Monday, 31 October 2011

Come and hear Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones this Wednesday

Green Party mayoral candidate and London Assembly member Jenny Jones will be coming to visit Lambeth Greens this Wednesday.

All are very welcome to come and hear what Jenny has to say, as well as meet her and ask questions about anything relating to her work or the London campaign.

We'll be meeting from 7.00pm upstairs at The Priory Arms, 83 Lansdowne Way, Stockwell, SW8 2PB

This will also be our Lambeth AGM, so a great opportunity to come for the first time if you haven't been to a meeting before, and meet other local members.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna 'breaks election pledge' on EU referendum

The Labour rebels in last night's House of Commons vote on whether there should be a EU referendum have received less attention than the Conservative ones in the national press and media. But how Lambeth's three Labour MPs voted will be of interest to local people.

Among the small number of Labour rebels was Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, who voted in favour of a referendum. Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood however voted with the Prime Minister and the majority of the Labour party, against a referendum.

Perhaps of greatest interest though is that Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, also toed his party's - and the Conservative - line, and voted against a referendum. This appears to contradict a pledge he made during the election campaign last year.

There didn't appear to be anything in his election literature about the issue one way or another. But like all candidates, it is likely that he was asked questions on the doorstep about it. And a promise was apparently made on the subject to Mark Wallace, a campaigner and blogger.

Through the medium of Twitter, in recent days Wallace has been asking Umunna publicly if he would honour what he said to him during the election - or at least clarify where he stands.

I asked Wallace what Umunna had actually said to him. He replied that Umunna had made a pledge to back an EU referendum face to face with him, on the doorstep. Umunna, he said, stated that he preferred an in/out referendum to settle the issue once and for all. In addition, Umunna had even promised to write to Gordon Brown on the matter.

This appears to contradict how Umunna voted last night.

In the end, in the absence of any written evidence, it may come down to one person's word against another's. But there are some big issues of concern here. The first is that Umunna has failed to make clear what his position is on a referendum. His constituents should know, and they should have been told long before last night's vote. It is not as if this is a minor issue.

The second is that even when asked publicly, he has failed to respond. There is an issue of accountability here. Umunna has voluntarily chosen to use social media to communicate with constituents and others. He has fallen silent on this issue. Why? Is it because he believes one thing, but has voted another for reasons of advancement within his own party? These are the kinds of questions that will now be asked.

Even at this point it would have been very quick and easy to make his position clear. He has not done so.

It should be noted too, that Umunna had the opportunity to express support for a progressive amendment to last night's House of Commons motion, tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas. This backed a referendum on the basis of democracy and that it is right for people to be given a choice. He did not take that either.

You can read the full debate and the way all MPs voted in Hansard here

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Lambeth and Southwark account for half of London's most dangerous locations for cyclists

There appears to have been an amazing escape this morning in Southwark, when a lorry collided with a cyclist just south of London Bridge. The cyclist was lucky to emerge (apparently) relatively unharmed whilst her bike being squashed under the wheels of the lorry.

Others have not been so lucky. Cyclist casualties across the UK rose by 7% last year, up from 104 in 2009 to 111 in 2010. Transport for London may well face a charge of corporate manslaughter over the death of Min Joo Lee earlier this year.

It has now come to light that Lambeth and Southwark between them account for half of the ten most dangerous locations for cyclists in the capital. The new information came to light after a question to the Mayor of London.

The locations with the highest number of cycle collisions in the London area between 2008 and 2010 are:

1. St. George's Road/London Road/ Elephant & Castle Junction (Southwark)

2. Clapham Road/ Kennington Park Road/ Camberwell Road Junction (Lambeth)

3. Strand/Northumberland Avenue/Whitehall Junction (Westminster)

4. Waterloo Road/ Stamford St/ York Road Junction (Lambeth)

5. Mansion House St/Princes St/ Threadneedle St Junction (City of London)

6. Elephant & Castle/Newington Butts Roundabout (Southwark)

7. Hyde Park Corner (Westminster)

8. Millbank/Lambeth Bridge Junction (Westminster)

9. Clerkenwell Road/Farringdon Road Junction (Islington)

10. Albert Embankment/Kennington Lane/ Wandsworth Road Junction (Lambeth)

Transport for London say they are taking some action around these areas to improve cycle lanes, cycle superhighways and road layouts. Green Assembly Members have made significant progress in ensuring a tripling of the budget for cycling and walking, They have also put forward everything from the cycle hire scheme to a costed plan for lower bus fares.

But more needs to be done such as reducing the speed limit on many more roads in the capital to 20 mph - including main roads - which as well as lowering casualty rates and saving lives would improve traffic flow and lower carbon emissions. The London Cycling Campaign's "Going Dutch" proposals would provide clear space to cyclists on every main road. As part of this transport funding for boroughs could even be made conditional on providing clear space (where possible) on certain roads such as those leading to schools.

More needs to be done, urgently. As we have seen today - and now most days in the capital - these are issues of life and death.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

But besides roads, civil partnerships, climate change, economic equality and protecting small business, what have the Greens ever done for London?

Since the London mayor and Assembly were first elected in 2000, there have been two or three Green Party Assembly Members (AMs). These are just some of the things that they have achieved:

2000 Civil Partnerships
At the first ever Mayor’s Question Time assembly member Darren Johnson called on the Mayor to introduce a registration scheme for same-sex partners.
What happened next? A successful scheme was introduced, paving the way for civil partnerships legislation at national level.

2001 Thames Gateway Bridge
Greens began campaigning against Ken Livingstone’s plans for a new six-lane road bridge. As a price for supporting the Mayor’s 2005 budget the Greens called for the mayor to fund the objectors in order that the environmental case could be properly presented at the public inquiry.
What happened next? The public inquiry failed to give the go ahead for the bridge and the new Mayor Boris Johnson then abandoned it altogether.

2003 Climate change budget
Greens criticized Mayor Ken Livingstone’s budget for devoting just £300,000 per year to making London’s homes and buildings greener.
What happened next? In a series of budget deals with the then Mayor, Green AMs got the climate change budget at the London Development Agency increased to £8 million per year.

2004 Living Wage
As part of a budget deal Greens called on the Mayor to establish a Living Wage unit to tackle poverty pay in the capital.
What happened next? The GLA and a growing number of public and private sector bodies now pay the London Living Wage as a minimum.

2005 Leaking water mains
An investigation led by Darren highlighted the fact that a third of London’s drinking water was lost through leaking mains pipes.
What happened next? Following pressure from the Assembly Thames Water began a major mains replacement programme.

2006 Cycling budget
Green AM Jenny Jones commissioned a report which led to the setting of a target to increase cycling by 400% through the introduction of cycle hire, cycling superhighways and cycling hubs in outer London.
What happened next? The Green AMs secured budget commitments from Ken Livingstone which led to a tripling of the budget for cycling and walking.

2008 Opposing Heathrow expansion
Darren Johnson led the Environment Committee investigation into Heathrow expansion. The report showed that the economic benefits were exaggerated and the environmental impacts understated.
What happened next? In 2010 the new Government abandoned Heathrow expansion, the Assembly’s all-party report playing an important role in establishing a broad political consensus.

2009 Road safety
Green AM Jenny Jones fought the closure of the Metropolitan Police Commercial Vehicle Education Unit, which instructs HGV drivers on road sharing and awareness of vulnerable road users.
What happened next? This unit has now been reinstated within the traffic police section.

2010 Protecting small shops
For the Assembly’s Planning and Housing Committee, Green AM Jenny Jones led an investigation looking at what could be done to protect London’s small shops.
What happened next? Mayor Boris Johnson agreed to put policies for the protection of small shops in his new London Plan, the overall planning document for London.

Imagine what a few more Green Assembly Members could achieve in 2012...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Lambeth and Southwark housing 'extremely unaffordable'

An interesting report out today from Shelter looking at the affordability of the private rented sector around England.

It found Southwark and Lambeth to have the 9th and 11th most expensive rental prices (for two bedroom homes) in England, with average monthly rental prices of £1,407 and £1,321 respectively.

The most interesting findings come though in terms of affordability. Average London
rents for two bedroom homes take up 60% of a Londoner’s median take-home pay, a rate
which is close to double that seen in most other regions. Southwark comes in at number 10 in the most unaffordable places with 63% of average take-home pay spent on rent, and Lambeth at number 12 with 59%. This earned them a classification of 'extremely unaffordable'.

Given yesterday's unemployment figures, the ongoing rise in rental prices lack of social and other housing alternatives the picture looks very bleak indeed. There was a good report on the human cost on Radio 4 this morning.

Lambeth’s chief executive moves up pay league table despite cuts

Analysis by the Green Party has revealed that Lambeth council’s chief executive Derrick Anderson has moved up the league table of London council chief executive’s pay, despite implementing some of the most far reaching cuts of any London borough.

The latest figures show that during 2010-11 Lambeth’s head earned £215,963 (this is excluding pension contributions, which were an additional £30,976, giving a total annual salary of £246,939) moving from fourth to third place among the 32 London boroughs. The Green Party analysis (based on each council’s 2010/11 Statement of Accounts) found that the average pay of council chief executives across London in fact fell by 4% during the same period.

In the previous financial year (2009-10) three chief executives of London councils were paid more than Derrick Anderson. In the face of cuts, many council heads cut their salaries. Lambeth’s did not. Anderson subsequently became the third highest paid council chief executive in London during 2010-2011, only marginally behind those of Tory run Hammersmith and Fulham (£225,785) and Kensington & Chelsea (£220,976).

In April this year, Anderson finally announced that he would take a pay cut for 2011-12 and waive his entitlement to a bonus. This was strange as Lambeth had previously claimed he received “no performance related pay or bonuses”.

The figures came to light through London-wide analysis by the London Green party. The amount earned by Anderson in 2010-11 is over 17 times the minimum wage earned by some of Lambeth council sub contractors and over 13 times the Living Wage which the council pays its direct employees.

Lambeth has still to pay a Living Wage to all those who work on behalf of the council. Green councillor Rebecca Thackeray campaigned in 2009 to get Lambeth to adopt a Living Wage for all who carry out work for the council. This was opposed by Labour councillors who only accepted that Lambeth’s direct employees should received a ‘Living Wage’.

Last month Lambeth came second from bottom in a league table of all councils in England, measuring the severity of cuts to disabled people’s services. This included a 22% cut to adult care and support.

It is a stark contrast that whilst Lambeth has some of the highest executive pay in the whole country, it is imposing some of the most severe of cuts for its most vulnerable residents.

People in Lambeth will wonder why, in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country, where the cuts are so deep, Lambeth’s head took so long to take a cut in his own pay, whilst many of his contemporaries did so across London.

But the priority must be for Lambeth council to increase the pay of all those it employs as other councils have done, so everyone gets a Living Wage. It isn’t just Lambeth’s chief executive and Lambeth residents who are being treated in different ways. The staff who implement vital council services are also subject to double standards.

Key figures for all boroughs in London are as follows:

Borough Staff paid more than £150k* Chief exec remuneration* No. of times higher than living wage

Barking and Dagenham 3 £162,087 10
Barnet 9 £200,976 12
Bexley 3 £199,248 12
Brent 2 £203,853 12
Bromley 3 £177,135 11
Camden 6 £204,961 12
City of London 1 £142,000 9
Croydon 4 £204,520 12
Ealing 1 £183,854 11
Enfield 1 £194,693 12
Greenwich 5 £189,667 11
Hackney 5 £177,956 11
Hammersmith and Fulham 5 £225,785 14
Haringey 2 £189,890 11
Harrow 2 £195,965 12
Havering 1 £180,213 11
Hillingdon 1 £183,250 11
Hounslow 1 £156,901 9
Islington 1 £210,000 13
Kensington & Chelsea 2 £220,976 13
Kingston 1 £179,000 11
Lambeth 5 £215,963 13
Lewisham 1 £192,387 12
Merton 1 £200,390 12
Newham 5 £188,022 11
Redbridge 1 £181,542 11
Richmond 1 £178,744 11
Southwark 5 £182,089 11
Sutton 1 £156,195 9
Tower Hamlets 2 £186,528 11
Waltham Forest 2 £180,000 11
Wandsworth 9 £191,122 12
Westminster 3 £200,543 12
London total / average 95 £188,983 11

* Total remuneration including expenses, excluding pension contributions.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Knights Youth Centre facing cuts to vital programmes

Today the Government's Victim's Panel comes to Lambeth, following the recent riots and looting. This is being welcomed by Labour councillors.

The good work that this might do will be undermined however by the fact that central Government and these same councillors between them are pushing ahead with cutting youth services in Lambeth. This is already having a serious affect on youth centres around the borough, and will do so on young people and communities for years to come.

This includes Knight's Youth Centre in Clapham/ Streatham, which I remember from 40 years ago when I was growing up. As reported in the print edition of Tuesday's South London Press (not online at the moment) the Centre gets 200 children through the doors each week (mainly from the Clapham Park Estate) but is already having to cut staff and services. It is £85,000 short on the funding it needs for this year alone (about half its budget). A vital mentoring and apprenticeship programme looks as if it may have to close, which would be a tragedy, as this trains up children to be youth workers themselves.

The Centre is applying for a small amount of money from the NatWest community fund, and it will get the grant if enough people vote for it. You can do so here (You have until 23rd October to vote).

Blackfriars Bridge flashride

There's a flashride this afternoon (Wednesday) to push the Mayor and TfL into action over plans for Blackfriars bridge.

It's a cross-party event, and our mayoral candidate Jenny Jones will be there. Over 400 hundred people have already signed up to say they're coming, and hundreds more are expected on the day. Blackfriars bridge falls in Southwark, which is part of the Lambeth and Southwark constituency for the GLA elections.

London Cycling Campaign has produced excellent images showing how the junction at the northside of Blackfriars Bridge can be dramatically improved for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Two cyclists have been killed on the bridge in recent years, and several serious crashes have been reported already this year.

It’s estimated that LCC’s new cycling-safe design would add only 1% to the cost of the three-year Blackfriars development, but could save lives and prevent serious injuries.

The Blackfriars Bridge flashride meets at 5.45pm by Doggett's pub on the southside, in Southwark.

Transport apartheid in London

There is a debate in Parliament today, initiated by Lisa Nandy MP, on accessible transport. (I did an event at the Labour party conference with Lisa Nandy a few weeks ago, and amongst other things we discussed disability).

It is scandalous that whilst we will be holding the Paralympics in London next year, so much of London's transport system is inaccessible - most notably the tube. As part of the GLA campaign, we will be highlighting this issue as much as we can in Lambeth and Southwark. In many respects there is a system of apartheid in place, where whole areas are only accessible to one part of London's population.

Transport for All, based in Brixton, would like the Government to:

- Reject proposals in the McNulty Review to cut staff at train stations, who provide essential assistance to disabled and older passengers. (Southwark will be particularly hard hit in this respect)

- Change the law to ensure that all buses and coaches are equipped with the audio-visual equipment that makes them accessible to blind and deaf people

- Increase funding for stepfree programme as way of kickstarting economy. At present, almost half of disabled people say their choice of job is restricted due to inaccessible transport and nearly a quarter have had to turn doen a job because of transport.

- Protect bus routes which are so essential to avoid isolation and maintain activity and independence, especially for older people.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Petition launched to lower speed limit in Lambeth to 20 mph

Lambeth has one of the highest rates of road casualties in London, with the second highest casualty rate in London for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The lowering of the speed limit on residential roads in Lambeth, is something for which we have been campaigning for several years now. Last year, George Graham and others brought the ‘20s plenty’ campaign to Lambeth and organised a public meeting in Herne Hill. We have found widespread support – even from motorists who recognise that a 20 limit helps traffic flow.

Over 7 million people in the UK now live in areas where the speed limit has been dropped – showing that the campaign is both realistic and achievable. Several studies have shown that it doesn’t just reduce road casualties, but improves air quality, and encourages walking and cycling.

We have now launched an online petition to show that there is public support in Lambeth for such a move. Please sign it here and pass it around your friends, neighbours and networks.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Lambeth bottom of league over cuts to disabled services

Lambeth Council have come 151 out of 152 local authorities in England in a league table of cuts to services for disabled people.

The findings are contained in a report published last month by Demos, in partnership with disability charity Scope.

As we know there is a 28 per cent cut over a four year period to local authority budgets from central Government. Councils across the country have made decisions about what they are going to axe.

Disabled people are disproportionately reliant on public services, and the new report Coping with the Cuts, throws light on how the government cuts to local authority budgets are affecting disabled people’s services across the country.

Data came from hundreds of FOI requests which revealed the disparities between the level of budgetary cuts local authorities were making to their social care budgets, and the changes being made to the front line of care and support. Some councils had very large care cuts – up to 22 per cent - but were not raising service user charges, or tightening eligibility criteria. They weren’t closing any services either. On the other hand, some councils were increasing care funding by up to 10 per cent, but reported closures, restrictions in eligibility and large increases in charges for things like meals on wheels and respite.

The results are presented graphically, but a crucial finding is how disabled people in Lambeth are being particularly affected. Of particular note is the 22% budget cut in support for disabled adult care and support. Lambeth has also increased the cost of using specialist transport by 67 per cent and reduced the number of annual trips that can be made by a disabled person under the taxicard scheme from 144 to 96.