Friday, November 20, 2009

Did you know...?

That LibDem/Tory Southwark has the worst Council Tax collection rate in London, and the third worst in the country, with just 93% of council tax collected each year.

That means that each year £7 million of council tax is not collected - £7 million which could be spent on front-line services; which could have been used to keep the Livesey Children's Museum open and reversed the 50% increases in Meals on Wheels imposed last year.

Since 2006 Labour in Southwark has been arguing that the council should get rid of its council tax collection contractors, Liberata, but until a few weeks ago we were told that we were wrong and that things would improve. Sadly it seems we were not wrong and very belatedly the administration has realised the extent of the problem.

At the same time the LibDem/Tory administration has overseen a £150 million move to new offices in Tooley Street, spending £5 million on new office chairs and £35,000 on televisions.

I'm not sure that they have got their priorities right!

Southwark's Awful Recycling Rate

Souhwark's recycling rate has fallen to the 6th lowest in the country - down two places on its' position last year - with just over 20% of our waste recycled. Compare this with Labour-run Greenwich where 42% of waste is recycled.

In 2006 the LibDems pledged to increase our borough's recycling rate to 30% by 2010. They will have failed massively to meet this target. The truth of the matter is that there are still corners of the borough where recycling is not available to households, or recycling centres are located far from residents' front doors.

Labour in Southwark is committed to making recycling easier - by more single bag recycling and by introducing recycling for tetrapak and food waste. This issue is too important for us to fail to meet achievable targets.

John Friary's Deselection

On Tuesday night my Camberwell colleague John Friary was deselected by his ward party, after having served 15 years as a Camberwell councillor. John lives on Camberwell Green and has lived and breathed Camberwell politics and issues during his time on the council. He is a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the Council and has an unrivalled knowledge of the way in which the council works. He is also one of the nicest people I know.

So his deselection was a shock. He is loyal and hard-working, a real campaigner and a champion for Camberwell and all those who live there.

I hope that John's deselection last Tuesday will not bring an end to his involvement in Camberwell and his determination to make it a better place to live.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Labour is the same as the BNP" - Transcript of what was said!

This is a transcript of what was said last night which has been prepared by Council officers:

"Wednesday November 4 2009

Extract from debate – Councillors Columba Blango and Adele Morris

Item 5 – Members’ Question Time: Question 16

Councillor Blango
Thank you very much for your answer, which I think is very appropriate and up to the point. On to the point; does it not go to show that, in private, the government’s agenda is not very different from that of the BNP? And; and, when it comes to multi-cultural and multi-racial boroughs like Southwark, is it not a double standard they are playing?

Councillor Morris...

Councillor Blango
Yes, thank you.

Councillor Morris
Well, you know... I – I – yes, I’m inclined to agree with the – sorry, I – please forgive–

Quiet – can the executive member give a reply, please.

Councillor Morris
Thank you Mr Mayor, and I’d like to thank Councillor Blango for his supplementary question. And, I would – I’d be inclined to agree with him, that it – I think it does show a misunderstanding – [am I not allowed to agree, am I not allowed to agree, Councillor Stanton?] It shows a complete lack of understanding of the way that real communities work, and in particular about the way myths are spread and the kind of hatred that that creates in boroughs like this, and absolutely I agree with him.

Thank you Councillor Morris. (315)"

[My emphasis has been added]
I would repeat everything I have said in my entry below - this is crass and stupid politics from Cllrs Morris and Blango.

I have now written to the LibDem Leader Nick Clegg asking if he too agrees with these ludicrous comments and will await his reply with interest.

"Labour is the same as the BNP" - Outrageous Slur at Council Assembly

Cllr Columba Blango has always been semi-detached from reality, but in an extraordinary outburst last night he equated the aims and policy of Labour and the Labour Government on council housing with those of the BNP. What is more extraordinary is that his colleague Cllr Adele Morris, Executive Member for Citisenship, Equalities and Communities (responding to his question) agreed with him completely and even the Leader of the Council nodded his agreement!

Have the LibDems in Southwark taken leave of their senses? Do they know what the BNP policy is on council housing? I've looked it up on their website and can tell you that BNP policy is to make all benefits and social housing only available to British citizens and make the length of residency in an area the key criterion for council house allocation.

It is the sort of inward-looking and racist policy which you would expect from the BNP. But it is not the Government's policy and it is not Labour policy, which bases allocation of council housing on need. We are not an inward looking Party but recognise the challenges which we face in an ever inter-dependent world.

So for Cllrs Blango and Morris to equate Labour with the BNP was wrong, stupid and fundamentally insulting to every Labour member who places equality and the fight against racism as central to their core beliefs. For such an insult to come from Southwark's Executive member with responsibility for this area of work raises a serious question over her fitness to hold that post.

The BNP has always faced united opposition from the main political parties, so it is incredibly disappointing that the LibDems in Southwark have chosen to take this line. I am sure it will only give succour to the BNP. Maybe that is what they intended? I have no explanation for this insulting comparison.

I invited Cllr Stanton to distance himself from the remarks last night, but he would not do so. There was no apology or any contrition from the LibDems.

As soon as I have the transcript of the comments I will be writing to Nick Clegg asking if he agrees with his colleagues in Southwark. I hope he at least has the common sense to distance himself from remarks which were genuinely insulting.