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More buses on the way? 14 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Transport.
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More buses on the way?

George Crozier at a bus stop in Forest Hill

George looking serious at the bus stop outside The Capitol

Some promising news from TfL for our campaign against bus overcrowding. They are ‘exploring the possibility’ of providing extra services.

As I wrote back in March, we asked Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, who is Deputy Chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee, to take up overcrowding on the 176 and the 185 with TfL, and whether there is a need for additional buses at peak times. This followed a survey which identified the two routes as among the ten most overcrowded in the whole of London.

Caroline and her office energetically took up the issue and, via them, we have received this reply from TfL (my bolding):

I would like to assure Mr Crozier that we regularly monitor demand on the bus network in a variety of ways, including surveys (we have conducted around 7000 in the last three years alone), use of Oyster card data, and reviews of customer and stakeholder correspondence. Although complaints about overcrowding typically comprise fewer than 5 per cent of the total comments we receive about buses, we take all such complaints seriously and address them in a variety of ways including changes to frequencies and bus sizes as well as measures to improve reliability.

We have now investigated the reports of over-crowding on routes 176 and 185, and I can confirm that both routes do look well used. We are therefore exploring the possibility of providing an additional journey or journeys on route 176, although I must emphasise that this proposal is provisional, and is subject to confirmation of costs from the operator and final approval. We are currently reviewing the existing passenger loading data for route 185 in closer detail, and depending on the outcome we will look at undertaking additional surveys or proposing a change in capacity if required. I will be happy to provide an update as soon as further information is available.

I’ve asked for clarification on likely timescale, both for the next update from TfL and for the actual provision of any additional services, and will post that here as soon as I hear anything.

Fingers crossed!

Lib Dems stand up for leaseholders and tenants of rogue landlords 14 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Housing, Uncategorized.
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This story appeared in the March – April 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Private tenants and leaseholders would be able to rely on Lewisham Council’s support to resolve problems with landlords and freeholders under proposals put forward by the Lewisham Liberal Democrat council group.

Rogue landlords providing sub-standard accommodation would be targeted, with the aim of improving their conduct and the quality of housing stock available.

National funds for Lewisham

Liberal Democrats in Government have made tackling rogue landlords a national priority. In addition to tough new legislation the Government has provided £6.5 million for local enforcement work. Lewisham will receive £125,000 to enable it to set up a programme to tackle rogue landlords, and employ a dedicated enforcement officer and paralegal, to increase the number of prosecutions.

“Supporting the many vulnerable tenants in private rented accommodation is an important role for the Council, ” says Lib Dem Forest Hill councillor Alex Feakes. “For years Lewisham’s Labour Council have failed to take it seriously enough. With this extra funding from national government they now have no excuse.”

Council leaseholders

Previous work on the council led by Cllr Feakes has seen a shift in Lewisham Council’s relationship with its many leaseholders, though there is still much more to do to ensure that those who own property in a block controlled by the Council are fairly treated.

“Decades of underinvestment and short-termism in repairs by the Council has left many leaseholders facing huge bills for communal works,” says Cllr Feakes. “No one disputes that leaseholders should pay their fair share, but concerns remain about quality, timeliness and payment mechanisms. There seems to be an assumption that anyone with a leasehold must be well-off and can pay any demand put to them!”

Abuses of rogue landlords

These include:
* Harassment of tenants
* Illegal evictions
* Illegal fees charged
* Overcrowding
* Boilers with no gas certificate
* Illegal electricity supplies
* Failure to make repairs
* Refusal to pay back deposits

‘Wipe out criminal landlords’ plea

Duwayne Brooks, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, has vowed to be a champion of vulnerable tenants if he is elected as the borough’s Mayor in May.

“For 40 years Labour has failed to deal with rogue landlords behaving criminally,” said Duwayne. “We need a system that protects and supports our vulnerable tenants. If elected, I will introduce a mandatory borough-wide licensing scheme, similar to the one in place in Newham, to wipe out these rogue criminal landlords.”

Kirkdale crossing – the fight goes on 14 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Streets, Sydenham.
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This story appeared in the March – April 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Kirkdale

Kirkdale on a Sunday – but try getting across at rush hour

Campaigners have vowed that the fight to get a pedestrian crossing on Kirkdale will continue, despite being told by Lewisham Council that it does not meet the Council’s ‘predetermined ratio’.

In 2012 local residents collected a 400 signature petition calling for a safe crossing near the junction with Thorpewood Avenue, which was handed to the Town Hall by Councillor Alex Feakes. While a speed indicator has now been placed on the downhill side of Kirkdale, many children from Eliot Bank and Kelvin Grove primary schools still need to cross Kirkdale every day without a zebra or pelican crossing.

Alex Feakes said: “It is very disappointing that the Council do not consider it worthwhile to put a pedestrian crossing or even a school crossing patrol officer on this busy stretch of road. We will continue making the case and campaigning for a safe crossing to be installed.”

Honor Oak Park work continues 14 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Transport, Uncategorized.
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IMG_0955

Works to improve access to Honor Oak Park station continue.

For anyone wondering why this is taking so long, here is a letter I received from Network Rail in early February in response to an enquiry:

Dear Mr Crozier

Lifts at Honor Oak Park Station

Thank you for your correspondence below in regards to lifts at this station.

Unfortunately we have come across some major issues with our main contractor and the wider supply chain. The designs produced for the lift and necessary structures fall below the quality and requirements we have set.

Please rest assured Network Rail remain committed to deliver the much needed lifts at Honor Oak Park and we are doing everything we can to deliver these as fast and safely as possible.

I hope you find the above information useful.

When we spoke with the contractors in the first half of March they told us that they will be complete in ‘a couple of months’ but the new lifts (work pictured above) should be working before that. At time of writing work is continuing slowly.

Hopefully our patience will be rewarded soon and the station finally made accessible to all; we will still need to ensure those with mobility problems can get onto all trains easily though, which isn’t the case yet.

The lifts are being installed with national government money as part of the Government’s Access for All scheme. In Dec 2011 Lib Dems in Government announced a £100 million boost for the scheme.

Government jobs boost for Forest Hill 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Forest Hill, Young people.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Unemployment in Forest Hill has fallen by a third in less than two years, from 647 to 421. This is in line with the national trend which shows that, for the first time, 30 million people are now in employment in the UK.

Unemployment among young people is falling even faster. It is down by more than 30% across Lewisham borough during 2013.

This follows a range of measures from the Lib Dems in Government to promote jobs and growth, including:

  • Massive expansion of apprenticeships (4,200 new starts since 2010 in Lewisham alone)
  • £100 billion of infrastructure projects (road, rail, etc.)
  • Building more affordable homes in each year than at any point under the last Labour government (including £30m of central government money to build homes in Lewisham)

Forest Hill campaigner George Crozier welcomed the figures: “The coalition inherited a car crash of an economy from Labour. It has been a tough few years but things are being turned around. The deficit has been reduced by a third, interest rates have been kept down and a million jobs have been created.

He added: “This recovery would not be happening without the Lib Dems. We are delivering more infrastructure investment, and support for jobs and apprenticeships, than a majority Conservative or Labour Government would have.”

After 40 years of Labour rule Lewisham has one of the worst records in London for jobs. Fewer small businesses are growing here than anywhere else in London. For years our borough has had some of the highest unemployment in the country amongst 18-24 year olds.

But Lewisham needs to do better

Vince Cable and Duwayne Brooks

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Lewisham Mayoral Candidate Duwayne Brooks are working to bring jobs to our area

Duwayne Brooks, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, says the high level of youth unemployment in Lewisham is due to a decade of failed leadership at the Council, which has stifled entrepreneurship and job creation in the borough.

Duwayne believes it is the job of the Mayor and local council to drive the process of attracting business and jobs to the area.

“I want to create new jobs in the borough by encouraging and supporting new business start-ups,” says Duwayne. “I will create youth hubs where life skills will be taught, subsidised meals offered and where young people will be able to meet employers and prepare for the world of work.”

Recycling – must do better 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Environment, Recycling & rubbish.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Lib Dems are calling on Lewisham’s Labour Mayor to act after figures showing the council is bottom of London’s recycling league table for a second year in a row.

In 2012-13 just 20% of household waste was recycled in Lewisham, less than half as much as in most neighbouring boroughs (see map, right).

Duwayne Brooks, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, said: “Over the last five years most London boroughs have increased their recycling rates, but in Lewisham they have fallen.

“Of course we all have a responsibility to recycle all we can. Everyone should take five minutes to ensure our empty bottles, plastics, cardboards and so on do not get thrown out with the general waste.

“But the main responsibility for Lewisham’s dreadful recycling rate rests with the Mayor and council. They make it too difficult for people to recycle some waste, and do not do enough to publicise what can be recycled.”

A recent survey by Lib Dems in Forest Hill found more than 90% of local residents want the council to do more to reduce and reuse food waste. Margot Wilson said: “Other boroughs such as Southwark collect food and garden waste every week. Why can’t we?”

Recycling rates by borough
Percentages of household waste recycled in Lewisham and neighbouring boroughs in 2012-13

Air quality – call for action 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Environment.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Liberal Democrats are pressing for urgent action to tackle air quality in Lewisham after a study found it frequently ranked as one of the worst three London boroughs for air pollution-related deaths.

Forest Hill councillor Alex Feakes said: “Last summer Lewisham council agreed to set up an air quality management area including Honor Oak, after studies showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide (primarily from vehicle exhausts) in the area. However they are not even publishing an action plan until the second half of this year. We need greater urgency.”

The Lib Dems want to tackle air pollution by helping people fit better filters to vehicles and by considering banning very old diesel engines altogether. Our survey of Forest Hill residents found strong support for this.

London Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford is a leading campaigner for action against air pollution. She is pressing for the fast implementation of tougher EU car emission standards and for ‘tailpipe testing’ of lorries to check if diesel particulate filters have been illegally removed.

Lib Dems are also pushing pro-air quality measures inside the coalition government, including ways of increasing numbers of electric vehicles.

Parking permits campaign success 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in council.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

In the summer, Lewisham Council tried to introduce a cash-free payment system for parking permits, where residents had to buy permits online or by phone.

To make matters worse, the Council failed to tell residents who need visitors’ permits what they were doing. Many of these were elderly residents who felt uncomfortable paying by phone or over the internet.

Following a motion tabled by Lib Dem councillors the scheme has been relaxed. Permits can now be purchased at Lewisham Library for cash.

What’s more, the premium 0845 phone line has been replaced by (020) 8787 5397 and the Council are relaxing restrictions placed on some people who require visits from carers.

“The Labour Council’s proposals showed little regard for the needs of some elderly and vulnerable residents,” said Forest Hill councillor Alex Feakes. “I am delighted the Council has belatedly seen sense.”

Honor Oak Park water works 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Streets, Transport.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Many residents of Hengrave, Boveney and Devonshire Roads contacted us about the traffic problems caused by the Thames Water works on Honor Oak Park recently.  The diversion system in place was inadequate for dealing with the volume of cars and lorries that use HOP, and we have asked Lewisham’s transport officers to account for their management of this problem. “Although the works were to deal with an emergency, the impact of the extra traffic on local roads should have been dealt with better,” commented Forest Hill ward Cllr Alex Feakes.

Council’s £5.7 million tax collection fiasco 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in council.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Labour-run Lewisham Council have come under fire for having one of the worst records in the country for collecting council tax.

Last year (2012-13) the Council failed to collect a whopping £5.7 million of the council tax which was due. That is a sum larger than the council’s entire road maintenance budget.

Just 5 of England’s 326 councils have a worse record than Lewisham’s 5.8% non-collection rate.

Forest Hill Lib Dem Councillor Alex Feakes commented: “If Lewisham’s Labour administration were as efficient at collecting council tax as the average Lib Dem London borough we would have had an extra £4.5 million to spend this year. Labour need to get their act together and collect the money owed.”

The Council Tax Gap

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