Archive for the ‘Local politics’ Category

Not elected

May 8, 2010

A very bad night for my political side and I believe for Lewisham politics in general too.

Thankfully I have a full life besides politics and plenty of things to keep me occupied, even too many.

I have no regrets, I remained myself throughout the election. People showed support and went out to vote for me, thanks to you all.

Unfortunately with the general elections on the same day many more people came out and voted for Labour, that’s Lewisham Central.

Labour is back in full control with over 40 Councillors, Lib Dems fortunately retained 12 out of 17  Councillors. The Greens were nearly wiped out, they lost five and go back to Darren Johnson alone. The Socialists of Telegraph Hill were instead completely wiped out and as I left they were recounting the votes of Grove Park, where one Tory may have won, but maybe not.

The wait, the signs

May 7, 2010

The general election results for Lewisham are in and there are no great surprises there.

Let’s start with some heart-felt congratulations to Heidi Alexander for winning in Lewisham East. Commiserations to our candidate Pete Pattison that did put up a great fight and would have made an excellent MP as well. The residents of Lewisham East were really spoilt for choice between two strong candidates of great quality.

The numbers are of great comfort and a great hope for the Council’s count that will start later today. In Lewisham East the swing was 6.4% from Labour to the Liberal Democrats.

But Lewisham Central is not anymore part of that constituency, we’re now in Lewisham Deptford and our MP is Joan Ruddock, re-elected with a smaller but still sizable majority.

Still, even here in Lewisham Deptford the vote swings 3.6% from Labour to Lib Dems.

Well done to Tam Langley for her sharp campaigning and this result, that given the national squeeze of Lib Dem vote crushed between the Labour and Tories tribes, and given the limited number of target wards within the constituency, is truly remarkable.

In Lewisham East Jim Dowd MP is also re-elected, again with a swing of the vote towards us Lib Dems, here this is 3.1%.

What does this mean for the Council and Mayoral result? That it’ll be very tight.

The count starts later on today and the full results will only be known later on tonight.

Thanks to all those that voted for us and those heroic volunteers that helped us fight this campaign, we truly worked you out, keep your fingers crossed.

Vote Lib Dem today!

May 6, 2010

It’s polling day, and in Lewisham Central there is an excellent Lib Dem team to vote.

Max Calò (me), Ingrid Chetram & Dave Edgerton.

For Parliament vote Tam Langley for Lewisham Deptford.

For mayor vote for Chris Maines, the real opportunity to change Lewisham for the better.

I’ll be out knocking on doors all day, I may see you at some point today.

Last minute hustings

May 5, 2010

Haven’t yet made up your mind about how to vote?

Come tonight Wednesday 5th May at Lewisham Bridge Primary School, Elmira Street, SE13 for the hustings organized by Action for Lewisham.

The event starts at 5:30pm and ends at 7pm.

Confirmed participants are:

– Richard Proctor (Lewisham People Before Profit)
– Paul Oakley (Conservatives)
– Ute Michel (Greens)
– Max Calò (Liberal Democrats)

Clegg boost to Lewisham Lib Dems campaign

May 4, 2010

Possibly the greatest Liberal gathering in Blackheath since Gladstone, yesterday’s visit of Nick Clegg was a very busy affair. Despite a miserable looking weather the people of Lewisham came out for Clegg, eventually outnumbering the members of the press of a factor of 4 to 1.

But instead of writing a full report I’ll just link to more impartial commentators that wrote about it soon after the event, when I was back on the road, knocking on doors.

The Blackheath Bugle explains why Clegg was in Lewisham, Dave Hill spoke with the man himself.

For posterity. The moment Nick Clegg comes face to face with the Lewisham Central Lib Dems. Councillor Dave Edgerton shakes hands with Clegg, Ingrid Chetram feels the energy, I took the photo.

Nick Clegg in Lewisham this Monday

April 30, 2010

This Monday 3rd May – 10 am – Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, Lewisham, SE3 0TJ.

Come and meet Nick Clegg with the Lewisham Lib Dems.

Fantasy school places found!

April 28, 2010

The primary school places shortage is starting to hit.

From the News Shopper:

by Kelly Smale
A COUNCIL is doubling the amount of reception children at a school despite it not having room for them.

Brindishe Community School, in Wantage Road, Lee, is being forced to take on 60 reception children in September rather than the usual 30.

Lewisham Council sent letters to parents offering places at the school even though the headteacher told the council it would not be possible to find room for them.

Read the rest of the article.

The article also mentions that the Council has “created” 510 such extra places, that’s 33 short of the extra need identified in February, a number that Council officers assumed was going to increase due to late submissions.

This Labour administration has failed to plan for the increase in numbers of primary school places. There was advance warning, there was an economic upturn, there were vacant sites that were potential opportunities for new schools.

Lewisham Labour wasted all these opportunities and now is inventing school places out of thin air.

Ferocious at hustings

April 22, 2010

Many thanks to LVIG for organizing yesterday’s hustings meeting, it was very well attended and the questions raised from the floor were excellent, I was very glad to be there representing the Lib Dems and explain what our plans for the future of Lewisham are.

I found myself surprisingly ferocious against the Lewisham Labour administration, but surely people could appreciate that there is some real distance between us and them and we’re not “all the same” at all.

A great day for campaigning

April 19, 2010

Good morning!
Another wonderful day without the noise of air traffic above our heads has just started.

I think that now that we savoured what life is without that constant noise we’ll be more careful before agreeing to more planes to fly above us next time new routes are proposed.
I find that quality of life has improved, in fact, as you may gather by the tone of my writing, I’m in a very good mood today.

I’m also of such mood because I’m enjoying canvassing, especially when the Lib Dems are so much on the up and people responds so well to our knocking on their doors. And this is quite visible in the amount of window posters and stakeboards that are going up in the ward.
Do you support us? Do you want a window poster or a garden stakeboard delivered to you? Just email me.

And if you want to help with leaflets and canvassing then join us, this week we are meeting every day from Monday to Friday outside the Kids Corner (corner between George Lane and Hither Green Lane). The appointment is for 6pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s instead for 5pm on Thursday.

It’s time for the final push to move Labour out and help in a new Lib Dem administration for Lewisham.
With your help it can be done.

Ladywell Hustings – Wednesday 21st April

April 15, 2010

The Ladywell Village Improvement Group (LVIG) is hosting a hustings for Council hopefuls, and since part of Ladywell falls within the borders of Lewisham Central there I will be.

The meeting takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 21 April at the St.Mary’s Centre on Ladywell Road, SE13 (also within Lewisham Central borders).

People are invited to submit questions in advance by emailing by midday of Tuesday 20th April.
At that point the submitted questions will be forwarded to the candidates so that they can prepare answers.

This electoral debate will follow a strict format with 5 minutes for each party to make a presentation speech and 2 minutes to answer to each of the questions, please note that the organizers want to focus on Ladywell and the Borough, not on national politics.
To make sure that your question is put forward please be also present at the meeting to read it aloud, submitting it in advance but missing the meeting may end up with the question being relegated down the agenda and possibly not being asked.
The event closes at 9pm and adjourns at the award winning Ladywell Tavern for further discussions.

For those more interested in national politics the Deptford Dame has also details of a parliamentary hustings for Lewisham Deptford taking place this Saturday April 17, 5pm, at the Utrophia Arts Project at Tanners Hill, SE8 4QD (entrance opposite the Royal George pub).
Our Lib Dem candidate Tam Langley will be there to impress you.


April 13, 2010

The letters in the South London Press are getting increasingly interesting, I’m preparing to some kind of response to my one that was published in the paper version of the SLP last Friday.

Complacency led to schools crisis

LEWISHAM Mayor Steve Bullock came to power promising a new secondary school for the north of the borough.

Eight years have passed and this mayor has not only been unable to deliver on that promise, he also created an even worse gap at primary school level for the whole of the borough!

The news that this year there are 543 more applications for reception at Lewisham’s primary schools than available places is just shocking (“‘Crisis’ after applications for reception places soar”, South London Press, March 26).

All of our primaries will be overcrowded and hundreds of children will have to be crammed into portable buildings, music rooms and who knows what other unsuitable venue.

This was avoidable. The number of children in a borough varies over the years but we always know exactly how many are born in each year and can therefore make a fairly accurate ballpark estimate of the needs five years ahead.

Warnings about sharp increases in numbers had indeed been issued and decisive action was therefore required.

Reading the council’s schools strategy papers, one can find no trace of any meaningful effort to try to provide enough school places for those numbers of children.

That’s why we are where we are.


As a community campaigner who has been long aware of the shortcomings of this administration I am not surprised, but as a father of a child about to start school in Lewisham I feel a special kind of anger at this news.

Max Calò

Lewisham Central candidate

Liberal Democrats

Meet Ingrid Chetram

March 29, 2010

Ingrid Chetram is another of the Lib Dem candidates for Lewisham Central.

I was born in Guyana, South America and moved to London when I was 24. I am now the proud mother of 3 teenage sons and work for a homeless day centre in Deptford SE8.

My experiences can colourfully embroider a tapestry like none you have probably seen before:

I have 2 severely disabled brothers, both with speech impairments and one who is profoundly deaf. Therefore I have worked quite closely with Social Services and some service commissioners around care and disabled provision. They were both living with me for ten years and recently moved into registered care.

I studied Media at Goldsmiths University, have a Diploma in Person Centred Counselling and more recently a Masters Degree in Clinical and Public Health Aspects of Addictions.

My first job was as a secondary school teacher in Guyana for 8 years, then in London I worked for the NHS for 5 years and then at various Rehabilitation Centres; keyworking or counselling those who were homeless, disadvantaged, vulnerable, dependent on alcohol and or drugs, those with mental health unwellness, offenders, ex offenders, victims and perpetrators of domestic and sexual abuse and a plehtora of other issues.” I feel that with my combined personal and work experiences and being a mother of 3 growing sons in Lewisham, I can confidently represent Lewisham Central as a Councillor, as I am aware of the variety of issues affecting local life. I really want to share my knowledge and skills in assisting my fellow residents to access as much of the services as possbile and at the same time work for better and improved facilities in our borough.

Lewisham primary schools short of 543 reception level places

March 26, 2010

6.16 As of the end of January 2010 cut-off date, 3699 First Preference applications had been received on time for the 3156 Reception places available.

It’s impossible to exaggerate the impact of the numbers revealed in the Mayor and Cabinet papers of 24th February (link to document) and that the South London Press reports about today.
The sobering news is that next year Lewisham will be short of 543 reception level primary school places.

If we weren’t so close to an election the Mayor would have to be forced out of his seat for his inability to face up to the most basic needs of the community he is supposed to look after.

This report to the Mayor is full of explanations about why we are where we are, but on the side of the administration there are no excuses, the fact is that they saw it coming, and didn’t rise to the challenge.

Over 500 children and families will suffer greatly. A whole generation of Lewisham’s children will receive a reduced service, overcrowded classes, not enough teacher’s attention, insufficient play area. All of this at that most crucial stage of their education. As I said, the consequences are immense.

Lewisham Labour leader standing against transparency

March 4, 2010

At last Council meeting held this Monday 1st march Cllr Alan Hall, who is leader of the Labour group at Council, did a serious bit of grand-standing against Liberal Democrat disclosure of Councillor’s expenses.

His high sounding speech explained to all mortals that the £1300 taxi bill of Councillor Sylvia Scott was thoroughly justified by the fact that she is Vice Chair of the Council and as such wears a “Chain of Office” and you wouldn’t want to see someone wearing a Mayoral Chain going up and down buses.

I’m not sure I buy the argument in the first place, Ken Livingston never minded using buses, Boris Johnson cycles, and anyway Councillors receive an allowance that they can spend on cabs if that’s the way they want to travel for duties on those occasions that are not normally covered with extra expenses.

But there is another reason why Councillor Hall grandstanding is completely void of merit, and that’s that we are talking of the 2008/09 expenses, when the Vice Chair of the Council was Cllr Smith (who claimed no expenses at all), not Cllr Scott.

Words fail me

February 22, 2010

Lewisham Council in South London, whose chief executive Barry Quirk earns £188,000-a-year, spent £10,635 for six senior managers to visit £200-a-night Rowhill Grange Hotel & Utopia Spa in Kent to discuss ‘strategic leadership, management delivery and ongoing service improvements’.

Read more

Labour’s got to go! Labour’s got to go! Labour’s got to go!
They really think they own the Town Hall and all its content.

Lewisham Central Labour Party Activists lying barefacedly

February 20, 2010

I was going home earlier today and saw some Labour Party canvassers, just by my doorstep.  and after introducing myself I asked them:

“What’s your line about the war? What do you say when they ask you about the Iraq war?”

“Joan Ruddock voted against!” Was the assertive reply.

“No she didn’t, she abstained” I replied.

“No she was against, we checked!” They said nodding as one.

And so I went home and checked Joan Ruddock’s voting record online, and what do I find? Only confirmation of what I already knew, that the historical fact is that at the crucial vote for or against military action she was…absent!

And so I ran back, and told them, and guess what they said to me?

“Go away!”

It’s regeneration, but not as we know it

January 29, 2010

Lewisham Labour decided that ahead of elections this historic parade must be demolished because it will 'make a difference' and also 'create a good impression'.

Mayor Bullock decided that the once fine Victorian row of shops that now stands in front of Lewisham Police Station will be demolished and the site will be “landscaped”. Drunks and those waiting to sign on the offenders’ register (another town centre feature we must thank Lewisham Labour for) will have a nicer place to hang about.

I must confess that I have a soft spot for that parade, I always thought that although unassuming and unremarkable it still is positively handsome and provides much of what ‘sense of place’ exists around Lewisham Centre. Looking at it one immediately understands something about Lewisham’s past, in fact as this period photo shows it was an element of the original market square.
But now where once were shops and prosperity only a boarded up ghost of a better past stands, and despite the fact that the Council’s plans for regeneration of the town centre may fail to materialize for who knows how long, the Mayor’s decided that he’s seen enough of it and it must go, now, or better, in the next few months, which incidentally coincides with next elections. Activity, activity!

From the Mercury:

Lewisham’s deputy mayor Heidi Alexander said:
“Whilst the big redevelopment of the town centre is taking longer than expected due to the economic climate, it’s important that in the interim we create a good impression in Lewisham.

“The temporary landscaping which the council have agreed to fund are going to be make a huge difference to how the town centre looks and feels.”

Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?
Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?

The Lewisham Gateway development received outline planning consent in April 2006!
With a buoyant housing market and a planning consent in the pocket works should have started soon after. If nothing’s happened since the fault is entirely of Mayor Bullock and his unquestioning Lewisham Labour group. The housing crisis only arrived 2 years after planning consent was given.

Labour promise of £200m of private investment to redevelop the area has been replaced by a £200k bill for the tax payer to demolish what was once a fine row of shops.
Elections are coming and Lewisham Labour have nothing to show for the years of announcements and the millions of public money spent on the fabled Lewisham Gateway project. That parade is a corpse and must be removed from the scene.

Open waste discussion

January 13, 2010

Lewisham Council’s Head of Environment wrote an extremely interesting guest post published today on Brockley Central.
There he outlines the thinking behind Lewisham’s waste strategy and also announces the just introduced and excellent mattresses recycling scheme:

To use the service, residents can obtain a special sticker from any local Lewisham library or from Lewisham Council’s Access Point in Laurence House, Catford. The sticker is then placed on the mattress.

The mattress will be collected on the same day as scheduled refuse and recycling collections. Residents just need to make sure the mattress, preferably with sticker attached, is placed near their refuse bin the evening before collection day.

As in his post he specifically referred to the benefits of incineration vs. landfilling vs. biomass and so on I interacted with a comment asking him about kitchen waste:

Thanks Nigel. Great initiative for the mattresses. And of course kudos for the openness.

Nigel, you are probably aware that I’ve investigated issues around recycling of kitchen waste (what the Daily Mail elegantly calls the slop bag).
According to answers I received from Council (thanks) it appears that kitchen waste amounts to about 30% of collected household waste, it costs £1.2m in gate fees at SELCHP and being largely made out of water it hampers the efficiency of the SELCHP with a loss of potential earning from the sale of energy produced on site of about £2.5m.
I had suggested that those money could be used to pay for a composting service, generating a good number of local jobs too but at last Council was told that there are contractual and legal barriers that prevent a switch from incineration to composting but no detail of what these barriers are was given.
Can you please explain what these barriers are and what proposals are you considering to deal with kitchen waste in the future?

The reply reiterates the invitation to meet and discuss the proposal I received as part of the reply to my question about it at last Council meeting:

Hi Max, I was interested in your proposals and I think (hope!) we offerred to sit down with you and talk through some of the assumptions. As for future plans on Kitchen Waste, my understanding is that we’ve shown support to Greenwich in their bid to build a AD plant in the borough (there’s a bit more detail in the waste Strategy, I think). The really big issue for Lewisham is our fragile waste infrastructure (we could really do with our own Waste Transfer Station, that would also help bump-up our recycling rates), so our future plans will need to involve close work with our neighbouring boroughs, particularly Southwark and Greenwich. But please take up the offer to come and discuss your ideas with us. Nigel

In the past hour me and Nigel got in touch and this meeting is now being arranged.

If you want to know more about my proposal just see the posts tagged SELCHP.

Nigel Tyrell also has a blog that in unofficial way talks about waste management in Lewisham:

The Love Lewisham blog is managed by Nigel Tyrell, Head of Environment for the London Borough of Lewisham. It is mainly an area for updating friends of Lewisham’s Environmental services (but I might stray away from the ‘day job’ every now and then!). I hope you find it useful. Please note that the views expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the views of the London Borough of Lewisham.

Catford to be nationalized behind closed doors

December 14, 2009

Just as we celebrate the liberation of the expenses’ list Lewisham Council’s bosses instead decide that the papers for this week’s extraordinary Full Council Meeting regarding the proposal to buy the Catford Centre for redevelopment are all confidential i.e. not for you and me.
This is all we’re allowed to know:

It is recommended that under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Part 1 of Schedule 12(A) of the Act, as amended by the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (Amendments) (England) Regulations 2006 and the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information:-

I’m really not happy about this.
There may be reasons to keep discussions confidential, but there are all sorts of meetings at Council where they can flesh out deals without the public and the press nosing around, and this is particularly true for boroughs that adopted the Executive Mayor system like Lewisham.
The wrap of confidentiality at Full Council meeting means that if any member of the Council has an objection to the deal he or she will be unable to tell us why.

Victory on Councillors’ expenses transparency

December 12, 2009

From this week’s News Shopper:

A Council spokesman said:
“Papers published ahead of the standards committee did include a full list of councillors’ allowances and claims for expenses.
“However, these were not included on our website due to an oversight. We are grateful to the News Shopper for drawing this to our attention and details are now available online.

Can you smell it? It’s the sweet smell of victory!
After having been available from this blog as online exclusive the Councillors’ expenses list is now finally available from the Council’s own website (appendix 2 to item 6 at the bottom of this page).

Thanks to all those that signed the petition and joined the Facebook group. We didn’t get the official Council Spokesman’s thanks but we can surely pat each other on the back.
A big thanks goes to the News Shopper for picking up the story and helping us to make Lewisham Council more transparent.

Catford to be nationalized

December 7, 2009

Lewisham Council has apologized to the people of Catford for the Plessy Road Retail Island, Eros House and Milford Towers.
“What were we thinking?” said a tearful Town Hall spokesperson.

“We’ll make it all up now, we have a plan”
continued the crazy-eyed spokesperson laughing “we buy Catford Centre and make it beautiful!”

This high rise high density housing high quality development will be presented at a special Council meeting on 16th December.

If you want to know more then consult the Catford Centre Action Plan, for ease of consultation the document has been divided into 8 different parts. As if that wasn’t enough all possible options for development are listed and a reading key to understand which statements are true and which are false is provided separately.
I’m not making this up, here’s an extract from chapter 4.7, they could have just written that they want to increase density and build higher, but everyone can do that, here’s how you write that proper if you work for Lewisham Planning:

4.7.1 Options considered
The following housing options were put
1. Shop-top housing
A. Promote housing above ground floor shops (shop-top housing)
B. Do not promote/permit shop-top housing

2. Density
A. Support taller buildings and more intensive development
B. Maintain current density/housing levels
C. Promote housing as part of the development of opportunity sites
D. Ensure that the redevelopment of existing housing results in the overall provision of the same or more housing on the site

4.7.2 Preferred option
The preferred option is to proceed with additions 1A, 2A, 2C and 2D.