribly convoluted I know, but I can't link directly from the council website to here as this blog is politically biased).

I haven't done a great deal with the new website yet besides putting a few links, a forum page and a rather nice picture of the old workhouse - but would welcome feedback/advice on what should go on it. If you are a local community group/society or business and would like some info added, just let me know. Equally, if you want to help run/develop the site, let me know.