Sunday, 24 October 2010

Protest against the cuts - demo this Saturday!

Join us in Brixton this Saturday 30th October to protest against the coalition government's brutal cuts. These cuts are unprecedented in scale, will wreck local services and will hit the poorest hardest.

The demonstration - in Windrush Square, central Brixton, from 12:30 - has been called by Lambeth Save Our Services, Right to Work, NUT, Unison, UCU, Lambeth Pensioners and Lambeth Green Party.

Greens are strongly opposed to the government's cuts programme. We take the deficit seriously, but rather than getting the economy back on its feet the government's plans risk making things much worse by putting huge numbers of people out of work, reducing vital services and making the poorest and most vulnerable people pay most.

Instead of cutting vital services the Council could make savings in the following areas:

  • Reducing salaries for top council executives - A number of senior council employees are paid more than £100,000 per year. Greens say the public sector cannot afford to pay such exorbitant salaries at a time when vital services are under threat
  • Saving money by conserving energy - Big cash savings are possible if we make our schools, libraries and other council buildings more energy efficient
  • Reducing administrative and management costs by co-operating with other public sector services
  • Reducing money spent on expensive consultants, glossy PR and spin
Read more about the Green Party's policies on the cuts here.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Bike-pedalled cinema on Streatham Common!

For the first time ever, Streatham Common will be hosting a bike-pedalled cinema to celebrate 10:10:10, the day of environmental action.

At 7:30pm on Sunday 10th October 2010 you're warmly invited to join Sustainable Streatham and the public to watch Belleville Rendez-vous – a charming Bafta-nominated film about a Tour de France cyclist kidnapped by the mafia to power a stationery bike machine. The animated film is rated 12 and lasts for 80 minutes.

The cost is what you can pay (suggested £3), and soft drinks and homemade cakes will be on sale. It will all be in a tent so no need to worry about the weather.

Bring your bike if you want to hop on and pedal to keep the film going!

Please come along. A great attendance will really help small local community environmental groups get better recognition in the Borough. It will also give the Council a good sharp reminder that the environment is just as important as budget cuts.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Green Party Event this Wednesday!

Come along to a presentation and social evening we're having this coming Wednesday 6th Oct!

The presentation will be on "The Spirit Level; Why more equal societies almost always do better" by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Published last year to some impressive reviews - ("This is a book with a big idea, big enough to change political thinking" - John Carey, The Sunday Times; "A remarkable new book ...the implications are profound " - Will Hutton, The Observer) – The Spirit Level has been claimed as an inspiration by politicians

from David Cameron to Ed Milliband – not to mention our own Caroline Lucas MP.

So why all the fuss? Come and hear the evidence for yourself – it's quicker than reading a book!

And, we hope, more enjoyable too – the talk will take about 40 minutes and afterwards there'll be a chance to meet other Lambeth Green Party members and ask any questions that you have in an informal, social setting. It should be a nice antidote to the drizzly autumn weather we've been having.

We'll be in the upstairs room at The Priory Arms at 83 Lansdowne Way, Stockwell, SW8 2PB, from 7pm, the presentation will begin at 7.30.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lambeth's "John Lewis" Council - No guarantee of quality

Co-operativeness and localism are Green values. There is much to be said for involving the people of Lambeth in their council and providing the services local people want and need.

This is why Lambeth Greens feel that the consultation for the Co-operative Council currently being undertaken by Lambeth's Labour administration is such a missed opportunity.

We're dismayed that Lambeth Labour didn't stand for election on their proposals for the "John Lewis" Council, so local people could have debated them at hustings and on doorsteps, and have had the opportunity to vote in the local elections in full knowledge of what a vote for Labour was going to mean.

We're surprised to see that the Citizens' Commission (now renamed Co-op Commission) does not include a single ordinary citizen but the usual quango-like lash-up of councillors and four of the "great and the good" of the borough.

Most of all, we are concerned that the values of mutualism and public involvement are being misused to varnish a process of allowing more and more privatisation of the services Lambeth depends on. Behind the slogans the true agenda of sweeping cuts already emerges - Labour Cllr Steve Reed has explicitly linked them when he said at the Emergency Budget Meeting “Reductions on national funding mean we need to drive the community-led agenda forward even faster.”

In a climate where all three parties are talking cuts, the Greens are the only party which believes the choice is between a deficit or a depression - we should not be making enormous cuts on a local and national level in our current climate. We do not believe the residents of a poor inner London borough should pay for the economic mistakes of the financial and political establishment.

In Lambeth, we believe in genuine community co-operation. This requires more than a questionnaire at a tube station and a short consultation period. The "John Lewis" council represents the people of the borough being knowingly undersold.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Tatchell urges Tulse Hill to vote Green

Well-known human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, is urging Tulse Hill voters to back the Green candidate in the coming by-election.

Tatchell has led human rights campaigns for over 40 years and won global fame for attempting a citizen's arrest on Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

In his message of support he says, "we Greens are the only party that wholeheartedly defends public services and working people. Our goal is a fair society.

"We've also got the best policies to stop climate chaos and ensure a clean, healthy and safe environment.

"I urge voters in Tulse Hill ward to support the Greens and vote for George Graham on 1 July."

Local campaigner, George Graham, was selected as the Green candidate last week.

The by-election follows local elections on 6th May in which Lambeth Greens fielded a candidate in every seat in the borough, and doubled our support for the third election in a row, gaining over 33,000 votes.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Election Reflections

A huge thank you to everyone who voted for us on 6th May. You helped us almost double our vote across the borough - up from 17,560 in 2006 to 33,673 in 2010.

This is a major achievement and shows what many of us already knew - that these days the Green Party is a serious presence in Lambeth. Under a proportional voting system we would have gained 6 councillors and held the balance of power in the Council.

However, it certainly wasn't all good news for us. The local election coincided with the General Election and a massive swing to Labour (they won 44% of the vote and gained 70% of the seats on the Council). We lost our one Green councillor and failed to win any more seats.

There's lots we can learn from this. First, we're now much more aware of how difficult it is to fight a local election on the same day as a national election. The Greens do not have the money, profile or media coverage to compete with the big three parties on all fronts at once. Hopefully the fixed 5-year Parliamentary terms that the new government is proposing mean we won't face this problem again until 2030....

We also need to recognise that, despite everything (growing inequality, record rent rises, spiralling social care costs, persistent unemployment) Labour still has very strong residual support in this area. We need to get better at communicating with these people, and persuading them that it is Green councillors who will champion their interests and values most strongly.

Losing our councillor in Herne Hill is a big blow. Becca Thackray - who for the last 4 years has been the one Green Party member on Lambeth Council - has given a fantastic demonstration of what Green councillors can bring to an area.

She has worked incredibly hard for her constituents on all sorts of issues, while also bringing major changes at the Council level, including commitments to reduce carbon emissions, pay a London Living Wage to all staff and give local people a say in how planning money is spent in their area. She deserves enormous thanks.

The other major group to thank are all the volunteers who helped us in our campaign this year. We were joined by so many inspired and creative people who, like us, hoped to achieve something special in this area. I hope all the foot-slogging and hard work hasn't put anyone off! And that all our election volunteers will stay with us as we continue our campaign for a greener, more just and more inclusive Lambeth.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

You can't believe everything you read

Have you seen the 'Election address' editions of Labour News that are doing the rounds for the council elections? The Herne Hill one has the grand headline 'TWO HORSE RACE IN HERNE HILL - Only Labour can beat the Tories', accompanied by an unreferenced graph, with no scale, suggesting that in Herne Hill Ward Labour have approx 45% of support, the Tories around 40% and the Liberals around 15% (my estimates, based on the sizes of the 3 bars) - and no mention of the Greens.

I'm one of the Green Party candidates in Herne Hill. In the last local election we got 36.7% of the vote (aggregated over 3 candidates), to Labour's 37.3%, and one of our candidates (Becca Thackray) got elected with more votes than any of the Labour candidates. The Conservatives came a distant third with just 16%.

We've asked Labour for an explanation for where they got the figures from and why we're not even featured on their graph.

So far we've received two different stories. First, they tried to tell us the graph was based on the results of the London Mayor election, but then we pointed out that in Herne Hill Ward 58% of people voted for Ken and only 21% for Boris - hardly a tight 'two-horse race'. Now their election agent has told us the graph is "an illustration of our view of the respective strengths of the three main national parties in this area." In other words, they've made it up!

At risk of engaging in boring old Punch-and-Judy politics, these Labour lies really are breathtaking. Not only are they pretending we don't exist - which you'd think was brazen enough seeing as we've already got one councillor in Herne Hill Ward - but they're also fabricating data. The reason? To mislead voters.

No wonder people despair of politicians.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Record number of Greens to vote for in Lambeth

Just a few days after the news that a record number of Green candidates will fight the General Election, I’m very happy to report that we’ve also achieved our own mini milestone here in Lambeth.

On 6th May, there will be 63 Greens standing in the local elections in the borough – our first full slate of candidates.

It may sound like quite a small triumph, but the Greens are not like other parties – we don’t have enormous sums of money to spend, and although we have many hard-working and dedicated members, this doesn’t automatically translate into having 63 would-be councillors ready to put themselves forward for election.

What does it mean to have a full slate? Well, it means that we can now test ourselves in a direct head-to-head with the three main parties.

In the last European elections we came 4th across Lambeth, but had we polled just 1.6% more we would have come second, ahead of both the Lib Dems and the Tories.

And in the last local elections we came second in 5 wards out of 21 and a close third in many other areas. With 63 candidates we’ve every chance of doubling our vote, pushing the Tories into 4th place borough-wide, and – who knows? – even giving the LibDems something to think about.

Of course, we’re not just interested in being triumphant runners up. The big picture for us is about how many councillors we can get elected. We’ve been targeting Herne Hill and Brixton Hill wards, where we’re getting a fantastic response from local residents. I think people see us as a breath of fresh air and something, finally, to get excited about in local politics.

If you’d like to get involved, or to hear more about our campaign, please do drop us an email.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Let's liven up Loughborough Junction!

It's time the Council stopped neglecting Loughborough Junction. For too long, hazardous pavements, unchecked fly-tipping and a general lack of care have blighted life in the area.

But as last month's inspired 'We Are Loughborough Junction' exhibition showed, there's so much pride, energy and creativity in this part of London. This is thanks mainly to local voluntary groups, such as the Loughborough Junction Action Group and the SE5 Forum, who are doing so much for the area. Now the council needs to step up and do its bit too.

Perhaps Loughborough Junction's biggest challenge is the local political geography - the area straddles 4 electoral wards and 2 boroughs. As a consequence it seems that no one ever takes responsibility for bringing the area the attention and resources that it deserves. If we can get 3 Greens elected in Herne Hill Ward in May, I sincerely hope we'll be able to change this. It's a personal commitment for me that, if three of us are elected, we will do all we can to bring serious, but sympathetic, investment to the area.

But equally important, the Council needs to engage local people to identify the best ideas for how regeneration money should best be spent. Following a Green Party proposal earlier in the year, the council has committed to consult properly with community groups and residents' associations on how to spend the so-called Section 106 funds that will be made available as part of the new development in 116-120 Coldharbour Lane.

It seems to me that this should be a basic principle for all developments - it amazes me that it isn't already standard practice. It's a small step, but hopefully an important one in harnessing the imagination and enthusiasm of local people to help liven up Loughborough Junction.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

20's Plenty for Lambeth

Over the past few months we've been conducting a survey of households across Herne Hill Ward. One of the most consistent findings has been local concern about speeding traffic on residential roads.

As a follow-up, we've invited Rod King of the 20s Plenty campaign to give a talk on Tuesday 2nd March upstairs in the Prince Regent on Dulwich Road. It'll be a short event - 20 minutes or so from Rod and then a Q&A.

20's Plenty is a national movement to get 20 mph limits set up in residential areas across the country. There's been lots of research on the impact of speeding on safety and noise. Lowering urban speed limits to 20 mph has been found to decrease child pedestrian accidents by 70%.

Slower cars on residential roads also mean less noise and a more pleasant environment in which to live.

Come along at 7:30 on 2nd March to find out more!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Lambeth's housing scandal

Lambeth’s Labour-run council is failing some of the most vulnerable people in the borough. Tenants are facing another rent hike - possibly 5%, but the final amount is to be confirmed - just one year after stomaching the biggest rent rise in the UK (an amazing 17%).

Sure, we all have to tighten our belts in the recession, but there's something more important going on here. This isn't the first time that the current Council administration (a Labour administration, in case that means anything these days) has leaned on the borough's poorest people to make cost savings - last time it was the social care budget that took a battering, driving up costs for people who are already living at the very margins, scraping to get by.

And then there's the bigger picture in housing. Labour promised to get all local authority housing up to the so-called Decent Homes standard by 2010. Well they're clearly failing to meet this pledge. In fact, in Lambeth we're seeing cutbacks in repairs and I understand that the programme to provide homes with proper insulation has been put on hold.

I've been helping our one Green councillor, Becca Thackray, with some of her casework. The stories from some tenants - often with young children - who are having to live in squalid, damp and mouldy conditions are really shocking. This sort of thing should not be acceptable in a modern and still enormously wealthy city.

To add insult to injury, around 1,500 homes are sitting empty, costing the council £8 million in lost rental income. And don't even get me started on the enormous sums that have been spent on consultants and the shambles that is Lambeth Living, the so-called Arms-Length Management Organisation that was supposed to fix the mess that was, and sadly very much still is, Lambeth's housing.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Call for Green and Black people to register to vote

Shane Collins, Green Party Parlimentary Candidate for Dulwich and West
Norwood presented Rev Al Sharpton with a Brixton pound at the Operation
Black Vote 'Register to Vote' meeting Thursday 21st Jan at Friends
Meeting House in Euston.

Shane said 'The Rev Sharpton comes from Harlem, the spiritual home of
Marcus Garvey and his message of keeping economic power in the community
is more relevant than ever today with the corporate takeover of much of
our lives. This message has been taken up by Transition Town as
exemplified by the Brixton Pound which i was proud to present to the Rev

'Voter registration amongst the black community is around only 45% in
younger age groups, similar to the black youth unemployment rate. There
is a connection. Black and green people have the power to change the
results in the local and general elections but only if registered and

'So remember Rosa Parks, honour Nelson Mandela, take heart from President
Obama and register to vote by contacting your Town Hall or Remember racists register and racists
vote.' For elections on 6th May the deadline to register is 20th April.

Quote from Rev Sharpton speech

“How you define yourself is how you confine yourself. You have all this
technology, Facebook, Twitter, Blackberry’s. And you can’t get ten black
Britons to go and vote?

“At a time when we can elect Presidents, there is no excuse for us to be
sitting down and not doing anything, and avoid recognising that it’s a
new time.”

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Your survey responses - tackling crime in Lambeth

I've been reading the 60-second surveys that have been flooding in. Great that people in Herne Hill Ward have been prepared to engage with this way of feeding back concerns.

I've passed on a collection of the ones on anti-social behaviour to Tom Cornish who is the Sergeant heading up the local Safer Neighbourhood Team. On the strength of observations from residents in Poets Corner, the evidence for some bike thefts associated with drug-dealing has come to light.

I'm what's called a Winger. Sadly this says nothing for my fancy foot work. I sit at Camberwell Magistrates Court as a Justice of the Peace in a Bench of three (1 Chair & 2 Wingers). I am due to sit in the 'virtual court'. Prisoners already serving sentences sit in a room in the prison and can converse via satellite link-up with the Bench and their barrister in court. The plus is that prisoners don't 'lose their place' in a prison by being booked out, prison transport isn't needed and it saves on court time.

The Lambeth & Southwark court at Camberwell Green is reasonably well-balanced in terms of ethnicity, age and gender - though we do have rather a lot of women. A 22-year-old has joined us. We greatly miss Ted Lewis, former Co-op trade Unionist, Communist & greyhound racer.

Being a Magistrate is fascinating. I happened to join after being in the police service but it's not about understanding actual laws, to begin with, but to understand how to arrive at a fair decision. The recent discussion about being allowed to use force against a burglary has been interesting. I am pleased there has been no change in the law.

It's surprising how little is understood about the criminal justice system. I invite anyone to pop into a court and observe for themselves. It might inspire them to want to become a Magistrate themselves.