Tuesday, 20 November 2012

EU citizens begin petition for 20mph urban speed limit

Lambeth council has resisted calls for a 20mph speed limit across the borough which would help traffic flow, reduce pollution and of course reduce collisions and fatalities. This is particularly important as road deaths in Lambeth have trebled.

However there is now an initiative at EU level. Gathering 1 million petition signatures will require serious consideration of this by the EU Commission. 55,000 UK names are needed.

The EU Parliament has already endorsed its Road Safety Strategy that "strongly recommends 20mph limits for urban roads where no separate facilities exist for cyclists"

The safety campaign 20's Plenty for Us, are using the new European Citizen's Initiative (ECI) "30kmh - making streets liveable!" to ask that 20mph/30kmh speed limits become the norm for all urban and residential roads. The EU Commission must
consider this initiative seriously when 1 million signatures are submitted.

20's Plenty for Us are on a pan-European "citizen's committee" who have one year to gain a minimum of 1m signatures (on paper or on-line) across at least 7 EU countries, including a minimum of 54,750 in the UK.

8.3m people in some of the UK's most iconic cities already live in communities adopting this policy. 30mph limits are deemed inappropriate for most of their roads. With 170 local campaign branches around the UK, 20's Plenty for Us works with many community, health, transport and safety organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors.

This comes in time for Road Safety Week 2012 - 19-26 November with its Go20 campaign in support of 20mph limits. Our aim is for 1m signatures by Road Safety Week 2013.

You can find out more by visiting the www.30kmh.eu website.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Lambeth Labour's deception in Brixton Hill

The Labour party in Lambeth appear to be concerned about the rise in the Green vote in the borough.

Their latest leaflet distributed to Brixton Hill ward - championing Labour's freeze on council tax which is hurting the most vulnerable in Lambeth - contains a graph of the results from the London Mayoral elections in 2012. Although the Greens came second in the ward on both the party list and with the individual assembly candidate (you can see the full results here), the graph produced by Labour mysteriously fails to show the Green vote at all.

Not only were the Greens in second place in Brixton Hill in the London Assembly election, but the Greens in Brixton Hill have been in second place in council elections there for years (see the results for 2002 and for 2006 on the Lambeth Council website).

This does beg the question why Lambeth Labour are suddenly trying to deceive local people.

Labour has a habit of running dirty tricks campaigns against the Greens when it is feeling threatened - as it did against a Green councillor in Herne Hill. They have recently been embarrassed and forced into a u-turn on the Living Wage after their initial opposition to the proposal by a Green councillor that it be extended to subcontractors. (It was a Green Lambeth councillor who originally tabled the motion to get Lambeth to become a Living Wage employer). The Greens have also recently been active in the ward itself. It is not surprising therefore that Labour is scared.

Brixton Hill is of course leader of Lambeth council Steve Reed’s Ward. Council tax payers are still paying him £50,000 a year, while he campaigns full time in Croydon to win a Parliamentary seat, with the support of Lambeth Labour. If Reed does get elected to Parliament, there will be a by-election in Brixton Hill, and voters will get a chance to express how they feel about all this.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Chuka Umunna champions commercial arms companies again

I chaired an event last month as part of Streatham’s Little Big Peace festival, at which Streatham MP Chuka Umunna spoke.

It is particularly disappointing therefore to see him just a few weeks later promoting British Aerospace – the UK’s largest commercial arms manufacturer.

In an article in the Huffington Post he urges the UK government to help companies "such as BAE acclimatise to the future, investing in skills and capabilities as well as supporting exports."

This is not the first time he has championed BAe. At the end of last year, Umunna placed British Aerospoace at the heart of Labour’s economic plans citing it as something the Government should spend more money on and "calling on the Government to use its consumer power to reward companies doing the right thing."

BAE was one of the two firms which David Cameron was heavily criticised for taking to the Middle East, when weapons sold by the UK were being used to suppress civilians in Libya.

Another notorious recent deal was the sale of 200 Tactica armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. These vehicles were used by Saudi troops helping to suppress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in March 2011. It has also been repeatedly fined for corruption and breaking export rules.

The press release from the Labour Party at the end of last year, in which Umunna celebrates BAe, cited the company as a long-term success, and urged the Government to “use all the tools and levers at its disposal to shape the rules of the game so they support long-term business success”. The latest article about BAe is Umunna’s strongest call yet for the Government to put more money into the commercial sale of arms.

The Shadow Business Secretary's concern however is first and foremost a business one. So it should be noted that in addition to the extensive human rights issues involved, support for the commercial arms trade also doesn't automatically make good economic and business sense. There is a strong economic case against supporting commercial arms companies like BAe, and instead using the money to pursue policies and long-term strategies of moving workers into more productive and secure industries. The arms industry already receives around hundreds of millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies every year. And as job losses at BAe once again demonstrate, the industry is volatile by nature.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The myth of Lambeth’s 46% recycling rate

The claim has been made by Lambeth Council that it now has a ‘46% recycling rate’. It was trotted out for national recycling week And it was recycled in the Streatham Guardian today.

It would be surprising if this were the case, because Lambeth’s recycling has been lagging in recent years. It has fallen further and further behind the London average and is now lying in 28th place among London boroughs, recycling just over 27% of its waste according to official figures contained in the report at the end of last year from the London Assembly.

46% however is what Lambeth needs to achieve in order to reach the Mayor of London’s recycling targets, which are contained in Lambeth's waste strategy. The percentage of Local Authority Collected Municipal Waste reused, recycled or composted needs to be hitting this level by 2012/13.

The official statistics have still to be published for 2011-12, which makes the 46% figure even more perplexing. But closer inspection reveals that Lambeth has reached this figure by including waste it incinerates. This, it claims is “recycling” because some of the heat generated is used to make electricity (very inefficiently) and some of the materials from the ash are reclaimed.

When Lambeth has problems, what it often does is redefine things. It did it for example with potholes, meaning it didn’t have to repair as many. It is however less easy to redefine recycling. EU regulations set out a clear waste hierarchy, which makes it clear that incineration is not recycling.

Article 4 of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC) sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to environmental impact – the ‘waste hierarchy’.

Prevention, which offers the best outcomes for the environment, is at the top of the priority order, followed by preparing for re-use, recycling, other recovery and disposal, in descending order of environmental preference as follows:

1. Prevention: Using less material in design and manufacture. Keeping products for longer; re-use. Using less hazardous materials

2. Preparing for re-use: Checking, cleaning, repairing, refurbishing, whole items or spare parts

3. Recycling: Turning waste into a new substance or product. Includes composting if it meets quality protocols

4. Other recovery: Includes anaerobic digestion, incineration with energy recovery, gasification and pyrolysis which produce energy (fuels, heat and power) and materials from waste; some backfilling

5. Disposal: Landfill and incineration without energy recovery

What Lambeth are claiming is "recycling" is actually "other recovery" (4) and "disposal" (5) which is lower down the hierachy, and are not classified as 'recycling'.

What are the consequences of an emphasis on this rather than recycling? They are set out well here but in summary:

1. The energy produced is not “renewable energy” as Lambeth is claiming. The municipal waste being used is non-renewable, consisting of discarded materials such as paper, plastic and glass that are derived from finite natural resources such as forests that are being depleted at unsustainable rates.

2. Burning these materials in order to generate electricity actually creates a demand for “waste” and discourages much needed efforts to conserve resources, reduce packaging and waste and encourage recycling and composting.

3. Lambeth is incinerating materials which should be recycled. More than 90% of materials currently disposed of in incinerators can be reused, recycled and composted.

4. The incinerator poses a considerable risk to people’s health and environment. Even the most technologically advanced incinerators release thousands of pollutants that contaminate our air, soil and water. Many of these pollutants enter the food supply and concentrate up through the food chain. Incinerator workers and people living near incinerators are particularly at high risk of exposure to dioxin and other contaminants.

5. Burning the waste contributes to climate change. Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity (2988 lbs/MWh) than coal-fired power plants.

The place where Lambeth's incineration takes place is a Waste plant at Belvedere, Bexley. The plant was opposed by Ken Livingstone, among others, who took legal action against its construction. It was also highlighted by Friends of the Earth as something which would hinder, not help, in the battle against climate change.

In short, Lambeth’s recycling claims are not just misleading, they are destructive. They are creating more CO2 emissions, air pollution, and in the long term lessening the demand for recycling. This is greenwash.

[Update December 2012: The borough recycling rates for 2011-12 have now been released, and sure enough, Lambeth's recycling rate is exactly the same as last year at 28%]

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Lambeth council withdraws help with travel to school for disabled children (in order to 'promote independence' )

The letter below is being sent out by Michael Donkor, Head of Special Educational Needs, Children and Young People's Service, at Lambeth Council.

It follows the decision by Lambeth's Cabinet earlier this year, to change its policy towards the provision of transport to school for disabled children.

The policy comes into force at half-term in October.

The letter states that any child who is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance, will no longer be offered travel assistance. The justification for the new policy is to promote "independent travel" for children with Special Educational Needs. The real agenda is clearly further cuts, with the disabled again seen as an easy target.

Lambeth has already been ranked second bottom in England with regard to cuts to disability services.

The idea that the receipt of DLA is in some way enough to cover the extra help that disabled children need getting too and from school, let alone all the other additional associated travel costs when children aren't at school, is simply not based in reality. I would not be surprised if there is a legal challenge against Lambeth over this, from parents of disabled children in the borough.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Lambeth council lobby 19th September

Lambeth Save Our Services have called a lobby of the council on 19th September concerning the downsizing of libraries and the privatisation of One O’Clock clubs.

In the run up to the lobby, they are holding a number of street stalls, to make sure library users and those who take their children to One O’Clock clubs know what is going on.

The next stalls will be:

Saturday 18th August
Outside Brixton Library
2pm to 4pm

Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th September
Lambeth Country Show, Brockwell Park
Shifts available from 11am to 5pm

Where planning law fails us?

I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on planning, but I was puzzled by people telling me that Tesco had successfully "sneaked through" a change of use application with Lambeth Council to convert the George IV Music Bar on Brixton Hill to an Express grocery store, leaving opponents with an uphill battle.

Puzzled because there is no evidence of such an application on the council's database, which is supposed to be comprehensive for the last six years. Given that, I found it strange that neither planning officers nor local councillors have sought to clarify the situation to interested parties or through the media. Wilfulness? Ignorance? I'll leave that to you to decide, but I think local people who the council is supposed to serve have a right to know.

Having done some research it transpires that a change of use from pub to shop is not required under current planning law, which must make pubs a very attractive proposition for supermarkets. The situation is well explained here. But to summarise, there are four broad classes of development: (A) high street or shopping area use; (B) other business and industrial use; (C) residential use; and (D) non-residential social and community use. Generally speaking changes of use between sub-categories are permitted - and pubs and shops both fall within category (A).

A very sensible E-Petition proposing a change in the law to give councils greater powers to protect the diversity of town centres in cases such as this has just closed. It received only 80 signatures, showing, I think, how little understood this area of the law is.

Awareness should be raised because pubs up and down the country are being targeted for supermarkets, from here in Brixton, to Croydon, Derby and Manchester, to name but a few locations. My digging has yielded another surprise. I expected to see most of the big supermarkets employing this tactic, yet time and time again, it's Tesco's name that keeps cropping up. According to this article in the  Croydon media, Tesco proposed a "public consultation" in that locality. No sign of that happening in Brixton Hill.

As always, drop me a line at andrew.child@greenparty.org.uk or or contact us via Twitter or Facebook

Saturday, 11 August 2012

More than *just* a pub: a George IV update

Last weekend we brought you news of Tesco's plans to turn the George IV Music Bar in Brixton Hill into an Express grocery store, and the petition to stop it.

I wanted to inform you of several important updates, which should give us heart going forward.

The first is to say that shortly after writing the post I received a lovely email from Vanessa Pope, who is involved in running local arts group The Effort Collective. The significant thing about this is that apart from being a hugely talented group of creative people, they are based at the George IV, both rehearsing and performing at the venue. As I said in the original post, pubs can perform a vital community function, and not just as a place in which to drink and be merry.

Take a look at The Effort Collective's website to see what they've been up to in recent months: some really interesting and innovative work in theatre, film and music. I certainly want to see what they do in the future and want them to be given the opportunity to go from strength to strength.

Vanessa tells me: "We have worked out of the fantastic facilities of George IV has to offer over the past 2 years: filming in the back room, make-up in the front room, theatre rehearsals and performances all over, band rehearsals in the basement.

"We are fully aware of the wonderful, productive uses this historic building can have and it would be a terrible shame to see it turned into a supermarket."

The other great piece of news is on the online petition, which following my blog of last weekend quickly exceeded our target of 1,000 signatures and now stands at more than 1,200. Please continue to sign it. Huge thanks should go to my Lambeth Green Party colleague Bridget Chapman for setting this up and making people aware of Tesco's plans.

I've written to a number of people, who are - or should be - involved in this process, with mixed results, to seek more information and to demand action.

I've written to Tesco: property.enquiries@uk.tesco.com and matt.magee@uk.tesco.com, whose names were provided as contacts on a letter of consultation that hardly anyone in the immediate area appears to have received. No response, and I would suggest that this speaks volumes.  I urge you to write to them as well to tell them what you think of their plans and to ask why their letter wasn't properly circulated. A change of use at the site of the pub appears to have been passed by the council without anyone being made aware of the scheme, and they've obviously left it very late in the day for people to try to stop the plans.

I've also written to Brixton Hill's three councillors, all Labour. That this Tesco scheme has got this far already should be of great embarrassment to them. They are Florecence Nosegbe (fnosegbe@lambeth.gov.uk), Steve Reed, Council Leader (sreed@lambeth.gov.uk), and Alex Holland (aholland@lambeth.gov.uk). Cllr Nosegbe, has written back to me to say she hopes to meet with the various parties involved and has asked that the decision on the current application goes before a meeting of the planning committee. I've got an Out of Office reply from Cllr Holland. I hope to hear from him on his return. I've have received no response from the leader of Lambeth Council. I've urge you to these councillors and tell them of your strength of feeling on this issue. They're our elected representatives. They should represent us.

Furthermore I've contacted Lambeth Council's planning officers (planning@lambeth.gov.uk), because at present the plan before the council, to remove railings and turn the beer garden into a car park, is set to be dealt with by them under delegated powers. I have received an email to say my objection, along with others, has been registered. I suggest you do the same. We can't assume that our elected representatives will do right thing and call this decision in before a full meeting of the planning committee. Tell them that the loss of the George IV would go against stated council policy of preserving historic pubs such as this. And tell them of the effect that having a busy car park on a Red Route will have on traffic. Do so quoting the application reference 12/02757/FUL‏. You need to do this by August 14, so not long.

I have today also written to the local MP and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna. This is an issue which is written large across the constituency: the dominance of big supermarkets, the decline of corner shops and the decline of the local pub. Last time I wrote to *my* MP, I did not even receive an acknowledgement. I hope to do better on this issue. Why don't you join me in getting him working for us?

I will keep you posted. In the meantime feel free to contact me on andrew.child@greenparty.org.uk or or contact us via Twitter or Facebook

Best wishes

Andrew Child
Lambeth Green Party

Monday, 6 August 2012

Taking on Tescopoly in Brixton Hill

I spent Sunday afternoon talking to local shopkeepers - and their customers - on Brixton Hill about Tesco’s plans to open an Express store on the site of the current historic George IV Music Bar. This quirky turreted building is a landmark to all local residents.

What these shopkeepers reported to me was the detrimental impact that the two existing Sainsbury’s Local stores on the upper reaches of the hill - within a few hundred metres of each other -  had already had on their businesses. Many fear what the addition of a further big supermarket local store would mean for the long-term viability of independent shops such as theirs.

Meanwhile, the customers of these stores say that Brixton Hill cannot sustain another yet another supermarket. They fear the loss of their local store, which provides a real sense of community and where they interact with real people rather than a soulless automated checkout. And they see a further erosion of the character of their local community. 

Not just that, but the loss of another local character pub, a place not just to drink and be merry, but a space which can double up as so many other things: community meeting place, arts and music venue, a centre for learning...the possibilities are almost endless.

George IV Music Bar: Locals fear the loss of another character pub on Brixton Hill

The decline of Brixton’s pubs has been well-documented by the excellent community portal Urban75. The George IV, at 144 Brixton Hill, is just down the hill from another former stalwart of the local pub scene, The Telegraph, which went out of business back in 2010. Clearly the George IV has been struggling, having undergone an unsuccessful rebranding as Southside before its current incarnation as Music Bar.

There’s some great advice pages on the internet for communities trying to save local pubs, for instance at the aforementioned Urban75 and at CAMRA. It’s certainly not an easy time for pubs, but there have been successful campaigns up and down the country. If you want to save the George IV or other pubs like it in the area, then these seem like good places to start. 

As a member of the Lambeth Green Party I share the concerns expressed to me by local shopkeepers and their customers, and I want to do something about them. I therefore urge you so sign the petition to stop Tesco in its tracks: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-tesco-for-george-iv-historic-pub-and-music/. We’re nearly at our 1,000 signature target, but we’d like to exceed it to really bring home to Tesco and Lambeth Borough Council, the real extent of local opposition. You can also sign a paper petition in many local shops along Brixton Hill. If you’d like to help with the campaign, there’s a number of ways you can contact us. You can write to me personally at andrew.child@greenparty.org.uk, or contact us via Twitter or Facebook.

I live on Wingford Road (behind Brixton Prison), and already have two Sainsbury’s Local stores in well under half a mile: at 76 Brixton Hill, and at 266-270 Brixton Hill and in total I have seven Sainsbury’s stores within a mile of me. It’s clear I’m more than well catered for by a big supermarket. But to add to that I’ve got a Tesco Express within a quarter of a mile - at 30 Streatham Place - and a total of five Tescos within a mile. So doing the sums, that’s three supermarket stores within half a mile and a total of 12 within a mile. The figures speak of complete madness. There’s no community or customer case for more. It seems to me that the only reason for Tesco to seek to open yet another store is to play catch-up with Sainsbury’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking sides here. I don’t think there should be more stores from any of the big supermarkets in this area.

The Sainsbury's Local store on the corner of Lambert Road and Brixton Hill.  The area is more than catered for by big supermarkets.

A letter of consultation (here’s the 2nd page) has been sent out by Matt Magee, Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager, apparently to local residents and businesses. The disturbing thing is that few of the local shopkeepers I spoke to seemed to have received it. And I haven’t received it either. I will be writing to Tesco today to try to understand why many local people - whose lives will be affected by the store - have not been contacted. I will also be asking if they have carried out any kind of local impact assessment.

Furthermore I’m trying to establish contact with the owners of the George IV to try to understand their reasons for selling up and if anything can be done to help them keep it as a pub.

Tesco’s letter is a bit threadbare and makes some questionable assertions. It says that “about” 20 local full and part-time jobs will be created. But how many will be lost elsewhere as a result of this? It claims that staff in its stores act as “a deterrent to anti-social behaviour”, even though, unlike may staff employed by pubs, they are not trained in dealing with anti-social behaviour. The basis on which the Tesco store will therefore act as a deterrent seems tenuous. Unfortunately Tesco says it already has permission to operate the site as a convenience store, and that all that remains is for it to get council approval for the removal of railings, turning the beer garden into a car park, adding signage etc. I’ve looked at planning applications currently before the council on its database and Tesco certainly hasn’t put in applications for everything it wants to do. 

We have a fight on our hands - clearly. It’s much easier for Tesco to buy a property - even if it does fall within a conservation area - and make some minor alterations than try to build something from scratch on a brownfield site. We need to show up at the next meeting of the council’s planning committee and raise our objections, but above all we need to show the strength of feeling there is in this wonderful Brixton Hill community of our. We need to deliver a petition with thousands of names and we need to protest and we need to make it clear to Tesco that it will not be receiving our custom. 

There is hope. Go to the website of campaign group Tescopoly and you’ll find plenty of sources of inspiration in campaigns won against the desire and might of the big supermarkets. But we must organise. Again, sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-tesco-for-george-iv-historic-pub-and-music/ and get in touch with either myself  andrew.child@greenparty.org.uk, or contact us via Twitter or Facebook

Thanks for your support.

Andrew Child
Lambeth Green Party

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Living Streets 'Get walking during the Games' challenge

Join the Living Streets 'Get walking during the Games' challenge.

Use your feet to avoid busy public transport and roads during the Games and discover a smarter way of getting around the city. See how many miles you can rack up.

You can log all your walking with their online tool to count miles, how many ice creams you’ve burned off and the carbon you’ve saved.

The challenge will run until the end of the Games on 9 September. Get walking!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Leadership hustings in London this Friday

As people may know Caroline Lucas will not be re-standing for the position of party leader when it comes up for re-election later this year.

London Green Party are hosting a hustings for the prospective leadership candidates, Natalie Bennett, Pippa Bartolotti, Peter Cranie and Romayne Phoenix on Friday July 13th which will be at Development House, 56- 64 Leonard Street London EC2A 4LT starting at 7pm. Tea and coffee available from 6.00.

This will be a chance for members to quiz the prospective leaders, discuss the future direction of the party and go to the pub with each other afterwards too. Who we elect as leader this summer will have a profound impact on the direction of the party in the next two years and hopefully as many members as possible will take this opportunity to get involved in the debate. Questions can be submitted by email in advance to Jon Nott (jon.nott at greenparty.org.uk), who will be chairing.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Save Lambeth's One O'Clock Clubs!

Lambeth Council has announced a consultation into the future of our One O'Clock Clubs. In their own words, they 'want local communities to decide which organisations are going to take over the running of the youth and play sites from the Council'.

These clubs are vital to the wellbeing of many young children, parents and carers across the borough, and are enjoyed by thousands (including my own....). They are hugely valued and make a real difference to the quality of children's early years in Lambeth.

I know I'm not alone in worrying that Lambeth plan to use the consultations to justify introducing a cut-price service - using the 'Cooperative Council' idea as cover for a reduction in public provision. This may balance the books in the short term but at what cost to children?

Lambeth have announced the consultation at really short notice and with very little publicity, even at the clubs themselves. It all smells rather fishy - almost as if they don't want people to hear about their plans!

So, if you can, do try to attend one of the consultation meetings. They're running until 18th July - you can see the full list here.

And if you can't make any of them (they're all on weekdays), then write to the Council, your councillors and your MP to ask how you can have your say. For more ideas, check out the thread on Urban75.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Lambeth Council finally agrees to pay some contractors a Living Wage

We have for many years been pushing Lambeth to pay a Living Wage to all its employees.

This included, in 2009, a motion by Green Councillor Becca Thackray to commit Lambeth to a Living Wage policy. However Labour tabled an amendment which excluded sub-contractors.

It is good news therefore that finally, after years of pressure, Lambeth have agreed to pay some subcontractors a Living Wage.

However, whilst Labour has blocked and delayed, Lambeth's chief executive has moved steadily up the league table of council executive pay.

His pay 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.

What Lambeth should now be looking at is a 10:1 pay ratio where no one earns more than ten times the salary of the lowest paid employee or worker.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cites for Clean Air: London 2012

There's a conference & unconference which will be of interest for all those campaigning for better air quality.

DATE: Saturday 14 July 2012, 10.30 am – 5 pm

VENUE: University London Union, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HY. Nearest tube: Goodge Street.

WHO: This event is aimed at the general public who want to see good air quality in their neighbourhood and beyond. You don't need to be an expert. There's no admission charge, and this is the founding meeting of the Network for Clean Air.

WHY: There are seventeen places in the UK which will not achieve limits for harmful air pollution (NO2) within legal EU limits by 1 January 2015. Indeed, one of them, Greater London - won't achieve these limits until about 2025. Local authorities and national government need the engagement of civil society to bring forth adequate measures to control pollutants, improve public health and the quality of life. In London alone, poor air quality leads to the premature death of about four thousand people annually (that’s about the same as the ‘great smog’ of December 1952).


Morning - Conference - invited speakers

* Legal Action for Clean Air in the UK - Alan Andrews, Client Earth
* Why Air Pollution is Bad for Human Health - Dr Ian Mudway, MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health, King's College London
* London Air: the Politics, the Vision - Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth London Campaigner

Other speakers to be confirmed

Afternoon - Unconference - workshops, discussions

Share your knowledge and experience; discover new approaches; learn with others; meet new friends.


To register for the conference (not essential but recommended), receive final conference details and an occasional newsletter then email: contact at cleanairuk.org More at: www.cleanairuk.org

Friday, 1 June 2012

Right to Ride - 19th June

Together with Disabled People Against the Cuts, Transport for All will be holding a day of action for accessible transport on 19th June. The focus is to make that point that if the Government are serious about enabling disabled people into work, they must ensure transport is accessible.

Activists are asked to meet at the House of Commons at 2pm, and then invite their MP to travel with them by bus to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the umbrella body for all bus companies in Covent Garden area (about a 15 minute bus journey).

Getting the able-bodied people to see the transport system a little from the perspective of those with impairments is a crucial part of bringing about change. Last year I got the Guardian to make the journey to the paralympics from Lambeth along with several disabled people. Jenny Jones, during the mayoral campaign, also offered to spend time to wheelchair users, using the transport system.

The aim of the June initiative is to get as many wheelchair users, visually impaired, deaf and other disabled people to all need to use the same buses at the same time, to really highlight the barriers that are faced.

These problems are also getting worse in many respects, rather than better. The Government wants to cut expenditure on DLA (Disability Living Allowance) by 20%. DWP’s own estimates are that 500,000 people will lose their DLA from 2013. Many people use their DLA for taxis, to qualify for transport benefits like Taxicard, Blue Badge and Freedom Pass, or to lease a Motability car. If they lose access to these, they will be left dependent on a bus and train system which is difficult or impossible to use for many older and disabled people.

Transport for all are asking the Government to ensure that transport procuremnet processes are changed to ensure that no train or bus company will win a tender to run a route or station, unless they show they are meeting minimum standards of accessibility. Poor records on accessibility-related customer complaints must have real consequences for transport providers.

More information at Transport for All.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Film night tonight in Clapham - an economy for the 99%

Tonight (Tues 22nd May) at the Bread and Roses pub in Clapham, there's an evening of films exploring the influence of banks and financial institutions and their impact on the poorest people around the world. (HT Project Dirt)

From the debt crisis to the developing world, today’s economic crisis, economic crisis, and the globalised food system, the evening will involve an exploration of the power of the global economy on those who can least afford it.

The event is being organised by the South-West London group of the World Development Movement, a campaigning organisation that works to change the systems and structures that put profit before people and the environment.

After the films there will be a drink to discuss the issues raised in the films.

Venue: Bread and Roses (back room) 68 Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4 6DZ

More info and details here

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Greens become third party in Lambeth

It was a great night for the Greens in Lambeth and across London last night, as we returned two assembly members, and came third in the mayoral race - our best ever result.

For the first time the Green party came third in Lambeth and Southwark. We beat the Lib Dems by over 4,000 votes on the crucial party list vote (the orange ballot paper which we were focusing on with our "Vote Green on Orange" message) across the constituency, getting over 20,000 votes and a 13% vote share. Even on the first-past-the-post constituency vote where people tend to vote for the big three parties, we were neck and neck coming just 215 votes behind the Lib Dems. In the mayoral vote, people in Lambeth and Southwark also put the Green Party's mayoral candidate, Jenny Jones, in third place.

Looking at the London elects website Jenny Jones also received 22.5% of second preference votes in Lambeth and Southwark - more than any other candidate except Ken Livingstone. Add this to the 6.8% she received in first preference votes, and this makes a huge potential Green vote of almost 30%.

This is a fantastic achievement, and means the momentum continues for the Greens as we look forward to the council elections in two years time.

You can read the full results here.

It was a great night in council elections across the country, increasing our vote share, winning targets seats and holding our existing gains.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Deaf and disabled Londoners' Manifesto

Inclusion London have emailed to say I am the only candidate in Lambeth and Southwark backing their deaf and disabled Londoners' manifesto (they apparently approached all the candidates).

As Inclusion London points out, the Mayor has a range of powers that directly impact on the 1.4 million Deaf and disabled people living in London.

The manifesto calls on the Mayor and the London Assembly to make Deaf and disabled people a priority and to take specific and measurable action in nine areas to end exclusion and discrimination, improve quality of life and promote the equality and inclusion of Deaf and disabled Londoners.

It's been great that the Green Party has emphasised these issues in terms of its own policies - with its own specific manifesto for disabled Londoners, but also making its policies and materials available in a range of accessible formats.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Will 'social cleansing' come to Lambeth?

As we highlighted a couple of weeks ago, Lambeth has the second highest council house waiting list in London, second only to Newham.

The news that Labour-run Newham council is looking to ship out its poorest families to places like Stoke (branded 'social cleansing' by some), should also be a worry to residents in Labour run Lambeth.

As Lambeth council implements its program of cuts, it will be looking for savings wherever it can. Despite the fact that Lambeth also has the second highest number of empty homes in the capital, it isn't handing them over to people who really need them in any great numbers. In fact, it is evicting people who have invested in these short-life properties and selling the housing off to developers.

The option to ship people out of the borough must have at least crossed their mind.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Labour's smears come back to haunt them in Herne Hill

There was an excellent London Assembly hustings event last night in Herne Hill, organised by the Herne Hill Forum.

It was very well attended, with lots of local people who are very active in the local Herne Hill Community.

I was particularly pleased to take part the event, as there was a Green Party councilor in Herne Hill until the last election. However, she was subject to a disgusting smear campaign by Lambeth Labour party, and lost her seat in 2010.

What was interesting about last night however, it that the smears are now coming back to haunt Labour, and I suspect they will continue to do so.

There was for example, a great deal of support for lowering speed limits in Herne Hill to 20mph. This was something that Labour's Val Shawcross claimed last night she supports. It is in fact a campaign that the Green's have long been championing, and calling for right across Lambeth. The blockage however has actually been the Labour Party on Lambeth council, who are refusing to implement 20mph limits across the borough. This made Val's claims ring rather hollow.

Even more so, when people there realised that this was something Labour had tried to make political mileage out of at the last election. In the literature Labour distributed aiming to smear the Green Party, they even suggested that the Greens were opposed to 20mph limits.

There was also a good discussion about how to cut crime. There has been a spate of burglaries in Herne Hill. Drugs policy came up, and once again Labour's smears in Herne Hill against the Greens on this issue were highlighted.

But it isn't just Labour's smears that are coming back to haunt them. It is also what they are doing now in Lambeth. Even on social housing, Labour cannot with any credibility claim to be standing up for local people, when they are currently in the process of evicting members of housing co-ops and selling off the property to developers.

Steve Reed caught out trying to make political capital from Brixton market

Leader of Lambeth council Cllr Steve Reed has had to change public statements he made, after he tried to make political capital out of Brixton Market.

The story begins a couple of days ago, when the Prime Minister attacked Lambeth Council for wasting £30,000 on a statue. The wasting of money is something that Lambeth Council is particularly sensitive to, as it has a particularly poor track record in the this respect. The wastage also seems to be continuing, with for example expenditure of £9,000 on five olive trees in Clapham recently.

Cllr Steve Reed tried and turn this into an attack on the regeneration of Brixton market itself (where the statue is located) and responded with a blog: "Cameron attacks the transformation of Brixton Market."

I, like many people, am no fan of David Cameron. In fact I challenged him publicly during the last general election campaign over his plans for disabled children. But I was amongst those who contacted Steve Reed, suggesting that it was wrong to try and make political capital out of Brixton market in this way. This clearly wasn't an attack on the market, whichever way you look at it, and to pretend otherwise it just dishonest.

"What a shame the Prime Minister has chosen to play narrow-minded party political games."
suggests Steve Reed. But of course, Steve Reed has done exactly what he accused David Cameron of doing.

And it seems that I am not alone in my feelings. The comments under his own blog post raised similar concerns about his political opportunism. The result is that Steve Reed has quietly changed the blog. Rather than "Cameron attacks the transformation of Brixton market" it became Cameron attacks sculpture that’s part of the transformation of Brixton Market. (Hat Tip to @mein_crustacean )

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it...

[Update 19/04/2012 12.10 pm Steve Reed now appears to have deleted many of the unfavorable comments under his blog. So much for democratic debate!]

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Greens come out top for cycling manifesto

When we launched our campaign in Lambeth and Southwark for the London elections we promised to do our bit to try and push cycling up the agenda, as well as wider issues of transport inclusion.

Since then the issue has really moved up the agenda, with the Times newspaper, amongst others pushing the issue hard.

Lambeth and Southwark between them account for half of the ten most dangerous locations in London for cyclists. Of the 32 boroughs in London Lambeth has the second highest casualty rate for both pedestrians and cyclists. Southwark has the fourth highest overall casualty rate. In December we highlighted that road deaths trebled in Lambeth last year.

Now all the party manifestos have been published, the different cycling proposals have been assessed, and it is good to see that the Green Party's proposals have come out top. You can read more here.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Lambeth: the co-opting council

A Freedom of Information request by Joanna Boehnert has revealed that it cost £440,000 for Lambeth Council to evict people from Clifton Mansions, and set up a housing scheme policed by the rather draconian security firm Camelot.

Clifton Mansions is a council owned block of 22 Victorian flats that have been squatted for the past two decades, because its owners have not bothered to make use of it. Individuals therefore took it upon themselves to make homes in the flats at no cost to the state.

In 2008-2009 a group of Brixton housing activists also developed a proposal for a housing cooperative at Clifton Mansions. This proposal was flatly refused, despite the fact it would have been far cheaper and simpler.

This is another example not just of how Lambeth continues to waste money (from £8,875 on 5 Olive Trees in Clapham to a £5m Overspend on a heating system but also also how it is turning its back on co-operative housing.

Rather than being a co-operative council, it seems increasingly that it is becoming a co-opting council, taking over initiatives by the local community after local people have invested heavily in them. Other examples include Stockwell Studios, sold by Lambeth to a housing developer after artists spent £70,000 on renovations and the Lambeth shortlife properties featured in the local Guardian.

You can read more about the situation at Clifton Mansions here.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Local Guardian splashes on co-op housing

This weeks local Guardian has splashed on the issue we raised a couple of weeks ago around housing, and how Lambeth is turning its back on co-operative housing.

The scheme, that originally included a stock of 1,200 homes, now has just 170 houses left.

It quotes us as (the only party apparently) opposed to what Lambeth council is doing. Two articles are now online here and here. Some quotes:

"The self-styled “co-operative borough” has been booting out hundreds of people living in housing co-operatives so it can make millions by selling the run-down houses they have looked after for decades.

"Hundreds of people living in “short-life” housing co-operatives are being handed repossession orders by Lambeth Council and told they must move out, or face criminal prosecution.

"Their houses, which they have spent thousands repairing and sometimes maintained for more than 40 years, are now being sold at auction for bargain-basement prices."

"One property, a 10-bedroom house in the Chase, Clapham, recently netted £1.6m for the council in July 2011, but a smaller six-bedroom house on the same road is being marketed at £2.6m.

"Meanwhile, a three-bed maisonette in Rosendale Road, West Norwood, was sold for £260,000 two years ago, and the flat above, which is the same size, is also in the process of being sold for a similar price.

"Despite this, a neighbouring six-bedroom house was sold for £925,000 in November last year.

"Scores of properties are being sold for more than £575,000 each, according to campaigners, often short of their full market value."

"Those being threatened with repossession, many of whom are families with young children, were recruited by the council in the 1980s to look after homes that it could not afford to repair.

"They were given charge of managing run-down properties, spending thousands on maintenance, while paying rent to a central co-op body.

"Campaigners estimated co-operatives have spent more than £50,000 in maintenance and management on each property over a 30-year period, and co-op members carried out the equivalent of £150,000-worth of labour on their homes over the same period.

"But now, the council is threatening tenants with court orders and occupation charges, as well as refusing to re-house them if they reject calls to leave."

Lambeth Council withdraws from London Air Quality Network

It seems that Lambeth council are following Mayor of London Boris Johnson's lead in their strategy to deal with air pollution - making it harder for the public to get the evidence that it exists.

In an extremely worrying development, Lambeth council has withdrawn from the London Air Quality Network which previously monitored pollution levels in the borough and across London.

Without any public announcement, and in the middle of some of the highest pollution levels in the borough in recent times, Lambeth Council appears to have quietly left the scheme on 1st April. This has been confirmed by the Air Quality Network itself.

Where pollution levels were recorded from three monitoring stations in the borough, all that now appears is a message saying "Lambeth does not participate in the London Air Quality Network. For information convering air quality in Lambeth please contact the council directly."

However, Lambeth Council has itself not listed an annual air quality report since 2009, and holds no information about air quality levels on its website. This development is particularly disturbing as we recently measured pollution levels in residential roads around Lambeth as being of similar levels to those on its busiest streets. Lambeth also closed both the Lambeth 3 (Loughborough Junction) and Lambeth 1 (Christchurch Road ) automatic monitoring stations in 2009 due to "budgetary constraints".

Both the Government and the Mayor accept that over 4,000 people in London die prematurely each year because of air pollution. Lambeth Council has so far resisted calls to let people know about pollution episodes when their occur.

[Update: 11/4/2012 A couple of people have pointed out that Lambeth might now put their monitoring data on the Air Quality England site. A few local authorities do this. Lambeth have not (yet). I am making some enquiries and see whether there are any plans to do so ]

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The 3S petition to get a sauna, steam room and solar panels at the new Streatham Hub Leisure Centre

At the Streatham Hub meeting at the end of February, at which we got a review of disabled facilities at the new Streatham Hub development, it also came to light that the new Leisure Centre would not have a Sauna or Steam Room or solar panels on the roof.

The old leisure centre was popular because it had these facilities - particularly valued by many older people and those with health problems. Given what we have been doing to get solar energy going in Streatham, as well as Brixton, this seemed like a huge missed opportunity to use solar power.

The strength of feeling at the meeting about this took me by surprise. There is a real feeling that Streatham is continually short-changed by the council. And this seems to be another clear example. So I got together with Scott Ainslie and we worked up this petition.

It reads:

"We the undersigned urge Lambeth Council and Tesco to put in Steam Room and Sauna facilities and install revenue generating and CO2 reducing Solar panels.

"This 3S petition calls on Lambeth Council and Tesco to make sure that the project is a success by putting the following in place:

"Solar Panels could be economically viable if the local community invests in them. There is a newly formed community-owned renewable energy company willing to help (www.re-poweringstreatham.org.) Solar panels would provide a visible statement and demonstration of a true commitment to environmental sustainability.

"Steam Room and Sauna, which are an excellent and important part of any health and happiness routine for people using swimming pools. It is a normal part of any modern health club. The old facilities in Brixton, Clapham and Streatham contained them, only Streatham stand to lose them. If these were close to the pool, as they are at Putney Leisure Centre, it would allay the concerns that Lambeth has for inappropriate behaviour."

It has been launched in the name of Transition Streatham, as we want it to attract cross-party support.

You can sign the petition here

How Lambeth is going to close its libraries

It's good to see a growing public awareness in Lambeth about the Council's plans for its libraries.

The Tradescant Road blog nails it when it observes:

"Lambeth is not going to shut any libraries - it's simply going to under-fund them to the point where most of them probably shut themselves."

I met with Lee Alley from Streatham Action to discuss the council's proposals last week, and specifically how they will impact Streatham Library, and it is clear that there is rapidly growing concern in Streatham where substantial money will need to be spent on the building, which is not being provided by the council.

You can read the consultation document here. But in a nutshell, the Council is planning to abdicate responsibility and offload its old buildings, and with it their running costs, onto the community - whilst it reserves some key powers for itself.

The proposals saddle local communities with responsibility for:

- Building management and maintenance
- Cleaning contracts
- Rates & utilities
- Refuse collection
- Insurance
- Photocopiers, stationery, equipment, cash collection
- Income generation

In a move akin to the McDonaldisation of Lambeth’s libraries, it is going to turn them into franchises, using similar principles to the privatisation of the railways and the NHS. Or in the words of the council's own consultation document:

“This contract or franchising method is widely used in both the public and private sector in everything from providing public healthcare services to popular chain restaurants.”

The proposals threaten to return Lambeth’s Victorian libraries to the Victorian era, leaving local communities with a choice between financing potentially crippling costs or closing them.

You can respond to the consultation here.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Getting Lambeth council to move its money

We have long campaigned to clean up Lambeth Council's finances. This has included where its pension fund is invested.

More recently questions have also been raised about council taxpayer's money going to an arms manufacturer.

Lambeth Living - owned by Lambeth council - employed the services of Vangeant, which was taken over by the commercial arms company General Dynamics in a £588million deal in August last year. The US-based firm makes machine guns, missiles, rockets and tanks.

Lambeth Living manages around 34,000 tenants' and leaseholders' properties on behalf of the Council. When Vangeant was taken over by General Dymanics, the Council said there was nothing it could do. However Lambeth Living's contract with Vangeant was subsequently renewed and extended.

We will keep campaigning on these issues. But it is good to see that another area where the council could do better has now been identified. The Move Your Money campaign is now focusing on where Lambeth keeps its cash. As the campaign points out:

Councils such as Lambeth [who currently bank with NatWest - a subsidiary of RBS] administer millions of pounds of public funds, which can be better invested to achieve positive change in our local communities.

Ethical alternatives, such as the Co-operative Bank, CCLA, and Triodos, offer similar financial services to the High Street banks, but are more ethically responsible with their investments, whilst actively promoting small business and investing in the development of our local communities.

The key thing here is that it makes sense not just ethically, but financially. Keeping money in the local community, and investing it in local credit unions, helps the local economy by helping to make more local credit available. These are proposals that we are also putting forward during our London election campaign.

You can sign the move your money petition here.

Brixton could lead the way in community energy

There was a time when it looked as if the Government's cuts to Feed in Tariffs would kill off community energy projects completely. I raised the issue on BBC1's Sunday Morning Live last year, specifically mentioning the impact on projects in Brixton and Streatham.

 It is therefore great to see that the Brixton project has now managed to complete its first installation on the Loughborough Estate, despite the Government's lack of support.

These kinds of projects are vital for a number of reasons, not simply because they provide a sustainable and greener source of energy, but they are also a way of providing cheaper energy and tackling fuel poverty. They also mean more energy security and control for local communities, with more decentralised energy production, as well of course, as providing jobs in the local economy.

Brixton is leading the way on this, with some inspirational people like the Green Party's Duncan Law. But with the cuts to Feed in Tariffs (the money paid for the generation of solar energy) the returns for investors are much smaller, and so it is much harder to get the necessary investment from the local community. There is therefore a real possibility that groups around the country will struggle to achieve what is happening in Lambeth.

The Green Party is therefore proposing to work with the financial services sector to establish a long-term infrastructure investment bond. This could work at a London-wide level to support investment in transport infrastructure, but also support community development organisations and councils to follow suit, so that they can get behind schemes like Brixton's solar project. The establishment of the bond would mean that the Brixton model could be rolled out across the country.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Candidates for Lambeth and Southwark announced and hustings update

The full list of candidates for Lambeth and Southwark has now been announced. What is interesting is that there are just 6, as opposed to previous years which have seen 10 or more.

A quick update on some hustings I will be doing during April:

17th April - Faiths Together in Lambeth Hustings at the Karibu Education Centre, 7 Gresham Road, Brixton, SW9 7PH, beginning at 6.00pm

18th April - Herne Hill Forum. Herne Hill Baptist Church, SE24 9HU, on the corner of Half Moon Lane and Winterbrook Road. 7pm.

19th April - Lambeth Forum for Older People and Lambeth Pan Disability Forum. 2.00 pm at Lambeth ACCORD 336 Brixton Road, London SW9 7AA (ground floor Conference Room)

24th April - Sustainable transport hustings, beginning at 7:30 (venue tbc) including Lambeth and Southwark cyclists. We launched our campaign in Lambeth and Southwark back in November around these issues and it's been good to see them increase in prominence since then.

I'll also be standing in for Jenny Jones on Friday 25th April at the London Faith's Forum Hustings

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Jen, then Ken: But not an endorsement for Labour

It's been announced this morning that the Green Party suggest voters give Ken Livingstone their second preference vote in the mayoral election, after our Green candidate Jenny Jones. This follows Ken Livingstone's own endorsement of Jenny Jones as his second preference.

I was at the meeting with Ken Livingstone on Monday night where this was decided, and what was interesting was that all parties agreed (including Ken) that this was not a second preference for the Labour party, but only for him personally. Indeed, he was quite openly scathing of the kind of New Labour politics being displayed by Lambeth Council and Streatham MP Chuka Umunna (who suggests that Blair was 85% right).

It is interesting to note that in 2008, Livingstone got 36% of first preference votes. However, when it came to voting for the Labour party, this dropped off significantly by around 10% when it came to vote for the Labour party list.

For the Greens, the reverse was true. The Green Party list got around 6% more votes than for our mayoral candidate, meaning that we got two London assembly members elected - Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones. It would seem that many people who vote for Ken, when given a preference where their vote will count under a proportional system, vote Green.

Putting the electoral maths to one side for a moment, what was very positive about the debate at the meeting on Monday was its level of political maturity. There was a feeling that the most important thing was values and policies, rather than tribal politics. There was an acknowledged risk that Labour might try and pretend that they were somehow being endorsed by the Greens, but it was also felt that this was a risk worth taking if we want a better, more grown-up type of politics and policy-making.

Having a pasty on Streatham High Road

With all that's going on today around the pasty tax, and with it being the Streatham Food Festival, I thought I would stop in for a pasty at the local Greggs on Streatham High Road. (Actually its a place the kids and I often frequent on a Saturday morning!)

There is a serious side though, and that is the ongoing threat to local shops on the high road, particularly with the impending Tesco mega store soon to arrive with Lambeth Council's blessing as part of the new Streatham hub development. It is going to be even harder for many local shops to compete. (For how a supermarket like this impacts a local community see this helpful briefing here ).

Gimmicks, like those being proposed by local MP Chuka Umunna aren't going to help either.

What will help are policies like those being proposed in our small business manifesto to support a renaissance of micro, small and medium-sized businesses and protect and re-develop the traditional “high street”. We have also produced a specific manifesto for the high street.

Youth workers say Lambeth council failing on gangs

Having visited two projects involving young people in Lambeth yesterday - one at Livity in Brixton, and another involving the arts in ten Lambeth schools on display at the Festival Hall, it was alarming to hear the comments of Youth Workers in Lambeth yesterday.

Youth workers have come out publicly and criticised Lambeth council for their failures around gangs.

The particular comments - made to James O'Brien on LBC 97.3 - referred to the shooting of a five year old girl in Stockwell. They said it exposed serious failings in the way Lambeth is trying to tackle gang crime.

Youth workers point out that millions in funding has been cut for services that were helping to address the issue – and this has been one of the direct causes of the spread of gang crime.

This is what one Youth Worker said:

“There are parts of Lambeth they refer to as Gaza Strip or so forth. So the young people recognise that they live in a war zone and they join gangs for protection, because they are not getting protection from the police or the local authority.

“Lambeth [Council] withdrew critical funding for these workers – and these are amongst the best workers that you can get to work with these gang members.”

This is an issue that has been raised by many people. I went down to Knight's Youth Centre in Streatham, which has faced cuts, recently to find out what the impact has been. I have also stayed in touch since then, and it was confirmed that they have seen a big surge in knife crime in particular, usually between gangs and sometimes within gangs, in recent months.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Visit to Livity in Brixton with Jenny Jones

I went with our mayoral candidate Jenny Jones this morning, to visit an inspiring project in Brixton called Livity.

We spent an hour or so with half a dozen young people who work there, talking about Jenny's campaign, Green policies and proposals for London. We seemed to cover everything from ideas to tackle youth crime, through to campaigning to restore the EMA, transport, congestion, pollution, sustainable energy and the increasing price of food. This was more a testament to their own formidable knowledge and breadth of questioning than anything else.

The initiative which they are part of is also impressive.

One of their projects is to produce Live magazine, written by and for young people, with a circulation of around 50,000.

Livity itself, is a youth engagement agency which works with young people to co-create campaigns, content and communities. They have experienced cuts in their funding from Lambeth amongst others, but despite this, have come up with a very creative model to try and move themselves towards a more sustainable footing. As part of this they have engaged clients including Google, PlayStation, 02, even the BBC and the Home Office.

There are some paid employees, but also young people who come in from all over London, and received training, equipment, support and opportunities to plan and build for their future.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Lambeth Council's approach to housing - a working single mum tells her story

Further to the concerns raised about Lambeth's u-turn on co-operative housing, and our own housing manifesto launch, I was sent an interesting post on MumsNet which highlights well why Green policies are needed in the borough.

This is what the poster - a working single mother - writes about the impact of Lambeth's housing policy:

"Rent rises in Lambeth of approximately 17% 9% 9% 9% over the past four years (not to mention previous increases), mean in real terms my rent has doubled in under 10 years, I am a working single mother on a low income, not low enough to claim housing benefit and no desire to do so, although financially it would seem we would be better off.

"When I complained in the past over the 17% rise along with many other tenants, I was told by Lib Peck herself that it was due to all kitchens and bathrooms being replaced.

"More and more onus has been placed on the tenant for repairs, Lambeth does no decoration, has scrapped promise to improve kitchens and bathrooms, yet we're extorted with rent increases every year.

"With the money taken from us we may have been able to improve council properties for ourselves employing tradesmen who take pride in what they do and treat the tenant like a client, as it is, we are left with no money to improve our surroundings and receive poor customer service from every department.

"My kitchen sink unit fell apart whilst waiting to be included in aforementioned scrapped scheme, it took three appointments to get it replaced (including a revisit when my kitchen flooded as a result) and it has been done to a very poor standard.

"Who makes these arbitrary decisions? I have been expected to find an extra £60 per month, £40 per month, £40 per month £40 I'm now paying £180 more a month than 5 years ago......When will it end?"

This is the kind of thing that George Graham and Green councilor Rebecca Thackray encountered in constituency casework around housing in Lambeth.

You can read the Green Party's proposals on housing here.

Lack of transport accessibility highlighted in Stockwell

On Friday we launched our accessibility manifesto at Stockwell tube station - including our aim to make a third of the tube system step-free by 2018 (both Boris and Ken has failed to fulfill their promises on this).

Both our mayoral candidate Jenny Jones and Jean Lambert MEP came down. It was great to see so much interest, especially from the broadcast media.

I am trying to get hold of a copy of the ITN piece, but in the meantime you can read this on the BBC website.

The tube map we produced, which shows what the tube map looks like if you have a mobility impairment has also been a big hit on social media networks.

It’s been great to see the growing issue of accessibility in London being highlighted in the run up to the paralympics.

Lambeth and Southwark are particularly bad in this respect – something which we have wanted to highlight during the London Assembly election campaign. Last year we got the Guardian newspaper to make the trip from Lambeth to the site of the Paralympics with disabled travelers to draw attention to the issue.

Of the 8 tube stations in Lambeth only 1 (Brixton) is wheelchair accessible. A freedom of information request that I submitted uncovered that the lifts at Brixton station have been out of order for 164 days since 2006.

Eight out of eleven overground stations in Southwark could also be impacted by cuts leaving them unstaffed and “no go areas” for many travelers. This is likely to make it the hardest hit area in the whole country if the proposals go ahead.

Channel 4 are now also taking up the theme with their “no go Britain” campaign.

You can read our accessibility manifesto in full here