Build More Social Housing In Lewisham

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners demanding more social housing and an end to the housing ’emergency’.

Campaign to build social housing

Radical action is needed now as according to Shelter – the housing charity – there is a housing crisis, where 120,000 children are homeless, 282,000 social homes have been lost in the last decade and 3.7 million private renters have been victims of illegal behaviour by a landlord or agent.

Cllr Alan Hall has signed a letter to the new Secretary of State, Michael Gove urging him to act now to:

  • Improve the rights of renters by bringing forward an ambitious Renter’s Reform Bill to create a fairer renting system  
  • Build more homes people can afford by committing to more social housing and fixing the planning system to make developers deliver more
  • Help people at risk of sleeping rough by funding the Everyone In initiative to protect people who are homeless this Winter 

Without more social homes, the country won’t be able to escape the grip of the housing emergency. More people will become stuck in unaffordable, overcrowded, insecure housing – especially families and older people.

Government funding will be spent on helping the growing number of families cover the cost of unaffordable private rents through housing benefit, rather than investing in the bricks and mortar of new homes with guaranteed low rents.

Council housing at rents that people can really afford is needed now.

For too long ‘affordable’ has been misused as a term for rents. Social housing should be at traditional Council rents.

The definitions of affordable according to the GLA

You can read the full letter here.


Specialist housing advice is available and Shelter say that you can talk to an expert housing adviser if you’re in urgent need of housing advice at their helpline on 0808 800 4444

Shelter say you should use this line if:

You have nowhere to sleep, or might be homeless soon

You have somewhere to sleep, but nowhere to call home

You are/could be at risk of harm

Shelter’s helpline is open every single day of the year:

8am – 8pm on weekdays

9am – 5pm on weekends

Don’t Cut Universal Credit

Cllr Alan Hall has joined trade unionists, campaigners and think tanks in applying pressure for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak to overturn the decision to cut £20 per week from Universal Credit claimants many are working on low pay. This comes as the Resolution Foundation has revealed that four in ten households on Universal Credit face 13 per cent rise in energy bills in same month as their income is cut by £20 a week.

Lewisham CAB warn of ‘perfect storm’

In July 2021, there were 39,552 people claiming Universal Credit in the London Borough of Lewisham, of these 15,769 are working.

Jonny Marshall, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Low income families are facing a cost of living crunch on several fronts this autumn with energy bills rising alongside wider price increases, while Universal Credit is also due to be cut by £20 a week.”

“Around 15 million households are set to face higher prices next week when the energy price cap is raised. This will be particularly acute for low income families on Universal Credit, who are four times as likely as the rest of the population to be on pre-payment meters, and therefore face even bigger increases to their bills.”

The Foundation notes that 4.4 million households on Universal Credit are set to see their energy bills rise significantly in October, the same month that will see them typically lose over 5 per cent of their disposable income as the £20 a week uplift to UC comes to an end, and as the onset of winter boosts energy consumption.

The energy price cap is set to rise by £139 a year (12 per cent) to £1,277 (for a typical gas and electricity customer) a year from 1 October, but a larger increase of £153 (13 per cent) a year will affect pre-payment meter customers. Pre-payment meter customers are also overwhelmingly on variable rather than fixed rate tariffs and so will be more swiftly affected by these price rises.

Universal Credit is available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work. The numbers in work make up a significant proportion of the total claimants hovering around the 40% mark.

The number of people on Universal Credit in London and surrounding regions has doubled since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic according to Government statistics up to January 2021.

People on Universal Credit in employment, Great Britain, December 2015 to December 2020 source HM Government

In November 2020, the Government estimates that one in five claimants receive a reduction due to the bedroom tax. The average (mean) monthly reduction amount was £70 and the median reduction amount was £60. This will be additional to the £20 per week cut.

Lewisham Citizens Advice Bureau have released details of some of the cases seen by frontline advisers, these include:

Aliyah, who is struggling to find a job because of the pandemic, and paying back deductions for an advanced payment and also outstanding council tax debt. Their flat is in poor condition and many of their household appliances are broken. Aliyah already struggles with poor mental health and is worried that removing the £20 increase will make this worse and lead to her having to rely on foodbanks to eat.

They are also seeing an increase in clients who have had to take time off work after catching coronavirus, which exacerbated their existing health conditions. They fear they will fall into housing debt without the £20 a week increase. Along with single parents who are only just able to pay for after school childcare costs while they work thanks to the £20 increase. This has helped them stay in their job and pay essential bills.

Gary Jones, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Lewisham, said:

“Every day, our staff and volunteers see the difference the increase to Universal Credit has made to families. As an organisation we have supported over 24,000 clients in the last year and for many of them, Universal Credits has been a key factor in helping them keep their heads above water. Without that extra money, we fear we’d see more people coming to us in debt, unable to pay their bills or turning to food banks because they can’t afford the essentials. As we look to rebuild our borough through the ongoing impact of COVID , the government must invest in the benefits system and keep this vital lifeline.”

The full text of the letter by Cllr Alan Hall is here:

Rishi Sunak MP

Chancellor of the Exchequer

HM Treasury

Dear Chancellor,

Please don’t turn your back on six million people. There is an economic argument, a humanitarian argument and fairness argument that asks for an urgent rethink of your decision to cut Universal Credit from the 5th October.

Your callous cut will push countless families and working people into even deeper debt and poverty in what is the biggest overnight benefit since World War II.

Never has a Chancellor’s duty to protect the most vulnerable been more pertinent. Charities are warning that one million households will lose 10 per cent of their income overnight when you snatch back the £20 a week – £1,040 a year – with one in four children made poorer as a result.

With 40% of Universal Credit claimants already in jobs, perhaps as chancellor you should be focused on halting the march of poverty pay, not taking £20 from those most in need.

Levelling up does not start with ripping up our already threadbare safety net. Even the Universal Credit-General accepts that the benefit has for years been slipping further and further below what people earn in jobs, because of freezes.

Please listen to your own Tory MPs, including Universal Credit’s architect Iain Duncan-Smith, footballer, anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford, and the many charities, landlords and debt organisations who have all condemned the cut.

But most importantly listen to Universal Credit claimants when they say this money isn’t paying for luxuries like swimming pools and tennis courts. For them it’s literally meant the difference between heating and eating.

Without this vital income boost vulnerable children will suffer. This will be on your watch and your legacy.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall – Bellingham

Cllr Alan Hall Response to Lewisham Council’s Local Plan

The Local Plan helps to ensure that planning decisions are made in the best interests of our neighbourhoods and communities. It provides a strategy for the Council and its partners to direct investment across Lewisham, recognising it is an integral part of London. It includes policies and guidelines that are used to determine planning applications.

Lewisham Council says:

“The Local Plan sets out a shared vision for the future of Lewisham along with the planning and delivery framework to achieve this vision.

The Local Plan helps to ensure that planning decisions are made in the best interests of our neighbourhoods and communities. It provides:

A strategy for the Council and its partners to direct investment across Lewisham, recognising it is an integral part of London. Policies and guidelines used to determine planning applications.”

The formal consultation process ran from 15th January 2021 to 11th April 2021 and Cllr Alan Hall has asked what are the next steps in the process to take the public’s views into full consideration.

Cllr Alan Hall made a formal response mentioning the need for more green space and the expansion of the River Pool Linear Park. He said: “I would like to see the biodiversity and green space commitments explicitly included in this Local Plan and at the sites mentioned above. In Bell Green, a community masterplanning approach should be undertaken and the proposals as they stand are unacceptable. The heritage assets of the Livesey Hall, War Memorial and Grounds needs to be fully recognised in any plan for Bell Green.”

On social housing, Cllr Alan Hall has called for a clear and strong statement in the Local Plan, saying: “A target of 50% of all new homes built to be ‘genuinely affordable’, which is defined as housing at social rent levels (which is set on the basis of local income levels); this means that intermediate and market housing products would not be considered as genuinely affordable.”

London Affordable Rent is classified as an intermediate rent product by most housing experts as it is more expensive than social rent.

Bellingham Estate to be Area of Special Local Character

Full response to the London Borough of Lewisham Local Plan:

The Integrated Impact Assessment on the Local Plan published November 2020 states:

“There will also be a need to consider in-combination issues and opportunities associated with redevelopment at both Bell Green Retail Park, as the southern extent of the Pool River Linear Park, and two sites at the northern extent, namely Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road and Pool Court (proposed as a gypsy and traveller site; currently comprises a Site of Importunate for Nature Conservation, SINC).

There could feasibly be an opportunity to extend the Linear Park into one or both of the larger development sites, and it is recommended that this option is explored, with a view to an overall biodiversity net gain, as measured/calculated at an appropriate functional scale. Extending the Linear Park would also be in line with open space objectives, noting the key finding of the Lewisham Open Spaces Assessment (2019), which is that a significant amount of additional provision will be required to maintain standards (of access to open space) over the long-term. However, it is recognised that there is a need to balance wide ranging objectives when considering how best to redevelop these sites.

I support the expansion of the Linear Park.

Site specific policy currently states:

• Bell Green Retail Park – “Development proposals must protect and seek to enhance green infrastructure, including SINC, green corridor, Metropolitan Open Land and the Pool River.”

• Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road – “Development should maximise opportunities to enhance the ecological quality and amenity provided by the River Ravensbourne, including by revealing the river through decluverting, repairing gaps in Waterlink Way and improving public access to it.” This site specific policy is broadly in accordance with the Site Specific Design and Development Guidelines set for Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road within the adopted River Corridor Improvement Plan SPD (2015). Figure 9.1 shows one of the figures from the SPD, showing the location of the Pool River Linear Park between BGLS and Catford, also highlighting proximity of Beckenham Palace Park.

• Pool Court – the site specific policy does not reference biodiversity constraints or opportunities; however, it explains: “Applicants should consult with Network Rail and Transport for London on design and development options.”

I would like to see the biodiversity and green space commitments explicitly included in this Local Plan and at the sites mentioned above. In Bell Green, a community masterplanning approach should be undertaken and the proposals as they stand are unacceptable. The heritage assets of the Livesey Hall, War Memorial and Grounds needs to be fully recognised in any plan for Bell Green.

On the proposed Gypsy and Travellers Site the document makes the specific comments:

“9.7.5 Finally, there is a need to consider the proposed strategy in respect of meeting gypsy and traveller accommodation needs.

The background is as follows: The Lewisham Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (2015 and amended 2016) identifies a minimum need for six pitches within the plan period, arising from people currently living in bricks and mortar homes, teenage children and household formation. Having regard to this assessment, the Council commenced preparation of a Gypsy and Traveller Site Local Plan. This set out the approach to meeting identified local need for this group, including through site allocation policies.

A Preferred Site Consultation was then over six weeks in 2018. Consultation responses have been considered and negotiations with landowners are progressing. This is particularly to ensure that any future proposed site is deliverable for the intended use, and that feedback from the wider public is appropriately addressed.

9.7.6 In light of the above, the Draft Local Plan proposes an allocation at Pool Court, which is a 0.3 ha site located to just to the southwest of the Catford Masterplan area; specifically, to the south of the large proposed allocation at Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road. The site comprises a ‘left over’ triangle of land at the point where the two railways south of Catford cross-over one another. The River Ravensbourne borders the site, and the confluence of the rivers Ravensbourne and Pool is near adjacent to the west of the site (separated by the railway); however, the site is shown intersect flood zone 2 (as opposed to flood zone 3, which constrains Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road), presumably because the river is effectively channelled or culverted at this point.

A related constraint is the on-site local nature conservation (SINC) designation, and it is important to consider the biodiversity value of this site not only isolation, but as one element of the ecological network associated with the Ravensbourne and Pool river valleys (see discussion of the Wickes and Halfords site above, under ‘Biodiversity’). Whilst it is recognised that this site has been identified following a site selection process undertaken over a number of years, given the onsite constraints, it is recommended that further detailed assessments of biodiversity and flood risk are undertaken, with additional requirements/guidance included within the site allocation, as appropriate; the council should also continue to explore other opportunities to meet the housing needs of this group.”

I support the need for further detailed consideration of the negative impact to biodiversity and the SINC.

Not only this, I believe that this site is insufficient to meet the needs of the Traveller community and that as a stand alone policy is insufficient to comply with the London Plan.

Genuinely Affordable Housing

If delivery of genuinely affordable housing is a clear corporate priority for Lewisham Council then The Local Plan needs to set a strategic target for 50 per cent of all new homes delivered in the Borough to be locally defined as housing at social rent levels, below the GLA’s London Affordable Rent level. This would recognise the distinctive characteristics of the local housing market and the relative affordability of different types of provision to the resident population.

All other housing products below market levels, whether for sale or rent, are defined as intermediate housing, and should not be conflated with genuinely affordable housing.

To be clear, a target of 50% of all new homes built to be ‘genuinely affordable’, which is defined as housing at social rent levels (which is set on the basis of local income levels); this means that intermediate and market housing products would not be considered as genuinely affordable.

I support the designation of the Bellingham Estate as an Area of Special Local Character and we support further consideration to making this a Conservation Area.

The Industrial Estate in Bellingham is a successful employment zone. The designation needs to be reinforced.

Local Green Space and Metropolitan Open Land needs to be designated at Coutrai Road in Crofton Park and along the railway cuttings from Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park through to New Cross Gate.

Finally, the fact that this consultation has taken place during a pandemic and at a time of limited communication including an election period needs to be acknowledged. Further formal consultation is required to achieve a common understanding of the plans and therefore, this consultation is inadequate.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Hall

Cllr Alan Hall – Bellingham

The Future Of Rail Should Be At The ‘Heart Of A Green Transport Revolution’

Lewisham is crisscrossed with railway lines. There are low railway bridges, railway sidings, nature reserves on railway embankments and SE London’s railway junction and transport hub at Lewisham station. Railways are important to Lewisham.

The powerful Public Accounts Committee has published a damning critique of the Government’s ability to deliver the reforms needed. The Department for Transport (DfT) “has neither the necessary urgency nor appreciates the scale of the challenge ahead” about the future of rail they say, in today’s report an Overview of the English rail system [7th July 2021]

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the railway trade union, TSSA said: “Grant Shapps recently outlined his ‘Great British Railways’ plans for reform. I’m yet to be convinced this is more than papering over the cracks. We have already seen passengers ripped off over so-called flexible season tickets.”

“We don’t need spin and charades from government. We need our railways at the very heart of a joined-up, green and fully accessible public transport system, with electrification of the network a key driver to meeting our decarbonisation targets.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Behind its measured language, what this report shows is that Ministers have got all their priorities wrong. Their response to the plight of rail is clouded by a dogmatic fixation with designing a system which can bolt the failed private train operators back into place instead of setting a clear strategy for rail to play its part in delivering a long term safe and sustainable massive increase public transport use to help meet the climate change challenge.”

“Every single failing detailed by the Public Accounts Committee, without exception, could begin to be tackled if we took back real control and created an integrated, publicly owned and publicly accountable railway where time, resources, and every penny of tax and fare payer is spent on improving services and not wasted trying to satisfy the parasitical carpet baggers clustered round our railways.”

“We need a rail rethink which puts rail and public transport generally at the heart of a green transport revolution that will reduce emissions and pollution.”

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, MP in a forward to the Government’s plans said: “We want our trains to run on time. This is our plan to do that, and to deliver a wider change on our railways that has never been needed more. The chaotic timetable changes three years ago showed all too clearly that the old ways were not working.”

However, the public accounts committee has repeatedly highlighted how passengers are too often an afterthought in major rail projects. The aftermath of Covid-19 and the end of franchising offer options to deliver better services for passengers in a way that meets new travel demands, but the DfT now faces “an extremely challenging and uncertain environment in which to implement its proposed reforms”.

The English rail system has “suffered from a lack of strategic direction and accountability for many years” and “struggled to improve service reliability, quality and flexibility” with “delivery of services not sufficiently focused on the needs of passengers”, says the committee’s report.

“The Government must ensure that rail delivers better services for passengers in a way that meets new travel demands [after Covid-19]. At the same time the high-cost fixed assets required to run these services need to be maintained, while keeping ticket prices affordable to encourage people to travel by rail.”

They say: “We are concerned that the Department has neither the necessary urgency nor appreciates the scale of the challenge ahead. Now is the time to make radical, effective reform in the rail system and aspirations and intentions need to be turned into concrete actions that deliver meaningful change.”

TSSA union leader Cortes said: “This report must be a wakeup call for the government – they are being told a series of home truths which can’t be ignored as we begin to move out of the shadow of the pandemic.

“The MPs on the Public Accounts Committee understand that we need our railways to be front and centre of the recovery from covid and that only by getting people back onto the network can the wider economy function.”

“As the committee points out, passengers have been ‘an afterthought’ since the advent of what it rightly describes as ‘failed’ privatisation, something our union has been pointing out for many years.”

“That is why our union is well down the track with our Future of Rail campaign – because we all need railways which work best for passengers, staff and our environment. It’s time for ministers to follow suit.”

TSSA Future for Rail

Cllr Alan Hall has signed the TSSA declaration that says: “We are all on one planet. There’s nowhere else we can move to. Fail to keep global heating below a 1.5 degrees C increase and we face a future in which much of the world is threatened by scarcity of food and water, frequently battered by climate induced extreme weather events and more frequent pandemics; with parts of an increasing number of countries becoming unliveable. The G7 summit and the COP26 conference in November matters because what happens in the next five years is make or break.”

“Abuse is not Part of the Job” Shop Workers Say

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners including trade unionists and co-operative activists calling on the Government to strengthen legislation for shopworkers. The Co-operative Party have estimated that every day, more than 400 retail workers in the UK are attacked – just for doing their jobs. Bell Green Retail Park is in Bellingham Ward.

Nobody should face violence at work, and we have a special responsibility to protect those responsible for upholding the law. That’s why the Co-operative Party, the Co-operative Group and independent societies around the country, USDAW and more are backing a change to the law to secure stronger protections for shopworkers and tougher penalties against those who assault or threaten them.

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, USDAW said: “Abuse is not, and never should be, part of the job. It is completely unacceptable that our members experience this as part of their work. That’s why Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign and the drive to put in place stronger protections for retail workers.”

Full letter to Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor is below:

Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister speaks out

Dear Robert Buckland MP,

I am writing as a Labour & Co-operative Councillor with a large retail centre in my ward. Throughout this pandemic, retail workers have been on the front line, providing an essential service to the public. They are key workers.

From the very beginning of this crisis, they have worked hard to keep shelves stocked and shops open to ensure that people have access to the food and essentials they need. On top of this, it has been retail workers enforcing vital safety guidelines, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, which have been pivotal in keeping us safe.

Despite this tremendous effort, incidents of violence against shopworkers have doubled since the start of the pandemic.

As you know, this isn’t a new issue – shopworkers have always been providing a service to the public by enforcing laws around age restricted items like knives and acid, which can often be a flashpoint for violence, threats and abuse. While we ask shopworkers to enforce the law every day, the law currently does not do enough to protect them.

Usdaw the shop workers trade union says: “Nobody should go to work in fear, but that’s the reality for many retail and delivery workers. Violence and abuse has doubled during the current crisis. It’s never acceptable at any time, and that’s why we are calling for better legal protection, urgently. We need a new law that makes it a specific offence to assault public facing workers, with a sentence that fits the crime. The Government needs to show that it takes retail workers’ safety seriously.”

That is why I am asking that when the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill comes back to Parliament for Report Stage on Monday 5th July, you vote in support of amendments that will give retail workers the protection they deserve.

Already, this issue has been recognised in Scotland, where violence against retail workers is now a specific offence under the Protection of Workers bill passed earlier this year. Calls for a specific offence to be created in Westminster were supported by the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on violence and abuse towards retail workers, published on Tuesday 29th June. These calls have widespread support across bodies in the retail sector, trade unions, and retailers and retail workers themselves.

Parliament creates the laws that shopworkers are asked to uphold. Please take this opportunity to give these essential workers the protection they deserve in return by supporting these necessary amendments.

Cllr Alan Hall

Freedom From Fear

New MP Boundaries – What This Means For Lewisham

new parliamentary boundaries proposed for Lewisham

The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has published its initial proposals for new constituency boundaries. The public are now able to view and provide feedback on the proposed constituencies as part of an eight-week consultation process. Lewisham will see little movement except that the current Lewisham West & Penge seat will realign from a cross Borough boundary seat with Bromley to a cross boundary seat with Southwark forming a new Dulwich & Sydenham constituency.

Dulwich & Sydenham, Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham East constituencies. Green marks borough boundaries.

The current MP for Lewisham West & Penge is Labour’s Ellie Reeves, whilst Dulwich & West Norwood is represented by Helen Hayes – a Labour seat currently.

The 2023 Review of Parliamentary constituencies was formally launched in January this year. The BCE is required by law to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is more equal.

This means that the total number of parliamentary constituencies in England will increase from 533 to 543. More locally, the number of constituencies in London will increase from 73 to 75.

The Commission is undertaking an independent review of all constituency boundaries in England and will present final recommendations to Parliament by July 2023. Publication of the initial proposals on 8th June 2021 is the first time people get to see what the map of new constituencies might look like. The rules that the Commission work to are such that wide scale change is inevitable. Under the proposals announced today, just under 10% of the existing 533 English constituencies remain unchanged.

Every parliamentary constituency must contain between 69,724 and 77,062 Parliamentary electors.

The BCE is consultation allows comments and proposals to have regard to local ties, geographic factors, local government boundaries (as they were known at 1 December 2020), existing constituencies, and minimising disruption caused by proposed change.

Tim Bowden, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, said: “Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of Parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the Commission’s initial thoughts. Help us draw the line to make the number of electors in each Parliamentary constituency more equal. Each constituency we recommend is required by law to contain between 69,724 and 77,062 electors, meaning there will be significant change to current boundaries. We want to hear the views of the public to ensure that we get the new boundaries for Parliamentary constituencies right.”

View the proposals and have your say on our online

New constituency boundaries showing the local wards as they are now.
Old and new constituency boundaries

Give Schools the Cash For Covid 19 Recovery

Education, education, education was the refrain of the Labour Party at the turn of the century. Now the National Education Union say that education recovery has got to be the top priority again.

Despite claims to the contrary, schools have been underfunded for years. The NEU say that Schools have experienced whole school budget reductions, rising costs and pupil numbers, meaning that in 2019 schools were £2 billion poorer than they were in 2015.

Because of Covid 19, significant investment is needed so that schools and colleges can feel equipped to fully support young people and their families, ensuring everyone in education in the UK is able to reach their full potential. There are no quick or cheap fixes. That is why Sir Kevan Collins, the Government’s own appointed Education Recovery Commissioner, recommended £15bn for a proper recovery strategy.

The Education Policy Institute recommended a similar figure saying: “Our analysis and international benchmarking implies that these plans need to be much larger to have a real chance of catching up on lost learning”

The Government’s education advisor resigns

It is fast becoming a consensus view across the teaching profession. However, the Treasury have put forward £1.4bn. Boris Johnson believes this will “give parents confidence”, but no one is fooled. This is short change. The Government is cutting corners on Covid 19. And that is why Sir Kevan Collins resigned.

In England, the Government’s pledge amounts to just £50 per pupil per year for education recovery.

The average primary school will receive the equivalent of just £22 a year per pupil. By contrast, the USA have pledged £1,600 per pupil and the Netherlands £2,500 per pupil. Not only are the Government offering 1/50th of what the Netherlands are delivering, but 1/10th of what was recommended by their own Commissioner.

If we are to protect an education system that supports high standards and places pupil wellbeing and mental health at its heart, then the Government must properly resource education recovery. No ifs or buts. Without a comprehensive and urgent response, we risk failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.  We are calling on the Government to provide the funds schools need to best help children recover from this pandemic. As Sir Kevan Collins said: “Without a comprehensive and urgent response, we risk failing hundreds of thousands of pupils.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is a hugely disappointing announcement which lets down the nation’s children and schools at a time when the government needed to step up and demonstrate its commitment to education.”

“The amount of money that the government plans to put into education recovery is insufficient and shows a failure to recognise the scale of learning loss experienced by many pupils during the pandemic – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

He also says that the Government has: “shown a depressing but predictable lack of ambition.”

Schools and colleges will also be given the option to offer year 13 the option to repeat their last year, which the Department for Education said it would fund for additional places.

Please join me and take action, please sign the petition here

Cllr Alan Hall joins the education community to fight school cuts

Prince Philip’s Favourite Song Revealed

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh revealed that his favourite pop song is ‘Yellow Bird’. He asked The Melody Makers, a West Indian steel band to play the tune as he toured a Lewisham Boys’ Club. Drummer Cecil Mose said: “I asked him if thay was his favourite and he gave a big smile and said ‘yes’ so we obliged’. The Band which is usually seven strong was reducered to four to fit into the Thurston Road Hall. This was on a visit reported in the Evening News, 23 May 1979.

The song yellow bird is thought to have originated from a Haitian poem by Oswald Durand which became known as “Choucoune”. This was set to music by Michel Mauleart Monton in 1883. He was born in the U.S. (New Orleans) of mixed parents (Haitian father, American mother) and was a noted pianist. Durand wrote the poem about a young “marabou” woman nicknamed Choucoune from La Plaine du Nord whose name was Marie Noel Belizaire.

As Dr. Gage Averill says: “However, if you look far and wide at Caribbean Creole cultures, you will find similar songs (for example the same melody animating certain 19th century Trinidadian carisos and romances: “Balon monte, balon desan, balon tonbe nan dlo”) but more directly it is a French “berceuse” or cradle song. Jean Fouchard links the Monton melody and the Durand words to the early meringue: “Ti zwazo, kote ou prale/ Ma prale, kay FilËt Lalo/FilËt Lalo konn manje timoun/Si w ale, l’a manje ou tou” and he further states that this meringue derives from the old French chanson d’Anjou “Non, non, non je ne marierai pas” which has the same chorus melody as “Choucoune”.”

“This should not surprise us (nor should it diminish the compositional achievements of Durand & Monton) because this type of appropriation was the norm in the 19th century. . . tunes and lyric fragments were routinely borrowed for new compositions and this was not considered an unethical practice.”

The Duke of Edinburgh was the patron of the London Federation of Boys Clubs – one of his first patronages. Bellingham had a Boys Club – in fact it still does but now gender neutral – the site of the Bellingham Gateway Leisure Centre and The Gateway Youth Centre where Lewisham’s youth service has its HQ. In these difficult times youth services have never been more important. Lewisham Music are based in the Fellowship & Star opposite which is fitting. Our green spaces, education & youth services and cultural heritage are linked and changing that is why understanding our history and surroundings is so important.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is a well respected youth programme that spans 144 counties around the world.

“When the first trial of the Award was launched in 1942, no one had any idea quite what would happen. In the event, it was an instant success, and the Award has been growing and expanding worldwide ever since.”  – HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT

A newspaper cutting that mentions Prince Philip’s visit to Bellingham on 23rd May 1979

Vote by Post – Elections Thursday 6th May

In Lewisham there are four Council by elections and the London Mayoral Elections. The current advice due to Covid-19 is to apply to vote by post if you can.

Firstly, you will need to be registered to vote. This can be done online by visiting the website

Once registered to vote and included in the electoral register, Lewisham Council can issue a postal vote.

Details from Lewisham Council website state:

How to vote by post
To apply for a postal vote, print and complete the application form below and return it to Electoral Services by post or email.
If you want to email us the form, you need to print it, sign it by hand and scan it because we can’t accept digital signatures.
You can apply for a one-off postal vote for a specific election, or for all elections.
If you apply for a postal vote, we will send your ballot paper to your home or another specified address.
You need to apply for a postal vote by 5pm on the 11th working day before the election you want to vote in.

A Postal Vote application form can be downloaded here

For further details contact Lewisham Council, Electoral Services

Telephone:020 8314 6086

Lewisham Council By Elections are being held in Bellingham, Catford South, New Cross & Sydenham.

London Mayor Election

London Assembly Member for Greenwich & Lewisham



Reverse The End Of Remote Meetings

The Minister for Local Government, Luke Hall MP has written to Local Authorities confirming that the Government intends to end the remote meetings by not renewing the emergency legislation that allowed them.

The letter explains that extending the regulations to allow virtual meetings beyond May 7th would require primary legislation.

Interestingly, in the letter the Minister mentions the Covid-19 vaccination programme. He states: “The reduction in cases of Covid-19 should result in a significant reduction in risk for local authority members meeting in person from May 7, as reflected in the Government’s plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions over the coming months.
I recognise there may be concerns about holding face-to-face meetings. Ultimately it is for local authorities to apply the Covid-19 guidance to ensure meetings take place safely, but we have updated our guidance on the safe use of council buildings to highlight ways in which you can, if necessary, minimise the risk of face-to-face meetings, and we will work with sector representative bodies to ensure that local authorities understand the guidance and are aware of the full range of options available to them.”

This is interesting because it optimistically assumes that the threat of Covid-19 and a potential third wave has been discounted by the Government.

Channel Four News reports that as the third wave hits Europe, more than thirty million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine. In Europe around twenty thousand people a week are dying with Covid-19 – and rates in central Europe are now among the highest in the world.

Graph shows Covid-19 cases in Europe – 28.03.21

The question that remains to be answered is, will the UK stave off a third wave? As the graph shows the now familiar pattern of rising rates in Europe with the UK some weeks behind.

It should be remembered that rates of vaccination in the UK are not uniform. London has a significant variation within the city and Lewisham has a variable vaccination rate within the borough.

The Minister’s letter rightly points out that Councils will have to assess the risks themselves and apply measures to mitigate this.

One measure suggested is moving the largest meeting of the municipal year, the Annual Meeting – or Mayor making. For Lewisham Council this would mean to consider conducting the annual meeting prior to 7th May, and hold the meeting remotely while the express provision in current regulations apply. This would mitigate the risks.

Cllr Alan Hall has written to Kim Wright, Lewisham Council’s Chief Executive to ask her to clarify the Council’s intentions regarding the Ministerial Letter.


In response, the Local Government Association said:

“This decision is extremely disappointing. The Government’s own roadmap out of lockdown states that indoor gatherings or events – organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation – cannot be organised until May 17 at the earliest. Yet councils will be unable to hold remote meetings from May 7. MPs will retain the right to participate remotely until at least June 21 but the powers-that-be in the House of Commons will not make time available to legislate for councillors to do the same.

“The case is clear for the ability for councils to continue to be able to hold meetings flexibly. We urge the Government to reverse this decision and not force councils to have to hold COVID-19 secure face-to-face council meetings until all restrictions are lifted.

“Holding face to face council meetings, with supporting staff, could easily involve up to 200 people in one room even before adding in members of the public and reporters. This is likely to be a significant challenge with councils, for example, having to source larger venues in order to be able to host meetings with social distancing measures in place, such as full council meetings which will need to be held following the May local elections.

“This also risks damaging the gains seen in public participation in remote council meetings during the pandemic and our vital local democratic process.”

Lawyers in Local Government have issued a legal challenge and they have commented: “Councils are already actively considering the options the minister has suggested, including looking at alternative larger meeting venues at significant extra cost. The proposal to delegate significant decisions to officers is likely to be viewed as undermining democratic accountability due to the fact that such decisions are not subject to direct member involvement. Given the circumstances authorities find themselves in due to the imminent loss of virtual meeting provision, they now face unpalatable decisions, which include restricting member attendance and a reduction in members roles in decision making, whilst attempting to keep the machinery of local government moving. We remain fully committed to presenting our case at the High Court Hearing timetabled to be heard before the end of April 2021.”