Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lib Dem/Tory Open Government, Harriet Harman for Deputy Leader and Jason Scotland for Hibs and ? and Chris Killen signs for Celtic!!

Today's Southwark News is covering Council Plans to move to Bermondsey.... Shock horror!!!! The decision was taken weeks ago and passed through OSC despite our objections.! They also seem unclear on the location.. obviously not looking at the SE1 Forum Website or even my Blog!!! This is a bad decsion, taken in haste and tying up the Council in a very expensive deal and I am afraid, SN, that it is too late for indignant Editorials!!!
The Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party GC met this week to endorse Harriet as our candidate for the Deputy Leadership and then gave a very strong performance on the Newsnight Hustings, I thought that Harriet and Hilary Benn were the best two performers by far!
I note that Lib Dem blogger is attacking my comrade Cllr. Mary Foukes on her assertion that a Lib Dem abstained in the Mayoral Vote recently. I can confirm that he definately abstained as I was closely watching him as he had abstained at the previous Council Assembly and I thought that he might do it again. Interestingly the Council Officers marked him down as a yes vote giving a 32 to 30 final vote but it was in reality 31-30!! It did not make any difference so we let it go but if it had been a vital vote we would have demanded a recount!!

Hibs are apparently interested in St. Johnstone and Trinidad and Tobago Striker Jason Scotland, not before time!!! He is clearly the best striker in the first division and played very well in both Cup competitions this season. He would be a very good buy and work well with new signing Clayton Donaldson. Hope we get him!!!
More bad news is that Chris Killen has signed for Celtic! Hibs could face a Celtic team next seasion with 5 Hibs players Caldwell, Brown, Miller, Riordan and now Killen all playing!! I fear some very heavy defeats at the hands of our old players next season!!
I still dont understand the decision of John Collins not to offer Killen more than a 1 year deal and can only assume the rumours ar true that Killen was one of the "troublemakers" identified by Collins and booted out as a result? I think that this is a mistake and we should have tried to keep him although he is now quoted as describing Hibs as a "stepping stone" which may be true but is a bit ungrateful considering the way in which he was supported by the club through a serious injury... but heho! that is football for you!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thoughts of Chairman Kim, Southwark News, the Town Crier and a Bank Holiday Weekend in Southwark(mainly!)

Southwark Deputy Leader and Tory Leader Kim Humphries was given a full double page spread in Southwark News last week to express his thoughts on all and sundry, inlcuding the merits and demerits of individual Labour Councillors! This follows on from the Council leader, Lib Dem Nick Stanton, having the same opportunity the week before.

the glorious "100 Days of Change" is now over and now we are back to the grim reality of a Housing service which does not meet the needs of tenants. I was called by a tenant with a roof leak a number of times over the weekend as he was unable to contact the Call Centre or get through on any Emergency number! This is the reality that needs to be faced and if Kim, who is not doubt "capable" can make it better then I will be the first of applaud him but lets wait until we see real long term embedded change for the better before we have any more Champagne Receptions and fancy key rings? In truth I dont really blame Kim, Toby, Lewis or any Tory for the present situation as they were given their positions of power by a weak and incompetent bunch of Lib Dems and you really cant blame them for taking it up! All the responsibility lies with the Lib Dems and I am sure that they will play the political price!
Southwark News also decided to tear into us over our position on the new Mayor but in reality are mising a key point! Althoguh the focus of our anger is the one reported incident which was completely outrageous, Bob Skelly has continued to treat the labour Group with complete comtempt since he has been elected and now appreas to treat Southwark residents likewise if his recent performance at OSC is anything to go by!

Strangely I have found him helpful and knowledgeable on the educatioin Scrutiny but once into a more "political" forum he seems switch on the alter ego and I am afraid that you can not expect respect from a group of people that you have treated with contempt for years, it just does not work like that!!! I can happily separate my political differences with opposition members, and of course very occassionally my own colleages!, but still respect them as individuals and for the positon that they hold. It is a simple rule that not everyoine in the Council appears to understand!
My good friend, Town Crier Peter Moore, was in the news after the BNP used his image in Election material and he has condemned them publically and demanded that they never use his image again! Good for you Peter!!!!
I had an excellent weekend with my sister and especially enjoyed Othello at the Globe with Eamonn Walker as Othello and Tim McInnerry ( both above) playing Iago both brilliant in the leading roles!!
It was good to spend most of the weeeknd in Southwark enjoying what it had to offer and even bumped into my Glorious Leader, Peter John, in the Tate Modern.

I also must comment of the fact that the Tate Modern was packed on Sunday, Othello was a sell out of course and even the Dulwich Gallery Exhibition from the Ufizzi had a sizeable queue!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Most Boring Council Meeting of the year??, Citrine and a weekend of Culture(ish!!)

It was apparently the most boring Council Assembly of the Year according to Tory Whip Lewis Robinson but I actually quite enjoyed it!!
There were over 40 votes taken on the night and the Labour Group lost most of them but stil clearly won on points as the lib dem/Tory Administation did everything they could to limit the Labour Group and the residents of Southwark from having an effective voice in the Town Hall! I wont go through the detail as it no more than we have come to expect from this pathetic bunch but even although they were all bored by the meeting, they suddenly all perked up as they voted through pay rises for Councillors three times higher than what they are giving Southwark council staff so not all bad then was it??
I did manage to refer to Citrine's ABC of Chairmanship as the standard we should aspire to but they were not interested and now have in the Council constitution a "delete all.." clause which will make an absolute mockery of the motions process in all future Council Assembly's.
My Ward colleague, Chris Page, was excellent in his new role of Labour Group Chief Whip whilst his predecessor, Paul Bates, lay ill in a hospital bed with appendicitis.. get well soon Paul!!
The dynamic of the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition is interesting with Lewis Robinson taking centre stage last night, a strewd move as Lewis can make the most unreasonable thing almost sound ok (almost but not quite Lewis!!)and he is well liked and respected on the Labour benches.
Nick Stanton gave glowing tributes to his team, many of whom have never uttered a single word in the Council Chamber since the Election in May 2006 and many of his own backbenchers looked even more unhappy with him, for the 4th time in a row, one of them broke the Lib Dem/Tory Whip last night!!! How long can this go on????

I am waiting for my sister to arrive for the weekend and have the following planned:
300 at the IMAX tonight(looks tremendous and I am a big fan of the B movie original 300 Spartans, saw it at school!)
Lion King with my friend's 6 year old daughter and her class mate on Saturday, saw it 2 yeasr ago and a couple of shorterned versions at DisneyLand Paris but it is Shauna's 6th birthday on Tuesday and she wanted to go with her friend! It is another excellent show!
Othello at the Globe on Sunday- I have never seen a version of Othello in the Theater or on TV so am looking forward to it. I am taking Bernadette to lunch in the restaurant beforehand so should be good as long as it does not rain !!
And Dulwich Picture Gallery on Bank Holiday Monday so I hope the weather holds up. There is a special Renaissance Exhibition which brings back memories of my summers in Florence when I was at school and Involved ina Town twinning between Edinburgh and Florence.
An unusual weekend for me with no politics, apart from the 2 surgeries on Saturday, and no football as the season is over!!!!
Sad to see that Liverpol could not repeat their exploits of 2 years ago losing 2-1 to AC Milan, who probably were the best side in Europe over the Season, knocking out both Celtic and Man Utd. on route to the Cup.
The real story is the incridible 5 European champions League Winners Medals for Paulo Maldini! I cant see that being beaten! I actually saw Maldini play at the san Siro stadium with Gullitt, Van Basten and Rikyard in 1991!!! Best defender of his generation in the World!
I have now recieved my 07th Heaven DVD and am currently wearing it out on the TV at home!!! Dont want to wait 16 years for another day like that but great memories!!!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

CCTV, Community Wardens, War Memorials and The Labour Group AGM. Hibs rebuild starts!!!

On the Politics Show on Sunday there was a discussion on the extended usage of CCTV with senior police officer from the Home Counties questioning their usage.
I am clear that CCTV is very popular amongst inner city residents and has had a real impact in identifying criminals as well as reassuring the public in Town Centres.
Southwark was actually mentioned as being one of the Pilots of a new Home Office scheme with better cameras and the rather gimmicky element of being able to communicate with perpetrators directly. The Labour Group recently saw a demonstration of these amazing 150+ Megapixel cameras (think of that against your own 5-8 megapixel at home!) with 180 degree viewing and an ability to focus in and still record the bigger pictures. We saw pictures from Camberwell and Upton Park for an evening West Ham game which were very impressive.
I have asked a number of times for the old sun bleached and battered CCTV signs around camberwell to be replaced buit to date no action has been taken. Can we really expect people to have confidence in the cameras working and being maintained when we cant even maintain the signs? I actually used the Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) who asked whether a passanger who notices coffee cup stains on his tray would have confidence that the aeroplane engines were being properly maintained?

I recieved an electronic copy of the Camberwell Community Wardens Newsletter which was very welcome as they face yet another review and reorganisation. TheLib Dems are really in a bit of a hole with this as they would not hear any criticism or discuss any alternative views on their role yet in their heart of hearts know that they are not working and they are not good value for money at £6M per year. What needs to happen is a root and branch reorganisation but I feel that we will get more tinkering with more money frittered away until they see snese and work with us on an effective and efficient service working in conjunction with the Police SNT's, espcially the PCSO's.
The Southwark News and Southwark Life did good pieces on the new Camberwell Green War Memorial and I am hopeful for wider press and media coverage as we move towards the unveiling as I thing that it is such a poignant and human interest story. A Guardian reporter is speaking to me today about it so I hope that he is interested in running the story.
I also think that when we give Freedom of the Borough to all VC recipients with Southwark associations we can get some media interest and support?
I recall visiting Corporal Sidney Bates VC Grave at Bayeux in Normandy and reading his inscription from his family "A TRUE CAMBERWELL LAD"

This got me started on investigating other Southwark VC's and we erected a plaque in the Town Hall to commemorate them. The plaque is to be extended after finding some more receipients with Southwark connections and moved to a better position in the Town Hall hopefully in time for the Freedom of the Borough Ceremony.
Below is the Commonwealth war Graves commission entry for Sidney Bates and a picture of his grave at Bayeux.
Sidney Bates VC

In fact I have a relative who was a VC Recipient, an ex-Celtic footballer who died in 1959 (the year I was born!) and was know in his Lanarkshire Home Town simply as "VC". He is in the only Scottish part of my lineage through my maternal Grandmothers family , the rest being 100% first or second generation Irish!
His VC is now on display in Edinburgh Castle and some yeasr agoo my mum was allowed to see the medal and read the associated documents, I hope to do that sometime soon.
Below is a link to a page of Willie Angus:
Willie Angus VC

Last night we had the second part of the Labour Group AGM and I was nominated for a Chair of Scrutiny and Labour Spokesperson on Community Safety again. I was also nominated as vice Chair of the Camberwell Community Council. All that remains now is for the Constitutional Council Assembly on Wednesday evening!

On the Hibs front John Collins is apparently trialling 12 players, including players from Benin, Nigeria, France and Brazil! and has his eyes on yet another Austrian, 26 year old forward Arno Kozelsky (pictured below) from DSV Leoben. At least he seems to be wearing the right colour. Hibs are also linked with Charleton's Islandic Striker Rurik Gisalon(pictured below). Rumours around that John is looking at 3 Goalkeepers, including 6foot 7inches Chelsea Reserve Goalkeeper Yves Makaba-Makalamby(pictured below and possibly as a loan deal?), and may sign one very shortly!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Constitutional Council, Shadow Executive, Scottish Olympic Team and Hibs end the season with a win over Celtic!!!

The Annual Constitutional Council Assembly is on Wednesday with our new Mayor and lots of Lib Dem/Tory proposed amendments to the Constitution aimed at further curtailing proper debate and discussion and making the ruling Executive's lives easier!! oh... and by the way increasing their allowances by around 3 times what they plan to pay the Council staff!!!! They really do hate deputations and having to listen to criticism face to face so are trying to stop deputations coming to Council Assembly by diverting them to Community Councils and Executive. In the words of our glorious new Mayor "How much longer do we have to listen to this mob ranting at us?" ... not much longer if his chums get their way on Wednesday!
I was interviewed by the Labour Group Officers for a place on the Shadow Executive and tonight at the Labour Group AGM Part 2 recommendations will go to the vote. It is really good to see a number of the new members put themselves roward for positions within the Labour Group and we know already that we will have a new Deputy Leader is Susan Elan Jones, a new Chair in Mark Glover and a new Chief Whip with my Ward colleague Chris Page taking over from Paul Bates. I fully expect more changes tonight and see that as a very positive and healthy position, especially as juxtaposed against the Lib Dems wheer the same old tired bunch remain in control despite serious and continued unrest amongst their members!!

On the wider politics front the first Hustings took place for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in Coventry and this will be the only political story over the next 6 weeks to discover who will be Brown's Deputy. Harriet looks good in the nominations and the polls so I am positive about her chances of being the eventual winner!
In Scotland the Clown Prince, err...sorry First Minister, Alex Salmon, has got on with the key issues facing Scotland by suggesting that we have a seperate team for the Olympics!! I am sure that he will eventually turn his attention to improving health, education, housing and social care in Scotland after he has secured a seperate team for the Eurovision Song Contest as well??

Hibs ended a very poor end to the season with a 2-1 victory over a weakened Champions Celtic side but dad was there and said that the Hibs fans went away happy and even cheered Scott Brown on his last game before joining ... Celtic! He helped his cause by scoring with a flying header !(pictured above). The close season gives John Collins time to dismantle and rebuild for what will be a very interesting new season with a very new team. I will console myself over the summer with the CIS Cup Final victory DVD which I have just ordered to add to my collection!
Roll on the new season!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

St. Michael's and All Angels Academy and strife at the Mayor Making

Yesterday I attended a consultation on the proposed transformation of Archbishop Michael Ramsay C of E Secondary School to an Academy which will be renamed back to it's original name St.Michael's and All Angels, matching the name of the adjacent Church.
The name has been a bit controversial as there is already a St. Michael's Academy but I can confirm that in the Hall where the meeting was held there was a plaque on the wall with the original name so it makes absolute sense to go back to that title.
The meeting was well attended with residents reps, community services and arts providers, church representatives, Community Wardens and the Police . My main point was to keep the consultation process alive throughout the redevelopment and beyong as AMR did not handle this part particularly well during their work in developing a "Communiversity".
It is a really exciting project and we also have the Sacred Heart RC School redevelopment and transfer into an Academy to deal with.
The sponsors are ARK and Toc H charities and I actually visited Talbot House "Toc H" during a visit to World war 1 sites in Eiper (Ypes) Belgium a few years ago.
The story of Toc H can be accessed through the following link: The Story of Toc H
The link below gives more info on the proposal to create the new Academy:
St. Michael's and All Angels Church of England Academy Camberwell

The Mayor Making was a bit farcical with the outgoing Mayor turning up over half an hour late for the Ceremony. There were a large amount of demonstrators outside and we of course nominated Tayo Situ for Mayor as opposed to Bob Skelly. There was even a pathetic attempt to change the order of business and have the Mayor Making ahead of the Honorary Alderman, presumably in the vain attempt to stop us leaving but sense prevailed and the original order was reinstated.Although one Lib Dem did abstain the other Lib Dems who suggested that they may vote for Tayo or abstain were "whipped" back into line and they won the vote by the odd vote! At that point we really had no alternative but to walk out as we could not be hypocritical about the decision and sit there politely so we left and joined the protesters where Tayo and peter spoke to the crowd.
Our protests wil not end there and it will be a difficult year in the Council Chamber!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bullying, Violent Crime, Community Impact and Scott Brown signs for Celtic!!!!!

I attended the Executive Meeting last night to present the Report on Bullying which seemed to be well recieved. I have enjoyed my year as a Scrutiny Chair and hope to continue to look at Youth Provision in the borough as a major scrutiny in the forthcoming year.
I stayed around for another couple of items, one being on Serious Violent Crime Action Plans. The Executive refused the Labour Group request to develop a Strategic approach and instead have produced an Action Plan which is essentially a long list of current and future actions.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of resources being put into Community Safety and clearly a lot of good work going on but I am not clear how it all fits together and what the desired outcomes are, apart for the obvious implied objective of reducing serious violent crime in the borough. This is the serious weaknes in not having a strategic view of the problem and I dont think that it is good enough in a borough which has now taken over at the top of the violent crime league table in London as well as my Ward, Camberwell Green, being one of the worst five wards in London!!!
They were keen to emphasis the 2% reduction in reported violent crime (apart from murders which has obviously gone up this year!!) ignoring the high absolute numbers and no explaination about why we are the worst. I have been tol d that domestic violence and gang violence acount for most of the figures but why are we worse in Southwark? I dont see any hint of analysis and as a result no strategic policy just a long list of initiatives which may or may not be effective and which may or may not focus on the key problem areas!!!
The link to the action plan is below:

There was a late item on the Community Impact Analysis of the move to the London Bridge Offices as requested by OSC and as I suspected a very flimsy document was welcomed by Toby Eckersley as being "comprehensive" and agreed on the nod with no discussion! Surprise Surprise!! It is the first time that I have seen a Community Impact Assessment done with no involvement of the Community apart from a passing reference to a 2 year old staff transport survey!! It's conclusion was that there would be no adverse impact to the communities of Walworth, Camberwell and Bermondsey from the movement of large numbers of staff out of the areas! I am sure that the Report must have been knocked out in an afternoon by an Officer and I was going to ask whether the paper could be folded up to reform a fag packet!!

Sitting through an entire Executive you are struck by the complete lack of in depth discussion on anything and meetings over within a couple of hours.
I recall when we ran a "trial" Cabinet system from 2000-2002 where we had real debate and where we had a member from the other 2 parties at the table to engage and debate every item. Now the Leader of the Labour Group has to sit with the public and put his hand up hoping that the Chair will allow him to speak!!! Liberal Democracy in action!!!! I notice that the Lib Dem/Tory proposed amendments to the Constitution as all about further limiting the opportunity for questioning and debate!!! They are quite unbelieveable!!!!
Mayor Making tonight so I am expecting firework at St. Giles!!!

Bad news yesterday with Scott Brown signing for Celtic for £4.4M! Bad for Scottish football as he, and Scotland, would have gained from experience in the Premiership, and bad for Hibs as he will now be used against us alongside other Hibs plars Miller, Riordan and Caldwell with another group of ex-Hibs palyers turning out for Rangers, Murray and Thompson!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Civic Awards, a new Mayor, Gordon Brown on the Campaign trail, Wembley Stadium and Scott Brown ready to leave Hibs!

On Saturday I attended a celebration of 10 years of the Southwark Civic Awards at the Globe Theatre. I was a bit concerned that there was no Awards Ceremony this year but it was explained that they they are reviewing the current criteria and will be kicking it off again for next year which I suppose makes sense?
I am a supporter of recognising Officers, Residents and Councillors exceptional service to the borough and speaking of which I will attending the Mayor Making and Alderman Meeting at St. Giles Church on Wednesday. I am not sure about the idea of parading along Camberwell Church Street to the Town Hall for the Reception though and the current weather conditions dont bode well?
It may be a difficult meeting as the Lib Dems and Tories are putting forward a controversial candidate and we will be supporting Tayo Situ as Mayor.
My colleague Mary Foukes has said all that needs to be said in her Blog which you can see at the link below:
The question is "will all of the Lib Dems and Tories support their candidate?" It will be an interesting evening!! There are clearly a growing number of Lib Dems who are very unhappy so hopeully at least a few of them will choose this Wednesday so show how they feel and make a real change! I hope that at least some of them will decide to take it!!

Gordon Brown hit the Campaign trail this weekend and I was actually very impressed with his interview on Andrew Marr's show "Sunday AM" where he seemed more relaxed and confident that I have seen him for some time. It is interesting to see that the opinion polls are picking up as people see him at work and laying out his distinctive agenda which I think is very positive and inclusive which has to be a good thing.
More on the website link below:

In terms of the Deputy Leadership fight it looks like Harriet, Peter Hain, Hazel Blears and Alan Johnston have the 45 backers required with Hilary Benn and John Cruddas "confident" of getting the numbers so it looks like they will all be in for the first round!
According to a new Yougov poll of over 2000 voters, a leadership team of Harriet Harman and Gordon Brown are best placed to win the next election for Labour. Fourteen per cent of all voters said that electing Harriet as Deputy to Gordon Brown would make them more likely to vote Labour at the next General Election, beating Hilary Benn and Peter Hain into second place (both on 10%). None of the other candidates got out of single figures.
Harrriet's website is below:
I do think that this election process will be a positive thing for the Labour Party and hope that both Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman emerge victorious on more open and engaging slate with less spin doctors and special advisors and more discussion with the Party and with the public !!
Yesterday I went to Wembley to see the FA Vase Final between AFC Totten and Truro City. I really liked the Bobby Moore statue and one of the London Met Academics was actuallyinvolved in it's design!
The Stadium is very impressive and we had a good vantage point high up in the stands. In fact our tickets even had a health warning about the steep incline which seemed a bit ott but probably an insurance cover?
In was in fact a very enjoyable match in front of over 27,000 with Truro City running out comfortable and well deserved winners in the end! Stadium design seems to have learned from previous mistakes and the more enclosed shape does concentrate the noise. those 27,000 made a lot of noise! There were problems with toilets flooding and coffee machines not working but I suppose better to find out problems then than next Saturday. It will be impressive with a capacity crowd!!!
Whilst I could not bring myself to watch the Eurovision Song Contest I did catch the last part of the voting with Cyprus voting for Greece, Norway voting for Sweden,Ukraine voting for Russia and Bosnia voting for Serbia(the eventual winners and certainly no ABBA!!!).
It all tells us nothing about the state of songwriting in Europe and lots about tribalism with no Western European Country finishing in the Top Ten!!! Maybe dreams of true European Integration are as far away as ever???? British entry Scootch (above) tried very hard to get the "null point!" badge of honour but were scuppered by Ireland and Malta who dragged them up to second from bottom!! I fear that a succesful recording career does not beckon for them or for the winners (outside of the no doubt strong Serbian record buying market?) for that matter!!
On the Hibs front it looks like Middlesborough are closing in on Scott Brown so I imagine that will go through pretty soon, the only question is for how much, more that £5M will be ok but probably not the £10M that Everton were talking about? With the seaon ending next week John Collins can get on with the dismantling of the current team and the building of an entirely new team. Rumours still abound that Murphy and Whittaker(apparently a £2M bid is already on the table from Blackburn Rovers with Birmingham City also in the running?) will be joining him in the Premiership next season with the possibility of Michael Stewart and Chris Killen also playing in that League come August!
Apparently John is putting in bids for Hull City's Under -21 Scottish International Striker Darryl Duffy as well as 21 year old Austrian defender Patrick Osoinik from Admira Modling Wacker, the same team that Collins bought "wonder kid" Elias Wagner on a pre-contract agreement!
The new Hibs team seems to be shaping up well but of course non of us have the foggiest idea how these new players will gel together and how they will settle to the Scottish Premier League?
The real "Holy Grail" for Collins must be new Keeper and I hope he plans to spend some of the cash coming in to buy a decent one rather that the "journeymen" who have been broiught in over the past few seasons!