Sunday, October 31, 2010

A few photos from the campaign

Well it's been a busy few weeks out campaigning for Ute in the by-election. I've been having a break from my 'break from politics' to help with the campaign. We've been getting a great response on the doorstep, and have spoken to loads of residents that have previously never been in when we've called.

Back in April/May, it was difficult to get people interested in the local elections, with all the focus on the leadership debates on TV etc. This time the emphasis is firmly on local issues, albeit with the impact of the government cuts to local government a top concern for many. And there is much more emphasis on the candidate than there was in May, where quite a few people seemed to be voting on party lines, rather than for individuals.

When the by-election was called, the national party asked us if we would like some 'big guns'. We looked a bit askance at first and thought it sounded very ungreen, but we've been delighted that Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP, deputy leader Cllr Adrian Ramsay and London Assembly member Jenny Jones have all come and supported our campaign, along with lots of members and supporters from both the local area and further afield.

Caroline Lucas (top and second picture) is pictured here with local Greens supporting the campaign to keep Crofton Park Library open. Jenny Jones AM (third picture), who leads on pedestrian issues for us on the London Assembly, came to take a look at the Lewisham Way crossing that the Mayor of London is inexplicably threatening to remove - passersby told us that they remembered signing the petition a few years back to get the crossing put in, and couldn't understand why TfL would want to ride roughshod over local opinion now. And Cllr Adrian Ramsay is pictured canvassing on Gillian Street.

It's been a while since I've spoken to anyone on the doorstep who wasn't aware of the by-election, and many residents are probably starting to get a bit cheesed off with the unusual level of attention they are getting from local political parties. Hopefully those who've lived in the area a while will know which parties they hear from regularly, and who are just showing a fleeting, by-election related interest in the ward.

Anyway, time for me to get back on the doorstep rather than sitting here in the warm . . .

Save our Libraries March

There was a good turnout for yesterday's libraries march, and despite the ominous weather forecasts, the rain held off too. I would estimate that there were about 200 people who marched from Crofton Park library to the town hall in Catford. There was a good range of people there - lots of families with children and older residents, as well as the usual activists.

Lewisham MPs Joan Ruddock and Heidi Alexander attempted to speak at the beginning of the demo, but their voices were pretty much drowned out by heckling, with people shouting 'Vote against the cuts'. A number of politicians there were looking rather uncomfortable - the local Lib Dem cllr, as his party is being blamed for cuts at a national level, and the Labour cllrs and MPs as they run Lewisham.

I want go into loads of detail as Transpontine has already beat me to it with a good write up and photos, but suffice to say the march was vocal, determined and presented a united front from the 5 libraries campaigns, who have now collected over 20,000 signatures for their petitions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Second meeting on Crofton Park Library - community again says 'keep it open'!

Left: Ladywell ward by-election candidate Ute Michel outside Crofton Park library.

On Tuesday I went along to the second public consultation meeting about the Council's proposals to close Crofton Park Library (along with Blackheath, New Cross, Sydenham and Grove Park Libraries). Once again it was officer-led, with officers at pains to stress that no decision had been taken and that they would report back to the Mayor who would ultimately make the decision. Two of the councillors for Crofton Park were there, as was Chris Best, the cabinet member for community services, which includes the library service, and she spoke briefly at the end of the meeting.

Once again, the vast majority of those at the meeting were firmly opposed to closing the library, and spoke of the important role it plays in the local community. Gwen, the now retired former librarian at Crofton Park spoke eloquently and with passion about how many parents and children use the library, which was backed up by a local head teacher concerned about the impact it would have on her pupils. And there were a notable number of older library users' there, including a blind woman whose grandson borrows books from the library to read to her. The very angry bloke who shouted so loudly at the last meeting that the chairs vibrated was there again, still just as angry, and intimidating!)

One interesting snippet of information was that while the majority of Crofton Park Library Users are, as to be expected, from within Crofton Park ward, 16% of users live in Ladywell ward and 11% in Telegraph Hill ward, so closing the library would have an impact on a much wider area than just the one council ward.

Perhaps the most interesting, 'meaty' part of the meeting, however, was when officers invited representatives from 'Make Believe Arts' (a local social enterprise) and the Ackroyd Community Centre to come up and speak. Both were at pains to stress that they didn't want the library to close and as local residents would far prefer it if it stayed open, but then went on to talk about possible ways of keeping the building in community use in the event the library does close.

'Make Believe Arts' outlined what use they would like to make of the building if it does close as a library. This included bringing the upstairs back into use as office and community space, in addition to the downstairs. The building would be more of a (social entreprise run) community centre, a hub for various classes, rather than a library, although they would work with Lewisham Library Services to see if they could maintain some aspects of the library service (eg some books still there, albeit a greatly-reduced number, or some kind of order and collection service of books from elsewhere). They talked about the work they have been involved in at the Leegate Centre, where they have brought an empty shop unit back into use as a community centre.

The Ackroyd Community Centre didn't have a firm proposal as such, but had been approached by council officers and said that they were willing to work with the local community to see how the building could be kept in community use, with some element of library provision incorporated within that, if it closed.

People listened politely to the presentations, then got straight to the point with the questions and comments - where did Make Believe Arts' funding come from, who would own the building, what would prevent an organisation changing the use in the future, how much of the current library services would be retained, etc. The thrust of what people seemed to be saying was yes, we'd love to see the upstairs of Crofton Park Library brought back into use, and might not be averse to a social enterprise or similar getting involved in making greater use of the building and bringing in more revenue, but we want this in addition to the much-loved library downstairs we already have, not instead of, with a tokenistic shelf or two of books thrown in alongside another use. You can find a view more comments on this from people who attended the meeting on the 'Save Crofton Park Library' Facebook group.

A lot of those present were concerned that if they said anything positive about the proposal put forward by Make Believe Arts that this would be interpreted in the report to the Mayor as acquiescing to the closure of the library. Officers assured us this would not be the case. Others felt it risked undermining the campaign to save the libraries to put forward alternative 'what to do if it closes' proposals at this stage - to an extent I agree with them, but I do think that Make Believe Arts were brave in coming and speaking to the meeting, and that they are genuine in their passion to keep the building in community use.

In the meantime, however, the campaign to keep our libraries open goes on, and it is one that the local community is determined to win. It was great to see at the meeting that campaigners from all 5 library campaigners are united and working together, rather than taking any kind of nimbyist, just save my local library approach.

Next weekend (Saturday 30th October) there is a march 'with a carnival flavour' to the town hall to protest against library closures. It starts outside Crofton Park Library at 12pm, to arrive at the Town hall by 1.30 for a rally. More details on the 'Save Crofton Park Library' Facebook group.

Friday, October 15, 2010

El's Kitchen Opens in Ladywell on 30th October!

Eleanor lives next door but one to me. She has put so much work into this over several years now, and I have a feeling it's going to be a big success. Very excited about this, and really hope it is going to fill a hole in the local market. I will certainly be popping in to refuel on 30th in between canvassing sessions.

With 46 Ladywell Road (Nightwatch) finally getting renovated, the efforts of LVIG and the ward assembly in getting the streetscape improvements on the Council's agenda (if not quite within the timeline we were after) hopefully Ladywell Road is on its way up.

Good luck Eleanor!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cemeteries Work Day and Guided Walk this Saturday

If you haven't ever explored the wonderful Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries, now's your chance.

Saturday 16th October
11am - 2pm Workday jointly with Nature Conservation Dept's Nature's Gym.
Meet at the chapel in the Ladywell Cemetery

2pm - 3.30pm (approx) Guided walk of the two Cemeteries led by FoBLC
members. This will start from the Ladywell gate, and takes a circular route.

Find out more on the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries blog.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Vote Ute Michel in Ladywell Ward By-election on 4th November!

I'm pleased to be able to confirm that we've now formally selected former Ladywell councillor Ute Michel as our candidate in the upcoming Ladywell by-election.

After the resignation of one of the newly elected Labour councillors for Ladywell, the by-election on November 4th will be a chance for the Greens to regain one of the council seats lost to Labour in the elections last May, when the party missed out on winning a seat in Ladywell by just 65 votes.

Ute Michel was a Ladywell councillor from 2006-2010 and was chair of the ward assembly. She worked hard over four years to help individual residents and the local community, and I know she would do an excellent job serving Ladywell again.

As a councillor, Ute supported local opposition to a betting shop in an area already full of bookies, and campaigned successfully to avoid cuts to social care services. She played a leading role in making Green amendments to Lewisham Council's budget and challenged council proposals. Outside of politics, Ute has worked as a research assistant in the European Parliament and for disability organisations and now works in the NHS.

Darren Johnson, Green councillor for Brockley, said:

"This by-election will be a straight fight between Greens and Labour - the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives were a long way behind last time. Quite a few people voted Liberal Democrat last time, expecting a new style of politics, but many are feeling betrayed that the Lib Dems have gone into a cuts coalition with Conservatives. If just a few dozen people switch over from Liberal Democrat to Green then Ute Michel can win in Ladywell and give residents the strong voice they deserve."

Can you help deliver some newsletters for us, or put up a 'Vote Green' poster in your window? If so, just e-mail with your contact details and we'll be in touch asap. Thank you!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ladywell Village Improvement Group Petition

Ladywell Village Improvement Group have been collecting signatures for their petition, which calls upon the Council "to accept and to implement from 2011, the recommendations of the Ladywell Streetscape Study which will help arrest the long and sad decline of Ladywell. These proposals are supported by residents and businesses alike, and to date have been warmly supported by Council officers also".

The petition seems very reasonably worded to me:

"The Ladywell Village Improvement Group, supported by the Ladywell Assembly, secured £10k from the Mayor's Fund to commission a Ladywell Streetscape Study. Experienced consultants Shape have undertaken this work, which included throughout extensive consultation with local residents and businesses and liaison with Council officers. The Consultants have now submitted their final report which makes clear, informed, robust and eminently sensible recommendations. Furthermore, mindful of the financial climate, it makes suggestions for the phasing of the recommended works. To fail to include these works within the Local Implementation Plan for 2011/12 and beyond will betray the aspirations of local people and could see the further decline of Ladywell as a viable centre."

You can read more on LVIG's blog, or go straight to sign the e-petition here. The petition closes early next week (you can also sign a paper copy in Oscar's Cafe in Ladywell). LVIG are keen that as many Lewisham people as possible add their names as we want to ensure that the Ladywell improvements happen in 2011 and are not scheduled for a later year when the level of TfL highways funding is uncertain.