At the by-election on 15 October, Octavia Lamb (Labour Party) was elected as a councillor for South Camberwell. Southwark Green Party wishes her well in her new role.
Southwark Green Party will continue to work with local campaign groups to hold the Labour-led council to account. We call on the council
to stop pushing out residents to boost developers’ profits,
to abandon plans to bulldoze Southwark Woods,
to take Southwark’s investments out of dirty fossil fuel companies, and
to clean up our air, providing health information to residents and lobbying TfL to provide cleaner buses and better walking and cycling infrastructure.
Please keep telling us your concerns about the area as well as your ideas to make it a better place to live. You can contact Eleanor directly by sending an email to eleanor.margolies [@] southwark.greenparty.org.uk
On 6 October, the council’s own Planning Committee passed an application from Southwark Council to clear 10 acres of urban woodland in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries to create 5,000 spaces for new burials.
This wild oasis in our borough, a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, is a “green lung” in south London and a sanctuary for wildlife. Local residents have been fighting to save it for more than a year, and Save Southwark Woods’ petition has so far been signed by nearly 10,000 people, including 1,500 in the surrounding Peckham Rye ward. The planning application itself received more than 600 individual objections – no easy feat, considering how difficult it can be to register an objection on the council’s website.
There were no supporters of the application present when campaigners put forward objections to the Planning Committee on 6 October. Calls for a public consultation had previously been rejected, although the council had agreed to a review by its Overview and Scrutiny Committee. This committee was chaired by Gavin Edwards, Labour councillor for Peckham Rye. Unsurprisingly, the committee found in favour of the council.
Southwark Green Party has supported the SSW campaign from the start. We are deeply concerned by the council’s decision to destroy the woods, which are much valued by walkers and local residents. The council is ignoring the pledge in its own New Southwark Plan “to provide more green infrastructure and to promote opportunities for healthy activities”.
The planned works will cause air, water and noise pollution, with the excavation and reprocessing in the woods of 4,000 tonnes of illegally dumped construction material, and the transporting of a further 8,000 tonnes of rubble off site over many months.
Labour councillors seem determined to press ahead with these disastrous plans despite strong opposition from people in the area. According to Save Southwark Woods, Peckham Rye Ward Councillor Vikki Mills ‘ignored the opposition of more than 1,500 residents in her ward to back these destructive plans’. (More about the Planning Committee’s decision can be found here.)
This Thursday, there will be a by-election in South Camberwell, the ward that council leader Peter John also represents. In the 2014 elections, Southwark Green Party came second in this ward with more votes than the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives combined. We are now calling on voters across the political divide to support our candidate, Eleanor Margolies, who has a strong track record on fighting to protect trees and green spaces in Southwark. A Green vote in South Camberwell is a vote for woodlands, for wildlife and for local democracy.
The number of people made homeless by soaring rents and private landlords and lettings agents has quadrupled in the last five years, according to figures obtained by Southwark Green Party.
A Freedom of Information request shows that 200 people sought help from Southwark Council homelessness services after their private rented tenancy came to an end in 2014. In 2009, the council saw just 45 such cases.
Eleanor Margolies, the Green Party candidate in the forthcoming South Camberwell by-election, said:
“These figures show the scale of the housing crisis in Southwark. That the number of families facing homelessness has quadrupled in five years is a damning indictment of both the government and Southwark Council’s lack of action to deal with the problem of evictions and soaring rents.
“Because of a lack of social housing, Southwark residents are being housed in hostels in outer London. Southwark Council need to embark on a programme of mandatory licensing for landlords, and instead of knocking down social housing they should invest in genuinely affordable homes. We need to tackle the issue of soaring rents and insecure tenancies – or the housing crisis in the borough will only get worse.”
Margolies pointed to constituents she has spoken to, illustrating the scale of the problem: “I have seen people with children renting one room in an ex-council flat at £700 per month, sharing kitchens and bathrooms with strangers.
“A mother and child I know have been given a single room in a B & B with no cooking facilities. It’s now a three hour commute to school. The mother works at a combination of several low-paid jobs, and is unable to get home between them. They are both under unbearable strain and the child is now struggling at school.
“The situation is dire, and radical action is needed now to improve the situation for those in the borough.”
Southwark Green Party is proposing a five point plan to help tackle the housing crisis:
• Adopt mandatory licensing on private landlords, as in Newham.
• Support the creation of a social lettings agency to drive rogue lettings agents out of business.
• Invest in housing enforcement to hold landlords and lettings agents to their legal duties.
• Stop abolishing social housing and instead refurbish estates to bring hundreds of homes back into use.
• Reject any planning application that does not have at least half of any proposed housing held at social rent levels.
“Tackling the housing crisis is the top issue in Southwark. It’s the top issue in London, and it should be top of the political agenda. Electing a Green councillor in Southwark will mean electing a councillor who will make housing a top priority.” Margolies said.
A councillor-worthy performance at the hustings on 8 October saw Green Party candidate Eleanor Margolies’ odds for winning the by-election slashed, while Labour party candidate Octavia Lamb struggled to make an impact.
All five candidates in the South Camberwell by-election participated in the well-attended hustings at the Albrighton Centre, expertly chaired by Linda Craig. The candidates responded to questions from the audience about the Dulwich Hamlet FC grounds, the future of Peckham Rye station and what they would do first, once elected.
It was pleasing to see that all candidates had good knowledge of local issues and that there was common ground on many themes. Fascinatingly, even Conservative candidate Chris Mottau spoke out in favour of divesting Southwark Council’s pension funds from fossil fuels, after Eleanor Margolies raised this in her opening presentation. Octavia Lamb, last to speak on this subject, could only offer that she “personally” supported the aims of Fossil Free Southwark, but did not say how she would persuade her Labour colleagues at the council, who have so far ignored calls for divestment.
Liberal Democrat candidate Ben Maitland and the All People’s Party’s Stephen Govier repeatedly stated that Southwark Council does not need another Labour councillor, while Chris Mottau compared the Labour dominance on the council to a one-party state. Eleanor Margolies quoted a report from the Electoral Reform Society raising concern about the integrity of councils where one party holds on to power for a long time. She cited the achievements of Green councillors on councils in Lambeth and Lewisham, as well as the Green Party’s success in getting Southwark to pay its staff London Living Wage – highlighting the difference that one Green councillor can make.
Throughout the evening there was no convincing argument from Octavia Lamb to persuade the audience of the need to elect another Labour councillor on top of the 47 already there. She stated that she was passionate about casework, and that it was important to consult with the community. When the council’s track record on communication with citizens was raised, she could only concede that there was room for improvement, while Eleanor Margolies offered several constructive suggestions on how Southwark Council could provide a better service.
South Camberwell has an interesting by-election ahead. These hustings have certainly given voters something to think about.
Text by Remco van der Stoep. Photos by Nick Hooper.
Sian Berry came to South Camberwell to support Dulwich Hamlet FC on Saturday 3 October. Proceeds from the Pay What You Like match supported Walworth-based Cooltan Arts and the British Heart Foundation.
FREE PUBLIC HUSTINGS
7.30pm Thursday 8 October 2015
Albrighton Community Centre, East Dulwich Estate SE22 8AH
(opposite Sainsburys on Dog Kennel Hill)
A chance to meet the candidates, question them on the issues that matter most to you, and hear what they have to say.
Chaired by Linda Craig.
South Camberwell is represented by three Councillors, one of whom has stepped down, triggering a by-election on Thursday 15 October. Our Councillors are a crucial part of the local community and represent it on the Council.
The Council is responsible for local services including schools, housing, roads, social services, waste and recycling, the protection of our built and natural environment, leisure facilities and libraries.
Cleaner, Greener Safer (CGS) is a Southwark Council scheme that allows residents to suggest projects. Local councillors draw up a shortlist with advice from council officers. In the past the scheme has funded things like cycle lockers, gardens and street lighting, as well as the beautiful wolf and sheep sculptures of Grove Lane.
On the East Dulwich Estate, we applied for cycle lockers because this…
…was getting on our nerves, costing us money we didn’t have and putting people off cycling. We’re not allowed to keep bikes on balconies and there’s no room inside the flats – and if you’ve got nowhere to keep a bike at home, how can you cycle to school/work/shops/friends? The result of our application was 20 of these:
They cost £30 a year to rent, to cover maintenance costs. With no advertising, they were rented within a couple of weeks of installation – and residents keep asking for more spaces.
It’s quite simple to apply to the CGS – you just need a good idea and the support of local residents. Full details here.
If you have a good idea for the CGS but you’re not sure how to apply, then Pete Wood can help. He’s working with Southwark Cyclists, but you don’t have to be a cyclist to get his advice!
In fact, applying to the Cleaner Greener Safer fund might be particularly relevant if you don’t cycle at the moment but have an idea that would make it possible for you to start cycling.
Some good news! Up till now, residents of South Camberwell have had to go to the Walworth Road or Peckham to find a Southwark Mobile Recycling Centre. It’s a journey that’s a little off-putting if you have bulky items to dispose of (or want to buy a compost bin) and are using public transport. Now the Mobile Recycling Centre is coming within walking distance – to Dog Kennel Hill. Full details below.
Meanwhile, ‘normal’ household recycling services still need to be improved across Southwark … better information, reliable collections, food waste composting on estates. But more on that in another post!
Mobile Recycling Centre
Every first Wednesday from October to December, the Mobile Recycling Centre will be parked up outside Sainsbury’s Dog Kennel Hill between 10am and 1pm:
Wed 7 October
Wed 4 November
Wed 2 December
The Mobile Recycling Centre is a service, funded by the London Waste and Recycling Board, to make it easier for residents to recycle materials that cannot be collected as part of a normal household recycling collection and accepts the following items:
Textiles and shoes
Small electrical appliances
Wood and timber
Lightbulbs of any kind
These items are then brought to Southwark’s Integrated Waste Management Facility where they are then sent to reprocessors for recycling.
It also dispenses biodegradable garden waste sacks, clear recycling sacks and sells subsidised compost bins and soil conditioner.
The Mobile Recycling Centre does not accept household recycling or general waste.