Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Brief report back on Ladywell Ward Meeting 25th October

Haven't had a chance to post since the ward meeting last Thursday, but very briefly; there was a reasonable turn-out considering the fairly grotty weather, we discussed the various proposals for spending the £10,000 localities fund and there seemed to be support from those present for spending a considerable part of this year's fund on youth projects. More details to follow when we have finished looking into costings, other potential sources of funding for some of the proposals etc. Some of those present also suggested that when we move to the ward assembly system from next year (replacing the Area Forums), we have at least one meeting per year on a 3-ward basis as before, to look at issues within the wider area.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reminder: Ladywell Ward Meeting, this Thursday

How should we spend £10,000? Have your say!
The time: Thu 25 October 2007, 7.30pm
The place: St Andrews Centre, Brockley Road, London SE4 2SA

Over the last few weeks Ladywell residents and community groups have been coming up with ideas on how to spend £10,000 of Localities Fund set aside for projects in our neighbourhood. The best ideas will be presented at the meeting, where you are invited to ask questions and have your say on where the money should go. There will also be an opportunity for people to discuss other council-related issues they would like to raise with us.

See here and here for previous posts on the localities fund. It’s not too late to get your ideas to Ute, but she really needs them asap to give her chance to pull everything together before Thursday’s meeting.

The whole 'election that wasn’t' put our planning and advertising for this meeting back slightly as we couldn't advertise it until we were certain that there wasn’t going to be an election (you can’t hold a public meeting using council money to discuss how to spend £10,000 during an election period, for obvious reasons). The Council budget for promoting the localities fund unfortunately didn't stretch to delivering a flyer through every door in the ward, either, but we've got flyers and posters in shops, at the station etc and done our best to publicise the meeting.

Get on Board - Strengthen the Climate Change Bill

Someone working on behalf of WWF contacted me and asked me to give a plug for their campaign to strengthen the UK Climate Change Bill. Asi says "As you know all too well, as it stands, the bill is not strong enough. It's vital that we include carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping, the fastest growing sources of emissions in this target. At the moment, the government plans to exclude these emissions, but this just doesn't make sense. Excluding them is a bit like going on a diet but not counting the calories from chocolate! So we plan to build a massive paper boat and paper plane, put all the names of the people who signed the petition on the boat/plan, and then deliver them to the Houses of Parliament."
Further details about their campaign here.
Also worth mentioning here the big climate change march on December 8th organised by Campaign against Climate Change.

Other bits and bobs

Ladywell Fields
On the way back from the TOTAL protest on Saturday, I cycled through Ladywell Fields and met Nick Harvey (Waterlink Way Ranger) and the volunteers working in the St Mary’s triangle. The Northern Field and the new river channel is starting to take shape and I think it will look great by next summer, when the planting has had time to establish. The next volunteer day is 25th November. 11:00am to 3:00pm, further details here.

Cemeteries Open Day and litter-pick
Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries are having an Open Day on Tuesday 30 October, from 12.00 – 1.00pm, when you can "visit the Brockley vaults and see how they operate. Members of the public are very welcome to come along, look round and ask questions. At 12.15pm cemetery staff will demonstrate how the Vaults are opened to allow the internment of a new coffin.
The Vaults were installed two years ago by Welters, a specialist Vault makers based in Carlisle. There are 140 chambers in the area. Each chamber can accommodate 2 coffins, or caskets" (from the Council press release).

Members of Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries are also organising a litter pick-up in the cemeteries on Remembrance Sunday. Further details on Patrick's FOBLC blog.

Former Catford Dog Stadium Site
Those interested in the plans for the former Catford Dogs Stadium can take a look at a website set up by the developers. In addition to a large number of new homes (590, according to the site, 336 of them either social rented, shared ownership or keyworker housing) there are plans to improve the area around the stations, to build a new plaza (plazas seem to be the big thing at the moment), to renaturalise that section of the Ravensbourne River, a new cycle and pedestrian route into Catford, a new footbridge, and “better linkages with Ladywell Fields”. Apparently a planning application will be submitted fairly soon.

Next Lewisham Green Drinks
Quick reminder that the next Lewisham Green Drinks will take place on 5th November at Mr Lawrence Wine Bar, from 7pm onwards and anyone who lives or works in the borough and has an interest in green issues is welcome. This third get-together is guaranteed to go with, er, a bang (sorry).

Energy Saving Week
This week is Energy Saving Week and Tracy on EcoStreet has an excellent post on ways of doing your bit.

Green Bloggers
Finally, should you feel so inclined, there's still time to vote for me in top twenty Green Bloggers over on The Daily (Maybe) (not that I'm being wildly competitive or anything).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Burma Protest

Saturday's protest outside the TOTAL Petrol station on the corner of Whitefoot lane and Verdant Lane went very well, with about 30 other protestors, mostly from the Burmese community but also including a few local people. It was a loud and lively demo, which attracted considerable interest from passers-by. We handed out lots of flyers about the campaign and local people were generally warmly supportive.

TOTAL is still one of the biggest foreign investors in Burma, and the money the military dictatorship get from their joint venture deal with TOTAL (approximately $480m/year) arguably helps to keep them in power. As I mentioned in my previous post, Lewisham Council’s Pension Fund has nearly £4m in TOTAL Oil. As a member of the Pensions Investment Committee, I will be wanting the fund managers to explain at the next meeting exactly what dialogue they have had with TOTAL’s management about their ongoing involvement in Burma, and whether our continued investment in the company is really in keeping with our socially responsible investment policy. We have a policy of 'engagement' with companies on issues of concern, rather than simply boycotting them, but companies need to know we are serious and will disinvest if their activities are helping to fuel horrendous human rights abuses.

Photographers from both the local papers turned up, so hopefully there will be some coverage of the protest this week. It was also reported on Indymedia and the TOTAL out of Burma blog.

Official Opening of the Ladywell Early Childhood Centre

On Friday I went along to the official launch and opening of Ladywell Early Childhood Centre in Rushey Mead. Since Romayne and I went there a few weeks ago, the staff had put in a huge amount of effort to get everything ready for the grand opening. Wonderful facilities and I would encourage anyone with under-fives to go along and see how they can make use of them. There are also computers with internet access for public use. I was chatting to Heather Watkinson, the Real Nappies officer, whose mind was clearly working overtime when she saw the laundry room and the potential for real nappies there. A ‘stakeholders group’ is being set up soon and one of the things it will look at is how the local community wants to use the facility and how, for example, it could be used at weekends.

New Young Mayor of Lewisham

On Thursday I went along to the reception and announcement of the results for the Young Mayor of Lewisham elections. The turnout, at 45%, was significantly above that of local council elections, with some schools such as Addey & Stanhope achieving a turnout of 85%. It was great to see so much enthusiasm from all those involved.

I sat next to the Mum of one of the candidates, who told me she “would be glad when it was all over“ so her son could “get back to revising for his GCSEs” which he was taking in a month. When her son, Jason, then went on to win (by a significant margin, considering there were 18 candidates), she was of course delighted and very proud!

Congratulations to new Young Mayor Jason Cole, who is a pupil at Crofton School, and Deputy Young Mayor Naz Ramadan, from Sydenham School. Justin ran on a manifesto which promised to make today’s adults and leaders listen to young people’s concerns and commit to dealing with the issues closest to their hearts. Over the next year Jason will work with his team of Young Advisors and has a £25,000 budget to spend on youth-orientated schemes. (and he won’t be put under undue pressure to do stuff when he has his exams coming up!).

Full Council

A busy week and I’m only now catching up with posting a few things here, so bear with me as a post a barrage of things I’ve been meaning to post for a few days.

Wednesday was full council, the first one since July. I asked three questions of cabinet members; one on the plans for the new pool (which is aiming for zero carbon emissions, compared to the approximate 636 tonnes the existing pool emits in its annual energy use), another on pest control (killing squirrels, to be more specific, relating to some casework in the ward where pest control had made repeated visits to a council property to trap or poison squirrels in the loft, but as building services had each time failed to block the holes up the squirrels were coming in through, they kept returning and more and more were killed) and a third on whether the Mayor agreed that we need more community notice boards (no, he doesn't, he thinks the libraries and Lewisham Life are sufficient for advertising events and that notice boards contribute to street clutter - not sure I agree, not everyone plans their local event far enough in advance to meet the copy deadlines for Lewisham Life, and many people don't read Lewisham Life or go to local libraries. Arguably we all should, but a poster on a noticeboard can be a way of reaching out to people who wouldn't otherwise be aware of your event or organisation) . The questions and answers can be found here.

The Green Group was disappointed that the Labour and Tory groups voted to end the meeting at 10pm, before business was finished and before we had got to our motion on Adult Social Care, which a number of members of the public had been patiently waiting in the public gallery for. We immediately resubmitted it and it should be the first motion on next month’s agenda. Next time perhaps we will be a bit pushier and try to get the agenda re-ordered if members of the public are waiting and it looks like we won't get through the whole agenda. Labour proposed an amendment to the motion which we were prepared to accept to get cross-party support. Basically, it was calling on the Mayor to "work with London Councils and
other stakeholders to lobby central government to tackle the national adult social care crisis and commit to more appropriate funding levels". More on full council on Dean’s blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lewisham Council Pension Fund has £12m invested in Burma 'dirty list'

I have just found out that Lewisham Council has nearly £12m of its pension fund invested in companies named on the Burma Campaign's 'dirty list', including Total Oil. That includes £11,697,000 in the pension fund plus £171,000 in procurement activity last year.

Anyone who has seen or read about the brutal oppression that has taken place in Burma will surely be horrified to hear that Lewisham Council has so much money invested in companies who do business with the Burmese military junta. It makes a complete mockery of the council’s so-called socially responsible investment policy.

Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has called for a boycott of all foreign investment in the country and business with the military regime as the quickest way of bringing it down, yet companies such as TOTAL Oil continue to fuel the oppression. For that reason, a small number of us, including some Burmese campaigners, will be staging a short protest on Saturday at 11am outside the TOTAL Petrol Station on Whitefoot Lane, Catford, SE6 1TP.

In November, all members of the Lewisham Council Pension Fund will be sent a survey asking for their views on ethical investment issues. The survey will ask how importantly members rate a company’s record on employment conditions, human rights, corporate governance and environment and whether there are any specific sectors, such as tobacco or the arms industry, that they would prefer the pension fund not to invest in. This presents an ideal opportunity for members to send a clear message to the fund managers that investing in companies that prop up dodgy regimes is not acceptable.

Since being appointed to the Pension Fund Committee last year I've been questioning fund managers on how their investment choices meet our socially responsible investment policy (SRI), but it always comes down to the fact that profit is placed before any ethical concern. It's incredibly frustrating. Pension fund trustees have a duty to act in the best financial interest of members, but we should also take into account their moral concerns. If enough council employees return their survey asking us to strengthen our SRI policy, the committee will have a duty to at least consider this.

Even if you put aside the moral arguments, there are sound financial reasons to engage in fair trade, respect human rights and act to prevent climate change.

15th Best Green Blogger

Fellow Green Jim Jay, who blogs on The Daily (Maybe), has compiled a list of the top 20 Green Bloggers. Last year he compiled a list of '100 Best Green Bloggers', in response to the total absence of Green blogs in Tory blogger Iain Dale's list. This year, Jim was invited by Iain Dale to write a chapter on Green bloggers for his Guide to Political Blogging. Since last year, when I reached the elevated position of 53rd best Green blogger ;), a number of new Green blogs have appeared, so I was delighted to be 15th Green blogger this time, probably undeservedly compared to other more dedicated bloggers not in the top 20. There is now a vote on Jim's site for Best Green Blogger "People's Choice Award 2007", so if you find my witterings even vaguely useful/entertaining/informative please massage my ego a little by going and voting for this blog!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spin of a different kind

Today I took part in a 'cycling benchmarking' exercise in Lewisham. Basically, cycling officers from various other boroughs came to hear about initiatives within Lewisham to improve cycling, then went on a bike ride along some of the borough's best cycle routes (eg LCN route 21 from Deptford to Sydenham). The bit I didn't stay for was the feedback session when everyone says what they think was good/bad/could be improved about cycle provision in the borough, as they didn't want elected members there in case officers held back in what they said. Fair enough, I'm sure I'll get a summary of what was said in time. Interesting day though, and it gave me a few more ideas for the scrutiny review we are currently doing on the Sustainable Development Committee on 'Alternatives to individual car use'.

Lewisham is slightly unusual compared to some other London Boroughs in that 70% of its population travel to work outside the borough, it has a much higher than average percentage of people who use the mainline trains as their main form of transport, and although vehicle ownership has reason in recent years, it is still below the average both for London and nationally.

Since Lewisham has had a dedicated LCN+ officer in position, a number of improvements to local cycle routes have taken place and lots more are planned, but as with anything, there is always more that could be done and only so much that can be done by one person with limited time and budget.

There have certainly been a few improvements to the route (LCN route 21) I take to work in the morning, from Ladywell to Deptford via Brookmill Park. The barriers at the entrance to the park have now been removed, so cyclists no longer have to dismount, markings deliniating cycle and pedestrian paths have been added (though plenty of pedestrians still obliviously walk on the cycle path) and a section of quaint but treachorous cobblestones along Creekside has been replaced with tarmac. The cycling officer commented that what made it all worthwhile for her was when she met a disabled boy on a trike who couldn't previously access the park because of the barriers who was now able to ride his bike through it like everyone else.

While I think Lewisham has made some progress in improving cycling provision over the last couple of years, there is clearly still lots more to be done to make it a more cycle-friendly and less car-dominated place. What would you do to encourage Lewisham residents to get out of their cars and walking/cycling/using public transport instead? Comments please, preferably before Tuesday 24th October, when I have the next Sustainable Development Select Committee, and we are hearing evidence from a number of organisations and representatives including Living Streets and Streetcar.

Mr Benn Spin

A few months ago, I signed up to a petition on the 10 Downing Street website calling on the

Prime Minister to stop the expansion of Heathrow.

Yesterday I received a carefully crafted piece of spin from Hilary Benn in response, which, the summary on the site says "highlights the UK Government's commitment to seeking international agreement on a post-2012 climate change framework, and encourages petitioners, their families, and friends, to use the new CO2 Calculator". Nowhere in the response does he even allude to the government's plans to expand Heathrow airport in their business, regardless of the fact that it would cancel out any potential emissions reductions we might manage, not to mention destroy communities and make life unbearable for many more due to noise levels. No no, the onus is on individuals to use the new CO2 calculator. Oh that should sort it then, we'll just rely on people's good will to reduce their individual carbon footprint, that should do it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Take action on climate change and tackle obesity at the same time

The health secretary Alan Johnson has today declared that the public health threat posed by obesity in the UK is a "potential crisis on the scale of climate change".

Come off it Alan, try telling that to the people of Bangladesh and other countries likely to be hit hardest by the impact of climate change (or Londoners or those in Norfolk, for that matter). To quote Tony Blair from 2003:

"We face a situation in which 50 million people in Asia could be killed or displaced by floods, further swathes of Africa could be reduced to desert, accompanied by massive deforestation in central and South America, and huge increases in disease, particularly malaria. And it is the poorest countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, which will suffer the most devastating effects of these changes."

It is of course concerning that we are rapidly becoming an obese nation, and we do need to tackle it, but on a par with climate change, even within the UK?!

There are however some interesting correlations between obesity and climate change and some easy steps to tackle both at once:

  • Start walking and cycling more and ditch the car
  • Start buying more fresh, locally-produced food or better still, grow your own (if you can get an allotment)
  • Eat less meat.
  • Turn off the TV/computer/Playstation and do something more active/sociable instead

So perhaps the 'obesity crisis' is in fact a great opportunity to see some belated action to tackle climate change? Interesting report I found: Unfit for purpose: How car use fuels climate change and obesity.

Meanwhile in Lewisham Green Party we are thinking of offering a special 'Green gym weightloss programme', which basically involves delivering lots of our newsletters . . . any takers?!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Do you enjoy . . . . hammering, digging, nailing, building?

I've received the following from Nick Harvey, one of the Waterlink Way officers working on the Quercus Project in Ladywell Fields:

Lewisham’s Quercus Project are working to improve access to the nature area in Ladywell Fields.

They are doing this by creating a natural gravel path and need your help by becoming a volunteer on this project. You don’t have to be skilled in these area’s and all age groups are welcome including children. (Although must be accompanied by an adult)

The work will be commencing on October 20th and November 25th 2007 between 11.00am and 3.00pm and refreshments will be provided for all volunteers.

If you are interested in helping, please confirm your place by contacting Nick Harvey on 0208 314 2172 or email .

Recycling champions needed

Once again the Council is trying to find the best/most improved street for recycling in the borough. Algernon Road in Ladywell won the award last year, thanks to the determined efforts of Geoffrey from Ladywell Society and his neighbours, it would be great if Ladywell could go for a double!

From the Council Press Office "Lewisham Council wants to find the Best Recycling Street in Lewisham. The Council wants to find dedicated recyclers to champion the cause in their nominated street, to encourage their fellow residents to recycle more each week in their street than in any other. You can nominate yourself and your own road (or a section of a road, or another road), for the award. Then you just need to speak to the neighbours and persuade them to recycle that bit more!

Lewisham Council will help by providing information and a toolkit to make sure that all residents know what can be recycled at the kerbside.

Each streets’ participation rate and the types of materials being collected from households for recycling will be measured when all nominations are in, and then measured again 6 weeks later.
The winning street will be the one that sees the biggest improvement in recycling behaviour in terms of the number of people recycling 3 or more materials at the kerbside (from paper, cardboard, glass bottle/jars, food/drinks cans and plastic bottles).

A special street sign will be erected on the winning street, proclaiming it to be the ‘Best Recycling Street in Lewisham’. The winner will receive a ‘Recycling Champion’ plaque recognising their efforts. All participants will receive recognition for their efforts and contribution.

Reasons to nominate a street
Everyone needs to do all they can to reduce, reuse and recycle, for all our futures.
Lewisham Council wants to reward the dedication of those unique people who go the extra mile to encourage more recycling where they live because we know it can inspire others.
So, if you would like to get involved call the Environment and Community Development team now on 020 8314 2245 or e-mail them to request an entry form and return it by Friday 12th October to:

Recycling Champions
Environment and Community Development
Wearside Service Centre
Wearside Road
London SE13 7EZ.
Last year’s Recycling Champion street was Algernon Road in Ladywell, where recycling improved by 17 per cent! "

If you or a neighbours don't have a recycling bin, or need to change a green box for a green bin call Envirocall on 020 8314 7171. Sometimes there is a bit of a wait for a green bin, but let me know if there are any problems and I will chase it up.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Real Nappies For London - Lewisham Launch

Please find below details of the forthcoming Lewisham launch of Real Nappies for London. This has come about as a result of our Green group budget amendments earlier in the year. See also my previous posts on this.

The Real Nappies for London in Lewisham launch event on Tuesday 30 October at The Bellingham Children’s Centre, 109 A Randlesdown Road, Lewisham, SE6 6HB
From 10.00-10.30am – Welcome from Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor and Real Nappy Experts from 10.30am-1.00pm – Real Nappy Drop-in
Come along to find out more about the benefits of Real Nappies and our £30 voucher scheme, and to check out the fantastic range of nappies available.
If you would like to attend the first part of the event please contact Vivienne Thomson, Real Nappy Officer, at by October 23 otherwise just drop in at any time between 10.30am-1.00pmFor more information, and to register for a £30 voucher visit

Recycling Lightbulbs

From the excellent Ecostreet blog:
"There’s good news for Londoners wishing to recycle their old light bulbs, both incandescent and energy saving. Ryness Lighting and Electrical have taken it upon themselves to educate London residents about the dangers of not disposing of light bulbs safely.

Currently the majority of used light bulbs go to landfill sites, where glass and metal go to waste. More importantly energy saving light bulbs must be recycled as they contain sodium and mercury, which are hazardous materials. If dumped in household waste and allowed to enter our landfill sites the mercury in particular can seep into out drinking water and the habitat around it.

The mercury from a single fluorescent tube is enough to pollute 30,000 litres of water beyond the safe drinking level in the UK.

As London’s only lighting and electrical company we feel that it is our duty to let our customers know the potential harm that is being done to the environment, and offer a service which will allow you act ethically without added hassle or charge.

Effective immediately, Ryness will recycle any of your old light bulbs for free. Just bring your old light bulbs into any Ryness store and they will ensure that they are all correctly disposed of. If you shop with them online, Ryness will arrange a collection of your used light bulbs from your home. You can find out more about this by emailing

Ryness branches:
37 Goodge Street, 45 Old Compton Street, 103 King Street, Hammersmith, 211 Kensington High Street, 6 Kingsgate Parade Victoria, 67 Camden High Street, 54 Fleet Street, 17 Market Place, 43-45 Westbourne Grove, 413 North End Road, 306 High Holborn."

Well done to Ryness for taking a lead on this.

Monday, October 01, 2007

More than 2500 Lewisham households in temporary accommodation limbo

From Darren Johnson (wearing his London Assembly member hat)

New figures show that London still has almost 60,000 people living in temporary accommodation, despite a Government target set in December 2004 to cut the figure to 30,800, by 2010. The figures, released by Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member, show that Lewisham still has a high number of households living in temporary housing and also reveal that London as a whole had only 1,895 fewer people living in temporary accommodation in March 2007 than in the baseline month of December 2004.

In March 2007, 2559 households were registered as living in temporary accommodation, compared to 1754 in December 2004 – an increase of 46% which suggests Lewisham is very likely to miss the target to halve temporary housing placements by 2010.

“To be on target, there should be around 14,000 fewer Londoners living in temporary accommodation today than at the end of 2004. Instead, less than 2,000 of the capital’s residents have been taken out of housing limbo. This is totally unacceptable. The wide variation in borough’s performance shows that whilst success is possible, complacency is not an option. Lewisham has one of the highest numbers of households living in temporary housing in the capital and must address this.”

“To have a chance of achieving the national target of halving the number of people in temporary accommodation, London will need significant help from Government. Recent proposals to increase investment in social home building are welcome. However, Government must also heed calls to give councils more freedom to build and manage their own social homes.”

“Within London, the Mayor’s target on affordable housing must be increased from 50% to 60% and a programme to deliver innovative housing models such as Community Land Trusts in every borough should be put in place. London’s housing crisis will not just go away. We must take real steps to providing housing that Londoners can afford.”