22 February 2007

Mayor Supports 77% of Green Budget Proposals

Adult Social Services in Lewisham are facing several challenges at the moment, not least the ability to stay within the budgets set by Council. The Mayor & Cabinet initially proposed to set up more restrictions on who could get help from social services, increase charges for social services, and finally to put a financial limit on the amount of care individuals who chose to live at home equal to the cost of providing care in a residential home. We rejected these proposals on a point of principle - care should continue to focus on equality of service outcomes rather than a “one size fits all” approach implied by the cuts package. We provided a secure way of paying for these services by using Lewisham's reserves to pay for the shortfall in funding - the Mayor agreed with us at his Cabinet meeting on 22 February and as a result there will be money to pay for these essential services for the time being. We have to now ensure that the proposed consultation to implement the above changes is formally rejected by the Mayor to protect these vulnerable in later years.

Having listened to us on Social Services, we're hoping he'll be in a listening mood when it comes to our other proposals.

The Green's budget proposals also included funding for a garden waste project to significantly increase the amount collected; ring-fencing money within the advertising & marketing budget to promote recycling, energy conservation & other sustainability issues; an additional £60,000 for renewable energy installations in all schools in Energy Action Zones; participating in the Real Nappies scheme and providing vouchers to 200 Lewisham families; setting up a loyalty card scheme for local shops in help revitalise local shopping parades and enhance our town centres; and practical initiatives to encourage recycling of commercial waste by reducing the collection fees for recycled waste.

We are also proposing to reduce Lewisham's £10,000 a year grant to the New Local Government Network. This a think-tank set up to basically campaign for the introduction of Mayors and the Mayoral system of local government...see my earlier post on the Bring Back Democracy Campaign for my views on this.

Overall our budget proposals would result in a 2.73% increase in Lewisham's proportion of the Council Tax, which is fractionally higher than the Mayor's 2.5% original proposals. I am very pleased that the Mayor has seen sense on the issue of Social Services and agreed that the cuts in services to some of the most vulnerable in Lewisham have, for the time being, been reversed.

The Council's budget meeting is 1 March 2007 at 19:30. If you're coming to watch, bring a flask & some sandwiches - the meeting could be a long one.


Andrew Brown said...

I've never quite understood the obsession with Real Nappies. Particularly since the evidence seems to show that they're not any greener than disposables. I'd imagine that's particularly true in an area like ours that enjoys the benefit of a CHP, rather than using landfill.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

Different people reach different conclusions when it comes to real nappies. There is also the financial cost of disposables as compared to reusables. So continuing the theme of the original post, there is a good social reason to make sure that parents have good information on the options they have when they have children in nappies.

A few months ago I saw a woman on television who took her children successfully out of nappies at a very very young age - something like 3 months. Now if we were able to achieve a wholescale reduction in the months that babies spend in nappies that would bring significant benefits too. How you do this would be a different matter...any government attempting it would be called 'nannying'!

When it comes to the use of an incinerator to dispose of the majority of Lewisham's household waste the effect of that is very apparent in our very low recycling rate - one of the lowest in London. Why does this matter since as you say the incinerator also generates electricty? Try looking at the this report The Environmental Benefits of Recycling The report is clear that recycling beats incineration in terms of tackling climate change.

Finally, when it comes to looking at Lewisham's incincerator you have forgotten to mention that the district heating scheme that would have made it more energy efficient was never plumbed in. So rather than 'CHP' it's just a 'P'.

Andrew Brown said...

Dean, the link doesn't seem to work, too many www's I think. But are you really suggesting that the Women's Environment Network are as credible a source as the Environment Agency?

As a parent who has been through the nappy stage I'm all for getting children out of them as early as is practical - not sure about 3 months though!

As for the recycling figures. I know that's the view that members of the Green party take on why the figures are low here, and indeed I'm sure the fact that Lewisham wasn't in the forefront of introducing recycling schemes may have been because the waste from SELCHP used to count - the metals and the ash are after all recycled post incineration.

But it doesn't tell the whole story. As I'm sure you'll acknowledge other boroughs with low recycling rates don't have CHPs. And, as you know, Lewisham Council now offers a significantly better service than many other areas where recycling rates are higher. And there's no financial disincentive around SELCHP either.

So while SELCHP offers a convenient political scapegoat for those that have set their face against this form of waste disposal, I don't believe there is any real evidence it is the root cause of the recycling rates.

Brockley Nick said...

Got to say, I'm with Andrew on the nappies issue! There's a reason why "real" nappies are cheaper - because they're horrific compared with the convenience and comfort of disposables. Nappy rash is virtually a thing of the past thanks to disposables. I'd like to see the child that's potty trained within three months too! Nappy manufacturers have dramatically reduced the material / energy involved in their production and more work in this area is surely the way forward, instead of trying to bribe parents into trying out "real" nappies. As you point out, there are already good financial incentives for people to switch back - wonder why they haven't?

Sue Luxton said...

I don't think you're right on the nappy rash Nick, though my experience on this is v limited (the only time I changed my nephew's nappy I put it on back to front and he complained vocally) - someone in Ladywell recently told me she switched from disposables to cloth nappies specifically because her kid was getting nappy rash with disposables.

You get poo in nappies whether they are cloth or disposable, and you throw the messy liner for cloth nappies out the same as you would a disposable, it's just it's a lot less material and energy wasted. So what you're left with isn't half as bad as you might imagine, and you choose whether to put them in your washing machine or use a nappy laundering service.

As a non-car driver, I think the whole idea of buying huge packs of nappies and lugging them home on the bus/bike each week would be an added disincentive to use disposables, putting aside the costs and the sustainability issues. Also, if we ever move towards a 'pay as you throw' system for rubbish, the volume of nappy waste will become a big issue.

I don't think parents need to be slaves to using cloth nappies 100% of the time - you use them when it is convenient to do so and the greener disposables when not eg if you're away for the weekend. Also, I'm told that it's best not to use cloth nappies for the first few weeks when breast-fed babies produce this yellow liquidy poo, apparently.

The reason for the financial incentive is to help with the initial outlay for cloth nappies, which can be a lot for someone on a low income, although there are substantial longer-term savings.

Incidentally, lots of cloth nappies are being offered and given away on Lewisham Freecycle these days, which is even greener than buying new ones.

Finally, if we're talking carbon emissions, if you're signed up to a green electricity supplier at home, then surely washing your nappies at home uses much less carbon than the production and transportation of disposables?

Andrew "the benefit" of SELCHP?! LOL.