Sunday, 22 June 2008

Lambeth Greens Visit Western Riverside Waste Authority

By Rebecca Thackray, Councillor Herne Hill ward

It's not everyone's idea of a great afternoon out but for Lambeth Greens it was an absorbing way to asses the scale of the problem. The ethics involved of exporting our plastic waste to China, the health and safety difficulty of food recycling and the pros and cons of the incinerator in Bellevedere, Kent, were discussed. There is a growing willingness to recycle and we're getting better at it. But it is clear that more education is needed (particularly for adults; children are getting the hang of it in schools) and above all else, manufacturers and retailers need to be reducing the amount of packaging that can only end up as landfill. We have no time to waste.

A Day in the Life of A Coucillor

By Rebecca Thackray
This article first appeared in the Local Government Association's First Magazine

Boundaries between my various roles are clear to me but not always to others. I spend the morning at Brixton Advice Centre where I work as a general adviser.

You wouldn’t believe how many people come to a legal advice centre with queries in that category marked ‘other’. I admire the specialists and I pick up useful updates on debt and housing from them, but the questions I get asked are far more intriguing. A woman wants to trace her husband from a decade ago, realising that she cannot remarry until she is divorced. I used to be a police officer and my approach is a methodical ‘where, when, what, why and how?’ and I always bear in mind that there may be someone out there who would really rather not be found.

After the drop-in I metaphorically change hats. I cycle off as a councillor to look at railway arches with a local restaurant owner with a view to traders storing cardboard and bottles for recycling. You’d think Herne Hill was Camberwick Green to hear him talk. This corner of London will feel even more villagey if a farmers’ market comes to the area. I was keen to make this part of the council’s regeneration planning.

Lactose junkie
I go to the corner shop for milk. I am something of a lactose junkie, requiring endless mugs of milky tea and vast quantities of yoghurt. I get cornered by a large man. I am not alarmed by his urgent whisper nor by the scissors in his top pocket. He is the barber next door asking for help regarding the mental health of his daughter. I leaf through council mail and see some initiatives on waste. Tetrapaks are being recycled in Lambeth now – if only thick plastics could follow suit.

A friend emails me about her friend in East Grinstead: “she puts everything possible in her recycling box ever since the stuff that can’t be recycled stopped being called rubbish and became known as landfill.” So often a name change is a euphemism but I like the idea of referring to rubbish as landfill and I forward it to the executive member for environment. I am not entitled to serve on council committees but I did get my teeth into a cross-party commission on climate change and I share the recommendations with other Green councillors in London. It can be lonely without a network of mutual support.

I receive a phone call from a police sergeant wanting an out-of-hours warrant signing. My magistrate hat goes on – I’ve been a magistrate since 1997. The grounds for the warrant are sobering. I drop off some information for the barber who works long hours too, serving the heads of the local community. I include details of a nearby resource centre for the mental health needs of African and Caribbean people – I used to work at the health centre and this place has an excellent reputation.

It occurs to me to check with him: “Were you asking me as a councillor, advice worker or nurse?” “I just thought you were someone who might know” he says simply.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Doubts Over Stop and Search

Under the plans announced on Tuesday, police can search people without reasonable suspicion.

But London Assembly Green Party member Jenny Jones said the stop and search powers may alienate young people.

Lambeth Green Party Crime Spokesman Shane Collins said:

"We welcome any move that will reduce the scourge of knife crime. But people in this Borough remember what happened in the 1980s when police were encouraged to use stop and search powers indiscriminately. Police bullying of poor teenagers from ethnic minorities will do nothing to help reduce the social exclusion that is the real cause of youth violence.