P&O Fire and Rehire is ‘Beneath Contempt’

On March 17, P&O Ferries in the UK sacked 800 seafarers with 30 minutes notice over a pre-recorded Zoom call.

“Aside from being callous and beneath contempt, this behaviour not only lacks any form of basic decency, but appears to be a flagrant violation of UK labour law and international labour standards. Furthermore, the use of non-union replacement workers amounts to a fundamental breach of freedom of association and an attack on workers’ dignity. We can’t and won’t let this go unchallenged.” say ITF

Cllr Alan Hall has joined trade unionists and signed a letter co-ordinated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation, ITF, condemning the sacking of 800 P&O seafarers by zoom.

RMT issued a statement today urging the company to protect jobs amid the speculation. The union said it has instructed members to stay on board their vessels once or risk being “locked out” of their jobs

Nautilus International have said the news was “a betrayal of British workers”, with their General secretary Mark Dickinson slamming the company’s behaviour and pledging to fight the job cuts: “There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O. Be assured the full resources of Nautilus International stand ready to act in defence of our members. We have instructed our members to stay onboard until further notice.”

Trade Unionists Protesting outside DP World

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary has signed the letter on behalf of the TSSA saying:

“This is about more than just solidarity. We were all shocked and outraged at what we saw last week. But the truth is that we have to take action to stop this scandalous behaviour in its tracks. If P&O gets away with this then it could spell disaster for so many more workers in a damaging race to the bottom that no one ever wants to see. The government must be held to account to act in workers’ interests – and with a Tory government in power that’s never an easy task.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh led an opposition day debate in which politicians lined up to condemn the behaviour of P&O and DP World. She condemned the tory government for sitting on its hands throughout the shocking events. “The livelihoods of 800 British workers were on the line from a scandalous act, by a rogue employer. And the government knew in advance. And they did nothing” she said.

Trade Unionists across the world stand in solidarity with the sacked workers.

On March 29, ITF General Secretary, Stephen Cotton is meeting with DP World, the owners of P&O in Dubai.

At that meeting Stephen will deliver this Global Protest Letter to Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, CEO of DP World, backed by hundreds of unions and thousands of workers. Cllr Alan Hall has signed this letter.

Full text of the letter is below:
To: Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, CEO of DP World, Owners of P&O Ferries
From: [Your Name]

RE: P&O Ferries mass termination of British seafarers

As you are aware, on March 17, P&O Ferries announced via Zoom that it was terminating the contracts of all its 800 seafarers with immediate effect, and that they would be replaced by non-union, agency workers.

The manner in which this has been done appears to be in clear violation of UK labour legislation and international labour standards, a fundamental breach of collective bargaining and an attack on workers’ rights.

We are aware that P&O Ferries is a subsidiary of DP World and that this is part of DP World’s wider plan for P&O Ferries.

Around the world transport workers and our allies in civil society expect and demand better. Multinational corporations like yours can and should treat workers with dignity and respect their rights under the law.

DP World claims it values “relationships built on a foundation of mutual trust and enduring partnership” and wants to be a world-leader on ESG. You signed up to the UN Global Compact committing to respect workers’ fundamental rights. Yet DP World’s much vaunted sustainability statements are meaningless if you allow your subsidiary company to act illegally and directly undermine those very rights in the UK.

P&O firing of all staff with immediate effect is unacceptable.

We call on you to:

  • Urgently convene a meeting with the two unions, Nautilus International and the RMT, together with the UK Government, to rectify the current situation.
  • Guarantee that this will not happen in any other DP World wholly owned subsidiary and that you will uphold your ESG commitment to the principles of the UN Global Compact and behave equitably and show respect to all workers in your supply chain.
  • Commit to social dialogue, respectful industrial relations and to develop a closer relationship with the ITF and our affiliates across all DP World owned subsidiaries that ensures that no worker has to ever endure being sacked via Zoom again.
DP World are the owners of P&O

Former Leader Cllr Jim Mallory retires from Lewisham Council

Cllr Jim Mallory has announced that he will step down from Lewisham Council at the local elections to be held on Thursday, 5th May 2022.

In a tweet, Lewisham Council Labour Group said: “Jim has been a principled, committed community champion of this Council since first elected in 1986. We thank him for all his service & wisdom and wish him well.”

Cllr Jim Mallory speaking in 1991 – Lewisham Council

Cllr Jim Mallory spoke of the time when Lewisham Council hit the headlines in the early 1990s when the Inner London Education Authority was abolished and all schools were transferred to local borough councils in inner London. Cllr Mallory was Chair of the Education Committee which had direct responsibility for this vital service in 1991. Local Government operated a committee system and the Leader of the Council was elected by the largest political group on the Council. There was no directly Mayor. Indeed, the committee system dates back to the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.


Cllr Jim Mallory was duly elected Leader of the Council in 1995 and remained until the new Labour Group was elected in the local elections of May 1998. He was replaced by Cllr Dave Sullivan who went on to become the authority’s first ‘executive mayor’ a post that combined Leader of the Council and Civic Mayor ahead of the legislation to create directly elected mayors in the Local Government Act 2000. Cllr Dave Sullivan had close links with Tony Blair’s new Labour Government elected in 1997.

Unusally, the BBC filmed the machinations of Lewisham Council in 1991 – it was a pioneering fly on wall documentary called Town Hall.

Cllr Mallory can be seen trying to placate angry protesters as the education cuts caused by the abolition of the ILEA begin to bite.

Cllr Jim Mallory in 1991 can be seen at the full Council at 4 mins 25s

Cllr Alan Hall says: “I remember Jim Mallory’s time as Leader of the Council and the changes that were made especially the creation of “Community Affairs”. This consolidated the Council’s outward focus on the voluntary sector and public involvement whilst improving services and the legacy of that decision lives on.”

“Jim has said that setting this budget has been as difficult as before, indeed, harder…he is right. But, I am sure he will acknowledge, it is one thing to set a budget in full council and quite another to deliver it. The new Council will have a massive challenge and they will have some big decisions to make very early on.”

The Labour Party selection process is particularly important in Lewisham as the Council has 100% representation by Labour at the moment. Over one third of the current elected Councillors are due to leave, for one reason or another. Many leaving have years of experience and have expertise in finance, like Cllr Mallory who has recently served on the Public Accounts Select Committee. This is before the voters have their say.

You can read Councillor Jim Mallory’s speech in full:

Thank you, Mr Speaker

First, I want to thank all those many members and staff with whom I have worked over the years. Their service has been exceptional in difficult circumstances!

The last time I spoke in this Council Chamber was over two years ago… before the pandemic, an event that seems more like a lifetime away – given the difference it has made to all us.

In some ways, however, nothing has changed since then… crippling Tory-imposed cuts and the bite of Austerity bringing increased poverty and hardship for our most disadvantaged and making it even harder for the Council to maintain everyday basic services.

Setting this budget has been as difficult as before, indeed, harder because in other ways, COVID changed everything. One way or another, we have all experienced just how difficult it has been. Whether it’s having lost someone dear to us, seen others suffer from infection or caught it ourselves, its effect has been truly devastating.

The effect on people’s mental health, their experience of loneliness and isolation, the digital divide, all thrown into relief by the pandemic. As a Council, we knew of them before, now everyone recognises their importance as issues to overcome in sustaining the fabric of our society.

Now, as an active member of the community sector, you would expect me to say the following:

The response to COVID everywhere among the general public has been great, and from our health and social care services, in particular, magnificent.

Here, Lewisham residents – people in the community volunteering to deliver food parcels, transporting vulnerable people or by gifting money or supplies – helped out without reward in their thousands.

The voluntary and community sectors proved again just how much we depend on them, and we should never forget their contributions.

Our parks, always a source of pride, proved vital in ensuring many of us maintained our health and safety at a time when being largely confined to our homes.

And what of the Council’s unsung heroes? Front-line services – staff out every week, even when losing colleagues to illness, or the hundreds redeployed to support vital services in need of extra help.

The importance of all of these people and services never more in the spotlight, yet as you have heard and as we agree the 2022/23 budget tonight, we face challenges that make it difficult to sustain them.

As someone who has been through this more than most, with your indulgence, let me reflect. Indeed, only Chris Best and I are left of that new and relatively youthful intake in 1986. Chris, of course has outdone us all… no self-imposed sabbatical for her, unlike me. She is the mother of this house.

So, to some lessons. Some of these are basic common sense, but we can often lose sight of things, wrapped up in our town hall bubble… or, for that matter, our Teams exchanges.

“Stick to the knitting”: by this, I mean concentrate on the familiar, what we do well, what’s important… what’s important to all residents – take refuse collection – some of our reputation is built on collecting the rubbish.

I remember joining the crews of the lorries piloting the wheelie bin rounds in 1988 in overseeing Lewisham become the first in England to transform it into a more hygienic and efficient service.

“Keep your nerve”: Whether it’s inheriting in 1990 the Education service, demoralised with its transfer from the old ILEA, or introducing the more localised Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme, you have to hold the line… or at least until you have worked on a compromise that retains your original position but concedes the legitimate concerns of parents, students and teachers – or even, in the case of the latter, some car-drivers – that you may not have got it all right.

And apologise for any mistakes… it helps to defuse the situation.

“Don’t take ‘No’ for an answer”: From officers, especially from lawyers, if it’s about why we cannot implement our policies, or say something in public because it’s too “political”. Ask for a second opinion.

“Avoid splits but not at all costs”: Some of you will remember the splits in Lewisham’s Labour Group in the 1990s, others will have heard of them.

They largely developed around personality, but had for some of us their origins in ideological differences, the most fundamental one – in-house or privatisation of Council services. That difference was what made the split irreconcilable.

To avoid them, you need to work on the common ground and we have been lucky since in avoiding them, latterly I suspect, in part, because the common enemy – Tory Austerity (initially, aided and abetted, let us not forget by the Liberal Democrats) – has been ever-present.

“Never lose an opportunity to explain what we do and why”:

I enjoy public meetings, especially those where you begin by facing an unhappy audience. Angry of Lee Green has to be faced down, as we have done in our Assembly on several occasions.

What seems to work is taking the time to be honest about why we’re bringing in some change – avoid simple mantras or blaming someone else other than the Government and, even then, only by clearly detailing the effect of the cuts. They still may not agree with you, but for the most part, you will have earned their respect.

“Try and bow out gracefully”:

I came in on Thatcher, now I am going out on Johnson. Funny (or not so funny) half a lifetime of living with the Tories bent on destroying the Labour Movement. There was a moment a few weeks ago when I thought I might outlast Johnson, so precarious was the position of that most appalling of all politicians, who most recently in trumpeting so-called “Freedom Day” called on us all to exercise personal responsibility in learning to live with COVID. This, from a man who has spent his life running away from responsibility.

Now, the awful events in Ukraine appear to have saved him, at least for the time being. And his Levelling Up agenda, which was never going to benefit those it ostensibly aimed to help, will fall further by the wayside – paid for by the urban, densely-populated disadvantaged areas… places like Lewisham.

Let me finish with a question, WAS IT ALL WORTH IT? I like to think so – I may not have made much difference, but I hope I made some.

We keep on working because we know there is something better and, as I have said on previous occasions: “Until the return of a Labour government, no matter how long that takes, Labour councils remain the only option to guarantee local people have of retaining some semblance of a civilised and humane society.”

So, COMRADES, as I go quietly into the night:

To all of you – those leaving like myself and those carrying on the fight, the best of luck. Some of us will still be there to help you, even if in a less obvious way.

Cllr Jim Mallory, 2 March 2022

Human Rights Need Protection

Cllr Alan Hall has joined charities, voluntary groups and trades unionists by signing a statement supported by more than 60 civil society organisations objecting to the Government’s plans to “weaken human rights protections in the UK”.

The Human Rights Act establishes a legal obligation for the government and public bodies to uphold the human rights of everybody living in the UK, so that they are treated with respect and dignity.

The historical and policy context are intertwined. The consultation document explains that the nature and approach of the Strasbourg Court has evolved over the years, as has the Court’s relationship with Council of Europe member States, including the UK.

The Council of Europe

  • The Council of Europe was established by the Treaty of London in 1949 and is based in Strasbourg in France. Originally made up of ten member States, it now has 47 members stretching from Iceland to Azerbaijan. It has adopted a number of human rights treaties, most notably the Convention.
  • The Convention largely contains civil and political rights. In most cases, these reflect rights which have long been protected in domestic UK law in a variety of ways.
    Additional rights have been added over the years which are contained in protocols that are optional for States already party to the Convention.
  • In 1959 the Council of Europe established the European Court of Human Rights to determine alleged violations of the rights set out in the Convention by the 47 Council of Europe member States that have now ratified the Convention.

Further historical context is provided explaining the different approaches to Human Rights have been put forward in the consultation document:

“Karl Marx presented a critique of the Rights of Man proclaimed during the French Revolution in his 1843 article On the Jewish Question. Marx was amongst the early critics of the liberal tradition of civil and political rights, like the right to free speech, a fair trial, freedom of worship and habeas corpus, reflecting what Isaiah Berlin defined as ‘negative liberty’. In the 20th century, amidst the struggle of the Cold War, a movement grounded in the communist, socialist and social democratic traditions began to push for recognition of economic, social and cultural rights, including specific rights to education, healthcare and housing. This culminated in the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), opened for signature in 1966. As well as being conceptually different from civil liberties, the rights were defined as aspirational goals to be progressively realised. Many Western governments thought that, whilst noble aims, they reflected fluid and diverse public policy considerations with far-reaching financial implications, requiring collective decision-making through democratic institutions, rather than being individual rights, judicially enforceable through the courts.
Responding to both the American struggle for independence and later the French Revolution, Edmund Burke provided an alternative critique of liberal rights grounded in conservative thinking. Burke warned of the risks of extreme liberalism, and the weakness in the capacity of unfettered individual freedom to deliver personal or social well-being.”

However, academics have argued that Karl Marx later in life continued to support rights of political participation, including universal suffrage. His defence of the Paris Commune shows that he valued democratic participation not only as giving power to the working-masses but, for example, as a way of ensuring that the branches of state act in the general interests of society rather than in the interests of class, bureaucracy, or heads of state.

UK civil society organisations statement in full: Human Rights Act Review

“We all want to live in an equal, just and fair society, where governments and public bodies respect, protect and fulfil our human rights. The Human Rights Act, along with other legal processes, gives people the ability to hold governments and public bodies to account when they fail to uphold our rights. It allows ordinary people to stand up to those in power and demand that their rights are respected.

The Human Rights Act is an essential tool that allows the courts to find the right balance between individuals’ different rights and between individual rights and the collective rights of society.

Being able to challenge governments and other public bodies and hold them to account is at the heart of our democracy. We all deserve effective access to justice and a fair hearing.

This is a deeply disappointing report, and one which seems to bear little relationship to the weight of the evidence submitted to it, that overwhelmingly demonstrated that changes to the Human Rights Act are both unnecessary and damaging.

Human rights are the essential tools that empower us to stand up to people in power, and to create a stronger, fairer, more compassionate UK.

The Human Rights Act is a sensible and transparent balance between the roles of the government, of Parliament, of public bodies, of the courts and for all of us who use human rights every day to ensure we are treated with dignity and respect. It’s the bedrock of a fair and free society, but it is delicately balanced. Even tiny changes to this framework undermine the basis of our rights and freedoms, placing them at the mercy of fate not fairness.

We agree this is time for change, but that change should be an end to the relentless attacks on the Human Rights Act. Now that this latest review has concluded, it is time for the government to acknowledge that our human rights are the hidden foundations that help us all live together freely and fairly, a safety net to protect us all.

We call on the UK Government to reject these unnecessary proposals, that would dangerously weaken the protection of our rights. Instead, it should commit to:

1. Maintain the balanced and effective framework for securing our human rights, as set out in the Human Rights Act.
2. Proactively raise awareness of our human rights and support a public dialogue on how they can be fully realised that is grounded in fairness, equality and justice, recognising that human rights are at the heart of how we treat one another and live our lives.
3. Deliver the long overdue Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
4. Consider how the models of incorporating additional rights being developed in Wales and Scotland, such as the rights of the child and economic, social and cultural rights, could be applied to the UK as a whole.”

Cllr Alan Hall

Forgotten History of Deptford – Christ Church

Deptford has a rich history. The Czar of Russia learnt ship building in the Royal Dock and John Evelyn stayed in Sayes Court and his garden led to the establishment of the National Trust.

St Paul’s Church has a well chronicled history but the older St Nicholas’ Church is closer to the River Thames and may have been the local church for Christopher Marlowe, John Evelyn and the young man that became Peter the Great.

But have you heard of Christ Church in Deptford? This was another Church of England Church and parish. A huge building as the demand for pews soared in the late nineteenth century.

A contemporary account of the consecration conducted by the Bishop of London on the 27th December, 1864 explains that the new church replaced a temporary structure that had been used by the Rev John Polkinghorne Courtenay and the London Diocesan Home Mission. The site cost £7,000 – quite a sum then – that had been used as a saw mill and a kamptulicon floorcloth factory.

Local people and wealthy supporters sponsored the stained glass windows and these included Lady Anstruther, the widow of Sir Ralph Anstruther. He had supported the work of the mission and visited Deptford regularly. The church was gaslit – there was a local gasworks nearby.

Photograph courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

In the “The History of Deptford” by Nathan Dews, published in 1884, it says:

“The reredos is a stone representation of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous picture of the last supper. The pulpit and reading desk are also of stone richly carved.”

“Attached to the church is a commodious iron School Room in Reginald Road, where much parochial work of a practical character is being carried on, including Provident Sick Clubs with 800 members; Mothers’ Meetings; Blanket Club; Maternity Society; Parochial library and a Provident Dispensary.”

The curate Rev Robert Pratt, MA succeeded the first vicar, Rev J P Courtenay who died on 1st December 1882. However, in her History of Everyday Deptford, Jess Steele describes the Rev Pratt of Christ Church’s failure “that was so complete that his main funding had been withdrawn on the grounds that no one came to church. The Sunday School attracted around 200 children but Pratt commented that “the Ragged School gets the cream of them”.”

The Deptford Ragged & Industrial School is shown on the map at the corner of Giffin Street and Cross Street.

The saw mill was near the tide mill hence the name Tidemill for the school.

Christ Church is clearly shown on maps dating from 1900 opposite the ‘Addey’s School’ on Deptford Church Street and the Mission Hall is accessed from Reginald Road. It must have been a sizeable structure as it has ‘seats for 400’.

The maps of the 1930s clearly show the site of Christ Church off Deptford Church Street and the road layout has altered with Regent Street and Stanhope Street demolished. The site of the mission hall is between Hales Street and Reginald Road.

Even today, the site of Christ Church can be pin pointed to where the ‘pink palace’ is today.

The mission hall would be off Reginald Road as before. The parcels of land remain delineated on the 2022 google map.

Christ Church was demolished in 1937 after bomb damage presumably in the first world war. Documents show that there was a Zeppelin raid over Deptford near the docks about Midnight on 24-25th August 1916.

Also, there is a war memorial in Brockley cemetery that was paid for by the public – ‘By The Citizens of Deptford in Memory of 17 Residents Named Here Who Were Killed by Bombs From German Zeppelins During Raids on The Nights of September 7th 1915 And August 24th 1916.’

The parish of Christ Church was then merged with St Nicholas Church in 1936 to form the parish of St Nicholas with Christ Church.

Some of the land was sold by the Church Commissioners for the provision of public housing.

Beckenham Place Park – New Plans Published

Long awaited plans for the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park have been published by Lewisham Council. A full planning application is open for consultation and comment until 2nd February 2022.

The improvement of the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park was to be delivered as part of a flood alleviation scheme in partnership with the Enivornment Agency.

The major flood plans included a 10 site flood alleviation scheme which sought to protect Lewisham and Catford town centres from river or fluvial flooding. Beckenham Place Park was to be the holding reservoir for flood waters in times of exceptionally high flow. However, in summer of 2018 the EA concluded that the cost of the scheme they had designed had risen too significantly from initial cost estimates to be cost effective or deliverable within the government funding protocols they must work within. As a result, the scheme was cancelled. Lewisham Council had committed up to £2million for this.

Also, the Heritage Lottery Fund had expected that the whole of the park would be restored, and the funding bid to the HLF was made on that basis, however none of the HLF project budget was committed to the eastern side of the park.


“Beckenham Place Park is Lewisham’s largest park by far; indeed it is the one
of the largest parks in London, and South east London’s biggest open space.
At 95 hectares it is 30% bigger than Greenwich Park. It boasts ancient
woodland, meadow, parkland, a river and several historic buildings. It was
originally acquired by the London County Council to be the key amenity space
for the new estates of Bellingham and Downham”
– Lewisham Council Sustainable Development Committee report April 2017

Beckenham Place Park is full of history. There are listed buildings including the Mansion House built about 1773 for John Cator (1728-1806) . Cllr Alan Hall has called for a ‘root and branch‘ review of of the park’s financing in the past.

Funding for the restoration of the Grade II* Mansion House remains to be secured.


Please take time to examine the planning application and write to planning@lewisham.gov.uk with any comments.

Missing London Squares of Lewisham

A public outcry at the development of green spaces in London including Euston Square where local residents, the National Trust and the London Society opposed to the building a friends meeting house led to the creation of the Royal Commission on London Squares.

The Royal Commission report says that

“… The enclosures, particularly those which abut on roads and are open to the public view, are a very distinctive and attractive feature of the plan of the parts of London in which they are situate: similar open spaces are not to be found except to a very limited extent in other towns in this or other countries. It is
beyond question that the enclosures add greatly to the amenities, not only of their immediate surroundings, but of London as a whole, and the air spaces they afford are of benefit to the well-being of the community. Their loss to any extent would effect an alteration in the characteristic development of the parts of London concerned which would, in our view, be deplorable.”

The Royal Commissioners define the purpose of London Squares as

“… the enclosures should be reserved as ornamental gardens or pleasure grounds or as grounds for play, rest or recreation, and that the erection of buildings or structures, other than buildings or structures necessary or convenient for the enjoyment of the lands for those purposes, should be prohibited.”

The London Squares Preservation Act of 1931 followed. This gave statutory protection to 461 squares and other green spaces in greater London and was supported by the London County Council. It is significant to note that about one fifth were publicly owned. A contemporary account of the passage of the legislation in The Vote – the weekly publication of the Women’s Freedom League – on 4th September 1931 says: “It is the people’s and especially the electors’ duty to see that the open spaces of the land are safeguarded, and this…should have a prominent place in the programme of all candidates in the forthcoming elections.


There are two areas specified in the legislation under Metropolitan Borough of Deptford that are within the London Borough of Lewisham currently.

The Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham has its own entry in the Schedule

London Squares in the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham – Queen’s Road circle will be the roundabout at the top of Taymount Rise in Forest Hill as this was renamed.
Listed in the second Schedule

The tensions between development, house building and the population’s need for open spaces for health and recreation and the need to put in place proper measures to mitigate climate change are today’s political issues. Particularly, those living in social housing need green, open spaces more now than ever.

Lewisham Council is still consulting on the planning policies in the Lewisham Development Plan that will used to judge and shape the borough’s future building and infrastructure for ten or more years to come.

The London Squares included in the planning policies in force now are listed below:

London Squares listed in Lewisham Council’s current planning policies

There seem to be fewer squares listed in Lewisham Council’s Development Management Local Plan now than in the enacted legislation for 1931. It would be very interesting to find out what happened to the missing London Squares?

The regeneration plans for Catford should include full protection for the current London Squares that exist along Rushey Green. However, new green and open spaces are needed to combat pollution of the busy roads – now is the time to increase the amount of green, open space and parkland across the whole of the London Borough of Lewisham and heed the advice of The Vote.

End The HIV ‘Crisis’ in Lewisham

This World AIDS Day theme is ‘End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics.’ Many who have supported their friends, lovers, family members and colleagues living with HIV have experienced and challenged the corrosive stigma that still exists against people living with HIV. This year marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported. Since that time, where investments have met ambition, there has been huge progress, particularly in expanding access to treatment. By June 2021, 28.2 million people had access to HIV treatment, up from 7.8 million in 2010, although progress has slowed considerably according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 

World AIDS Day message from the United Nations on colliding pandemics

“The red light is flashing. Progress against AIDS, which was already off track, is now under even greater strain as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence-prevention programmes and more. And make no mistake: AIDS remains a pandemic. To stop it we urgently need a bolder view of pandemic response that is capable of tackling the inequalities prolonging the AIDS pandemic. Many of these missing pieces to fight HIV are also allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to continue and leaving us dangerously unprepared for pandemics of the future,” says Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director.

In the UK the National AIDS Trust has said that we are at a crucial point in the fight against HIV.

It is now scientifically possible to end new cases of HIV by 2030. In January 2019, the UK government promised that it would meet this goal. The HIV Commission’s report has now provided a route map. After months of delay, the government is starting to draft its HIV action plan. NAT says: “We cannot afford to delay this any more.”

“Any HIV Action Plan is worthy of its name must genuinely start the process of ending new cases of HIV and support people to live well with HIV and AIDS.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has a project which operates across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. This focuses on increasing HIV testing, and re-engaging with people who have stopped HIV treatment. It has helped provide additional HIV testing in University Hospital Lewisham A&E department, primary care settings, and in community organisations, as well as recall of those who are no longer in treatment. Some 115 Lewisham residents living with HIV have received treatment and care since the project started in November 2018.

I has campaigned with the NAT and local HIV organisations like Metro for many years. Earlier this year, I wrote to Matt Hancock who was then, Secretary of State for Health, about the need for action.


During the 1990s Lewisham did not have a specialist hospital based sexual health clinic. Following a successful campaign led by the voluntary sector, the local Community Health Council and LGBTQi+ groups a new clinic was opened at University Hospital Lewisham. The Alexis Clinic is much in demand as Lewisham’s centre for treating outpatients and inpatients with HIV in a confidential, comprehensive and patient-centred manner.

The Alexis Clinic provides a wide range of services for adults aged 16 and there are 850 registered patients. More than 50 per cent of them are heterosexual and most are of African origin. Many live on the poverty line and struggle with mental health problems. The Alexis Clinic say that the biggest challenge facing its clinical team is the issue of stigma.

Rates of HIV in Lewisham are amongst the highest in the country – figures from PHE accessed 290721

The rates of HIV infection in Lewisham need to be seen in the context that the UK maintains the largest HIV epidemic in western Europe. Lewisham as a London borough has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country, with 1,693 diagnosed.

Recently published research in Ireland around stigma and HIV, in the well respected National AIDS Manual, concluded that despite improved access to HIV treatment and prevention, the Irish HIV epidemic remains a significant public health concern, with annual increases in the number of infections. In 2019 the number of new diagnoses of 11 per 100,000 was much higher than the European average of 6.2. The rise in HIV infections coincided with significant health funding cuts since 2008. People living with HIV continue to feel stigmatised and this impacts upon health in varied ways, such as not seeking out healthcare services.

Perhaps, there needs to be some research into how the public discourse around HIV and the media coverage of it is having an impact on HIV treatment, care and prevention in the UK?

HIV and AIDS non governmental organisations promote the positive advances in medicine – and these are real and beneficial. However, there is still a question of whether we are reaching those who need support. As the researchers in Ireland put it: “Whose ‘health’ counts in a politics ‘that produce conditions of systematic negligence’, which disproportionately affect individuals with less access to power?”

To redress the balance, then access to advocacy and support service for individuals with HIV – and other conditions – needs to be prioritised.

This is one of the many reasons that Lewisham needs an independent disability advocacy service. Since the Lewisham Association of People with Disabilities closed its doors in Bellingham in December 2018 there is no organisation to advocate and represent those with disabilities in Lewisham and the small budget of around £50,000 remains unspent. Politics is about priorities and this must be one of them – without delay.

In advance of World AIDS Day on the 1st December 2021, I tabled a formal question at Lewisham Council. The latest statistics available and the text of the reply

Cllr Alan Hall’s formal Question tabled at Lewisham Council meeting 24th November 2021

Taking up the need to address the “Crisis in HIV and AIDS in the UK, London and Lewisham” and pointing out that Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham all have high rates of HIV and AIDS, in fact among the highest in Europe, I urged Lewisham Council to do more work and to address the issue of racism that I raised on the floor of the Council Chamber last year 2020.

Cllr Chris Best, cabinet member for Adult Services said: “I am not proud of the statistics at all” and she agreed there was more that needed to be done.

The full exchange between can be viewed here

Cllr Alan Hall moves a motion about HIV and AIDS services – Lewisham Council November 2017

A report on transforming sexual and reproductive health for BAME communities in Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham published on 3rd November 2020 says:

“Mainstream services must look at the way racial and HIV discrimination intersects when caring for BAME service users, so they can provide efficient care for individuals who may be coping with social isolation, stigma from the community as well as racial discrimination: something that is not necessarily relevant to the rest of the HIV positive community.”

I have joined campaigners calling for more government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. I say:

“There is a failure to act to end HIV. To end the prejudice, to end the stigma. In the Budget – earlier this year – the failure to allocate resources means that action is needed more urgently, if we are to put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on those who show real leadership and financial commitment now. We need to fund the fight and take the decision to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need real action now to end the colliding pandemics.”

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS said: “Ending inequalities to end AIDS is a political choice that requires bold policy reforms and requires money. We have reached a fork in the road. The choice for leaders to make is between bold action and half-measures.”

UN urges action to end HIV

Cllr Alan Hall was a trustee of the London Lighthouse, the pioneering HIV and AIDS hospice and centre in London.

Bromley Council and HIV – The Fight For Social Services

The late 1980s and the early 1990s was a time when the HIV and AIDS pandemic was in the news and high on the political agenda.

Professor Virginia Berridge, Director of the Centre for History in Public Health and author of AIDS in the UK, gives us this accurate and succinct historical context:

An expert advisory group on AIDS (EAGA) had been set up in 1985 in the Department of Health with input from clinicians and scientists involved. The Chief Medical Officer, the main public health government official, Sir Donald Acheson, led the group. Despite the level of expertise, the committee faced many problems. They included the attitude of sections of the press, which called for a punitive response to HIV/AIDS. An initial lack of political interest and the danger that, if political interest were awakened, the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might take a punitive stance. Issues such as segregation and quarantine were freely talked about.

In 1986, a sense of national emergency materialised, and developed high-level political interest on the subject. A Cabinet committee on AIDS was set up, a major health education campaign was initiated, funds were released for research, and the main health education body, the Health Education Council, was reformed as the Health Education Authority. Despite this progress, there were still powerful calls for a punitive approach, such as when the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton, spoke of people ‘swirling in a human cesspit of their own making’. However, the general tenor of the government response was pragmatic – focussing on safe sex rather than no sex, and safer drug use rather than no drug use. This liberal response was influential at the international level too and was promoted through AIDS specific organisations set up as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).

Source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Epidemiology_of_HIV/AIDS

In South East London, the local HIV groups were formed in response to the direct experiences of people who faced barriers accessing health and social care. These specialist organisations included the Positive Place in Deptford – which started in an office in Sydenham where Cllr Alan Hall was a volunteer.

Sydenham is a very interesting area. Geographically it is on a hill which has a ridge with its apex at Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace is the place where five local authorities meet – the boundaries of London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

Locally, social services are provided by Councils and health services were overseen by regional health authorities at this time. The provision of HIV services were very variable and much of the work and support was provided by specialist sexual health clinics at the major London teaching hospitals. Hospital social work could provide some support but the end of life care and care at home fell to the patients’ home local authority.

By 1991 the Government had put in place a ringfenced Government Grant called the AIDS Support Grant (ASG) – this was to recognise the additional resources needed to provide services for people with AIDS.


To enable Social Services Departments to draw up strategic plans, based on local population
needs assessments, for commissioning social care for people with HIV/AIDS; and to enable Social Services Departments to finance the provision of social care for people with HIV/AIDS, and where appropriate, their partners, carers and families.
The grant is to assist local authorities with the costs of providing HIV related personal social services.

At the Positive Place – then in Sydenham – we became aware that people with HIV were having problem accessing social services in Bromley. There were general comments and complaints in the other neighbouring boroughs however, in Bromley people were routinely refused a social service.

After extensive enquiries and local research, a meeting with Bromley Social Services Committee Councillors was arranged and a briefing document produced. Richard Cowie, the Clinical Nurse Specialist for South East London Health Authority, David Thomas a Trustee of the Postive Place which had established as a centre for people with HIV in SE London based in Deptford – joined Alan Hall who had become a member of the Bromley Community Health Council and set up Bromley Positive Support Group in Beckenham.

The first section is instructive it is called: NO AIDS HERE

“The first response to deny HIV services is that there is ‘no demand’ for them. In effect, this means no AIDS in Bromley. In 1992 this was the reason used by the London Borough of Bromley for not applying for AIDS Support Grant. Every District Health Authority must submit returns regarding the number of HIV infections and AIDS related deaths yearly and much more detailed information under the provision of the AIDS (Control) Act 1987.”

“The figures are collated in a technical manner and require considerable caution interpretating them. However the latest report for Bromley (1993/4) shows that there are ’48 people living with HIV infection and 2 babies of indeterminate status’.

“It is accepted that this is an underestimate. This includes people who attend Bromley Hospitals or services. It does not include all the people attending specialist centres of excellence, eg Middlesex Hospital, King’s College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster….of which we know there are several cases. We estimate that there are at least 60 cases – this does not include their families, partners or carers. The no AIDS in Bromley is a myth. Indeed, the Department of Health classifies Bromley as a “moderate” prevelance area.”

“Frequently, AIDS in Bromley has been dismissed as a small number of cases, insignificant. This is a favourite argument of Cllr Cooke. Clearly, 60 people with HIV plus their families is not a small number. Contrast this with the number of people receiving intensive personal care – this is in the order of 70 people.”

The conclusion of the document states: “All of the myths, I am sure you will find have their root in prejudice and bigotry.”

Whilst the Positive Place was in Sydenham the local MP, Jim Dowd agreed to ask a Parliamentary Question. This question revealed that Bromley Council had failed to apply for its indicative allocation of AIDS Support Grant in 1992-3.

Hansard records the written parliamentary question on 14th January 1993:

Mr. Dowd : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (Virginia Bottomley)

(1) on what date the London borough of Bromley applied for AIDS support grant for the current financial year ; and what efforts have been made by her Department to urge Bromley to apply for it ;

(2) what amount of AIDS support grant was allocated to each local authority in each year since 1990-91 :

(3) what extra costs she estimates to have been incurred by neighbouring boroughs obliged to deal with HIV/AIDS cases turned away by Bromley social services department ; and what steps she proposes to take to recompense the neighbouring boroughs ;

(4) by what date London boroughs should apply for the AIDS support grant for 1993-94 ; and what steps she will take to ensure that the London borough of Bromley applies for the grant on time ;

(5) how many people in each London borough have died from AIDS :

(6) how many cases of HIV have been reported in the borough of Bromley in each year for which figures are available.

The Minister for Health, Tom Sackville, MP replied:

Mr. Sackville : In December 1991 the Department issued a circular (LAC(91)22) inviting all social services departments in England to bid for extra resources for HIV and AIDS services in 1992-93 under the AIDS support grant scheme. Criteria for bids under this scheme are set out in the circular. Copies are available in the Library. The closing date for bids was 7 February 1992. The London borough of Bromley submitted an application in November 1992 although not in the form and detail set out in departmental guidance. By that time AIDS support grant moneys had been fully committed. The Department was, therefore, unable to allow Bromley’s bid to proceed. Although not in receipt of AIDS support grant money in 1992 -93, we understand that the London borough of Bromley plans to spend £15,000 on HIV and AIDS services in the current year. We have no information to suggest that the borough has been compelled to turn away people affected by HIV.

For 1992-93 local authority social services departments will again be invited to apply for an AIDS support grant allocation. The closing date for applications will be 8 February 1993. It will, of course, be open to the London borough of Bromley to bid for funds under this scheme.

Information on the number of HIV and AIDS cases reported in individual boroughs and of deaths is not held centrally.

The table shows the AIDS support grant allocations which have been awarded since 1990-91 for a full list in England see Hansard.

Allocations for Individual Authorities in London are shown.

London Borough Grant 1990-1Grant 1991-2Grant 1992-3
Kensington 627,500652,600970,000
Lambeth 551,000573,040930,000
Westminster625,000 650,000940,000
Ealing 250,000260,000290,000
Hackney 322,500335,400460,000
Haringey 357,500371,800500,000
Lewisham 163,750170,300240,000
Richmond 135,000140,400200,000
Southwark 215,000215,000300,000
Tower Hamlets 309,000321,300481,000
Wandsworth 165,122120,152188,000
Barking 14,00017,17332,236
Barnet NIL26,00040,000
Bexley 25,00026,00046,000
Bromley 8,5009,520NIL
City of London 25,00026,00047,000
Croydon 24,50030,00049,000
Kingston 25,00026,00064,000
Merton 14,00017,17866,000
Newham 72,500110,000250,000
Sutton 22,26030,00057,000
Waltham Forest70,00090,000135,000
The Boroughs are listed in prevalence order and grant awarded

Alan Hall followed up the lack of funding and more importantly, the lack of a strategy in 1993. On 11th October he received the following reply from Baroness Cumberlege, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health in the Lords, this said: “The Department is aware that there has been an absence of a clear HIV/AIDS strategy in Bromley and has been monitoring the situation.”

If the Government were aware, why didn’t they act?

Perhaps, we will never know the answer to that. But the refusal of Bromley Council’s social services Committee members to allocate funding and support proposals for a change in direction led to protest.

The community activists in Outrage knew that Bromley Council were resisting change and they decided to mount a protest. Activists enetered the Council Chamber, chanting and holding placards. Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors stayed in the Chamber whilst shocked tories walked out. The photograph below was taken by the acclaimed photographer, Gordon Rainsford.

AIDS activists protest in Bromley Council Chamber
Outrage in the Bromley Council Chamber

The Pink Paper carried a report of the protest with the headline: “Tory Mayor flees AIDS protesters in Bromley”.

Outrage alleged that the Mayor of Bromley, Cllr Edgington attacked one of its members. This is particularly interesting as this is believed to be a counterclaim, when the Mayor of Bromley made a complaint to the Police that one of the protesters drank from his glass thereby assaulting him.

The fifteen activists held a “die in” where they laid down in the Council Chamber and held tombstone shaped placards with slogans such as killed by Bromley neglect.

In the press report, the case of a 28 year old man who was refused a home help and told to ‘try a private nursing home’ a day before he died is raised.

Daniel Winchester a local resident said that Bromley Council had shown ‘contempt’ to the ill and dying over the last ten years of the pandemic.

The independent voice of social workers – Community Care – carried an article on HIV and AIDS social service provision in March 1993 saying: “Bromley Social Services is behind with its HIV work. It’s bid for 1992-3 was late, so it did not benefit from the 50% increase and that there was great pressure to meet the standards for grant status.” In response a senior Bromley Council social services manager is quoted as saying: “Our services are pretty thin on the ground in this area.”

Confidentiality and public health policy were tested in Bromley by HIV and AIDS

Leaders in the social work profession at the time, believed that there were additional benefits with specialised HIV services as they were ground breaking and that they benefit other areas of social work like confidentiality and increasing good practice more generally.

Outrage blow fog horns and whistles to get attention from Bromley Council

This article has appeared on the Socialist Health Association website

Fight Secrecy! Say Campaigners

Cllr Alan Hall has joined bloggers, campaigners and other journalists supporting the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s crowdfunding initiative to close a funding shortfall.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information played a key part in persuading the Labour government headed by Tony Blair to make and then honour a manifesto commitment to introduce the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2000 and in improving what started out as an extremely weak bill.

However, in his 2010 memoirs Blair took the diametrically opposite view, declaring his earlier support to be that of an “idiot” and a “naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop”. The legislation has faced attempts to weaken it by Governments ever since.

Indeed, Freedom of Information and transparency has hit headlines recently as the tory Government has proposed that the new Health and Care Bill that will establish a Health Services Safety Investigations Body to investigate medical scandals will be exempt from the Freedom of Information legislation.

Campaign for FOI assessment of current threats include:

  • The Health Service Safety Investigations Body is being set up to investigate and help prevent serious patient safety incidents but would be banned from disclosing information under the FOI Act or passing information to a Parliamentary select committee. It would be a criminal offence for a whistleblower to disclose information about its work. Read our briefing for MPs.
  • A new funding body to promote ‘high risk, high reward’ research, with a budget of £800m over four years, will be excluded from FOI altogether under the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill. Read about our campaign here.
  • Home Office proposals to revise the Official Secrets Act will make it easier to convict those who disclose information without authority and substantially increase prison sentences for convicted whistleblowers or journalists. Astonishingly, it says the maximum penalty for leaking, currently 2 years imprisonment, should be the same as that for espionage – 14 years. 

The CFOI are also working to:

  • Close the FOI loophole that prevents the public finding out about public services delivered by contractors. So if, for example, an NHS body uses a private contractor to provide ambulances the public’s right to know how well the service operates will be severely undermined.
  • Ensure that time limits for responding to FOI requests are rigorously enforced.

The Freedom of Information Act gives individuals the right to ask for any recorded information held by a government department, local council, NHS trust, police force or other public body. 

Together with the Environmental Information Regulations these form part of the crucial rights to have access to information from Government bodies.

The United Nations states that work to enhance freedom of information, thereby supporting transparent and accountable institutions, is also important to the rule of law.

It should be remembered that the Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on signatory countries including the UK and public authorities, obligations regarding access to information and public participation. It backs up these rights with access to justice provisions that go some way towards putting teeth into the Convention. In fact, the preamble directly links environmental protection to human rights norms and expressly recognises that every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being. The EU has based legislation on the Aarhus Convention however, the responsibility to implement the various provisions remain in the UK unless the Government propose to leave.

“The Aarhus Convention’s twin protections for environmental and human rights, and its focus on involving the public, provide a mechanism for holding governments to account in their efforts to address the multi-dimensional challenges facing our world today, including climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty reduction, increasing energy demands, rapid urbanization, and air and water pollution” – Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Local Authorities are subject to the Aarhus Convention. Cllr Alan Hall asked a Member Question to the newly elected Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan who had taken personal responsibility for the planning portfolio at a full Lewisham Council meeting in July 2018.

The first question posed to Mayor Damien Egan at a full Council meeting in July 2018
Basis for public participation in environmental including planning matters

During the Covid-19 pandemic the Campaign for Freedom of Information has said that there is a severe backlog of FOI requests in some areas. Complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can take a year before it starts investigating some freedom of information complaints.

“Unless the backlog is reduced quickly, both the operation of the Act and the public’s confidence in it will be severely damaged. Regular reporting on the real size of the problem and the time it is taking to carry out substantive investigations is essential to an effective right to know.” – Campaign for Freedom of Information

New challenges face public scrutiny of decision makers with the use of private emails and messaging services like whatsapp. Elizabeth Denham CBE the Information Commissioner wrote in the Municipal Journal that the five key recommendations that anyone handling FoI requests within a public authority needs to bear in mind:

1) Make sure your staff, relevant public officials and elected representatives understand how they can securely access official IT systems and equipment. This should minimise the need to use private correspondence channels.

2) Train staff to recognise which communications relate to official business and which relate to non-official information, across all channels. In the context of local government, you should have a way of distinguishing between official business and an elected official’s work on behalf of their constituents.

3) Review and communicate your records management policy. You should regularly tell staff what they need to do to ensure information related to public authority business is transferred to official systems as soon as possible.

4) When handling FoI requests make sure you consider whether communications held on private correspondence channels, such as WhatsApp, may be relevant to the request.

5) Ensure staff correctly adhere to the relevant policies and procedures and regularly review them to ensure staff knowledge remains up to date. Remember, erasing, destroying or concealing information with the intention of preventing disclosure after a request is received is a criminal offence.

To support the Campaign for Freedom of Information with their crowdfunding please click here.

At the full Lewisham Council meeting on Wednesday, 24th November, new figures on the response rate to Freedom of Information requests were announced.

Lewisham Council figures for FOI and EIR responses released on 24th November 2021

Cllr Alan Hall asked a supplementary question to find out how the declining trend over the last four years would be reversed – he was told that Lewisham Council had risen in a league table of London Authorities from near the bottom to average. The full exchange can be viewed at 1h 50 minutes on the webcast here

According to the Campaign for Freedom of Information the ICO’s target for public authorities is to meet the FOIA/EIR time limits in at least 90% of all requests.

Abuse Is Not Part of the Job Say Shop Workers

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners, co-operators, shop workers and trade unionists calling on the Government to making it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse shopworkers.

In the annual ‘Respect for Shopworkers Week’ 15-21 November 2021, trade union USDAW has released shocking statistics that show:

  • 89% have experienced verbal abuse.
  • 64% were threatened by a customer.
  • 11% were assaulted.
  • 46% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference.
  • 7% of those who had been assaulted did not report the incident.
Shopworker abuse

Lord Vernon Coaker, Labour’s Home Affairs spokesperson said:

“Nearly half of the respondents to the Usdaw survey don’t believe that reporting the abuse they have faced makes a difference. Indeed, it’s clear the police have not viewed attacks against shopworkers as a priority. A Freedom of Information request made by the Co-op Group showed that the police did not attend 65% of the reported serious incidents in its stores last year. None of this is acceptable.”

“Abuse is not part of the job and it should never become normalised, common, or accepted. Nobody should be going to work expecting to face abuse, threats, and violence. But if it does happen, they need to be confident that the system is on their side. The current situation clearly needs to change and the only way to do that is through strong and decisive action at Parliament.”

Amendments were tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords on Wednesday, 17th November. During the debate, Lord Coaker stated that we have to challenge the police and others on those instances when crimes were reported but the response was not what we would expect it to be.

A Freedom of Information request made by the Co-op Group revealed that the police failed to attend in 65% of the incidents reported in Co-op stores. These will be the most serious incidents.

Cllr Alan Hall is a long standing supporter of the call for greater protection for shopworkers.

From alcohol and cigarettes to knives and acid, there are now more than 50 types of products that are restricted by law. It’s staff on the shop floor who we expect to enforce those laws, and who all too often pay the price in the form of violence, threats and verbal and physical abuse from customers. We ask shopworkers to uphold the law – but the law doesn’t do enough to protect them.Co-operative Party

USDAW has published some voices from the frontline giving examples of the abuse suffered by retail staff. Their survey says:

“Customer attempted to punch me upon asking for ID from his partner who appeared under 25.”
“Mocking my intelligence and misogynistic comment about my physical abilities.”
“Pulled my top open and stuffed some paper down my chest.”
“A customer spat in my face, in another incident a customer threw a basket of stock at me.”
“Abuse over rules, Covid policy and face masks.”
“Been physically assaulted, spat at, verbally abused, punched, hand round throat.”
“Called a c**t because we don’t have enough turkeys.”
“Hit with trolleys, verbally abused, called names and pushed.”
“Was shouted and sworn at, threatened to be beaten up and set on fire.”

Unfortunately, the Conservative Government has not accepted the amendment to the Bill however, it has agreed that changes should be made.