West Norwood and Waterloo are simply election pledges, and should be taken with the pinch of salt that they deserve.
Kennington is a whole different kettle of fish. I refer you to the ever fine @se11_lurker for the finer points on the continued delay of turning over the old Lillian Baylis site to “community control,” as the @LambethLabour manifesto claims. This delay is currently costing tax payers in Lambeth £380,000 per anum.
Free swimming for every resident at specific times, and for under-18s and over-60s at all times.
First of all, we can dismiss the electioneering of free swimming for under-18′s and over-60′s. This is already in place London wide. The issue here is of trying to find somewhere for the young and elderly to actually swim in Lambeth.
But what of “free swimming for every resident at specific times?”
That’s some election pledge. I hope we aren’t witnessing another classic Nu Labour Keep Clap’ham Swimming moment in the making.
I’ve been asking off the record around the @LambethLabour cabinet exactly how this proposal is going to work. I’ve yet to receive any firm answers. It is a mighty fine election promise, and *shhh* one that may just be a vote winner for any as yet undecided young (ish) local bloggers.
But I want some clarification first.
Note the rather convenient opt out clause of “at specific times.” That could mean anything from off-peak pool times, to ten minutes a year, and then only on Bank Holidays.
It’s no good putting such vague pledges into your manifesto, and then not bolting down what you actually mean, come ballot box time. It’s a catchy strapline, and one, which our Nu Labour friends over in the Prince’s ward have already misled the electorate over, by simply re-cycling the policy as:
Free swimming for every resident.
If I were a voter in SE11 and put a big black cross next to the @LambethLabour candidates, I would rightfully expect free swimming, in an open pool, all year round for the complete duration of the next administration.
Labour leader @cllrstevereed teased me (ooh!) with the interpretation that “free swimming for every resident” actually translates as nothing more than a taster session.
But with 40,000 @LambethLabour manifestos already having gone to print (still containing allegations against @LambethLibDems and kerb crawling,) @LambethLabour now need to stand by this free swimming pledge.
Free swimming for every resident at specific times.
Another wet South London Monday evening, another @lambeth_council cabinet meeting with leisure high up on the agenda. Actually, leisure was the *only* item on the agenda.
Anyone would think that there is a local election lurking around the corner…
This specially convened cabinet meeting, the final one of the @LambethLabour administration (we think…) was scheduled for the not very voter friendly time of 5pm. All praise the power of flexible working from home.
And so after a decade of political and corporate dithering, the future of Streatham Hub all came down to one hour of complex political and economic points being condensed into a voter friendly package, and then a big red rubber stamp from our friends at @LambethLabour.
Streatham Hub is happening.
Or is it…?
The deal finally struck by the @lambeth_council cabinet with Tesco earlier this month is a genuine good news story. I had my doubts (rather major doubts) but the boys and girls of @LambethLabour did us good.
Having given the cabinet a particularly rough ride over leisure in recent months, I am positive that Streatham Hub is finally at a stage closer to being built than it has been at any time in the past decade.
Probably not, but you may read over the coming weeks how Streatham Common has been confirmed as the site for the proposed temporary ice rink. The adjective of ‘proposed’ has to remain along legal guidelines – the Council’s very own legal adviser interjected during the meeting to advise that the Secretary of State would have to be consulted ahead of plonking a 60m x 30m ice pad on a piece of Common land.
Other headline news coming out of the Hub meet was that twelve other sites in Streatham were considered for the temporary provision. Cabinet refused to name these on the public record. Ward boundaries are a sensitive matter, especially so during times of a local election.
But this *should* be a done deal. Yer man @Chukaumunna, the rather nice PPC candidate for Streatham, confirmed to me at the close of business that Mr Tesco had just told him that this is the third deal that the baked bean seller has been asked to consider. Three times lucky, once, twice, three times a South London lady, etc.
“They’re [Tesco] all about money, that outfit. If they don’t go ahead and do it, they know what is going to happen. Our community won’t give them any more planning permission.”
You can see why I rather like Mr C.
And so what of the detail of the blink and you’ll miss it rubber-stamping of the future of leisure in Streatham? Cllr Peck opened up the ‘debate’ (sort of) by declaring this as “the real deal.”
Well said that lady. I am rather warming to the Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities. I feel that the portfolio of leisure has been dumped on her from high above, with little previous thought as to a well-planned leisure policy.
“The refurbishment of the old leisure centre is not viable,” continued Cllr Heywood. “We will guarantee that the temporary facilities on the Common will be dismantled and resorted.”
Ah yes, about those temporary facilities on Streatham Common. This is now the key issue for me, and I suspect for many local politicians putting himself or herself up for re-election on May 6th. The issue is one of credibility. How can you do the #labourdoorstep Saturday afternoon thing, when you are proposing to put a temporary ice rink on a public piece of land?
Make no mistake – this is one of the key battlegrounds as the ballot box looms. @LambethLabour has staked what remains of its reputation on leisure in Streatham. The timing of the Hub agreement could either re-elect Labour, or revert them back to the opposition benches, should the electorate not take too kindly to the temporary leisure arrangements.
Speaking of not taking too kindly to events, yer man from Tesco decided to turn up at the cabinet meeting, having declined the invitation to attend the public meeting last month. I don’t think cabinet had a bag of lard waiting to fill the empty seat, as was the case a few weeks ago.
Andrew Boyle confirmed the specifics of the deal that his company has signed up to:
“A 25m swimming pool, a 13m teaching pool, four football courts, gym space for 100 machines, a 60m x 30m ice rink, 250 new homes, a piazza [urgh] 600 jobs, and oh, a whopping great big supermarket.”
Ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?
Needs must, ‘n all that.
But will the leisure facilities open at the same time as the whopping great big supermarket? A representative from the fine Streatham Ice Skating Action Group, asked cabinet for reassurances that the rink and superstore will both open simultaneously.
The concern is that Tesco will build the superstore, and then lose interest in all local matters. Cllr Peck confirmed that the Hub project would be built as one entity.
Ah, but will the temporary leisure facilities ever open…?
“This is a Grade 1 listed nature space. The Common is for public use. Our concern is that the temporary will become the permanent.”
The Friends group called for the temporary rink to be housed on the Hub site itself. Common sense, it would seem.
You can see what is happening here. The complete meltdown of @LambethLabour’s confused leisure policy is dividing locals on the ground. The Friends group rightfully wants to protect the peace on the Common, the skaters and hockey players want continuity of ice.
Meanwhile, @LambethLabour wants to get re-elected, and there’s plenty of political capital to be made out of a prestige new development in the borough.
To demonstrate his point, the good Cllr then produced a rather bizarre artefact, in the form of a Christmas card sent out by @lambeth_council leader @cllrstevereed. It was a weird moment in La La Lambeth Land, as the LibDem leader read out the seasonal greeting stating that the Hub agreement has been signed, and it will be opening in 2010.
Part comical, part rather major political point scoring, Cllr Lumsden milked the moment, remembering that the card was sent out in relation to @cllrstevereed’s election contest to be selected as the PPC candidate for Streatham. With the whole Hub project at stake, and with yer man @chukaumunna sitting in the cabinet room, this was no time for petty party politics.
Cllr Lumsden made a more valid point by asking why Lambeth Life stated that “twelve sites” are under consideration for the temporary facilities, yet Cabinet confirmed that Streatham Common was the only option.
The LibDem leader wrapped up the small amount of time that cabinet allocated for an opposition response, by asking for Tesco to place a bond with @lambeth_council, that will be returned once the Hub is complete.
The bond idea was supported by @streathamaction, as was the call to name the other sites that cabinet has considered. Sounds too sensible, and as with most events regarding the Hub over the past ten years, the bond idea was rejected, as was the suggestion of naming the other sites that were under consideration.
A bit of leeway was granted by @jkazantzis, the Cabinet Member for Employment and Enterprise:
“Placing the temporary gym in the Rookery car park is not ideal. Stockport Road Playing Fields would be better suited. The residents would welcome these new facilities.”
Seems like the good @jkazantzis’ cabinet colleagues don’t share the same view as the SW16 locals.
@cllrmarkbennett, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, and the Cllr for the Streatham South ward, thanked the various stakeholders for their patience during the whole project:
“Residents have huge concerns over the use of the Common. We share these concerns. We have looked at them objectively, but the Common is the only viable site. To ignore this would be to the detriment of Streatham.”
The sentiments were genuine, but as @RahoulBhansali, the Conservative PPC for Streatham would later remark to me – “it sounds like some local Councillors are speaking with a loaded gun raised to their head.”
A council officer then confirmed the criteria that was set out by cabinet in selecting a temporary site:
“Suitability [vague] structure, ownership, time, traffic and re-instatement of land. The Common wins on all of these.”
Cllr Peck concluded the debate with some Nu Labour twaddle of:
“Confidence, community and delivery.”
I would argue that after four years of the Nu Labour project in Lambeth, community is perhaps the only one of these buzz phrases that the ruling administration is able to boast of.
It then came to decision time, and whaddya know – cabinet rubber-stamped the agreement for Streatham Hub. Once gain, I need to confirm: this is a good news story. Local politicians have worked incredibly hard on this project. Mistakes have been made, but we now hopefully have a way ahead for the Hub.
Having door stepped the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for the Streatham ward, @chukaumunna, as well as his LibDem counterpart, @chris4streatham at the recent hub meet last month, I completely overlooked any aspirations of political objectivity by not finding the Tory to talk to.
This wasn’t deliberate – honest. There was a huge sense of confusion on the night once the main hustings had broken up. I truly wanted to find out what the response from Conservative PPC Rahoul Bhansali would be.
With so much spinning taking place at a local level in the run up to both the general and local elections, it is all the more important to actually go out there and try and carve your own path through all of the political twaddle.
I offer an open platform for *any* political party that is putting forward candidates in Lambeth to meet up and offer their solutions as to how to put the borough back to where it should be, as a thriving, sharing and responsible place to live.
A bit of door stepping in the corridors of power in SW2, and Rahoul and his team of Tory local council candidates very kindly agreed to a brief @audioboo.
It all got slightly confused towards the end – a combination of one of the Conservative local council candidates not knowing that cabinet had just agreed to bulldoze the existing site with one fell swoop of the wrecking ball, plus some rather lovely steel drum music drifting in from the Lambeth Black Achievement Awards.
But I think we got there in the end.
Many thanks again to Rahoul for his time. I greatly enjoyed his company, and it was worthwhile in being able to speak directly with a candidate that I might have otherwise overlooked.
Rahoul’s (friendly) rival in Streatham is of course @chukaumunna. Yer man is fast becoming a highly visible face in the borough, listening to concerns, and offering solutions. Here is his take on the cabinet decision to confirm the Tesco deal.
And so with cabinet having agreed the Hub deal, @audioboo’s recorded with various PPC and even time for a bit of political gossip with some rather good local sources, that was yer lot.
At least I thought it was.
I cycled back down Brixton Road in the South London rain, and then thought: hang on – they’ve not mentioned swimming.
I was following the debate in great detail, tweeting and even smiling at the cabinet from my vantage point of the front row. It was only on the journey home when I tried to piece together the wider picture that I realised something was missing.
I’m happy to stand corrected, but my notes make no mention of swimming. The temporary rink on the Common took up most of the time; the ‘dry facilities’ that will be dumped on the Rookery were also very much on the radar.
The location for the temporary swimming pool wasn’t even a thought in the town planner’s sketchbook. Swimming is certainly seen as a Cinderella service within Lambeth.
Streatham has a proud history of hockey, but you need somewhere to house all those “free swimming sessions for every resident,” as promised in the @LambethLabour election manifesto.
[Point of order: I asked a cabinet member for an off the record clarification to explain this astonishing election pledge. I shall report back when I receive an on the record response.]
And so in conclusion, it’s still all about location, location, location for the Hub. Hopefully the main project will take care of itself. In the interim, I’m none the wise where the temporary rink, gym and pool (?) are going to be housed.
“Another week, another bridge. I’m afraid I’m taking you a little further out this week, but I think it’s worth it. Hammersmith Bridge is not only colourful in decor, but also in history.
The current bridge is the second to stand in this location. It was designed by the civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette (he who instigated the Woolwich free ferry!) and opened in 1887.
Throughout it’s history it has had structural problems and has been closed frequently for repairs. Nowadays it’s only open to reduced traffic types and pedestrians.
But the problems have not all been down to structural weaknesses. The bridge has been bombed no fewer than three times by the IRA, in 1939, 1996 and finally by the Real IRA in 2000.
There’s a memorial plaque on the handrail that commemorates Lt Charles Campbell Wood, who in 1919, dived from the bridge to rescue a drowning woman. He saved her life, but sadly died later from tetnus.
The bridge is fascinating and full of picture opportunities, although it does wobble quite a bit so wind up those shutter speeds!”
It works by empowering citizens and communities to take more responsibility for running some services themselves, freeing up resources to guarantee services for the most vulnerable.
As I have blogged before, I very much like the idea of empowering citizens and communities, but not at the expense of taking away responsibility from the democratically elected officials. The ballot box is all about trust, and not an exercise in removing accountability.
I have had need to contact my current local Councillors on many occasions to have rubbish removed from around Palfrey Place. Under the coop style of governance, would this mean that there would be a Council Tax reduction in my own personal bill, should I clear the rubbish up personally?
I am very impressed with the current re-cycling scheme that I receive each week. I have been very vocal in contacting my current Councillors when there is a problem with the service. Who would I contact under a coop scheme? My local Councillors or the members of the cooperative? Would they be accountable, and what powers would you give them?
Jane Edbrooke, the Labour candidate for The Oval ward, kindly responded by stating:
In March we will set up a Citizens Commission to involve residents and service users in discussions about this new way of delivering public services.
Great – so the micro level of service provision is going to include a consultation with locals, the people that know precisely how their local patch operates.
Jane even blogged about this, telling local people in The Oval ward how we could “feed into the consultation process.”
With the 1st April upon us in a few days, I have yet to receive an invite to feed into the consultation process. In fact I can’t find anyone in my little patch of South London that has been invited to help with the consultation.
What happens next? We are working on a consultation document that will go out to the council’s partners in March. We will also set up a Citizens Commission to involve residents and service users in discussions about this new way of delivering public services. The Commission will report back in April.
Who are the council’s partners? Business, voluntary organisations or the electorate? Given the scope of the John Lewis proposals, I would hope the electorate are consulted as a partner of the council.
I appreciate this is a busy time for a local Councillor standing for re-election, but as April approaches, I haven’t received a reply to my question.
I keep on hearing @LambethLabour talk about a “consultation process” taking place throughout the borough during March. I’ve yet to be consulted about how council services are going to be managed in partnership with the people. Seems like I’m not alone.
And so what of the wider financial argument that is propping up the John Lewis model? We all accept that cuts to frontline services will have to be made, whoever gains control of Lambeth Council after May 6th. This is the whole point of introducing the John Lewis Petri dish in Lambeth.
The fanfare that welcomed the scheme managed to deliver a Guardian front page back in February, boasting that:
The council is confident this will deliver people the services they want at a saving. Research shows that if both employees and users become involved in the provision of a service, they become far more intolerant of waste and bureaucracy and significant savings can be made.
Making significant savings is key to the cooperative model. In the absence of any consultation, I wanted to find out what level of savings have already been made by Lambeth Council is the provision of services that are currently operating as a cooperatives.
I filed a Freedom of Information request (FOI) asking about the Tenant Management Organisation of Lambeth Towers in Kennington, and Patmos Area Community Association in Brixton. The council website states that:
A Tenant Management Organisation is a means by which council tenants and leaseholders can collectively take on responsibility for managing their homes.
This is the forerunner for a John Lewis style of government, setting out the blueprint of how a cooperative can work to the benefit of both the local authority, and the electorate.
Please could you tell me what has been the overall financial saving, or loss, to the Council in the past financial year as a consequence of the TMO of Lambeth Towers in Kennington and Patmos Area Community Association in Brixton.
There are tower blocks, which are managed by Lambeth, and then there is Elthred Estate that is managed by a TMO. The Tower Block in my opinion has received more funding the Elthred Estate due to Lambeth wanting to pull down Elthred Estate. However due to local campaigns and more people purchasing the flats on the Estate, this has failed.
The Elthread Estate has yet to receive any development from the money Lambeth Council has received from selling the land. Only the tower block has received improvements, e.g. construction work. I wonder how many locals were offered work on this site? If you ask for an FOI comparing the two funding over the last thirty years, because that how long I have lived on the Estate, you see the Elthred has received little funding of development.
My FOI regarding how much money has been saved as a consequence of a John Lewis style of management was finally answered, following a little prompting and a reminder of the council’s legal obligations.
Currently, there are two developing TMO’s in the borough, Lambeth Towers in Kennington and Patmos Area Community Association in Brixton.
But anyway, moving on…
The allowances payable to the TMO’s are calculated on the basis of the number and type of services performed by each TMO, using a financial model created for this purpose by the Council’s Officers in January 2009.
The calculation of the allowances is based on the actual costs incurred by the Council in past years. Therefore the allowances fully reflect the Council’s spend on its own properties. Consequently, no savings / losses are incurred as a result of a creation of new TMO.
Consequently, no savings / losses are incurred as a result of a creation of new TMO.
I remain positive about the plan. Ten years of political and corporate dithering was always going to lead to a painful process for the leisure users in SW16.
Hopefully now, both politicians and baked bean sellers have seen sense. A pool and rink should be back in place in Streatham by 2012, and as the pay off, Tesco gets to do colonise a corner of South London.
The art of compromise is unfortunately the way of the modern world. Here’s hoping that there will be more giving than taking when it comes to the temporary leisure facilities during the interim.
And so anyway – those points of interest that have landed in my inbox from an unnamed political source:
(i) As I understand it, the 50% increase in Tesco shop space is by creating a mezzanine floor within the proposed Tesco store building.
Any talk of a mezzanine should lead to the culprit being forced to listen to the Massive Attack album of the same name. It’s as crap as the concept of a mezzanine is. It’s all about the local people, isn’t it? A 50% site increase being used for a mezzanine could be used for, oh, a genuine local public square.
(ii) Public Town Square – this is a bit of a joke as there is hardly any room in the agreed plan for any public space – it’s more more of a ‘virtual’ public space adjacent to the church which is staying, certainly nothing anything near the size of the Windrush Square.
Streatham High Road isn’t the most inviting stretch in South London. The area is crying out for a central meeting point, not some mezzanine.
(iii) Several Lib Dem Councillors [think I've just blown my source] plus Chris Nicholson attended an impromptu meeting of the ice hockey users on Saturday. They were understandably extremely nervous that the ice rink would be demolished before the new combined ice rink / pool / leisure centre will be built. They remember Richmond ice rink from the 1980’s. It was demolished on the basis that the developers said they would build a new one. It never happened.
What’s to stop Tesco bulldozing the current ice rink, then finding that unexpected changes in the retail market prevented them from proceeding with building the new ice rink etc. The previous planning application and development agreement guaranteed that the existing ice rink would stay open until the new one was built. That guarantee has now gone. Also, there is the example of Leeds and Tesco for broken Tesco promises.
I guess we just have to take Tesco and Labour led @lambeth_council at their word on this one.
Yep, I’m thinking the same…
(iv) Building a temporary ice rink on Streatham Common? The temporary ice rink in Cardiff cost £3 million, was supposed to be there for only three years and is still there four years later. The Streatham Ice Rink will have to be on the same scale as Bristol, if it is to allow Olympic style hockey tournaments to take place. What about the likely opposition from Streatham residents about building a structure of this size on the Common?
See an earlier comment on m’blog, posted by a resident of Streatham Common. As mentioned in my original response to the Hub decision, I still believe that the issue is all about location, location, location.
Location of the temporary rink, location of the temporary pool and location of the temporary gym. These are the issues that I want cabinet to reassure me over on Monday evening.
(v) Lambeth have just rolled over and surrendered to Tesco. The Tesco press release says the scheme will be delivered “two years earlier” under this new plan. Really? What it actually means is that the Tesco store will be open two years early as they won’t have to wait till the new combined ice rink / pool and leisure centre is built, before they can knock down the existing ice rink and build their new store on ice rink the site.
Agreed. Tesco is the ultimate winner; the leisure users in Lambeth are a secondary concern. But at least that concern hasn’t been silenced, mainly due to a very passionate, and caring local constituent.
(vi) On the same theme of Lambeth rolling over, they are allowing 50% extra spelling space for the Tesco store. Many of those at Saturday’s meeting were terrified at what this could mean in terms of planning delays, as any new plan will have to go through the GLA Planners and the Mayor, the Government Office for London (GOL) and probably the Secretary of State. Mayor Livingstone held up the last planning application by eighteen months. With the issue of so much extra retail, will all these bodies be happy to give the planning process a smooth passage?
Ah, Events dear boy (or girl,) events. One of which is a local election on May 6th, where the good people of Streatham will ultimately be given a chance to let their feelings on the whole handling of the Hub be known.
I still firmly believe that the Hub announcement earlier this month was wonderful news for South London. But it’s far from the end of the story. Cabinet has a lot of explaining to do on Monday 29th. The tricky 5pm start time is still a problem for me. Seems like my source will be able to put forward all of the fine points above.
It’s certainly easier to pull down a swimming pool than it is to agree to build a new one. Here’s hoping that the vigour in bulldozing the old pool at Clap’ham Manor Street can be met with the same zeal, once construction work commences on Future Clap’ham.