Bellingham Assembly supports Community Sports and Spirit

Bellingham’s Labour Councillors today reveal the fourteen community projects that have been awarded a share of the £15,000 Bellingham Assembly Fund. The Fund, an initiative of Lewisham Council, exists to support projects that engage the local community in Assembly priority areas. Bellingham’s priorities are to engage young people; focus on issues affecting older people; deliver community events and festivals and promote and develop Bellingham as a stronger community.

“We had an extremely successful application process, attracting bids totalling more than twice the amount of funding available”, said Cllr Jacq Paschoud, who hosted the event on Thursday 13th October at Watergate School where the winners were announced. She continued “In Bellingham we strive to be as inclusive as possible and give our residents a real voice in community decision-making. This year we ran a marketplace style event where all the bidders ‘set out their stalls’, informally chatting about their proposed projects with the residents who then had the chance to vote for their preferred projects. To minimise any tactical voting each voter had a minimum of six bids that they could support”.

14 of the 15 bids were successful and will deliver a broad mix of activity for Bellingham. Bellingham Community Project can provide two free monthly play sessions for local children with Special Educational Needs; Bellingham Football Club is coming home to engage local youths in wellbeing and mindfulness through the beautiful game; the whole community can get involved in the annual Bellingham Festival which will take place on Bellingham Green next Summer; all of the local churches will join forces to support a befriending scheme for elderly citizens; and the PYE Project (Positive Youth Education) will begin a knife crime prevention and awareness scheme for young teenagers.

Emmanuel Imuere, Founder and Director of the PYE Project, said “I set up PYE over 10 years ago as a project inspired by the need for BAME-led, grass roots youth organisations in South East London. I am determined to see a reduction in young people becoming involved with criminality, gangs and violence. This funding will allow us to deliver an intervention course to 13 and 14 year olds at risk of becoming involved in knife crime”.

Cllr Alan Hall said “The Bellingham Assembly has decided to support community sports and community spirit. Fostering a sense of pride in our community by supporting Carols on the Green and the Bellingham summer festival in these times of austerity is more important than ever.”

Notes to editors

Bellingham is an area in South East London, in the London Borough of Lewisham.

Bellingham is served by three Labour Councillors: Alan Hall, Sue Hordijenko and Jacq Paschoud pictured.


Last night (Weds 2/11/16) Nicaragua’s Ambassador to London, Guiselle Morales-Echaverry and Christine Blower, former General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, spoke on solidarity with Nicaragua at the London headquarters of trade union Unite.

Christine spoke of the local education improvements in the rural areas of Nicaragua and the high levels of participation. The trade unions had worked well together and that British trade unionists had a long and enduring friendship with their Nicaraguan brothers and sisters. The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group promotes the trade union links.

Ambassador Guiselle Morales- Echaverry told of the impact of successful government policies on global warming and gender equality. She also gave an assessment of the Nicaraguan elections due later in November. Polls suggest a lead for the current President Daniel Ortega but turnout is expected to be high.

It was a real pleasure to meet the Ambassador again as earlier this year we welcomed the Ambassador to a civic reception at Lewisham Town Hall as part of our town twinning link with Matagalpa a coffee and cocoa region in Nicaragua. She once again sent warm greetings to Lewisham.

Recently, I and other Lewisham Co-op party members met Ivania Calderon Peralta, a board member of Matagalpa’s Cecocafen Coffee Coop, who was in London to launch the Fairtrade Foundations’s international fairer trade strategy Fairtrade Can, I Can.

Around 30,000 people benefit from the work of Cecocafen and its shared resources that help poorer farmers access technology, higher production standards, marketing and education. (If you search for Cecocafen with Google Chrome you get the option of translating the website into English). You can also see a video about Cecocafen here with subtitles.

 Lewisham Coop Party is exploring ways of helping Cecocafen market their delicious coffee to residents, shops, cafes and restaurants in Lewisham (yes, I tried it and it’s much better than the stuff we currently have at the town hall!).


ah-junior-doctors-kingsLewisham’s leading scrutiny councillor, Alan Hall has welcomed the final publication of plans to remodel the NHS in south east London but is telling NHS bosses that they must pass a series of tests before councillors will support or agree to their implementation.

“The report has confirmed our deep concerns about some serious flaws in the plans” said Cllr Alan Hall Chair of Lewisham Council’s powerful Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“There is nearly a £1bn shortfall over the next four years, there is a £12m shortfall for ambulance services, there is a further £80m shortfall due to poorer-than-expected financial performance and the changes to orthopaedic services could spell the end of Lewisham A&E.

“Because of all of these threats, I want to apply four key tests that this process has to pass. Are the plans transparent and open? Is the funding in place?  Are the public being fully consulted? And finally will services improve?”

Notes For Editors:

Our Healthier South East London – NHS Plans on the STP are here

Cllr Alan Hall went on to say: “I am pleased that we now have final sight of it but make no mistake, it does contain potential backdoor methods for closing Lewisham A&E as well as other matters of great concern.

While I welcome and embrace the opportunity to improve NHS services through greater cooperation and coordination, we must not be blinded by the deliberately complicated smokescreen of complex processes and documents leading to many and various consultations.

The key tests I apply are the plans transparent, are they open, is the funding in place and have the public been fully consulted and will services improve.

We all know that Council budgets are reducing across the six boroughs and that increasing community care provision against this backdrop is as they say “challenging”.

Further to this, last night Greenwich Council’s Health Scrutiny meeting have challenged the CCG attempts to award a large contract to Circle Health a private provider rather than our local hospital. Taking money from our local hospital further undermines the ability of the Trust to keep two A&E Department open. Spirits were high and councillors challenged  NHS England and the proposers of the plans.

It was great to see Dr Tony O’Sullivan who played a key role in the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign give an impressive take down of the proposals and it was reassuring to hear Eltham MP Clive Efford say to Circle: “We’re a Labour borough with a Labour Council and Labour MPs, we don’t want you here.”

A critical analysis of  NHS STPs is available on Open democracy here

Update: Monday, 14th November I have written to Barry Quirk, Chief Executive at Lewisham Council who chaired the STP process in SE London to publish all the appendices and associated documents submitted as part this process.

Cheers! It’s a knockout as Council gives full planning backing to the Fellowship Inn

fellowship-inn-reproduce-henry-cooper-pints-oct-2016-ahLewisham Council has given formal planning permission to Phoenix Community Housing Co-op to restore the Grade II listed Fellowship Inn, Bellingham, where British boxing legend and local resident Henry Cooper once trained and where rock legends Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac once performed.

Bellingham councillor and Phoenix Board Member Alan Hall (see photo) said: “I am simply delighted. We have been given the green light to renew and restore one of London’s historic, landmark pubs.

“Once completed, we expect to see The Fellowship quickly become the beating heart of the community with so much life and activity. I can’t wait for the work to begin.”

The mock-Tudor pub was built in the mid-1920s to serve the residents of the London County Council’s newly built Bellingham estate and part of the ‘homes fit for heroes’ promise by Lloyd-George after the First World War.

As well as the pub itself, the building will have a restored dance hall, cinema and theatre and a new lift to make the community hub fully accessible. The project was awarded £4 million from the Heritage Lottery fund in October.


Editor’s Notes:

The planning committee met on Thursday, 17th November. The full report is here
Click on the link for information on the Heritage Lottery Fund Grant is here

Two Trains Per Hour ‘Not good enough for a world class city’ Lewisham Council Response to Rail Changes

Lewisham Council has responded to the Govia Thameslink Railway – GTR – consultation which sets out proposed changes to the timetable following the completion of the Thameslink Programme.

An urgent meeting of the Public Transport Liaison Committee was called on Tuesday 6th December with representatives from the Cinderella Line campaign group, Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society who joined councillors in considering Lewisham Council’s formal response which is published now.

Lewisham’s Lead Non Executive Councillor Alan Hall said: “I have said that two trains per hour on the Catford Loop Line are not good enough for a world class city like London. I am pleased that after years of campaigning we will see an increase in trains. I am optimistic that extra South Eastern trains will stop along the line to boost capacity at peak times. There is more work to do but this puts us on the right track.”

The formal response raises concerns that there will be a reduction in services along the Brockley, Forest Hill and Sydenham Line from London Bridge and a diversion of trains away from East Croydon to West Croydon. It says:

“Our impression is that the changes to the Catford Loop services do not go far enough, nor do they align sufficiently with wider train services. Furthermore, other changes proposed, such as on the Sydenham line, have a sharply detrimental effect on residents. The Council’s response is set out according to the specific questions posed in the consultation.”


Editor’s Notes:

Details of the GTR consultation are here

Councillor Alan Hall established the Public Transport Liaison Committee recently and his previous comments are here


LEWISHAM COUNCIL must ‘now put its money where its mouth is’ and lead the vanguard of a grass roots revolution to stop company tax evasion and avoidance which harms the welfare of residents, according to its leading scrutiny councillor Alan Hall.

“We have just unanimously agreed in a council motion to strengthen our policies and check on suppliers and contractors for tenders and contracts over a certain amount to see whether they are compliant on matters of tax evasion and avoidance” said Councillor Alan Hall.

“Already in July we signed up to the Fair Tax Mark of which the key element is the need for basic transparency about company structure and ownership.

“Tax-dodging costs the UK about £30 billion a year and that means less money for the NHS and the welfare of our elderly, for example. Councils like Lewisham who are leading the way in adopting these policies must lead by example and ensure all the companies it does business with are compliant with the Fair Tax Mark.”

Lewisham has also agreed to incorporate co-operative values and principles when planning services and in its engagement with local residents and to publicise existing co-operative good practice within the council and across the borough.


Notes for Editors:

1. The full text of the motion that Lewisham Council agreed unanimously is here


  • Basic transparency about company structure and ownership.
  • Ensuring full accounts are in the public domain
  • Understanding what tax has been paid and why
  • Looking for a tax policy which commits to good practice
  • For multinationals only, public country by country reporting

3. More information about the Fair Tax campaign can be found on their website here

NHS STP – Slash, Trash and Privatise

This is the text of a speech I gave to Lewisham Council this week as the lead watchdog councillor for Lewisham on the so-called ‘STP’ plans for the future of the NHS in south east London. We are all deeply concerned that the plans mean further damaging cuts and the potential loss of Lewisham A&E.

“This motion is about the future of our NHS.

 This motion is about the South East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan, the STP.

Campaigners and Trade Unions have called the STPs – Slash, Trash and Privatise as the struggling NHS patient faces cuts of £20 billion. Here, in South East London it is estimated there will be a £1 billion shortfall in funding.

Firstly, let me reiterate the first line in our motion; – we welcome the publication – albeit partial publication – of the STP. Now we can begin to analyse and scrutinise the emerging plans. But let me tell the Council that today Cllr Muldoon and I have taken an extraordinary step. We have had to use the Freedom of Information Act to request disclosure of the appendices which contain vital financial information that the STP is based on. I understand that these will show the need for huge ‘efficiency savings’ maybe double those so far revealed. It is also extraordinary that our own Chief Executive, Barry Quirk who chaired the STP for SE London has written to me to say he does not have these documents. Quite extraordinary!

As a Council we need to carefully evaluate these plans: As the Autumn Statement gives us no comfort. It is projected that adult social care will be underfunded by some £242 million across the six boroughs – Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham – annually by 2020-2021.

It is clear a partnership approach across SE London and across the whole Greater London is the right approach. No-one will argue with that. Higher quality and more integrated social care, acute care, elective care with specialist and mental health services is a good thing.

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign accepts that and locally the NHS has committed to retaining our A&Es.

However, their [Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign] detailed report shows that they believe that the flawed financial modelling will inevitably lead to knee jerk reactions. With the previous Chief Executive of King’s College NHS Foundation Trust, Tim Smart saying: “We have a Lewisham Hospital size hole in our budget” – They are rightly concerned that Lewisham and Greenwich NHS cannot sustain two A&E Departments and all the other services necessary to support them functioning safely.

Be under no illusion. Lewisham A&E is under threat again. The very existence of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust is threatened.

 I ask Members to press for consultation on all the changes and on the STP itself.

 We request:

  • Request full publication of all associated documents and appendices
  • Request pre decision scrutiny on changes to NHS and social care provision locally
  • Require full public consultation on significant changes to any services
  • Call on HM Government to provide the resources to fund good quality services across South East London and re-affirm Lewisham Council’s commitment to an Accident and Emergency Department on the Lewisham Hospital site

Let me return to the Autumn Statement earlier today.

Our Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell said in response to today’s announcements:

‘There’s nothing for social care and 3.9 million people on NHS waiting lists – it is the highest ever and we are facing hospital closures and health spending per head of population is falling. Nothing has been proposed to meet the scale of that challenge.’


 Chair, I beg to move the motion in my name.”

The motion text is here:

COUNCIL MOTION – Proposed by Cllr Alan Hall

 “The Council welcomes the publication of South East London’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). The Council also notes:

  • That there is a significant shortage of funds in the NHS and social care system
  • That respected think tank The Kings Fund has publicly expressed its numerous concerns over the STP process including:

“Tight deadlines have made it difficult to secure meaningful involvement in the plans from key stakeholders, including patients and the public, local authorities, clinicians and other frontline staff.”

“Despite the focus on local ownership, key elements of the process have been ‘top-down’.”

 “National requirements and deadlines for the plans have changed over time, and guidance for STP leaders has sometimes been inconsistent and often arrived late.”

Therefore, the Council resolves to:

  • Request full publication of all associated documents and appendices
  • Request pre decision scrutiny on changes to NHS and social care provision locally
  • Require full public consultation on significant changes to any services
  • Call on HM Government to provide the resources to fund good quality services across South East London and re-affirms its commitment to an Accident and Emergency Department on the Lewisham Hospital site

Cutting Parliamentary Seats is Undemocratic and a ‘Stitch Up’

Lewisham Council is set to challenge Government proposals to reduce the borough’s representation in Parliament.

Government plans to cut the number of MPs in Parliament overall will lead to the London Borough of Lewisham losing its 3 dedicated Lewisham MPs.

 This is despite the borough having worked so hard to enrol eligible voters that it increased its electorate by nearly 20 per cent – the highest such increase in the whole of the UK.

Cllr Alan Hall who has been leading the challenge to the proposals said before the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 23rd November: “Lewisham has the highest increase in registration of new voters in the whole of the UK. Yet we are going to have our 3 dedicated Lewisham parliamentary seats cut.

“It runs counter to common sense, fairness and democratic principles. It is also just plain stupid as the maths doesn’t reflect the reality.

“We are not going to just roll over and accept this gerrymandering lying down. Even though we know the Government is intent on pushing this through, we will not lose the opportunity to highlight the fact this is a tory stitch up.”


Maps with the proposal, counter proposal and current Parliamentary boundaries for Lewisham are in the full report on the Parliamentary boundary changes to be agreed at Lewisham Council  and it is  here

Lewisham A&E is it under threat – Publish the STP ‘secret’ NHS Plans – Letter to the Editor

This letter has been published in The Mercury newsaper on Wednesday, 26th October:

Dear Editor,

The Government have decreed that areas must have Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) to include NHS money and Local Authority social care funds. A national debate rages on whether there is enough money  overall. It is a fact that the full version of South East London’s ST Plan has not been published. A summary has been published but there is a  financial gap between the the two versions. We are about to consider major service changes in our hospitals and it is unacceptable to hide the full Plans from public.

Specifically, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) for South East London knocked back the consultation plans for significant changes to Orthopaedics in the region. The must public must see:

  • The clinical case for the proposed new model and the different options
  •  The options for change, and the ‘enhanced’ present version, and the recommendations.
  • The budget , which should include revenue and capital, in plain English
NHS hospitals finances can be harmed by major changes to service patterns and that is why we have proper consultation. Proper consultation relies on accurate and full information. I do not wish to see a repeat of illegal, sleight-of-hand consultations which ended up in the Courts and caused much public anguish when Lewisham A&E was threatened with closure.

Councillor Alan Hall
Lewisham Council

Please note:
The full Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Lewisham Council endorsed a call for the full South East London NHS STP proposals to be published on Monday, 24th October.

WORLD CREDIT UNION EXPERT COMES TO CATFORD TO SEE FOR HIMSELF THE ‘POWER OF COOPERATION’ -‘From Colombia to Catford’ for visit to mark International Credit Union Day

Lewisham’s scrutiny chair councillor Alan Hall today welcomed a leading representative of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Oscar Guzman to a successful joint project in Catford between Phoenix Community Housing and Lewisham Plus Credit Union (LPCU) that helps people manage their finances in difficult circumstances.

Mr Guzman is visiting to see for himself the project where in 2014 Lewisham Plus opened a new savings branch and office at Phoenix’s Green Man Community Hub in Bromley Road, Catford.

Cllr Alan Hall a Bellingham councillor and Phoenix board member said: “A successful credit union like Lewisham Plus is a real, practical example of how individuals can combine their resources to ensure that there is an alternative to traditional banks or loan sharks especially in times of austerity.”

“Over £1million worth of savings has been generated by working with Phoenix Community Housing, Lewisham Council and other housing providers. This money is available as loans to members of the Lewisham Plus Credit Union. This is the power of cooperation in the community: It can improve people’s homes, lives and their environment.

“We are delighted that Mr Guzman a leading world exponent of credit unions has come to see for himself how our joint project works. This is a visit from Colombia to Catford to learn and share the best practice from around the world. “

Mr Guzman will be visiting Phoenix and Lewisham Plus in Catford before he visits the Houses of Parliament to address the All Party Parliamentary Group on Credit Unions to mark International Credit Union Day on 20th October.


Editors Notes:

Oscar Guzman
Oscar Guzman is a leading member of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and has supervised micro-finance and cooperative projects on behalf of organizations like the Bill Gates Foundation and US Aid. He is a faculty member and trainer at the Boulder Institute of Finance in New York. (For the full biography of Mr Guzman, please see below)

International Credit Union Day® – Oct. 20, 2016
The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the great work that credit unions are doing around the world and give members the opportunity to get more involve. For further information, contact Jack Van Kauwenbergh at International Credit Union (ICU) Day® has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948. The day is recognized to reflect upon the credit union movement’s history and to promote its achievements. It is a day to honour those who have dedicated their lives to the movement, recognize the hard work of those working in credit unions.

Lewisham Plus Credit Union (LPCU)
Lewisham Plus Credit Union is a financial co-operative owned by its 9,000 members and founded in 1992. It is a “not for profit” organisation which offers a savings and low cost loans service to its members. Credit unions work by members saving together to create a pool of money from which low cost loans are made and any profits are reinvested. At the beginning of 2014 it opened a new branch and office at The Green Man, in Catford SE6 (on the BR1 boundary), in the new headquarters for Phoenix Community Housing Association and as part of their Community Hub.

Phoenix Community Housing
Phoenix Community Housing is a not-for-profit resident-led housing association with over 6,000 homes in the Bellingham, Whitefoot and Downham areas of Lewisham. For the past two years running it has been named in the top 10 best landlords in the UK in a poll by 24housing magazine.

Councillor Alan Hall is Chair of Lewisham Co-operative Party and Lead Non Executive Councillor on Lewisham Council. He is a Board Member of Phoenix Community Housing – which is a co-op. Cllr Alan Hall was part of the design team that planned and developed the Green Man Community hub.

Oscar Guzmán Full Biography
A financial inclusion and microfinance expert with over 20 years of experience. Oscar Guzman is currently the Representative of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) for Colombia and Ecuador, Head of the Financial Inclusion and Agricultural Micro Lending Projects under the auspices of the Banca de las Oportunidades, for the implementation of financial-inclusion methodologies/products that encompass microsavings, microcredit, value chain finance, technology and financial literacy.

He was WOCCU Rural Programs Manager, supervising projects in countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia financed by USAID, the Gates Foundation, and USDA. He was also the Project Director for consolidating savings and credit cooperatives in Ecuador, implementing microfinance products, transactional networks, training programs in microfinance, regulation and supervision, commercial, financial and expansion planning, and project evaluation methodologies. He has been Executive President and a member of the Board of Directors of the Red Transaccional Cooperativa – Coonecta and WOCCU, Services in Ecuador, the ASOF Foundation and Pagos Virtuales in Colombia. These organizations promote financial expansion to rural areas through the use of technology. He has worked with Swisscontact, IDB and Corporación Financiera Nacional (CFN) financing projects and SMEs.

Oscar Guzmán is a Commercial Engineer and holds a Masters in Finance from the Instituto Universitario de Posgrado of Spain. He has been faculty for several universities and for the Boulder Institute of Microfinance. The author of several publications on financial inclusion and an international consultant in Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, Ruanda, Uganda and Tanzania.