31 March 2009

Hobgoblin Stays Open

The Hobgoblin has kept hold of its license following a detailed review of the pub and the impact it has had on its neighbours in nearby Telegraph Hill. After hearing evidence from New Cross Councillors, Cross, Page and Flood, Lewisham's Officers, the Police, the licensee, his solicitor, his manager and his noise consultant and myself (the pub is in Brockleyt Ward), the committee decided to vary the licence and imposed 16 conditions.

One of the conditions was to agree to the setting up of quarterly monitoring meetings with local residents, which I will attend. It was clear from the evidence that there was an issue with noise from this premises, and this was acknowledged by the Licensee. If these conditions and the like fail to address the problem (and I'm hopeful they will) I want to ensure that we know about it and can help find a prompt solution without the time-consuming and slow recourse to the Committee.

Proposed Freeze on Lewisham Councillors' Allowances

The BBC website reports, MPs awarded 2.33% salary increase , the headline of which pretty much says it all.

In contrast, it is expected that Lewisham Councillors will waive a 2.75% increase that was proposed by the Independent Remuneration Panel (which does not have any councillors on its membership) a year or two ago. The implausibly high inflationary increase has arisen due to an anomaly that means that Councillors' allowances are related to the increases in officers' salaries the previous year. Clearly since that agreement was put forward, inflation has fallen significantly meaning that such an increase although agreed, is probably not warranted.

The schedule of allowances payable to each Councillor is set out in the papers for tomorrow's AGM and will of interest to some readers. The question as to whether Councillors should be entitled to an allowance etc is one that crops up every now and then...and I don't intend to go into the issues just yet. However one point I will make is if we want to ensure that people can stand for election and devote the time needed to allow them to properly represent local people then we need to be sure that this option is not just restricted to those with a significant personal income.

28 March 2009

A Very Early Easter Festival - A Brockley Pub Tour

I noticed this poster attached to the railings at the entry to Brockley Station for quite a few weeks ago. I know that Easter moves around from year to year, but 28 March is very early. On thursday I sent a picture of the poster to a friend and we decided that it would be interesting to go hunting for eggs in Crystal Palace around the various bars listed on the posters.

Perhaps Brockley could have an Easter event...closer to Easter and based on an interesting tour of the pubs (aka a crawl) around Brockley - The Royal Albert, The Little Crown (think that's its name), Goldsmiths Tavern, Hobgoblin, Marquis of Granby, Rose of Denmark, Albertines, Wickham Arms, Brockley Barge, I think there's a pub at Deals Gateway (hope I've not missed any of Brockley's pubs), Amersham Arms...also I think the kind and generous people of Brockley would allow adults to get stuck into chocolate bunny decorating - not like the mean people in Crystal Palace!

26 March 2009

Speed Bumps on Malpas Road

A local resident asked whether the speed bumps will be reinstated on Malpas Road. The official response - received the day before the works are likely to start is below:

"The speed humps in Malpas Road will be replaced when the resurfacing is complete. The original speed humps would have complied with regulations which specify a maximum 100mm height, and the guidance that was in place when they were constructed as to the appropriate height within that maximum figure to be used. However the guidance regarding the appropriate height for physical traffic calming measures (within that maximum figure) is reviewed and amended from time to time and when the Council resurfaces a road containing traffic calming features these are upgraded to comply with current guidance"

24 March 2009

Boost for Coulgate Street Petition

This article was published in today's South London Press

Hobgoblin - Review of Licence

Following complaints of noise nuisance in the Telegraph Hill area, the three Ward Councillors for the area, Cllrs Page, Flood & Cross, have called for a review of the for the Hobgoblin, a sports & music bar opposite New Cross Gate Station.

The complaints have been documented over a large period, but are understood to have started when the current licensee took over the premises - and probably coincide with the smoking ban.

As the Hobgoblin is in my Ward, I was contacted by the licensee for advice or assistance on handling the formal review of his licence. I visited him at the pub at a lunchtime. I noted that the background noise levels in the New Cross area were very high - in particular the railway and road. However also noted that these sources of noise can become less important at night. It was interesting to note that not one person in Brockley Ward had complained about noise from the pub and in support of the review the licensee has provided a large petition.

This review throws up a number of issues that shows how difficult the judgement call that politicians have to make, can be. In sheer numbers we have probably hundreds of people wanting to have somewhere to go that they enjoy (the Hobgoblin), we have a man running what appears to be a profitable business, we have local residents disturbed by the noise. Added to this the committee will need to look at the evidence to see whether the noise is 'noisy enough' for action.

In the face of conflicting demands, the committee will need to be thorough in its review of the evidence - which certainly appears contradictory.

More on wind turbines...

Interesting article in today's Guardian. Cust & pasted below - the link is here

Opposing wind farms should be socially taboo, says Ed Miliband
Allegra Stratton, political correspondent The Guardian, Tuesday 24 March 2009

Opposition to wind farms should become as socially unacceptable as failing to wear a seatbelt, Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, has said.

Speaking at a screening in London of the climate change documentary The Age of Stupid, Miliband said the government needed to be stronger in facing down local opposition to wind farms.

He said: "The government needs to be saying, 'It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area - like not wearing your seatbelt or driving past a zebra crossing'."

Wind power is crucial to government attempts to meet an EU target of producing 20% of all energy through renewables by 2020, but plans to build some 4,000 onshore wind turbines are being opposed by more than 200 anti-wind farm groups. High-profile individuals such as Melvyn Bragg, mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington and David Bellamy have also been involved in stopping the construction of turbines. Residents are concerned about the detrimental effect on their landscape - wind turbines are located on hills for maximum exposure - noise levels and disturbance to TV reception. Campaigners also point out that the irregularity of wind-power generation requires the turbines to be backed up by nuclear power and coal.

The government has also been criticised by the energy regulator, Ofgem, for the "unfair" way in which consumers' energy bills are subsidising renewable technology.

Though the decision rests with the local authority planning process, opponents say that after June 2008, the new Planning Act will give the government powers to intervene via the newly created infrastructure planning commission (IPC).

Bob Barfoot, Devon chair of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that while his organisation was not opposed to the principle of wind farms, popular opposition in the last three months had seen two of three proposals fail, pending appeal. Barfoot said the new act - which could see the secretary of state able to intervene in unsuccessful attempts - was "undermining democracy".

Miliband faces discomfort over the new Planning Act within the House of Commons. In a recent debate in the Commons, the Tory MP Malcolm Moss questioned whether planning inspectors in the Fens should have been able to overturn local authority planning decisions.

However, Friends of the Earth said fears that the IPC would intervene were unfounded since most proposals were likely to be too small to be reconsidered centrally. Only rejected projects larger than 50 megawatts go to the IPC.

21 March 2009

Brockley Common - Short Update

Some readers may be aware that there's been an exchange of views on the progress/implementation of the station ramp and its relationship with the wider Brockley Common project. However the Civil Engineering Manager at Lewisham confirmed yesterday:

"You will be pleased to know that the project engineer met with BXAG's designer for the Brockley Common project this morning and that all design issues revolving around the agreed works in future will be discussed at this local forum [the steering group] which will be convened as and when required."

Which sounds like a good step forward.

If the idea of a pedestrianisation scheme is to work out, we will need to work with Lewisham's officers, highways and the like as well as building a broad base of support amongst the local people. It's good to see that the relationship which has come under some strain in recent months appears to be improving now.

24 March 2009 Further Update

A member of the BXAG has confirmed:

"I can confirm that i am meeting Gill Redrup tomorrow at 10.30 (Tuesday 24/3) at which various design issues will be discussed and I hope that all outstanding matters will be clarified and agreed. Obviously relieved to receive confirmation that the works that are proceeding will involve the agreed Cathedra Stone paving materials and step units and that orders have been placed to this effect. Hope all other concerns can be allayed/addressed tomorrow."

19 March 2009

Coulgate Street

I was contacted by the Mercury today in relation to the proposals to pedestrianise Coulgate Street that have been discussed here, on Brockley Central, at the Brockley Assembly and also by the Brockley Cross Action Group and the petition organised by them.

I am thrilled at the way that this campaign appears to have taken off - there's a real buzz about it. The closure of the street for works to the station ramp, offers an opportunity to see what the permanent impact of the closure would be and how of the downsides can be accomodated.

There is the scope for bringing about a massive improvement in and around Brockley Station, working on the firm foundations of the lovely garden close to the entrance, the Brockley Common, and the station ramp. The buildings on Coulgate with the unique (for Brockley) row of small cottages would be a lovely backdrop to a new public space.

I see a new public space where there could be an outdoor cafe, space for a street market, the Christmas Fair, other events. Fantastic. The pedestrianisation is an idea that's way overdue - and I believe that we have an opportunity to bring it about.

12:00 An update

It takes a bit of imagination, and the ability to ignore the ugly fence, but at its heart, there's a big space here. Add it to the garden, get rid of kerbs, nice paving stones, good lighting, a piece of public art and we're there!

18 March 2009

Joan Ruddock MP: Don't Talk Out the Bill

I've been contacted by campaigners for the Fuel Poverty Bill, a private members bill that is currently going through parliament and which would tighten up the government's legal duty to tackle fuel poverty.*

The campaigners behind this bill have reported that the Government is considering whether to kill the Bill this Friday by 'talking it out'. This would be an outrage since this Bill gives an excellent opportunity to end fuel poverty and further this bill and its measures have widespread support across the UK. The following groups supoprt the Bill : Age Concern England, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Child Poverty Action Group, Consumer Focus, Disability Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Help the Aged, National Right to Fuel Campaign, SERA, Sustainable Energy Partnership and UNISON. I believe that The National Federation of Women’s Institutes are about to come on board too (and would be an excellent campaigning issue for the new Goldsmiths Branch!).

It is understood that the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are willing to close the debate on Friday so that the Bill gets a Second Reading - which means it can go to the next stage on the route to becoming law, the Committee Stage.

It is important that people in Joan Ruddock's constituency contact her and insist that she supports the Bill and allows it go to the next stage. Please call her consituency office on 020 8691 5992 or e-mail her TODAY.

The Fuel Poverty Bill aims to ‘fuel poverty proof' homes by bringing 6 million homes up to the energy efficiency standards of modern homes.

The very quick background to the Bill is that in 2000 the Labour Government passed the Warm Homes Act, which required the Government to publish a Fuel Poverty Strategy setting out the ways and timescale in which they were going to end fuel poverty. The resulting Fuel Poverty Strategy set dates for the eradication of fuel poverty in the vulnerable sector (2010) and in the rest of the sector (2016). MPs and Ministers believed that this was an absolute duty – until the High Court ruled otherwise on 17 October. In a judgment that campaigners believe to be perverse (and that is being appealed), the judge, Mr Justice McCombe, ruled that the duty to end fuel poverty was not a duty at all – merely a duty to make efforts.

Put simply, the Fuel Poverty Bill reinstates the duty in the Warm Homes Act. It aims to ‘fuel poverty proof’ the homes of the fuel poor by bringing them up to the energy efficiency standards of modern homes. Joan Ruddock recently confirmed that this can be done for the relatively modest sum of £7,500 per (average) fuel poor household. In addition, the Bill will give a much-needed boost to the UK “green construction” industry and create tens of thousands of new jobs. The Bill also requires energy suppliers to provide a social tariff to vulnerable households in the short term.

Back in 2000, Joan Ruddock enthusiastically supported the original 2000 Warm Homes Act with its aim of ending fuel poverty in the United Kingdom. In addition, just a month ago (on 14 January 2009), in giving evidence to the EFRA Select Committee, she expressly confirmed that the Government “do not intend to miss the 2016 target”.

*The official definition of fuel poverty is if you spend 10% or more of your income on heating your home.

17 March 2009

A busy day

Moving away from the issues of the day - to my day.

In addition to being a councillor I have a full-time job. I have an agreement with my employer that subject to the ability of me to deliver on my committments, I can work my 36 hours a week over 4 rather than the traditional 5, which leaves me free to concentrate on councillor issues/stuff on a Tuesday. This also explains why I am able to take photos at Brockley Station at 0600. Today is such a 'day off'.

Today I plan to :

(1) Read the Local Development Framework and draft comments

(2) Meet with the Local Assemblies Co-ordinator to discuss issues coming out of the last Brockley Assembly

(3) Meet with Planning Officers in preparation for the meeting of Planning Committee A on Thursday

(4) Meet with the Director of a local charity that I met at the Brockley Assembly to see how we might work together in a innovative project in the run up to the Olympics. More on this later

(5) Meet with a local resident to discuss private casework issues

The above is in addition to reading and responding to the various issues that have cropped up, new queries that residents have raised with me.

So, if I have so much to do, why am I blogging about this? Simple - I enjoy blogging and have 5-10 minutes spare after a spot of housework and before I get on with working through my to-do list.

1510 An update
Well running behind schedule - and still not had the chance to read the LDF. A copuple of urgent issues have come that I need to deal with. Another cup of tea, a couple of calls and then I'm off to Deptford.

2150 An update
I have spent the evening researching the Sustainable Communities Act for an item that is coming up to the Constitution Working Party on Thursday.

The envelope arrived this evening at about 2000 - twice a week (tuesday and thursday) I get an envelope delivered to my home with all the papers, documents, agendas etc that I have been sent. I have been through it and recycled a lot straight away.

Still not had a chance to read that LDF!

Off to bed soon - perhaps my bedtime reading could be...perhaps not.

16 March 2009

Let's make it more of a regular feature!

The controversial station access ramp and revamp works are due to start! The works involve the closure of Coulgate Street for 16 weeks.

I really hope this encourages more people to see the potential benefits of either a permanent closure or certainly more frequent closures in relation to community events and market days.

My gut feeling is that the most significant hurdle to the full scale pedestrianisation is the budget and there is a concern that budgetary constraints will therefore impact negatively on any final shape implementent.

In addressng this hurdle, there is every chance of having a phased approach...think closure, then softening of pavements and kerbs to emphasis the shared 'pedestrian' first nature of the scheme, then full on blown proper surface to bring the scheme in its final full-on Brockley moves forward glory!

18:15 15 March 2009. An update.

Following comments to this blog, I followed up the non-siting of a sign at one end of Coulgate Street. I am pleased to say that a sign was clearly visible this evening as I came home.

In addition officers confirmed earlier this afternoon that letters were sent to residents and businesses in the local area on 3 March 2009.

15 March 2009

An afternoon by the coast - sea, shingle, tea, historic buildings and turbines

Went for an afternoon stroll on the coast at Reculver.

A hazy view of the wind turbines out in the estuary.

A close up shot a row of turbines whose blades have stopped. This answers the question as to what happens to wind turbines when the wind stops blowing - they stop turning and create opportunities to make artistic shots of them.

This wind farm, known as the Kentish Flats scheme. According to the company website, the turbines at Kentish Flats are expected to produce an annual output of 280,000,000 kilowatt-hours. By comparison, the total domestic consumption of electricty here in Lewisham was 440,140,000 kilowatt-hours in 2006.

Clearly the visual impact of these turbines was a significant impact in the decision to grant permission to build it. However neither Drax (or Kingsnorth in the same part of Kent) nor Heysham power stations are pretty. Heysham in particular with its very special location on the North West Coast is groteseque. Further these sources of electricity bring significant and permanent risks with them. If our ingenuity finds a source of energy such as nuclear fission that can literally produce energy 'too cheap to meter' then we can simply remove the wind turbines from the sea bed...can the same be said about radioactive waste from a nuclear power station or carbon dioxide from a coal-powered station? Of course not. Further, some, and me included actually find the turbines to be a pleasant and strangely relaxing addition to the landscape. You can judge (well almost) for yourself what you think about the turbines at Reculver.

On a completely different note - there's a great cycle path from along this part of the North Kent Coast - really recommend it. Close the sea for most of the way, start off with oysters at Whitstable and finish with candy floss at Margate.

14 March 2009

Women's Institute in Brockley

The Evening Standard reports that some students at Goldsmiths College are planning to start a students-branch of the Women's Institute.

Having lived in London since 18 (before that Hull) I've not had many dealings with the WI, but what I have seen or heard suggests that such a group could be a welcome addition to the civic scene here in Brockley. The WI have supported a number of 'Green Bills' including the Home Energy Conservation Act and the Sustainable Communities Act. I have seen WI markets where locally produced surplus food is traded amongst villagers at knock-down prices.

The traditional jam-making view may be out of date but it is popular. A local marmalade competition would be great - I already have 12 pots (all made with locally bought Seville oranges - the Broca market - thanks Erin).

The article is here

And in a way that shows how with the times they are, they've started a facebook group!

13 March 2009

A Community Orchard for Brockley?

Last November it was decided that the Brockley Councillors should agree to spending up to £500 on a feasibility study for a community orchard here in Brockley.

In order for the study to go ahead we'll need to identify a potential site that the consultant can look at in some detail and produce a report.

The purpose of the report would be to help us decide how to take the plans forward if a suitable site was found. The Sustainable Development commission has an interesting report about an orchard in my home town of Hull, the Pickering Community Orchard.

It would be great if you could post your suggestions here. Once I have a few I'll give them to the consultant and see if I can ask him to select one for more study.

12 March 2009

New Plans for Loampit vale

Revised plans for Loampit Vale are about to be submitted by Barratt East London.

The letter I received this evening explains this "will include plans for the new leisure centre, including an 8 lane 25 metre pool; shops and commerical floor space; 788 new homes including affordable housing, and new public open spaces."

By way of comparison the original application promised a liesure centre including a a 25 metre competition pool, 819 new homes, of which 35% will be affordable, commercial and business units, creative industries, new public open spaces and piazzas.

On the face of it the major significant change is the reduction from 819 to 788 units - a reduction in the number of homes by 3.75%.

At this stage there is no indication as to whether the number of affordable units promised in the first application (35% of 819 - about 290) will increase, fall or remain the same. Or whether the proportion of units proposed will change.

On November 12 the Mayor of London, in relation to the original plans, was advised that "On balance, the application does not comply with the London Plan." para 127

And the report also highlights the five key areas where the plans could be amended to address their concerns. These are

• Housing
• Urban design
• Access and inclusive design
• Climate Change
• Transport

The plans should be available soon the developers website www.loampitvale.co.uk.

There will be an exhibition of the plans at Lewisham Shopping Centre between 26 & 27 March.

Coulgate Street 0600 - in support of the case for pedestrianisation

Clear this morning that Coulgate Street is used extensively by commuter parking; the red sporty car usually parked on the right of this photograph is not here yet. Perhaps the person is running late or on holiday.

This case for pedestrianisation is really clear; now it's just about getting the right people, money and permissions together.

An update at 1710

And look, the red sporty car on the right is here!

An update from 13 March at 0920.

See the red sporty number is back. (If you are the owner of the red sporty number please don't take my comments personally. Your car is very distinctive and illustrates the predictable and routine habits that surround commuting in general and our issue of commuter parking.)

8 March 2009

Brockley's Priorities - Have Your Say

Following on from the report of yesterday's Assemblies, I have decided to open up a informal poll on the five priorities that the Assembly has adopted.

Although the Assembly will work up plans for addressing each of these, it is useful to know which is the 'top' priority for people living in Brockley.

Here are some useful links:

Information about the Assembly

Brockley Crime Figures

Brookmill Park

Friendly Gardens

Luxmore Gardens

Nature's Gym

Love Lewisham - report graffiti, flytipping etc

Consultation on Plans for Lewisham 2008-2020

Various Statistics on Brockley

This last link is a particularly fascinating source of information about Brockley Ward.

7 March 2009

Malpas Road Resurfacing Works

Malpas Road is due to be resurfaced over a 2 week period between 18 and 26 March.

My letter explains that the works will be around two phases:

Phase 1 Lewisham Road to Vulcan Road

Phase 2 Vulcan Road to Brockley Cross

Report back from Third Brockley Assembly

Very pleased with the progress of today's Assembly. After a nervous wait whilst people came into the hall it was clear at just gone two that turnout was good, there was a good mix, and we were ready to go.

The meeting kicked off with a brief introduction by Cllr Johnson, a short presentation on planning policy by me, and then breakout groups around the topics of "Crime", "Green Spaces", "Dirty Streets", "Planning" and "Community Cohesion". Attendees were also invited to mark where they would like to see a tree planted in Brockley Ward. This was followed by a feedback session and the selection of a new co-ordinating group for the following year. Four people volunteered and approved by the Assembly.

Some of the ideas discussed were:

* CCTV - possible mobile unit, but need to ensure does not simply displace
* better and more activities/youth clubs for young people
* support for the further establishment of Neighbourhood Watch schemes

* more information about their location - a map, advert in newsletter
* community days/more events to encourage local people to make more use of the parks (A bat & wildlife walk around Brookmill Park?)
* linking up with the Art House for an Open Studios event that goes out into Luxmore Garden
* work to recover Lucas Street tennis courts/make them nice!

* action on flytipping/garffiti
* clean up of the bridge over Brockley Station
* street trees

* need to reach out to marginalised groups
* create opportunities for intergenerational work

* more support for local shops - business rate reduction
* pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street
* need to ensure the master plan for Brockley Cross is incorporated into Lewisham formal planning documents

The above list is NOT comprehensive - but is based on my memory. Full details of all the projects considered have been kept and the co-ordinating group will now be finalising ideas of what needs to be done to implement the ideas for future approval by the Assembly.

I sensed a truly positive vibe from today's Assembly and look forward to seeing the proposals put by local people come to fruition.

5 March 2009

Do you believe the Audit Commission?

Lewisham was awarded 4 stars today by the Audit Commission in its Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA).

The Audit Commission says in its summary of Lewisham:

"Lewisham Council is improving well. Lewisham’s performance is improving in priority areas such as tackling crime and the environment with reductions in robberies and burglaries and improved street cleanliness. Improvement is maintained in services for adult social care and children and young people, especially for vulnerable young people. Overall the rate of improvement on performance indicators is below the national average and a below-average proportion of indicators is in the top quartile. Local survey results show improvements in satisfaction over the last year. The Council operates at the highest level of the equality standards and provides good value for money. The Council has good capacity to achieve continuous improvements in services through its clear planning processes and robust performance management systems. Partnership working continues to be strong and the jointly-run Downham centre has improved access to health, library and leisure facilities. The Council has robust plans to improve customer access to its services. However, challenges remain in further improving outcomes to above national averages and in meeting national targets such as the decent homes standard and recycling rates."

So lots of good stuff there, and credit to the staff who have brought about the improvements highlighted above.

However there is an increasing body of opinion that states that 'target-culture' actually corrodes public services and makes them more distant from the people they are supposed to serve. Simon Caulkin has written on this subject on a number of occasions in his management column in the Observer - here are a few:

Targets can seriously damage your health

Police bureaucracy that needs to be arrested

Of particular interest for Lewisham given the Mayor's previous ambitions to getting massive 'efficiency savings' by restricting access to adult social care is a general thought as to how bureaucracy and targets can hamper the effective delivery of the right social care to the right people:

We can still defuse the ticking care timebomb

And on a more recent and very worrying theme, we have Baby P

Blame bureaucrats and systems for Baby P's fate

In Camden its 4* rating was clearly viewed with some sceptism by the local paper, teh Camden New Journal

Top marks all round for the Town Hall but is it simply the best?

This article in the Camden New Journal starts :

"IT might not mean much to someone stranded on the 15,000-long waiting list for a council home. Not much either to parents struggling to find a secondary school for children in the south of the borough....But, stop rubbing your eyes, when it comes to the local authority league tables Camden, it was revealed on Tuesday, is ahead of all the rest. Top of the heap. A-number one." [Camden New Journal,08 May 2008]

And in some respects I am sure those concerns resonate with many in Lewisham.

I think the point being that from two angles there is evidence that the targets culture is harming delivery of services as viewed by Simon Caulkin, and further that it is harming the relationship between local government and the people we serve.

3 March 2009

Greens slam Mayor's 'short-sighted' budget

Greens said today the Mayor's budget lacked vision on jobs and climate change and risked harming vulnerable people by cutting their services when they most need them.

Green councillors' 'alternative budget' would have insulated 25,000 homes in a move they said would create new jobs, cut bills and slash greenhouse gases.

It would also have reversed the Mayor's cuts to family support services, for looked-after children, for children's cycle safety training and tactile paving for blind people.

But the Labour Mayor and other parties voted against the Green package. The Mayor pressed ahead with service cutback plans and the Lib Dems - who had criticised the cuts in recent weeks - caused a surprise by not proposing to reverse them.

Green Party group leader Cllr Darren Johnson said:

"The Mayor's budget lacks vision and he missed a golden chance to adopt the Greens' plans for large-scale insulation work that would create new jobs and cut CO2. Lewisham needs to invest in the future and this budget falls woefully short."

Green Party group budget spokesperson Cllr Ute Michel said:

"Last year we warned against the Mayor's eye-watering fee increases for holiday play schemes. Figures have confirmed huge falls in attendance, and our poorest children were no doubt the biggest losers. Now he risks harming vulnerable people again, including senseless cuts to family support just as recession puts extra pressure on families. We could not support this short-sighted budget."

The Greens said they had balanced their budget proposal, showing it could be implemented without raising council tax above the Mayor's planned 2.5% rise.

Their plan would pay for free insulation in 25,700 private homes across Lewisham. A new £1m 'revolving' fund could also be dipped into by householders wanting to fit renewable energy equipment. The loans would only be repaid when the home is sold on, and the money would return to the fund so others could access it. The Greens also proposed £1.5m to retrofit Victorian council homes often neglected because their solid walls make eco-refurbs complicated.

The Greens also proposed:

* Cash to allow the Mayor to use compulsory purchase of much-needed homes left empty

* £1.5m to allow the council to start implementing the London Living Wage for low-paid contract workers

* Money to roll out the popular 'brown bins' garden waste collection trial to almost 20,000 homes

* Reversal of cuts to the council's 'Climate Change Innovation Fund', restoring the £23,000 but directing it to pay for hundreds of new street trees across Lewisham

* Reversal of cuts to services for Looked After Children

* Reversal of cuts to priority childcare places

* Reversal of cuts to health promotion work with disadvantaged groups

* Reversal of cuts to local highways works including tactile paving and dropped kerbs for the disabled

* Reversal of cuts to road safety cycle training for children

* Reversal of cuts to the council's scrutiny committees which hold council decision-makers to account and suggest improvements to policy

* Reversal of cuts to bursaries for talented young Lewisham musicians

* Reversal of cuts to food safety checks

* Reversal of cuts to conservation area reviews

Lewisham Budget Debate

Lewisham's budget for 2009-10 was agreed this evening on the casting vote of the Conservative chair of the Council, Cllr Barry Anderson.

After a lengthy debate in which the Liberal Democrats, Socialists and the other two Conservatives committed themselves to the Labour cuts package, we failed to get support for our fully costed proposals to bring in substantial amounts of funding to insulate thousands of homes across Lewisham providing jobs, tackling fuel poverty and reducing CO2 emissions. Other Green proposals rejected by the Lib Dems included the introduction a Living Wage.

There appeared surprise from Labour cabinet members when the Mayor expressed general support for most of the Green package and promised to look into the ideas in more detail. Cabinet members Cllrs Wise, Klier and Massey having used a proportion of their own speeches to basically slag off the Greens appeared most surprised.

Tomorrow Councillors get to hear how the Mayor plans to spend £2.1M on an ongoing basis to tackle the recession in Lewisham...which is funny as I understood the recession is due to end at some time. Perhaps the Mayor has been briefed differently from number 10 or more cynically perhaps he's already setting aside an easy cuts package to reduce council tax in the run up to next years local elections!