Tuesday, June 26, 2007

London Freewheel

Details of the big London bike ride, which is taking place on car-free day (Sunday 23rd September) were announced earlier this week. I like the website - it massages your ego nicely when you sign up by producing a newspaper article saying "another big name signs up" and "we need a few more people who'll look good in lycra"! Anyway, it sounds like it will be an excellent day and I'd recommend everyone to sign up. Cycle around London seeing the sights, without any cars!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries

Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries Group, 7.30pm, 11th July, the old Chapel inside the cemetery.

A number of local residents have contacted me recently about Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries. Some were keen to see the cemeteries' carefully managed as a nature reserve, while others were concerned that their loved ones' graves had been allowed to become overgrown. Clearly there is a need to find a balance between the views and expectations of all visitors to the cemetery; to keep tidy the more recent graves but also to protect as a wildlife and nature area some of the older parts of the cemetery and in particular the woodland burial area. There are also some concerns about the state of the footpaths.

Anyway, having talked with local residents, the cemetery management and people from Friends of Nunhead Cemetery, I have organised a meeting at 7.30pm on Wednesday 11th July in the old chapel of the cemetery for anyone interested in setting up a 'Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries'. Come along and discuss what you would like the group to do, raise any concerns you have about the way the cemeteries are maintained, suggest future projects the group could get involved in etc. A number of people have said that they feel the cemeteries are an under-appreciated local gem, and I think it would be great if we could get a group going to champion their protection and improvement, in a similar way to how Ladywell Fields and Hilly Fields park users groups work. I'm publicising the first meeting, but I'm very much hoping that local residents will take things forward from there. Representatives from the cemetery management team will be there and hopefully someone from Friends of Nunhead Cemetery.

Streetcar behind Ladywell Leisure Centre

I've just found out that there is now a Streetcar in the car park behind Ladywell Leisure Centre. I think that brings to 10 the number of Streetcars in Lewisham now, and there should be more coming soon hopefully, if the council goes ahead and introduces some on-street spaces for Streetcar. This is great news, because research shows that for every car club car on a street, an average of 6 cars are taken off the road (people decide they don't need to have their own car). Given the parking problems in a few streets in Ladywell, that could only be a good thing. Streetcar on Marsala/Malyons/Chudleigh/Gillian Street anyone?

If you have an allocated parking space that you don't use, you could get free membership of Streetcar in return for letting them use your parking space (not many allocated spaces in Ladywell that I can think of though, besides Keswick Court).

Brockley PFI signed

One of the many things I meant to post on before I went on holiday:

The Brockley PFI housing contract was finally signed on 4th June. This is a contract to transfer the management of 1,800 council homes in the Brockley and Ladywell areas over to a private consortium, B3.

B3 will be responsible for the day-to-day management of council houses in the Brockley and Ladywell area over the next 20 years, as well as for carrying out work to bring the homes up to the government’s Decent Homes standard by 2012.

The agreement was due to be signed in January, but was pushed back 6 months due to protracted legal negotiations between the council’s legal team and B3.

I am relieved that after lengthy delays much-needed investment will finally go ahead in Brockley and Ladywell, but I am not convinced PFI offers value for money. What residents need is direct government investment in council housing, rather than private companies profiting at taxpayers’ expense.

Nevertheless, I hope to work constructively with B3 to ensure council tenants and leaseholders in Brockley and Ladywell get the best possible deal and that their views are heard. Residents have waited years for improvements to their homes and Green councillors will be keeping a close eye to ensure tenants are not ripped off by this PFI as they have been elsewhere.

While there will be some improvements in home energy efficiency, the Brockley PFI doesn’t go far enough and represents a missed opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. Double glazing will make homes warmer, which is great, but the decision to use UPVC, rather than wooden frames, is a false economy and bad news for the planet.

The latest council newsletter on the Brockley PFI, which should be being delivered to residents very soon, can also be read here.

Further details:
1. The Brockley PFI scheme will include 1,852 dwellings in the contract area (which covers most of council housing in Brockley and Ladywell wards), of which 1,366 are tenanted and are 486 leaseholders. The proposed duration of the contract was originally 25 years, but this was reduced to 20 years.
2. The B3 consortium consists of Higgins, who will be carrying out the initial improvement works, Equipe, who will be responsible for ongoing repairs over the lifetime of the contract and Pinnacle, who will be responsible for the housing management.
3. Following the signing of the contract, there will be a 3-month transition period before B3 takes over the day-to-day management of council houses in the Brockley and Ladywell area. They will also be responsible for carrying out improvements to bring the homes up to the government’s decent homes standard by 2012. Depending on the condition of properties, the work to bring the council’s housing stock up to the government established decent homes standard may include new windows, kitchens, bathrooms, boilers and rewiring.
4. The total legal costs for the council for the Brockley PFI scheme came to over £2 millions pounds.
5. Green opposition to PFI in a nutshell: the government claims that PFI improves the public finances, but often it costs more. It is claimed that it can get investment for projects which would otherwise not be funded, but the lack of funding for public projects is merely due to Treasury rules. PFI is often portrayed as a way of getting private funding into the public sector, but private companies don't become involved for altruistic reasons, only to make a profit. The reason the government has been able to gain acceptance for so many PFI schemes is that they are often portrayed as the 'only game in town'. Defend Council Housing also has a good summary of arguments against PFI.
6. Home energy consumption currently accounts for around 37% of carbon emissions in London, but the Decent Homes standards for England are weaker on sustainability than those in Scotland and Wales.
7. UPVC windows vs wooden windows: Wooden frames last much longer than UPVC if properly maintained, and cost much less to dispose of at the end of their lifetime, as they don’t contain the toxic materials that UPVC windows do.

June report

I'm aware that I haven't posted a great deal lately - basically because I've been very busy. June seems to have passed in a whirl of meetings and I also had a week's holiday in the Highlands (Inverness and Rockness Festival - the only festival with its own monster - v good).

Anyway, I thought I'd post a summary of some of the things I've been upto in the last few weeks, adapted from the monthly report I give to the local Green Party. I will hopefully post some more detail on some of these soon.

Recent Meetings:
Sustainable Development Committee – drew up work plan for the year. Main scrutiny will be on ways of promoting alternatives to car use, other on empty and under-used properties. In addition to these 2 pieces of work, we will be looking at the LDF (local development framework). At last Thursday's meeting we scrutinised the draft parking strategy and the air quality action plan. These can be viewed on the council's website if you are interested.
Housing sub-committee – went on a visit to Canning Town to see the work carried out under the PFI project (the same companies that will be running the Brockley PFI). Still can’t scrutinise Lewisham Homes business plan as they have yet to submit it! Not v productive committee so far! Brockley PFI was finally signed 04/06/07 and improvement works should start in 3 months.
Planning Committee C – v light agenda this month.
Lewisham Parochial Charities – attended a garden party to celebrate the new residents’ garden at Lloyd Court which was officially opened by the Bishop of Woolwich. Named after Rev David Garlick who is retiring soon. It was good to finally meet some of the residents there!
Mayor's Commission on empowering communities and neighbourhoods – we submitted our proposals to change from area forums to ward assemblies, and pending approval by the council and supportive public consultation, this will hopefully kick off in the Autumn.
Pensions Committee – had presentations from the various fund managers. Got quite excited when one of the private equity funds listed was called the 'Green Fund, but it turned out it was just set up by a Mr Green! Oh well, you live in hope. Council Pension Fund members will be surveyed on their views on socially responsible investment issues in the Autumn, at my suggestion.
Ladywell SNT Panel – Sgt Dave Deuchar has unfortunately moved on to another role within the Met, but we have a new Sergeant, Jim Clarke, starting tomorrow. Good luck to David in his new role and welcome to Jim.
Met with Sarah Pfeiffer, Brockley Town Centre manager – discussed various Brockley and Ladywell shops issues; v constructive.
Pepys Community Recycling Open Day – went to see how they compost food waste from the Pepys Estate (very inspiring project).
Have been working on the Green group's LDF (Local Development Framework) submission with Dean and Mike.
Recycling provision for closing night of Brockley Max, illegal use of garages on Braxfield/Howson by skip hire company, housing repairs, parking, plus other stuff that I can't really mention here.
Questions to Mayor & Cabinet
I asked questions about what controls are in place to monitor the levels of particles smaller than 2.5 microns (known as PM2.5s) emitted by the SELCHP incinerator (the answer was none as yet), the statementing of young children with special needs, and the council policy on residents being rehoused after eviction from temporary accommodation.

Arguably not my most exciting post, but there you go . . .

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Balsam Battle

SUSPECT A (picture right)

The ‘Quercus Project’ is looking for volunteers!
We need your help to: Uproot and destroy the quickly spreading and very invasive ‘Himalayan Balsam Plant’
The reason for this urgency: It suffocates other plants, leaving river banks bare in the winter and prone to erosion.
When we need your help: We will be meeting at the classroom on Sun 8th July at 10am-1pm with a bring your own picnic after, all welcome!
For more information and to confirm attendance:
Contact Nick Harvey on 0208 3142172 Or e-mail nick.harvey@lewisham.gov.uk
(Nick is the Waterlink Way ranger who among many other things runs the new Wildlife Club for Kids in Ladywell Fields. He asks that if possible people confirm their intention to attend (and shoe size) by email or phone so he can get some idea of numbers).