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
Really good reliable and well run public services tend to stay out of the news because the narrative pushed by much of our media in the UK is of shock- horror – failure- conflict. Hence London Fire Brigade is never in the news. It’s really well run, has great training, superb staff and world-beating state of the art equipment. Having been the Chair of the Fire Authority for 8 years until 2008 I can also tell you that it does stuff that no other major world Brigade does well- some years ago in Berlin they didn’t even understand my question when I asked them about their staff recruitment and community safety programmes to reduce fire deaths in the Turkish speaking community. In the States their management of Health and Safety of the Fire fighters themselves was generally appalling.
In London we pretty much have the best Fire Brigade in the world, and therefore they are invisible in the media.
LFB has been reducing Fire Deaths in London dramatically over the last decade through excellent building control, fire safety education, installing smoke alarms in pensioners homes (a high risk group) and behind all of this, its work has been based on sound research designed to make sure emergency crews were in the right places in London as the City changes. LFB even managed to get EU legislation on cigarettes amended to make them fire safer – so fire deaths will go down across Europe over the next few years, as dropped and forgotten cigarettes will fizzle out faster.
So does anyone know what threat there is to the Fire Brigade in London now? Probably not, but I believe Londoners will care when they find out.
During the 2008-2012 period the former Conservative Chair of the Brigade the bumptious Brian Coleman – complained about having difficulties accessing Boris Johnson for discussions about the Brigade. The Fire Service reserves (at one point 50M) were creamed off by Mayor Johnson to support much less efficiently run parts of the GLA. Now with reserves run right down to 11M the new Conservative Chairman James Cleverly faces having to administer massive financial cuts to the Brigade imposed by both Government and the London Mayor who jointly fund the services. The Fire Brigade in London is expecting to have budget gaps of 29.5 M next year and 64.8 M the year after. (Their total running cost this year is 448 M) LFB has 112 Fire Stations servicing our massive city of 8M people. These stations all have 1 or 2 fire engines plus a wide variety of other specialist equipment to deal with car crashes, chemical spillage, flood rescue and terrorist attacks on the tube and other infrastructure. But importantly the Fire Crews are major and effective deliverers of Fire safety education and prevention services. The stations are an important venue and shop front and the Fire fighters the most persuasive and credible advocates of fire safety measures.
At this week’s Assembly Plenary the Commissioner explained that a small fire station with one engine and its 24 hour 365 day a week crews cost 1.4 M per year average. You do the maths. With no fat left or reserves available the Brigade is clearly facing major service cuts of some kind next year. And the reduction in Fires and Fire deaths in London doesn’t justify this – because that’s been achieved through active work which must continue AND in the meantime other types of demands for rescue services grow.
A plea to the London media – please wake up now to the threats facing London Fire Brigade and for once show some interest in what may be the finest public servants providing the most impressive emergency rescue services in the world.
September 14, 2012
Conservative Vs conservative ?
From 20 years involved in local democracy I can honestly say that it’s never been clear what the Tory party really wants from the Planning system. This week’s announcements are a case in point and demonstrate a swing back of a wild pendulum on Planning policy which the Conservatives never seem to let rest in a place of sensible balance. Do they want to deregulate – promoting commercial developments at any environmental price or do they want to conserve the character of the heritage and green environment? Most significant politically, do they want to provide protection or not from neighbouring eyesores and ‘beds in sheds’ for their many suburban resident supporters? Decisions taken in panic are never a good thing – the Tories have realised that the economy is flatlining and they are struggling to get any kind of investment going – public infrastructure or private developments so their perverse answer is to throw the planning doors widopen to all sorts of abuses, even though there is absolutely no evidence that this is a realistic solution.
So we have currently entered this lassez-faire stage of the Tory Planning policy cycle BUT shortly the upsurge of residents’ horror at the massive growth of ugly light grabbing ‘bed in sheds’ back garden developments and the bulldozing of green land will understandably trigger a massive political backlash from their heartlands supporters. The pendulum will swing back erratically and potential developers will be left in even more of a state of confusion.
The truth is that the Planning system we woke up with last Monday was not the blockage to economic growth that the Conservative Lib Dem Government imagine – One of my more expert planning colleagues tells me that ”The thrust of the government’s argument is that the planning system is clogging up development, which is in turn slowing down the economic recovery. Yet a report released today from the Local Government Association found 400,000 homes across the country which have planning permission but which have not been started or are stalled – this means the problem isn’t with the planning system but with developers (who hoarde land ie ‘land banking’) and banks (who aren’t lending). And as a growth programme, Labour has derided it by saying government is “kidding themselves” and that the proposals are “not up to the scale of the challenge” and do not address the real problem of a “lack of confidence and demand in the economy”.
The Planning system in a democracy is always going to be a difficult process of reconciling different interests. Existing residents vs landowners and developers, the economy vs conservation, democracy vs commercial. Nobody ever gets all they want but the process as it stood on Monday morning at least allowed for a degree of technical quality to be maintained and bottom line interests – such as rights to light, to be protected. At best it allows a blending of objectives through active negotiation and some of the most hard debated developments turn out to be the best and most attractive. It gave a voice to every one, even if the Tesco’s of this world could always field more barristers than everyone else.
It allowed for the pursuit of public objectives – such as heritage protection and new social housing by creaming some of the developer profits. AND MY Experience is that developers really don’t mind that – what they want is a predictable, reliable, planning process – where they know the ground rules and they are applied fairly and with consistency. It’s a waste of their time and money to spend Millions developing a scheme and applying for planning permission if the goals posts move and it proves impossible to understand what applications might meet with success or indeed it’s difficult to work out what the costs will be.
So my advice to the Tories, which I am sure they will not take, is that they should seek to get back to a sensible balanced mechanism in planning, allow the pendulum to rest and try to avoid extreme reactions and counter reactions.
Let’s have a competition to identify mad planning application decisions taken in the past. My candidate is across Tower Bridge on the north side – the grotesque eyesore that is the Tower Thistle hotel!
September 7, 2012
I’ve been a supporter of the cause of refurbishing Herne Hill Velodrome ever since I visited in 2005 just after the dilapidated track was closed down for a short time by the Freeholder Dulwich Estates. The Velodrome was the 1948 Olympic cycling venue, but its significance to me isn’t about heritage it’s the fact that its sits at the border of the two Boroughs I represent, Southwark and Lambeth, and can provide much needed sports facilities and excitement for South London’s young people. Under the fantastic leadership of local wonder- Mum Hillary Peachy the Save the Herne Hill Velodrome campaign and the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust they launched, have fundraised successfully to resurface the track. Southwark Council came in with £400,000 Olympic Legacy Board funding. Now its really fantastic to see the young cyclists being trained on the renewed track, bikes glinting in the sun. A close alliance of thousands of local parents, cyclists, British Cycling, the Council and a supportive Dulwich Estates Trust have brought the track in to shape to be used by the hundreds and hundreds of youngsters and school children who train and exercise there now.
Cycling is also a very good sport for many people with disabilities. Mick, my husband is an BK amputee- he has the bottom half of one leg missing. He can only manage to walk for about 3 miles a day in good flat walking conditions. But he can cycle further, better and faster than me and we get great pleasure on holidays and weekend from cycling. We have explored and enjoyed a lot of the great parks in London that he couldn’t otherwise see if he had to walk. Wheels for Wellbeing, a south London based charity to get disabled people cycling http://wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk also makes use of the Velodrome facilities and nearby Brockwell park.
But the job isn’t over. The Trust is about to start work on a young children’s track to sit inside the large Velodrome, in the longer term they must raise hundreds of thousands to rebuild the now completely closed dilapidated club house and demolish the old broken seating stands. New facilities such as toilets are badly needed. I believe that every child in London should learn to cycle safely and confidently while at school and the younger the better. The Herne Hill Velodrome is an asset we simply can’t allow to go to wrack and ruin. How fantastic it was therefore for the Velodrome to get good TV coverage after the Tour de France victory of one of its former users – the amazing Bradley Wiggins. I believe the prospects for a future successful funding bids have just been given an enormous boost.
I hope that many more Londoners will join the Friends of the Velodrome and help the Trust through its difficult future years of fundraising and refurbishment. Thanks so much to everyone who volunteers and works for the Trust and the Velodrome, South London’s kids really, really benefit from what you do. http://www.savethevelodrome.com/home/
July 30, 2012
I love Trams. Not just because they are a smooth, quiet, environmentally clean and financially efficient mode of public transport, but also because I was so closely involved with introduction of CroydonTramlink during my time as Council Leader there. Tramlink starting running just after I left the Council to fight the GLA election in 2000, but I have always felt a huge affection towards it. I love it with a passion and want to see it grow and thrive. The ringing of the Trams bells makes me feel that I live in a 21st century, good place. It cheers me up. I also saw first hand now the tram and improved transport links it brought benefitted Croydon socially and economically at the time.
It was a real blow to regeneration prospects in Southwark when Boris Johnson got elected in 2008 and cancelled the plans for the new Cross River Tram to serve Southwark, Lambeth and Camden. As a project it had a very favourable assessment, and although difficult to install, once in, would have opened up the prospect of linking with the Croydon Trams and becoming the nucleus of a South London Tram network. Great for regeneration, the environment and socially fabulous too – being completely user friendly for the elderly, and disabled and anyone trying to lug kids and luggage around.
It was also painful then, that at the same time Boris Johnson cancelled the plans to extend the existing Croydon tram. The planned arm from Beckenham up the difficult hill to Crystal Palace rail and bus stations would have been up and running by now if the current Mayor hadn’t been quite so shortsighted.
So, it was with some pleasure that I went this morning to an event in Croydon to hear TfL announce that they are hoping to resurrect the proposal to extend the Tram up the hill to Crystal Palace! This would be fantastic, bringing the Tram within reach of my constituents in the southern tips of Southwark and Lambeth, and Upper Norwood Triangle district centre, near where I live. The second extension that Labour had planned – over to Sutton via Morden – was also back on the agenda, plus a new proposal for links to Bromley. Sadly, the plans to bring the Tram up the A23 to Streatham and down to Purley seem to have been overlooked – though I am determined to do more lobbying! (Never say never!)
What’s been lost is 4 years and lots of economic possibilities. Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark are currently struggling with high unemployment. The investment in Tram schemes would have undoubtedly been a big boost to investment and the local economy.
By strange coincidence, in the lift at City Hall on my way into my office after my sojourn to Croydon, I bumped into the developers proposing a rebuilding of the Croydon Whitgift centre. They had a large model of Croydon Town centre they were hauling in for a planning discussion. There’s a clear connection between the private sector’s willingness to invest in redevelopment and new jobs, and the public sector installing high capacity public transport infrastructure. As an example, a lack of transport links are the reason why the vast area of Battersea power station has rotted disgracefully for decades. Bringing an extended Tram network to South London can only have a positive impact on economy and social issues and we have a number of areas south of the river where the additional infrastructure would boost areas such as Elephant and Castle, Coldharbour and Camberwell. Let’s hope that if the Mayor finally has the good sense to reinstate the Tramlink extension to Crystal Palace the effects will speak for themselves and pave the way forward for more such developments.
July 16, 2012
The Mayor has enjoyed some jolly japes this week. Dancing across the newspapers with Arlene Phillips, keeping VIPs in stitches at the Shard opening event and recording his getaheadofthegames.com tannoy message for London’s transport system.
All good ‘posh boy’ fun. But at the serious, not the ‘bubbles in the champagne’ end of the job of Mayor there is an alarming crisis brewing. The Metropolitan Police Authority was abolished in January and the resource management of the Police in London now falls entirely to the Mayor’s office through the Mayors’ office of Crime and Policing (MoPaC). Joanne McCartney AM is tracking what is happening on Police numbers in London for the Labour group and tells me that the Met is missing 1,278 PCSOs at the moment across London. They are also thought to be facing a £148million funding shortfall and 567 of the gap in PCSOs are from Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs).
The huge budget shortfall the Met is facing next year, of £148million, is equivalent to 2,690 officers. This is down to government cuts of 20% to the police’s budget. We are deeply worried that our local police safer neighbourhood teams are over 500 Police Community Support Officers short. The Mayor has already cut 150 SNT sergeants and now we find out over 500 PCSOs have gone, this looks like he is hollowing out local police teams. Some boroughs have alarmingly high vacancy rates.
The funding crisis in the Met is also fuelling their urgent need to sell off underused properties and we can expect to see plans coming out for the Met’s building stock - http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/met-police-facing-tough-years-ahead-in-budget-crisis-7908596.html
Added to this growing financial crisis the MoPac has just ‘lost’ – did they jump or were they pushed?- two extremely competent, experienced and senior women staff – CEO and deputy – with no handover period. This adds to the crises of professional capacity caused by the loss of the METs extremely able Finance Director – all 3 were women. It’s not at all clear now whether the Met has any credible financial strategy to deal with the looming post Olympics budget crisis. But they may be reverting to an older and now unrealistic behaviour pattern and assuming that the Government will ‘bail them out’ at the last minute.
Faced with a shrinking police-force and the recession continuing, plus the anniversary of the riots we currently have no reassurance that the Police will be adequately funded nor that the Mayor is on the case of carrying the Met through its multiple crises. (Remember the Met is also struggling with racism allegations, phone tapping and press relations issues……) Many Police Officers are unhappy with proposed changes to their terms and conditions and we are hearing they are demoralised by the onslaught of problems being thrown at the force – just at the moment when they face the challenge of the Olympics.
The leadership vacuum is worsened by the obvious ignorance and unprofessionalism of the Mayors’s Deputy for Policing who in fact heads up MoPaC on the Mayor’s behalf. Stephen Greenhalgh has come disastrously unstuck in public already (remember the ITV report of his solo appearance at the Assembly’ Policing and Crime Committee- ”if there was any mercy the ground would have opened and swallowed him up”) and he could be regarded as a deeply foolish choice for the post.
At City Hall we are raising this appalling situation at Mayor’s Question Time and at the new Police and Crime Scrutiny Committee (which has no executive powers). It all doesn’t bode well for the installation of new elected Police Commissioners across the country.
Boris is responsible for the Police in London so, the bottom line is, what happens in a major City if the politician elected to run and support the Police is much more focussed on his jolly japes?
July 6, 2012