Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Camberwell Baths Re-Open!

Last Saturday we celebrated the re-opening of Camberwell Baths. It is 120 years since they first opened their doors to the public, and until 2008 it was feared that those doors might close and never re-open. But with some great support from Lewis Robinson as the incoming executive member for Culture, Leisure and Sport; £1.4 million from the last Labour Government after a visit by the then-minister, Gerry Sutcliffe; continued campaigning by local councillors and Harriet Harman MP, and the tireless work of the Camberwell Baths Campaign and Helen and Chris Owen in particular, over £5 million was found to refurbish the Victorian baths.

Unlike the original opening we did not have the Lord Mayor of London as guest of honour, but echoing events of 1892 we did have synchronised swimming featuring Jo Brand! An unlikely synchronised swimmer I accept, but incredibly entertaining and helping to create a truly wonderful atmosphere.

Well done to everyone on some excellent work - and in particular the Southwark team of officers who have embraced and delivered this brilliant project on time and on budget!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mobile Surgery

Veronica and I were out on the Champion Hill Estate at the weekend for our latest mobile surgery. A water main burst on the estate before Christmas and a temporary water pipe system is still operating at the bottom of the estate. I will be pursuing this today as it seems an incredibly long time for any 'temporary' solution to a major problem.

I was struck at the number of properties where the residents complained about real damp problems. From what I saw this is not a question of simply improving ventilation, but some structural issues which need fundamental resolution. It is so dispiriting to see residents having to live with dark mould growing on bedroom and living room walls. Again Veronica and I will be looking to see what can be done - but these kinds of issues should be tackled by our administration's commitment to make every home warm, dry and safe.

Some of these same issues of damp were also found on the East Dulwich Estate yesterday - which was disappointing given the fact that we are coming to the end of major regeneration works there. So the work goes on!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Congratulations Cllr Mark Williams

Mark Williams was elected as the new Councillor for Brunswick Park ward last night. On a turnout of 34.2% - very high for a council by-election, Labour polled 1,981 votes; LibDems 630; Green Party 231; Conservative 129 and Independent 70 votes. So Labour polled over 65% of the vote - up from 53% in the local elections last year. The Libs vote was down on last year to under 21% whilst the Tory vote collapsed to just over 4%.

This means that the vote for the coalition parties collapsed from 31.5% to 25% - a bad result. In 2006, when the Lib Dems last did any work and visited Camberwell, their vote was over 36%, and the coalition parties polled about 41%. I am no expert on political swing, but it's a great result for Mark and Labour! It is particularly gratifying given the nasty and negative campaign which the Lib Dems pursued in this campaign.

Labour fought the campaign on the issues facing Camberwell and Southwark, and we received a great endorsement of the work we are doing and the choices we are making as a new administration.

Thanks to the voters of Brunswick Park - I know that Cllr Mark Williams and the Southwark Labour team will not let you down.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Welcome Bishop Christopher!

Yesterday I was delighted to be at Southwark Cathedral for the enthronement of Christopher Chessun as the tenth Bishop of Southwark. Bishop Christopher has been the Bishop of Woolwich for the past 6 years prior to his appointment to Southwark - so he knows our part of South London very well. I was also reminded that he has previously served as Mayor's Chaplain to Cllr Eliza Mann during her year of office.

It was an uplifting service and the choir sang brilliantly. It was good to see Bishop Tom Butler present to hand over the bishop's crosier to his successor.

There was applause from the congregation for four Bishops who had travelled from Zimbabwe for the service. They are having to deal with a great deal of abuse and repression in their own country from the authorities.

Special mention to my colleague and Southwark Mayor, Cllr Tayo Situ, who read the first lesson.

The photo shows Bishop Christopher blessing his new Diocese and the river!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Electoral Calculus

Electoral Calculus is one of those websites that politicos like to look at. It takes opinion polls and election results and uses that information to predict the outcome of the next general election in parliamentary seats.

At the moment it is predicting that Labour have a 100% chance of winning Camberwell and Peckham, a 97.9% chance of winning Dulwich and West Norwood, and......wait for it....a 71% chance of winning Bermondsey and Old Southwark. That last result would be a very significant Labour gain. It gives the Lib Dems just a 22% chance of winning.

Now I accept that no opinion poll or prediction matters really - it is only the election result itself which counts. And there are always local factors which can affect any result.

But I have to say it certainly gives me a lift to see how Labour support is firming up in Southwark. And I dare say it must be sending a cold shiver down the spines of some other politicians and political parties.

You can follow Electoral Calculus here

Brunswick Park By-Election

Next Thursday voters in Brunswick Park ward will be able to cast their votes in a council by-election. Mark Williams, a local resident in Vestry Road in Brunswick Park, is Labour's candidate. He has been doing a great job on the campaign trail and will be an excellent representative for the area if he is elected next week.

Brunswick Park is a ward of contrasts. There are some pockets of affluence in the south of the ward, and in the north of the ward some major estates which are still in need of 'Decent Homes' works. It is a ward which will really benefit from Labour's manifesto commitments to make every council home 'Warm. Dry and Safe' and to provide free healthy school meals to all of our primary school children.

The Lib Dems have run a purely negative campaign which has offended many of the voters I have spoken to. It's a shame that they have nothing positive to say to the people of Camberwell. But with the national picture looking so bad for them they are probably in a state of near meltdown. Some of the other minor parties have run much more positive campaigns.

Well done and good luck to Mark Williams for running a positive and honest campaign, and for being a candidate Labour can be proud of!

Day Centres and Lunch Clubs

On Wednesday I sat down with representatives of most of the Day Centres and Lunch Clubs who will be affected by some of the decisions we took in last week's budget. The meeting was chaired by my colleague Cllr Dora Dixon-Fyle, the Cabinet Member for Adult Health and Social Care.

Although we were discussing some really difficult funding cuts I was pleased with the tone and substance of the meeting. There was a clear understanding from all of the groups about where the blame for these cuts really lies - i.e. with the Government; and a fantastic spirit and commitment to co-operation with the Council and amongst the groups themselves to find a way that they might continue to provide services in the future, but without the method and level of financial support which the Council currently provides.

We agreed to get together in about 6 weeks time to see what progress has been made, but in the meantime Council Assembly's decision to provide an additional £500,000 of funding to the groups means that some of the panic and urgency of those discussions has been eased.