Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekend in South Kent, CCC, Lakanal and the Elephant, Middlesex University and Hibs Pre-Season continues!

Last weekend I was in Broadstairs with a stop off in Whitstable for the Beer Festival with Alderman Ian Driver!!
Lots of good beer on offer especially Whitstable Oyster Stout but had one bad one a Raspberry Beer which although a Gold Medal Winner tasted as bad as it sounds!!
I babysitted on the second night and we went on the Dymchurch, Hythe and Romney Miniature Railway again. We went back to Dungeness which really does fascinate me and I am beginning to like it more every time I go there, desolate but with a very strange fascination for me!
We had another good Camberwell Community Council in the week with another excellent presentation from Living Streets and Jeremy Leach on clear and achievable improvements in the area that could have a dramatic effect in Camberwell so definitely worth pursuing!!

Initial findings from the Lakanal Fire were released and the Council had some bad press especially from the BBC for taking so long to provide the Fire Brigade with information. Lots of speculation and lots of questions still to be answered!
Looks like most of the tenants will be rehoused by the end of today which is a good thing!!
The signing of the Elephant and Castle deal with Lend Lease is still not sorted with promises of a deal by the end of the year!
Despite the obvious difficulties we all have to hope that a deal is struck but the negotiations cant go on forever so we need to get on with it!! A more open engagement with the Labour Group would help all of us understand what is going on and keep everyone on track and on board and I am hopeful that the Executive have heard that message loud and clear from The last Council Assembly!!
I have spent most of the week at the Middlesex University Campus at Hendon running an IOSH Managing Safely Course which went well although a fair bit of travelling each week during the week!
I have been setting up a University Health & Safety Office Facebook Site as well as a Camberwell Labour Councillors site and Twitter of course and came upon this great picture which I have seen before! The best Health & Safety Sign ever!! Bar none!!!
Hibs completed their mini tour of Ireland with a poor 1-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers in Dublin after a 2-0 victory over Glentoran in Belfast! Lots of the ball and losing to a sucker punch is a bad sign but the final 3 pre-season games against Preston North End at home tomorrow and two away games at Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers should blow any remaining cobwebs away and hopefully get everyone focused for the start of the season !!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Swine Flu, Scrutiny A and Hibs prepare for new Season!

A lot of concern at the University and in the Country as Swine Flu cases increase and I am getting some of the questions about coming in or staying away.
I am asking Departments to draw up plans for the Autumn and a possible large scale outbreak with large numbers of staff absent!
Hard to get the balance right and to be prepared without being alarmist! I am not handing our face masks yet!!
I am Chairing Scrutiny A tonight and interviewing Wayne Chance, the newish Southwark Borough Commander. I am impressed with him so far and he seems a people person rather than a bureaucrat so I am confident he will do well!
We hope to move the Employment and Enterprise Scrutiny along to a near conclusion tonight and finish it off at the next Meeting.
Hibs have started their pre-season friendlies in Scotland and will face Shamrock Rovers at their new Stadium, then Preston North End at Easter Road and two away games at Blackburn and Bolton. Three youngsters in from Everton, Man U and Falkirk and quite a few older players out the door so looks like an even younger squad for the new season so perhaps a few defeats first before they find their feet but maybe a good strategy in the longer term?
My cousin Brian, a lifelong Shamrock Rovers fan is having the time of his life with the new Stadium and the vsiit of Real Madrid tonight and Hibs next Monday!!
Would loved to have been thre next week but just cant get away but have asked Brian to get me a programme as a souvenir!

Friday, July 17, 2009

OSC, Elephant, Danny and Lib Dem dirty tricks, and the Pied Piper Relief back in Camberwell!!!

We had a long Overview and Scrutiny Meeting on Monday commencing with an update on the Lakanal situation.
The main debate was on the Elephant and Castle following on from last week's Council Assembly and we just have to hope that the deal with be signed asap and that we can get on with it!
Sandra and I went to see Danny yesterday and we was very pleased with the Southwark News article from yesterday. Rumours are about threat the Lib Dems are setting up some stooges to write letters as concerned residents asking that Danny should not receive his allowance as he is in hospital!! They are just unbelievable are n't they!! Funnily enough Danny gave Sandra and I surgery case work as one of his nurses is having problems with the council!!
I has some quotes on the Bermondsey stabbing, Dog control areas and the CCTV Emergency Points following Lind Manchester's almost deranged performance at Council Assembly!!
I have another campaign to remount the Pipe Piper Relief by Willi Soukop, a Czech sculptor in 1959 and located on the Elmington T&RA Hall until it's demolition.
I would like ti to be mounted free standing in Camberwell Green and unveiled on the 13th November, 50 years to the day when it was originally unveiled by Sir Isaac Hayward, Leader of the London County Council! That would be fantastic if we can do it!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Council Assembly, Lakanal tribute and Danny returns!!!

Council Assembly took place last night and a potentially contentious meeting went through with some heated discussion but relatively calm.
The Labour Group laid flowers at the foot of Lakanal House to remember the dead of that tragic event and all parties spoke well praising the Fire, Police and Ambulance Services, and I praised the Council staff, Housing officers, Community Wardens and others for their efforts well and above the call of duty!
The BBC cameras were there to film and interview and disappointing the Mayor refuse their request to film our tributes to the dead and the people who worked so hard to save them and others. Cant understand why the Lib Dems and Tories did not allow it!

There was cross party support for an Independent Inquiry into all of the events before during and after the fire and a commitment to being open and inclusive and getting some of the answers that residents of Lakanal want and need!

Much of the debate on the night was around the Elephant and Castle but again a clear cross-party commitment to making the regeneration happen for the benefit of local people and I hope that the deal with land lease will be done and dusted in the very near future. I argued for more communication and clarity with key Labour Group Members which was necessary to ensure political consensus around this absolutely vital regeneration project! It has been and will always be far too important for party political squabbling to jeopardise it's success and all parties are absolutely clear on that!
The dispicable attempts of the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition to force Danny McCarthy to resign were fiunally put to bed last night!
The Tories, after once again promising to support us, were about to renage on their word, so we simply wheeled Danny in out of his hospital bed!! As se of those opposite came over to shake his hand and make small talk I reminded him of the phenomenon of crocodiles who as they eat their pray often trigger the tear ducts into shedding a tear!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Lakanal Fire Public Meeting - Traumatic but important!

Last night I attended a packed meeting of Lakanal residents in the Sceaux Gardens Tenants Hall, organised by the local T&RA in response to the council's apparent refusal to hold one on the night!
The Meeting was packed and an overspill meeting was heard in the Town Hall with Council Officers apparently "surprised" at the numbers that turned up?
Harriet Harman MP and Val Shawcross AM attended, along with Labour Group Leader Peter John, Ian, Alison and Sandra Brunswick Ward Councillors and me as Community Safety Spokesperson (Ian also has Housing Brief in Labour Group).
I was disappointed not to see any Executive Members at the meeting but have since been informed that the Leader and Deputy Leader took advice from the tenants reps who were apparently keen for the meeting not to be politician focussed which I of course understand. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding as I think that it would have been good for them to have attended and observed as we did and show a degree of solidarity with the tenants but I cant criticise them for taking and following the reps advice! None of the politicians present made any comments on the night which was exactly the right thing to do but I think that our presence was appreciated!
A very interested observer was Sir Ken Knight, the Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor who will be Chairing the Inquiry. The Chief Executive and other Officers, Government Officials along with Senior Fire and Police Officers made up the rest of the top table!
The people at the meeting were clearly very distressed and many of them seriously traumatised so it was never going to be an easy meeting to manage but over the three hours there were a lot of traumatic evidence given and many good questions asked which I am sure will greatly assist the Inquiry.
Whilst a number of detailed questions were asked of the Fire Brigade and Police response to the incident the overwhelming view was one of thanks for their efforts and for rescuing a significant number of people from the building who would have otherwise died!
Many questions were also raised over Council Policy of high rise blocks, their evacuation, the Decent Homes works carried out in recent years and previous plans to demolish the block.
In such early stages it would be wrong for me to express any views on any of these matters as it will take a lot more investigating before many of these questions can be satisfactorily answered!
I was concerned at some of the comments about the Council's response and am very keen to follow up issues over lack of money for food and clothing, no proper meals in Emergency Shelters, sending people to alternative homes with just an address and then some finding filthy unfurnished properties, lack of one to one advice and lack of counselling to name but a few of the apparent Emergency Response shortcomings and I think we need answers and the Council need to learn from the mistakes! We will be keeping a very close eye on this to monitor how the Lakanal residents are treated in the short and long term and to date the verdict is very mixed althought I think that there was overall agreement that the Council and the Emergency Services were committed to doing the right thing !!
The Labour Group will be putting down an Emergency Motion tomorrow evening at Council Assembly simply expressing our horror and grief at the tragic event and promising to do everything we can to find out what caused it and what we can learn from it and to ensure that it never happens again. Rumours are the Lib Dems are trying to stop us doing it and putting pressure on the Tories to vote it down!! Cant imagine what they are thinking about?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Tragic Lakanal Fire, Lib Dem attempts to remove Danny and fun at Myatts Field!Fletcher gives fee back for Hibs Youth Development!

At the forefront of my attention this weekend has been the tragic fire in Lakanal House on the Sceaux Gardens Estate on Friday early evening! I was the local Councillor for the Sceux Gardens Estate from 1994 until 2002 when the Ward boundaries changed so know the Estates and Lakanal House very well.
The death of six people, including three young children is horrific and my thoughts go out to the Francisquini, Hickaman and Odoaka families and friends!
Clearly there will be lots to investigate and consider before any sensible conclusions can be drawn but I am sure that we will discuss the terrible events of last Friday at Wednesday's Council Assembly understanding the responsibility we have to prevent such a thing happening again!
I must comment on how excellent as ever the emergency services were, in particular the Firefighters who worked so hard to save lives on Friday as they do every single day of the year!!
They truly are inspirational!
My close friend Councillor Danny McCarthy has been in hospital for a number of months recovering from a major operation with another to follow in a few weeks. Danny was twice Mayor of Southwark and first elected in 1982 making him once of the longest serving Councillors in Southwark.
I have been visiting him regularly at St. Thomas' and he has always been bright and chatty, though clearly in pain as he regularly calls in a nurse for a quick gulp of morphine!!
You would think that all politicians in Southwark would support him and wish him well for a speedy recovery would n't you? Well apparently not with the Liberal Democrats likely to vote on Wednesday for Danny to be removed and force a By-Election in the final months of this Administration!!
The Tories look likely to abstain which is still not good enough and they should vote with us but they at least have some sense of honour and decency unlike their bedfellow who are totally contemptible as trying to oust Danny who has done more in his time in the office that the rest of them put together x 10!!! Just when you think the Lib Dems cant get any lower this happens and I cant wait to make my feelings clear about them in the Chambler of Wednesday...what a load of scumbags!!! I have a feeling that this may be a little too low even for some Lib Dem Members who may disappear out of the Chamber during the debate!
I spent a lot of the weekend at the fantastically newly refurbished Myatts Field Park in Camberwell with Clair and kids, stopping off to play the Piano in Camberwell Green Park on the way!

Stephen Fletcher signed for Burnley for around £3M and gave back half his signing-on fee, around £125,ooo back to Hibs for Youth Development so well done Stephen and good luck in the Premiership and with Scotland!!