Grenfall Tower Tragedy

The tragic events of last Wednesday morning at Grenfall Tower couldn’t fail to move you, and my thoughts and best wishes are with both the victims, and the families of those who were hurt or killed in this national tragedy. Our thanks should also be given to those emergency services and volunteers who witnessed first hand this terrible story unfold, I hope they get all the aftercare and support they need.

As a local councillor, I and the rest of my colleagues in Lewisham Labour Group, are clear that we want to ensure the safety of our residents, either directly in Lewisham Homes or in partner Registered Social Landlords. Sir Steve Bullock – Mayor of Lewisham has been quick to task the relevant Executive Officers to move forward to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to mitigate risks. A letter detailing this actions is laid out below.


I and other councillors will be meeting with key Lewisham Council staff tonight to discuss further our response and to review any learning, as well as consider our political response — the UK needs to ensure that it upholds the highest standards of health and safety and in particular fire safety; there are going to be some serious questions from the public enquiry.

Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the Prime Minister Theresa May last week setting out his and the Parliamentary Labour Party initial questions about the Public Enquiry, support for families, and outlining the Labour Party’s gratitude to those Emergency Services who dealt with the aftermath.

How Lewisham is helping

Lewisham Council also hasn’t been inwards looking during this horrific incident, we sent a number of officers to Kensington and Chelsea to help their staff in running rest centres and supporting residents made homeless by the fire, and stand ready to offer further support along with our fellow boroughs across London. 

How you can help

Lewisham Council are also encouraging those residents who want to help to donate to the Grenfell Tower Appeal set up by the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation.

https://thekandcfoundation.com/donate/
https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/kandcfoundation/grenfell-tower

🍻 The Catford Beer Festival 🍻

A joint endeavour between the Catford Bridge Tavern, Lewisham Council and SE London CAMRA, will be held at the Catford Bridge Tavern from 23 to 25 June.

Cask ale is at the heart of every Beer festival, and there will be plenty to try however, we also will be celebrating great beer in other forms, and so the festival will be a real mixture of cask, keg, bottled and canned beers, with an emphasis on local breweries. The beer list is still a work in progress, but we are proud to be showcasing offerings from the following:

🍺 Bexley | Bianca Road | Brew Buddies | Brockley | Bullfinch | Canopy | Clarkshaws | Hop Stuff | Ignition | Kent | Kissingate | Old Kent Road | Orbit| Southwark | Three Sods | Villages

🍎 Cider fans will also be well catered for, with ten or more real ciders on offer, including a number from South London producers rarely available elsewhere.

🍴 Food will be available each day 

🎤 We also have entertainment on hand – 

Champion Hillbillies will be playing from 8pm on Friday 23rd; 

Saturday night will feature a DJ with psych vs soul vinyl set and,

Sunday a live band

🛒 Limited edition festival glasses and t-shirts will be available to purchase.

🕰We’re open each day from 12 to 11pm and look forward to seeing you there.

🚓🚑🚒 If you work for any of the Emergency Services (w/ID) then the Catford Beer Festival Team want to offer you  Free Beer as a little ‘thank you’ for looking after us all. More info http://www.twitter.com/CatfordBeerFest

£40,000 to live alone in London, new research finds

The 2017 ‘Rent Affordability Index’ research, carried out by nested.com, shows that the average salary for a singleton to live alone in London has soared to more than £40,000/yr, and a family of four need an income of more than £75,000/yr

The research shows that London is the 11th most expensive city in the world to live in, based on a square footage alone, we however know utilities and goods and services tend to be much, much, higher in UK and London in particular.

The report continues to identify that an individual earning The London Living Wage of £9.75hr would need to work 12hrs, every day of the year to reach this income threshold. 

When looking at city comparators across the U.K.- London unsurprisingly takes the stop spot, but what is shocking is the difference between London’s first place (£39,876.84) and 2nd  (£20,737.20) places is £19,139.64, almost 50% variance. 

Update: some have written to say that they disagree with this average rents for their area. Consistently, but only anecdotally, said they’re higher, in London or otherwise. That aside, this blog is focussed more about the loss of the life stage of living by yourself, whether as a transition army between professional sharer and starting a family, but equally about the financial trap individuals, who may have had a relationship breakdown, but can not afford to live alone. This will disproportionately affect women, and those less economically active.

In January 2014, Land Registry figures showed average house prices across the whole of England and Wales were £168,536, but in London the average was £409,881 (143% higher than the England/Wales rate). This house price gap has been growing ever larger, with London experiencing 10.9% growth over the last year, compared to 4.2% across England and Wales.

The same picture is apparent in the private rented sector, with the the England rental rate runnings at £665 a month in January 2014, compared to £1,516 a month in London (128% higher than the England rate). The differential in local authority rented property is less exaggerated but still significant, with average rent across England running at £79 a week in 2012/13, compared to £99 in London (25% higher than the England average).

London Weighting is not the answerUnison’s Bargaining Support Unit undertook a review for 2013/14 into London Weighting across seven sectors, this ‘top up’ is pitiful compared to the cost differential.

But what can Lewisham do?

Next week I’ll be attending my new role on Lewisham’s Poverty Taskforce, alongside Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trust for London, looking   This came off the back of work I undertook in my Lewisham Councillor Scrutiny role, 

The Committee will be pursuing the following issues:

  •  Tackling in-work poverty in the borough
  •  Tackling out-of-work poverty, namely for pensioners relying on state pensions
  •  Tackling poverty prevalent amongst young families struggling with a
    combination of housing and child care costs
  •  Ensuring residents are proactively informed about legislative changes that
    could impact both positively and negatively on their income and general
    financial welfare
  •  Staying up-to-date on legislative changes and advise on appropriate changes
    to the Council’s work accordingly.

2017 ‘Rent Affordability Index’

Table 1

Table 2


Lewisham’s Crime Survey

YOU can help make #Lewisham safer 
Visit: http://tinyurl.com/LewishamCrimeSurvey17

The Safer Lewisham Partnership wants to hear the views and experiences of crime and anti-social behaviour from communities right across Lewisham. The results of the Lewisham Crime Survey will be used by the partnership, which includes Lewisham Council, the police, probation and fire services, health, and voluntary groups, to help in setting its annual priorities and strategic action plan. 

My address to #Lewisham’s #HMD2017, @HolocaustUK

Retard.

Gypo .

Gay.

Bitch.

Jew.

…Words. 

We tell kids, ‘Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt you‘. 

Sorry mum, Sorry dad — you were wrong, in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. Words have power. They do hurt. 

They may not leave physical marks; but can leave scars much, much deeper. Their effects — are pernicious, with the ability to affect not just the one individual they’re aimed at, but they also have the power to polarise, 

objectify

 deny our differences 

… and even humanity.

We say things, in the playground, 

online, 

down the pub.

Thoughtless little comments,

– condemnations.

‘… it’s just banter though, innit’.

We need to be mindful, because what we choose to say and do, not only has power in that moment, but leaves a fingerprint on society, that adds — or diminishes. Words, are how we communicate and develop ideals as both individuals, and society.

The taking of power from one person, or people – all too often starts with words… then rapidly escalates: 

a shove, a push, a punch… 

a beating…

a murder…

a war….

genocide?

When we start, or let oppressive words and phrases slip unchecked and unchallenged in to the mainstream, it’s a first step – “chav”, “nasty little woman”, “extremist” — down a dark path.

“Locker room banter”, as one man recently called it, might seemingly get you ahead, but comes from pushing down on those around you, creating a culture of oppression and tyranny. But know this —

Donald,

its unsustainable. Good people exist everywhere, and we are the majority:

– good people when they realise what is going on, stand up for those who are being down trodden, and oppressed, 

– good people, and great leaders, don’t seek to oppress, they seek to raise others up, to enthuse, to inspire, to bring people together so we can collectively come up with solutions to humanities challenges.

We all have choices, we all have power. We can use our words, our actions, our power, to build a better world:

— a world where all its people can live side by side, ‘celebrating difference’

— a world where we commemorate lives lost in the atrocities of genocides, not by being passive observers in fine surroundings, 

but by honouring that memory, That loss, Through defending the good, by learning from the past, and by ensuring whenever we see oppression, we challenge it, and speak out.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Delivery may vary from text



 


Why the #WomensMarch was needed

It’s every mans responsibility to defend and extend the rights of women too

A picture of Cllr Walsh at the London Women's March holding a placard saying It’ll come to no surprise to anyone that I was supporting the Democratic Campaign for the White House, but Saturday’s #WomensMarch wasn’t “sore losers” grumbling around the world… it was feminists (of which I am one) saying – the newly elected leader of the free world has been shown to think, speak, act and behave, in a way that ‘oppresses’ women, but more crucially he hasn’t grown, he hasn’t learnt — and that’s not cool.

What he classes as ‘locker room banter’ – I and every sportsman I know, wouldn’t say. It’s vile & feral.

I think everyone had a story as to why they were moved to March over the weekend,and I summarised mine Ina quick little note to Facebook 


What I wasn’t expecting was the wave after wave of social media troll to come at me. The first of which was @OneBomb90 on twitter. I had never spoken to him before, they don’t know me, they simply chose to post this:


It’s this #everydaysexism that women and girls have to put up with, and the election of a misogynistic man to the most powerful job in the world has simply emboldened a vast swathe of hideous individuals to come out of the shadows. Men, like @OneBomb90 seem to think this kind of attitude and behaviour is now acceptable again, that the previous little furore into equality is now over; they’re back on top.

The taking of power from one person, all to often starts with words… then rapidly escalates, a shove, a push, a punch… a beating….a rape…..a murder…..genocide?

When we start, or let oppressive words (or interpretations) slip in to the mainstream, letting them go unchallenged, it’s a first step – “chav”, “gypo”, “gay”, “retard”- down a dark path.

If the Obama’s taught us anything, it was the best men and women, don’t take power, they give it. It was not the fact that Barack controlled the worlds largest super-power state that made them a powerful and a great Presidential couple… it was the fact he, and Michelle, had soft power, given not taken.  They didn’t use their influence to push people down, they actively sought to lift people up, enthuse, inspire and bring them on their journey. They understood the power of kindness, people wanted to be around them, and to give to them what they gave to others. The stark contrast between the leadership styles of these ‘back-to-back’ Presidents, is frankly ‘black and white’, (please forgive the obvious pun),  and in many ways exacerbates the issues of The 45th President of the United States. Women, The BAME Community/People’s of Color (the preferred American term) and LGBT+ Community were given a richer taste of equality under Obama, to snatch it back after its been given is going to be a bitter fight, and given the US changing demographics, if this remains a political battleground, it could be a while before the Republicans get another shot at the Presidency. 

So it seems like they’re going to be making the most of this one….The Trump Presidency has already picked a collection of Multi-Million and Billionaires to lead the Cabinet – and his response to criticism is:

“I want people that made a fortune!” Trump, Dec 2016

The result will most likely be the most neo-capitalist Government and policies the US has ever seen, unabated by House and Senate, both of which have Repulican majorities. And that raises concerns about whether fertility rights will come under attack in this new hard-right Government. Pro-Choice America reports he wants to completely ban abortions, save pregnancies through rape, incest and when a woman may die. To do it he’s going to nominate a pro-life Supreme Court Judge, whose affect will be felt long after a four or even eight year term.


Photos from #WomansMarch 

 

Apply for Community Chest Funding

£100,000 Community Chest funding each year for projects that will make a difference to the lives of Phoenix residents
Do you have an idea for a project that will help our community? Then the Community Chest could make it a reality.

Applications for 2017 funding are now open! Access your application form on the community chest web page here. Don’t forget to carefully read the criteria before completing your form.

Who can bid?

Anyone is welcome to bid. That includes Phoenix residents, local businesses and voluntary organisations. All you need to do is demonstrate that Phoenix residents support your idea and that the project will benefit people in our area.

Types of grant – There are two different types of grants to choose from:

•Smaller grants – up to £2,500

•Large grants – from £2,500 to a maximum of £20,000

Who decides?

All bids are taken to an evaluation panel which will include Phoenix residents, young people, Board members and external representatives from the local Ward Assemblies and Voluntary Sector.

The panel decides which small grant applications will be funded.

Large grants are awarded subject to a two stage process. At stage 1, the evaluation panel will review and score all applications. The highest scoring projects will proceed to stage 2 where they can promote their projects to residents, before tenants vote for their favourite projects to determine who will receive a share of the funding.

Find out more about our Community Chest 2016-17 projects.

Why is the Charing Cross-Hayes Train Line via #Catford / #Ladywell so bad? 

Ive been perplexed for a while… Why is the commute from Catford to Charing Cross so bad? …so I posed the following question to the operators:

The Hayes Line Service operated by South-Eastern, seems to be particularly susceptible to: cancellation, delays, technical failure, over- crowding, congestion, last minute platform changes (Waterloo East), inoperative on board announcement systems, & reductions in carriage numbers. Why is this? What performance measures are there of this services with regard to these issues and how well does the service fair against other routes.

Councillor Walsh, January 2017

Reply to Cllr Walsh’s Question Performance (delays and cancellations)
In brief, it’s fair to say that performance across all lines in the last quarter of 2017 has been nowhere near the standard we want to achieve or our passengers expect and the Hayes Line has been no exception.
Across all routes we have been affected by a series of infrastructure- related issues including signal and power circuit failure, landslips, weather and adhesion-related performance problems and over-running engineering works.
Over riding this are the on-going Thameslink related works at London Bridge we have reduced capacity at and on the approaches to the station by around 50%. This means that when things go wrong, our recovery options are limited meaning services have to be diverted to other London terminals.
However, while these issues are outside the train operator’s direct control a blame game is meaningless as passengers simply want a service they can rely upon and we and other train operators welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement earlier this month requiring Network Rail to better integrate its operation with ours to improve efficiency.
A performance improvement plan is in place which from Southeastern’s side includes:
 Recruiting more conductors and onboard managers
 100 new drivers in training
 More resources at our control centre
 Focus on right time railway by eliminating the minutes lost that add up to
knock on delays
 Recruited more platform staff to help passengers
 Working with Network Rail to remove temporary speed restrictions
 Working with Brighton University on a live information flow to be fed
directly into our systems to provide more up to date information
 Educating passengers on the best course of action to take when a
passenger falls ill on the train
 Invested in fleet improvements by replacing components likely to fail

From Network Rail’s side:

From research it has undertaken, they have established that the first eight miles out of Cannon Street and Charing Cross heading out of London is where over 40% of all delays occur. Accordingly, Network Rail has begun a 12-18 month programme to renew, upgrade or enhance those track, electrification and signalling equipment assets which are the main causes of those delays.
Network Rail is also increasing coverage of their rapid response teams who in some cases are now able to call on dedicated BTP resources to allow the use emergency blue lights to get to sites quicker to fix infrastructure failures or respond to trespass, vandalism or fatality type incidents.
In addition, Network Rail have set up remote condition monitoring on all critical junctions in the London area so asset performance can be monitored in real time and proactive intervention measures can be undertaken before components fail. It is estimated that without the remote condition monitoring, 45% more failures to the infrastructure would occur.

Technical failure

This is one area we can claim some success. Due to changes in maintenance schedules and the introduction of diagnostic software ion trains (which allows engineers to identify and replace a part before it fails) unit reliability across our fleet of Class 456/466 networkers (the trains used on the Hayes Line and other metro routes) is the best it’s ever been.
However, I do not doubt your experience and if you could give me dates and times you travelled when services were delayed or cancelled due to train failure, I’ll investigate and give an explanation.

Congestion

Since we were first awarded the franchise in 2006, passenger numbers have increased by around 40%, the bulk of this growth being in peak commuter numbers. And it’s fair to say that growth on this scale was not predicted by the Department for Transport when it set our franchise specification in 2002/3. To meet the demand, we are operating around 300 additional services (and the same is true for other operators serving the London Bridge corridor and Victoria).
Unfortunately, the track and signalling capacity has not increased concomitantly. Trains are bunched very close together at intervals of just a few minutes and even a small delay to one train will have a domino effect on other lines and services as trains stack up behind one another waiting for a platform slot.
This explains why train punctuality is always better at weekends and Bank Holidays when fewer services operate and routes are clearer.
The position will improve once the Thameslink programme works are completed in 2018.

Over crowding/reductions in carriage numbers

As explained, passenger numbers have increased by around 40% over the past ten years. However, save for the high speed trains from Ashford serving St. Pancras, (which arguably are of no benefit to commuters travelling from the borough of Lewisham), we have had no new rolling stock. We have done everything possible to mitigate this. Thanks to revised maintenance techniques the engineering team has managed to put more trains in passenger service than ever before. And we match capacity with demand by taking units off the less busy trains and add them to the busier ones. There is no overall reduction in carriage numbers and all available units are in passenger service.
The need is for more rolling stock and around 18 months ago we put a business case to the Department for Transport for additional resources and we look forward to a positive decision. MPs in our franchise area, including Heidi Alexander have lobbied the DfT on our behalf and representations from other stakeholders including Lewisham Council would be very welcome. 

Inoperative on-board announcement systems

Before trains leave the depot in the morning all on board systems including the PA system operated from the driver cab will be tested to ensure they are in working order. Drivers are also required to make announcements and this is particularly true when services are delayed or disrupted. However, I’ll be honest and say that some drivers are better at this than others.
If you could let me have examples including dates and times where on- board train announcements were either non-existent or inadequate I will investigate.

Last minute platform changes, Waterloo East

As explained above due to our operating more peak services to meet growing passenger demand, routes to London terminals are increasingly busy. This is particularly true of services to Cannon Street and Charing Cross where, due to the Thameslink works, performance has been affected by the loss of half the capacity at London Bridge.
During peak periods trains are very tightly bunched and if one service is delayed this will have a knock-on impact on others meaning they lose their platform slot and have to be diverted to another. The control room will make long line announcements giving as much notice as possible to passengers, but I appreciate this is inconvenient to those so affected.

Full Papers here

OPPORTUNITY: Great NEW Meanwhile Use Spaces

As local Councillor for #RusheyGreen in #Catford, I’ve been working with Lewisham Council to look at our high-streets and in particular regenerate Catford Town Centre, that process is now underway. 

As part of this work , The London Borough of Lewisham is inviting meanwhile proposals for a number of properties located in Catford town centre (see below for opportunities)


1) Thomas Lane Depot, Catford, SE6 4RZ

2) 17-18 Catford Broadway, SE6 4SN  

3) The Brookdale Club, Brookdale Road, Catford, SE6

These spaces are located within Catford town centre and offer wide possibilities for diverse, creative, commercial, residential and mixed-used occupation. The hope for these developments is to inject a new burst of life and creativity into some of Catford’s unused spaces, bringing new talent, opportunities & resources to the local area. Developments will help to catalyse the re-invigoration of Catford town centre, and meet Lewisham Council priorities for local regeneration, growth & investment.

A detailed information pack and Expression of Interest (EOI) form is available by request but MUST be returned electronically by the 7th February 2017.

Site visits are available on these dates:

· Friday 13th January: 2pm onwards

· Friday 20th January: all day

· Friday 27th January: all day

 Contact: Jessie Lea MRICS, Senior Programme Manager jessie.lea@lewisham.gov.uk | 0208 314 9256

New Years Message

On this the final day of 2016 we take a moment to look back upon the year, and begin to ponder the 12 months ahead.

The political bit:

2016 will undeniably go down in the Walsh family annals as a year of both Highs and Lows… from the triumphant wins of Sadiq Khan to the bitter blow that is Brexit, and whilst we might collectively agree and hope for a better 2017, the runes are not looking in our favour. So we are faced with a choice: to stand and lament the actions of an omni-shambles Tory Government, or take action. I choose the latter. We need an electable, well organised Labour Party, and we need to start winning again. We’ve just three and a bit years until the 2020 General election where WE MUST, for the sake of everything good & British (The NHS; Human, Civil & Workers Rights alongside salvaging Britain’s role in the World post-Brexit) be the Party that forms the next British Government.

The local bit:

Fiscally, for Lewisham the challenges and fallout from Tories in power mean ‘£1 in every three cut’, and its the Tory aspiration to increase that to ‘£1 in every two’ by 2020. We are a ‘low income, high needs borough’ (We’re not Westminster Kensington or Chelsea, with their huge business income and affluent populations, were pretty much their diametric opposite) the perverse cutting of Local Government funding, to no longer give additional support to poorer areas is reaching crunch point, we’re scrimping and saving, but still local Government is starving.

Hope:

2017, despite its challenges will have opportunities too, we’ll be developing a new #Catford Town Plan which I’m delighted to be involved with, living in and representing your community is a true honour – Catford/Rushey Green is a beautiful place that has just been ‘under-tended’, the new plans will hopefully revitalise and rejuvenate – it’s all very exciting!

Alongside this, I’ve been asked to continue my work from Scrutiny Committee and to now sit on a Poverty Task force for Lewisham, made up in part by some great British charities and ‘think-tanks’ in this area.

Lewisham’s LGBT Forum is also finally taking shape, I’ve commissioned a piece of research into several key areas of Lewisham LGBT Life that will be reporting back in late January, but ahead of LGBT History Month. Stay tuned.

Campaigning for the Bakerloo Line Extension, and ensuring it reaches to the South of the Borough, will be a key area of work for 2017, with a side project of lobbying for the DLR to be turned 24 hour from May 2021.

Finally:

It just leaves me to say a big thank you to all my family, friends and supporters for all the kindness patience and support you’ve given me over the last year, it is upon the backs of this love and support I can find the time, energy and strength to do what I can, but without you well… 🤷🏽‍♀️

Stay safe, Happy New Year and see you soon.

Cllr James-J Walsh