London’s iconic red buses rack up an incredible 6 million passenger journeys every day, but with the population expected to hit 9.3 billion by 2022, overcrowding risks becoming the norm for London’s hard-pressed commuters.
This week, I published a report on behalf of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee highlighting how the Mayor and Transport for London’s (TfL) proposals to increase capacity on the buses risk being seriously outpaced by rapid population growth.
Over the last ten years, London’s population grew by 80,000 a year and the number of bus kilometres operated by 109 million. But over the coming decade, the population is forecast to grow by around 100,000 a year while bus kilometres operated will increase by just 20 million meaning more crowded buses, and most likely, more people left behind at bus stops waiting for an empty bus they can board.
London’s buses are already frequently overcrowded. A quarter of those responding to our passenger survey said their bus was overcrowded and yet TfL has no plans to significantly increase services. Despite TfL predicting an estimated 167 million more bus journeys by 2022, there are no plans to put major investment in expansion of the bus service as they have with Tube and rail.
Unlike the rest of England, London’s buses are regulated. This means TfL – headed by the Mayor of London – plans, procures and manages the network of bus services which are operated by around 20 private companies. Together they run more than 700 different routes across the capital, covering almost every major street and reaching every community.
This means that London’s Mayor has a lot more control over buses than other local authorities. The problem is that TfL just doesn’t seem to do the same sort of routine forward planning for passenger demand that you see from London Underground and the railways.
TfL are well aware of the challenges. Last year, Sir Peter Hendy, the Mayor’s Transport Commissioner, told our Committee that in future TfL will have to be smarter about how it plans bus services and where it puts its last few vehicles in peak periods. But without more detailed data about bus use, it’s hard to see how these decisions will be made.
Improved bus service planning alone will not meet the challenge of rising demand. Adequate funding is essential and – while use of the bus subsidy dominates the debate about funding – its easy to forget that in terms of total expenditure buses are just as cost effective as the Tube. In fact, the high numbers of concessionary fares on the buses underline quite how important it is for much of the community.
We think that the Mayor should also look at introducing a wider range of fares and tickets including ‘early bird’ fares, part-time travel cards and ‘one hour’ bus tickets to help spread demand further across the day. Road congestion also needs to be tackled, including more bus priority measures and work to deal with traffic pinch points.
TfL should also look at improving consultation with passengers and local councils and do more to improve certain bus journeys, like those that serve hospitals. More orbital bus routes could help people make journeys around outer London and more express bus services could help speed up journey times from the suburbs.
Modernising the bus fleet is important to cut down on harmful emissions. We are calling on the Mayor and TfL to publish the schedule for rolling-out more environmentally friendly vehicles, including electric buses, to help address the capital’s poor air quality.
There are many things the Mayor and TfL can do to improve London’s buses, but with passenger demand showing no sign of slowing they must act now to plan for the future – or all those extra Londoners will be facing an increasing long wait for a ride.
October 29, 2013
After receiving many complaints about poor broadband speeds in the Rotherhithe/Bermondsey area and the lack of progress on the roll out of Superfast broadband, I asked the Director of BT London region to come and explain the problem to me.
Superfast broadband – the national and Southwark context
Nationally, superfast (SF) broadband has reached nineteen million premises. More are upgraded every week, and at the end of the current programme (implemented by BT and Virgin) most of the country will be covered. 90% of us will see an improvement in our broadband speeds. In London, BT’s investment will mean over three million premises in the capital will have superfast broadband by next spring.
The work to facilitate SF broadband usually involves upgrades to the cabling between the telephone exchanges and the existing street boxes and an additional signal booster box being installed on the street (hold that thought). So far, doing the upgrade work in Southwark between exchange and home or on street box means that over 131,000 premises in Southwark now have superfast broadband.
So what’s the problem in SE16 and its surroundings?
Have you ever noticed that there’s not many BT ‘street boxes’ on the streets of Rotherhithe? This is key to the problem. The current residential regeneration of Rotherhithe is a fairly recent development, and before then – longer term residents will remember – the area was largely industrial. Historically, it was possible to disconnect security equipment such as burglar alarms if they were wired into an on street box and therefore many of the former businesses in Rotherhithe were directly connected to the exchange as a security measure. Now that the area has become much more residential, this causes a problem, since many premises are quite some distance from the exchange they are connected to.
Signals get quieter the further away from the exchange they get and there’s a need for booster box installations. Because in Rotherhithe a lot of the existing cabling goes direct from the exchange into properties without running first to an on street box, BT can’t provide booster facilities without significant additional costs.
My meeting with BT gave me a visual metaphor, which I think helps to explain this better. In most areas, the cabling pattern looks like an arm and a hand. The arm is the cabling from the exchange to the street box (the hand) and the ‘fingers’ are the lines going from the street box into individual properties. In Rotherhithe, the cables look more like an octopus, with tentacles snaking out from the exchange and not clustered at a box.
Rotherhithe, for those historic reasons has one of the biggest concentrations of these ‘exchange only’ lines. Lack of street cabinets means it’s not possible to easily add the signal booster cabinets.
So, getting SF broadband into strangely cabled Rotherhithe needs some additional investment. BT could simply try to persuade its shareholders that this additional investment is just part of the package – they could risk reputational damage if they don’t, for letting a large and upcoming area of inner London down. BT argue that gap funding from the public sector is a possibility. But, at this point, EU bureaucracy joins with historic technical issues to further complicate the matter…
That was the ‘science’ now here’s the politics..
All new developments in the area are dealt easily with because a ‘Fibre to premises’ arrangement is cost effective for new build. For the existing households however, a few hundred pounds per premises is generally needed to upgrade the system. In London, the Mayor of London has been allocated £25million to help with the roll out of SF broadband for small and medium sized businesses – who can apply for vouchers to cover the costs of upgrading. But this does not help domestic internet users.
Under EU legislation, the State, the GLA or the council cannot directly pay BT to do this extra work to upgrade home broadband, because it would be considered ‘state aid’ to a private, commercial business, installing infrastructure from which it can make a profit, which is illegal under EU law. The only way round this is for the EU to accept that there has been a ‘market failure’ which needs state aid to be fixed.
To get this permission the Government, or the GLA, can approach the European Commission to conduct an enquiry. Put simply, the Mayor of London could approach the Commission and ask for a review of this issue. This could result in funds becoming available to solve the problem in Rotherhithe. BT are now approaching the Mayor about this, although this is rather late in the day as they have understood this problem for quite some time now. I am told that although other parts of London also have ‘exchange line only’ setups, Rotherhithe has by far the highest concentration of these areas. It will apparently cost around £10million to tackle the technical problems in Rotherhithe. This may sound like a lot of money, however, in terms of investment in this kind of infrastructure this is a relatively modest amount – even in austerity London.
In my humble opinion it’s not volume of cash that’s the problem but bureaucracy and an issue with EU anti-competitiveness laws. There is already some risk that even the current vouchers scheme for small and medium businesses may get challenged. The EU Commission could decide to “aggregate up’ vouchers and declare them as illegal state support for BT. Unbelievably, the DCMS have been asked to seek a ruling from the Commission to clear it as ‘not’ state aid!
Alternatively private donors, landlords or business can club together to buy – but state aid is banned.
Then the remaining and first question is still there, why is BT not willing to take on this small additional cost for that sake of completeness and good relations in London?
So who’s ass should we kick about this?
Let’s start with BT. They have admitted that they have in fact, not yet written to the Mayor of London office to ask him to trigger an EU Commission inquiry. However, they did assure me that they would now get on and do this. I will also write to the Mayor and ask him to get this paperwork moving. Notwithstanding this, as a more base level – BT could also be asked why they have not done this work since it would only cost them a relatively small amount.
Secondly, the Mayor’s office – he needs to give this urgent attention. Superfast broadband is essential to economic growth and no part of London should be left out of this programme, especially not 21st Century Rotherhithe!
I would urge anyone who really wants to help with this issue to write a letter and-send it to three different destinations;
BT – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mayor of London – email@example.com
and the regulator – OFCOM – http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/tell-us/telecoms/
You can also copy in the national press and maybe ITV London and BBC London, who well understand the need for super-fast broadband
The letter need not be technical or long – just explain how a lack of efficient broadband is affecting your household and asking for some action on this. Please feel free to copy me in on your letter if you wish. With a little community action I hope we may be able to make some progress.
Valerie Shawcross AM
LONDON Assembly Member
Lambeth & Southwark
October 10, 2013
I’m pleased that the Assembly’s Transport Committee, which I Chair, has backed investment in Crossrail 2 in its response to Transport for London and Network Rail’s consultation on Crossrail 2. Our report states that it is needed to cope with London’s rapid population growth, which is forecast to approach 10 million by 2031. Levels of Tube congestion previously predicted for 2031 might be reached as early as 2020, putting significant pressure on London’s transport network.
Overcrowding on London’s rail is already a significant problem. Figures released by Department for Transport (DfT) last week showed that 9 of the 10 most overcrowded routes originated or terminated in London.
The Committee felt that a regional route would have more benefits for the capital, including its capacity to carry more passengers and alleviate overcrowding on existing services. Passengers at suburban stations, such as Surbiton – on the route of the UK’s tenth most crowded service – could see improvements to overcrowding on services if Crossrail 2 is delivered.
The Committee warmly welcomed the Government’s decision to provide £2 million funding for a feasibility study into Crossrail 2 in the Spending Review. It also feels strongly that the Mayor develops a fair funding package that means those benefiting from the investment contribute to its construction, including those who will capitalise on rising land values.
I believe London needs a transport network that can cope with the millions of extra passengers that will travel on our tube and trains in future. The cost-effective investment needed to construct Crossrail 2 will herald sustainable rewards, potentially boosting London’s economy by up to £49 billion, not to mention much-needed relief to passengers suffering on some of the UK’s most-crowded services.
Crossrail 2’s construction should be the catalyst to realise London’s Olympics regeneration dream. Improving transport links to the Lea Valley alone could have the potential to boost London’ economy by £4 billion, showing what a world of difference this could make to disadvantaged parts of London.We must all get behind Crossrail 2 to ensure London has the transport it needs for its future growth.
July 31, 2013
London Fire Brigade Cuts Update – What’s happening on the Mayor’s proposed Fire Service Cuts?
Over the next few weeks, the decision on the proposed cuts to the London Fire Brigade will come before the Committee Members on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. (LFEPA)
The draft 5th London Safety Plan proposed closing 12 fire stations, cutting 18 fire appliances and 520 firefighter posts. Public Consultation on the Plan ended on 17th June. The cuts to frontline services are in response to cuts to the London Fire Brigade budget by both the Government and Mayor of £45m over two years.
The Governments recent spending announcements (the CSR) will see a further 7.5% reduction in fire and rescue service grant. It is unknown how this reduction will impact on the London Fire Brigade in 2015/16.
On the 18th July, LFEPA will meet to decide on the Commissioner’s proposals for the final 5th London Safety Plan (LSP5) following the public consultation. The papers for this meeting are expected to be published on 10th July 2013. The final set of proposals may differ from the draft Plan, though we will not know how until 10th July and subsequent decisions at the LFEPA meeting. It’s possible that the Mayor may seek to back off from some particularly contentious closure plans.
There is an FBU led pubic demonstration planned, leaving from Monument at 12.30 to walk the LFB HQ at Union Street on the 18th July. Additionally, the Authority meeting is open to the public if people would like to attend.
I am a member of the LFEPA and like my other Labour colleagues will finally decide our voting after careful consideration of all the information produced by the Authority related to the LSP5 and after discussion at the LFEPA meeting on 18th July. However, Labour members did cover every consultation meeting, we have received copies of numerous consultation response and seen thousands of Londoners signatures over numerous petition. The Labour Group are clear that Londoners do not support the planned cuts to London’s Fire Service.
If a majority of LFEP Authority Members agree that cuts to the service are not acceptable and vote against the cuts, it is possible that the Mayor of London will subsequently direct the Authority to change their decision and agree the proposals set out from the Commissioner. If this occurs it will be unprecedented and the LFEPA will have to decide what options will be open to it at that stage. But certainly it would involve the Mayor in a political and possibly, legal, conflict with a Committee that he ultimately appointed.
July 9, 2013
The London Assembly has (Cross Party) supported a motion calling for action on the proposed closure of five Crown Post Offices in the capital. Funding to the Crown Post Office network has been cut by the Government by a fifth.
Up to 76 Crown Post Offices are set to close or be franchised across the country. Of the six post offices identified for closure, London will lose five including Kennington Park Road and Stockwell post offices in Lambeth. Over 800 staff will be affected overall because of the cuts to the Post Office.
I think that Post offices provide essential services to the public that are not available anywhere else. Post Office staff are highly-skilled and offer specialist services to the financial services industry, which is vital to London’s economy. The closure of post offices in London will be bad for customers, businesses and staff and I am outraged that my constituency is set to lose not one, but two of it’s Crown Post Offices – Kennington and Stockwell.
Having attended a packed public meeting in Stockwell on this matter organised by the Communication Workers’ Union, I can confidently state that there is deep distress and concern about this in the local communities who stand to be affected, particularly among older residents who consider the post office an essential service.
These post offices offer key financial services and are vital in situations and for customers where face to face support are required – in some cases Post Offices provide services and advice and information that simply is not available elsewhere. I’m in full agreement with my colleagues who are rightly calling for more analysis on the social and economic impacts on the local community, rather than just what seems to be a short sighted cost cutting exercise on the part of the post office.
There is widespread concern about the future of our high streets at the moment, and I fear that if these cuts go ahead, the only financial institutions we will see in our neighbourhoods will be pawnbrokers, pay day loan shops and bookmakers. None of these provide access to proper financial advice services in the way the post office does. ‘
In 2008 there was what I called a ‘massacre’ of post office across Lambeth and Southwark – when a number local branches were closed. I am appalled that my constituency is being hit again by the Post Office. Not only that but the two proposed closure are fairly close to each other, so anyone in need of a Post Office service is going to have to travel a long way to find one. Given the current economic problems and that a lot of my constituents are currently suffering grave financial difficulties, this is yet another proposal to cut our valued services and kick us in the teeth yet again.
We have urged the Mayor to be on the side of Londoners. He should be using his influence and getting the government to investigate the impact of these plans on staff, customers and the business community. In addition it is essential for the Mayor to seek assurances from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State that staff working in post offices which will be franchised will be paid at least the London Living Wage.
Motion on Post Offices Agreed at The London Assembly by Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and Labour Members
This Assembly recognises that reform of the Crown Post Office Network is necessary and long-overdue. The Assembly welcomes progress being made to this end, with losses reduced by up to £14m, to around £40m, in the past three years.
Nevertheless, proposed reforms have the potential to disproportionately impact on Londoners. Of the six offices identified for outright closure – as part of a plan to close or franchise 76 Crown Post Offices – five are located in the capital: Lupus St; Sutton High St; Kennington Park Road; Stockwell; and Broadgate.
Despite only representing 3% of the postal network, Crown Post Offices employ 4000 people and are responsible for 20% of all Post Office business. Crown Post Offices also process 40% of financial services mail and are therefore a crucial component of London’s economy.
Post offices not only provide essential services to the public that are not available anywhere else, but they are also central to the local economies in which they are located. This Assembly is concerned at the potential adverse impacts on post-office accessibility for Londoners and the business community.
This Assembly therefore calls on the Mayor of London to:
• write to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Post Offices, informing them of the concerns raised by the Assembly about the closure of five of London’s Crown Post Offices;
• request that Under-Secretary undertake to conduct a broader social and economic assessment of the proposed closures, focussing on the impact on customers; and
• seek assurances from the Under-Secretary that successful franchisees for Crown Post Offices will be strongly encouraged to pay their staff the London Living Wage.
June 6, 2013
Mayor’s Fire Cuts plan
Here I lay out some basic facts about Boris Johnson’s plan to close Fire Stations in London and list the public consultation meeting dates in the hope that as many members of the public as possible will go along as possible and object to this plan.
How can I take part in the consultation about Fire Station Closures and reduction in Fire Engines?
It is vital that as many Londoners as possible express their views on these cuts, especially if they think they are wrong. You can do so online, by post and by attending the public meeting for your area.
The consultation on the draft Fifth London Safety Plan was formally launched on 4th March. Further information is available on the London Fire Brigade website
- www.london-fire.gov.uk/lsp5. People can respond to the consultation by email, by Freephone number, by post and interactively responding on the website noted above.
The London Fire Brigade contact details are:
London Fire Brigade, 169 Union Street, London, SE1 0LL; Tel: 0800 9888 569; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Consultation meetings scheduled:
· Barking and Dagenham at 7-9pm Monday 25 March at Boothroyd Hall, Castle Green, Gale Street, RM9 4UN
· Barnet, Enfield and Haringey on Thursday, 18 April 7-9pm at Haringey Council Chamber, Haringey Civic Centre, High Road, Wood Green, N22 8LE
· Bexley, Bromley and Croydon on Thursday, 23 May 7-9pm at Bromley Central Library, High Street, Bromley BR1 1EX
· Brent and Harrow on Tuesday, 16 April 7-9pm at Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow HA1 2XY
· City of London on Thursday, 11 April at 7-9pm at St. Albans Centre, Leigh Place, Baldwins Gardens, Holborn, EC1N 7AB
· Hackney on Monday, 20 May 7-9pm at Hackney Assembly Hall, Stoke Newington Town Hall, Stoke Newington Church Street N16 0JR
· Hammersmith and Fulham at 7-9pm Thursday 28 March at Hammersmith Assembly Hall, King Street, Hammersmith, W6 9JU
· Hillingdon at 7-9pm Tuesday 2 April at Middlesex Suite, Hillingdon Civic Centre, High Street, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 1UW
· Islington on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 at 7-9pm in the Assembly Hall at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD
· Kensington and Chelsea on Monday, 10 June at 7-9pm in the Kensington Small Hall, Hornton Street, W8 7NX
· Lambeth on Thursday, 16 May 7-9pm at Lambeth Assembly Hall, Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RW
· Lewisham on Wednesday, 22 May 7-9pm at Sydenham School, Dartmouth Road, London SE26 4RD
· Newham on Wednesday, 8 May at 7-9pm at Newham Town Hall, East Ham, Barking Road, E6 2RP
· Southwark on Tuesday, 14 May 7-9pm at Committee Room 4 and 5, Greater London Authority, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA
· Tower Hamlets on Tuesday, 7 May 7-9pm at Skeel Lecture Theatre, People’s Palace Building, Queen Mary University, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS
· Waltham Forest on Tuesday, 9 April at 7-9pm at Chingford Assembly Hall, Station Road, Chingford, E4 7EN
· Wandsworth at 7-9pm Thursday 4 April at The Open Door Community Centre, Keevil Drive, Beaumont Road, London, SW19 6TF
· Westminster on Wednesday 15 May 2013 at 7-9pm at Regent Hall at the Salvation Army at 275 Oxford Street, London, W1C 2DJ
Why are the London Fire Brigade closing 12 stations?
The Conservative/LibDem Government has cut the grant that the London Fire Brigade receive for ‘13/14 and ‘14/15 by over £30m. Additionally, the Conservative Mayor wants to reduce the Council Tax by 1p a day (for a Band D property). This has resulted in the Fire Brigade being required by the Mayor to make savings of £45m over a two year period. As a result, the Commissioner and his staff have proposed closing 12 fire stations, cutting 18 appliances and 520 firefighters’ posts.
What has happened so far this year?
The Labour Group on the London Fire Authority has twice tabled successful amendments to stop the cuts going forward. The Conservative Group wants to close fire stations and cut fire engines and firefighters. However, the Mayor has not listened to Londoners – who are happy with the current level of service – or the Fire Authority. He has used his legal powers to order the Fire Authority to consult on the cuts even though it did not want to do so. The Fire Authority listened to Londoners and will continue to do so in the consultation which is now starting.
The Mayor has stated in his direction that he wants the LSP5 to be finalised and for implementation to begin by October 2013, which may well include fire station closures and cuts to fire engines and firefighters, depending on the consultation outcome, even though the 2013/14 budget does not need this.
According to the Borough averages, 4.7 million Londoners (or 58%) will see an increase in the time it takes fire engines to arrive. Areas like Conservative run Westminster will see an increase of 41seconds for the first fire engine attendance, which is why their council has come out against the proposals along with Conservative Kensington and Chelsea. Camden will see an average increase of 45 seconds for their first fire engine attending an incident.
The stations that are proposed for closure are in the poorest areas of the city. Research by the London Fire Brigade clearly shows those most at risk from fire are those who predominantly live in the most deprived areas of the city.
In Lambeth and Southwark we face the closure of two Fire stations (Clapham and Southwark on Southwark Bridge Road) and the loss of their Fire engines. Peckham will go from being a two engine station down to one. This will mean a loss also of the fire crews who staff the engines and who also do important fire prevention work.
The differences are only in seconds, does it matter?
It is important, because seconds count: for example a domestic fire can quadruple in intensity in just 2 minutes.
The London Fire Brigade plans emergency cover on a London-wide basis. Fire stations respond to fires throughout London and not just in their locality. The closures will increase the average attendance time for London as a whole. There are only six boroughs where attendance times marginally fall. Each area is dependent on fire engines from neighbouring fire stations. For example, Clerkenwell and Islington attend hundreds of incidents in Camden each year.
Please take the time to look at the plans and to attend one of the official consultation meetings listed above
March 21, 2013
“Sham” Consultation in Lambeth and Southwark
Last Wednesday I attended two ‘consultation’ meetings about the proposed closure of Police stations in Lambeth and Southwark. Boris is planning to close police stations, cut police numbers and strip back local Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams.
At the meetings organised at short notice. it was revealed that there are plans to close the following police stations in Lambeth:
Cavendish Road police station
Clapham police station
Gipsy Hill police station
In Southwark, the following police stations are set to close:
Camberwell police station
East Dulwich police station
Rotherhithe police station
Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh is attending consultations in all boroughs in London. The Police and Crime Consultation was published on 7 January 2013 and Lambeth and Southwark were the first boroughs to be consulted on the plans, giving residents only two days to get accustomed to the plans before being consulted by the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.
The new analysis shows that compared to 2010 many boroughs will lose significant numbers of police officers, including:
Southwark losing 132 police officers
Lambeth losing 157 police officers
The Police and Crime Consultation only lasted just over one hour and Boris’ Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime had to cut residents short in Lambeth as he had to rush to Southwark. It was a complete sham and didn’t give residents enough time to digest the plans and comment on all of the areas that affect them. This was a deliberate strategy to push through plans that the Mayor has already made – to close half of Lambeth and Southwark’s police stations including Cavendish Road, Clapham and Gipsy Hill in Lambeth and Camberwell, East Dulwich and Rotherhithe in Southwark. In Southwark we will lose 132 police officers with 157 fewer in Lambeth than in 2010, and that’s if the Mayor can actually deliver on his proposals which I don’t think he can.
There was very little information from the Mayor for residents before the consultation meetings to find out what the plans are for Lambeth and Southwark, which is completely inadequate. I have spoken to many residents about the closure of stations in Lambeth and Southwark and they are deeply unhappy about these proposals. Their opinions deserve to be heard and one hour in each borough was not long enough, and not good enough. I am particularly concerned that the removal of facilities in East Dulwich and Gypsy Hill will mean that there is a lack of Safer Neighbourhood team bases across Dulwich and West Norwood, this is compounded by the removal of Sydenham and South Norwood stations in neighbouring Boroughs..
In related budget cuts announcements we were also told last Friday 12 January that Clapham Fire Station will close and that there will be a Fire Engine and fire fighting team removed from Peckham Fire station – the station which was the first at the scene in responding to the tragic Lakanal House Fire in 2009. I believe that London Fire Brigade is an extremely efficient and well run organisation –I do not believe that these cuts which are designed to save money are in any way justified.
See Page 38 for the list of Police Station and front counter closures:
Full papers on Fire station cuts can be found at
January 14, 2013
SOS for 999 services
It’s often those quiet, one to one conversations at the back of a public event, with no press or public listening when you find out what staff who run public services are thinking. I recently asked an ambulance service employee what they thought about the current threat to Lewisham Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department. The answer came back in no uncertain terms. Lewisham A&E has been a stable, solid, anchor for the health service in South London for many years. And when there are difficulties at other A&Es on busy nights Lewisham is always there to provide a reliable, capable service. Closing it would have a negative knock on impact to surrounding areas, and put pressure on other South London emergency departments, including Kings College and St Thomas’ Hospitals.
South London Healthcare NHS Trust – the Trust running health services in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich was declared ‘bust’ earlier this year and a ‘Trust Special Administrator’ was appointed by the co-alition government. On Monday 29th October he published his recommendations on the future of the Trust. proposes, amongst other things, that the newly refurbished A&E at Lewisham should cease to exist. Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust is a well run, well managed organisation. But the administrator, has the power to recommend the break-up of the trust and the closure of services.
London’s 999 services are in a growing co-alition government-inflicted crisis. There are rumours and leaks in every Borough about cuts to emergency services. – closures of police stations and front desks, cuts backs in police numbers and now planned closures of six South London Fire stations (two in Southwark), the removal of fire engines and cuts to fire fighters. Anxiety in local communities is worsened by the fact that information on cuts to fire and police services is ‘seeping’ out rather than being published and consulted on openly.
I am concerned that many members of the public may be unaware that essential local 999 services are being cut back so quickly and savagely. Clearly, South London Healthcare has severe problems and the people it serves deserve the same quality services as us all. But the closure of Lewisham A&E would be a real loss to everyone in South London and we shouldn’t imagine that its impact will not be felt by Southwark residents. To take part in the consultation about Lewisham Hospital visit www.tsa.nhs.uk or sign the online petition at ipetitions.com/petition/Lewisham-hospital
November 19, 2012
Boris Johnson – out of step and out of touch with the housing crisis
In Lambeth and Southwark – as it is across London – housing is the biggest issue affecting residents. It is easy to understand why.
Under Boris Johnson social housing starts have now fallen to their lowest level for a decade. The supply of decent social rented homes is now so limited that many low income families living in dire circumstances and are still unlikely to qualify.
Yet, for those on even middle to higher incomes, home ownership is now an increasingly distant dream. Shelter estimates that your average first-time buyer, who gets no help from the Bank of Mum & Dad, now has to rent for 31 years to buy their own home in London, costing them £300,000 in private sector rent in the process.
Those left in the increasingly bulging middle are left with one option – the private rented sector, where rents soared by 12 per cent last year alone. In this sector, over a third of homes do not meet Decent Homes standards and tenants are often exposed to rogue landlords, short-term tenancies and a lack of stability.
It is against this backdrop that the Mayor this week re-announced his ‘new’ ‘Housing Covenant’ at the Conservative’s annual conference.
The Mayor has pledged to invest £100 million in the project, which aims to “unlock the door to home ownership” for 10,000 households on “modest incomes”.
Let’s put this re-announcement in context.
In 2010 the new Government cut London’s affordable house building budget by 70 per cent. Consequently, this £100 million of what appears to be mostly new funding from the Government – to be spent over the next four years – still represents a significant cut.
When this new funding is factored in, the Mayor will be spending roughly £100 million a year on housing for first-time buyers. This is a fraction of what was spent in recent years. For example, in 2010/11 alone £200 million was spent on the type of home this new money will fund. In 2009/10 this figure was nearly £310 million.
In reality, the Mayor and his Government are reducing housing investment in the face an escalating crisis.
Yet, despite the record budget he inherited in 2008, the Mayor has a poor record when it comes to helping first-time buyers. Government figures show that the number of these homes built in London have fallen every year since Boris Johnson’s election.
In office, Boris has also changed the rules for affordable housing so that those earning nearly £80,000 a year can now qualify for state subsidised home ownership. In doing so, the Mayor has stretched the meaning of “modest income” well beyond what my constituents recognise.
But even if the people in Lambeth and Southwark qualify for these homes, the cost of maintaining the home is often astronomical. Homes sold through the Mayor’s scheme include a three-bed flat in Islington for £705,000, a flat near Guys Hospital with a required qualifying income of £77,500 and a two-bed flat in Marylebone for £600,000.
Under Boris Johnson, London’s housing crisis is getting worse – more people made homeless every year, more people sleeping rough and private sector rents soaring. Londoners want a Mayor who is determined to tackle these problems and who will address the housing crisis affecting all Londoners instead of shying away from real action.
October 12, 2012
My first appointment this morning was with leading community members in Gipsy Hill Norwood to stage our protest at the sudden cutting of the public counter and closing of the Police station and a rapid erosion of our local Police officers from what is an area with some problems. This kind of thing is starting to go on all over London, and communities will be responding with anger.
I reported in July on the apparent total absence of a visible strategy at City Hall to manage the huge shortfall in the Police budget for next year. Conservative cuts to the funding of the service are much larger and being imposed more quickly than is necessary. Added to this the Mayor has appointed an apparently incompetent and secrecy obsessed Deputy to run his Mayor’s Office of Policing – Former Conservative Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council Stephen Greenhalgh. This toxic mix of Mayoral disengagement, massive budget cuts and complete mismanagement and secrecy around the budget process by Greenhalgh means that the growing crisis in London’s Police Service is inevitably becoming visible to Londoners whether Boris Johnson likes it or not..
Elected Representatives have not had clear information about what is planned for their areas. There is no consultation as yet – although we are told it will happen in October- and yet police counters are closed or we are told they are closing as we speak. The location of Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams is not clear for the future. They may be taken back to a central location in each Borough. Borough Police commands may be merged with one Commander for two Boroughs – even though they do important crime prevention management with each Council. Police numbers are falling rapidly and even the Mayor admitted in public on Wednesday that it would be ‘difficult’ to keep his election promise on Police numbers.
I fear that what we could end up with would look like the Met in the bad old days. Retreating into huge Sectors, withdrawing from ‘on the ground’ community policing and forced by cash pressures to run around in response cars, never getting to know an area or its community. Accessing a police front counter will be down possibly to one per Borough with a huge reliance on the phone and internet – regardless of the impact on the elderly and the poor.
The fact is IF there’s a case for closing a particular building, the community should have a right to know what it is, we want to discuss how a replacement service is provided – as has always been promised – and if this promise is now to be dropped we want to have a chance to argue it out.
September 21, 2012