Mayor Damien Egan opened the session with some remarks about areas where Lewisham is working hard to improve – for example school results. He mentioned the budget cuts that the borough is having to make. Previously we have already had our budget cut from approx. £400 million to now £232 million, but this year we have to cut another £30 million. This will be a huge challenge and means we have to rely on the community to do more.
Q: How much does the mayoral system cost and it is money well spent?
A: Our governance is amongst the lowest cost in London and cheaper than our neighbouring boroughs. Unlike other boroughs we have open voting.
Q: Natalie Wright of Nxt Steps Association asked what the council is doing to create support for the issue of knife crime, and what is being offered to support voluntary groups who are creating programmes of support?
A: Knife crime is an issue right across South London for which we need tough enforcement and prevention. We need to invest in young people who are often the hardest hit by austerity. We invest a lot in youth services through Youth First and community groups also do a lot. We understand this is not enough and as a result we have put on hold a proposal to cut youth services by £800,000. Cuts to policing and young people’s mental health services make our task harder.
Q: Vehicle emissions are a nuisance. It is an offence to leave a car engine running whilst the vehicle is stationary – except when in traffic jams. Some councils e.g. Westminster and Camden, issue fixed penalty fines, should Lewisham do the same?
A: We are looking into measures to reduce pollution from car idling. Cllr Louise Krupski has campaigned on air quality. We are considering whether we can close roads around school time, but this may be unpopular with motorists. If we were to introduce fines, we should ensure the proceeds are ring-fenced to other measures to improve air quality.
Q: Julia Webb
The St. Philip Neri School planning breaches have compounded since they were reported in April. Seven months later, the school has moved in, so the consts of enforcement are huge. Why has the council not taken action earlier? And are there any private arrangements with the Archbishopric about the future of the Mayow Road site, that may be impacting decisions?
A: The Mayor has personally spoken with the Archbishop himself and is very committed to getting this right. There are no secret meetings with the Diocese.
Q: Margot Wilson
Can you make it easier to communicate with the housing benefit office, in order to encourage private landlords to take tenants who are on housing benefit? (Online forms are not enough).
A: We agree that our website needs updating. We support private landlords to take Housing Benefit tenants.
Q: Can the light be repaired on the Dacres Footbridge?
A: We will look into this.
Q: Speeding on Sydenham Hill
A: Pleaes report this to police – you can speak to the Safer Neighbourhood Team after the meeting.
Q: Mark Drinkwater
Over the next few years, how will Lewisham support the voluntary and community sector to provide support to the local community?
A: We are trying hard to maintain grants to the voluntary sector.
Q: Collet Hunter (James Ross
Hunter Youth Support)
How can visual awareness be used by LB Lewisham to make young people more aware of consequences of knife crime? JRHYS are making posters to alert YP to the consequence.
A: The Mayor ageed with the need for this and would like to know more about what JRHYS are doing and find out how the borough can support with this.
Q: Sam Harvey
Can schools have metal detectors to prevent knife-carrying? Most kids at Forest Hill Boys School are carrying knives.
A: We don’t agree that the majority of children and young people are carrying knives. Metal detectors are not the answer, there needs to be more investment in young people.
Q: How can we ensure that “hard case” newspaper stories don’t unduly influence decisions?
A: The council Labour group has a manifesto and this wil form the basis of our corporate plan. The Plan will be what drives council actions, not “flashpoints”.
Q: Air Quality on Sydenham Road – this road has 50% more road users than the South Circular and Bell Green Gyratory is busier than Hyde Park Corner. The London Mayor is supplying means of measuring pollution- can we also use these here?
A: We have raised air pollution in Full Council this week. Alterations have been carried out at Bell Green to protect residents from pollution. We know this is urgent and are moving as fast as we can.
Q: A suggestion that the smart benches can be used to measure Air Pollution.
A: That’s a good idea, we will look into that. Planting trees also helps.
Q: Julie Webb
Two schools are now in higher pollution areas than previously. Can it be a condition of new builds that they incorporate pollution monitoring equipment?
A: We are currently drafting the Local Plan. All this new learning can be incorporated. The biggest difference we can all make is to reduce the number of car journeys we make.
Q: Are buses not the main polluter?
A: No they are not. Many of them are now hybrid fuel.
Q: Street Trees for Living – a question about the level of priority given to planting street trees.
A: We recognise the importance of street trees and aim to fund support accordingly.
Q: The new Shared Space scheme in Dartmouth Road has resulted in more congestion along Sydenham Road. Why doesn’t the council think more strategically?
A: The aim is to improve the journeys for public transport so as to reduce car use.
Q: What has changed since the new administration came in?
A: Our manifesto is now becoming the new Corporate Plan- the last one was drawn up in 2008. The whole organisation needs to now move forward to understand the new vision, which is more socialist. We aim to agree the new Corporate Plan in January 2019.
Q: Frustration around contacting the council. Unable to contact by phone.
A: We do have officers available to answer calls, the problem is with the website not being updated since 2012. We are now prioritising updating the website.
Q: What is being done on social housing?
A: We have committed to build 1,000 more homes for social housing, as well as measures to tackle private rented sector and solutions to take people out of B&B. We will work with Lewisham Homes as key partners.
The Chair thanked Damien for coming to the meeting and said that his contributions were greatly appreciated. It was hoped he can attend another Assembly in future.