‘Grave Concern’ Over Goldsmiths Cuts

Cllr Alan Hall has joined thousands of academics, artists and local residents to express ‘grave concern’ at the plans for 52 staff redundancies and a restructuring at Goldsmiths University sited in New Cross within the London Borough of Lewisham.

The letter explains that Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Cllr Alan Hall has been a long standing supporter of closer links with the prestigious higher education college and local residents. He said: “Goldsmiths is a part of Deptford’s and Lewisham’s history – it is an integral part of our rich diversity.”

Hit the headlines in The Observer

The publication of the letter hit headlines in The Observer recently. The national newspaper noted that new university job cuts fuel rising outrage on campuses claiming that Goldsmiths targets humanities faculties in round of redundancies.

The trade union – UCU – has started to ballot for industrial action over pay, pensions and conditions in the higher education sector nationally. This is looks like a winter discontent.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff propped up the entire sector during the pandemic, but they are now being thanked with huge cuts to their pensions, unbearably high workloads, and another below-inflation pay offer – all whilst universities continue to generate a handsome income from tuition fees.

“The truth is that very well paid university leadership, who manage institutions with bigger turnovers than top football clubs, are choosing to exploit the goodwill of staff, repeatedly refusing to address the rampant use of casualised contracts, unsafe workloads or the shocking gender and ethnicity pay gap in the sector.

“Our members across the UK know that working in a university does not have to be like this and are clear that they are ready to take action to stand up for their dignity, defend pensions and win long overdue improvements to their pay and working conditions. There is still time for university chiefs to resolve a situation which is entirely of their own making, but they must return to negotiations and make credible offers.”

The Goldsmiths Letter in full.

We are academics, researchers and artists who have in various ways collaborated with members of the Goldsmiths community over the years or have been members of staff or students ourselves – or are simply acquainted with the College’s stellar reputation.

Goldsmiths, University of London, is internationally renowned for its progressive and critical education, its commitment to social justice and for hosting some of the most respected and creative scholars in the world. Its researchers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and media producers are world-leading; its alumni go on to outstanding achievements, in all areas.

Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, many of these students and their families live in boroughs hardest-hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

We are writing to express our utmost concern at the plans for radical restructuring, which threaten not only the jobs of staff members at a time of grave economic crisis, but also the very identity of Goldsmiths as we know it.

We were dismayed to read about the jobs already lost last year through voluntary severance, and are appalled now by the 52 redundancies recently announced for professional and academic staff.

We are distressed to discover that the detailed and crucial expertise of administrative staff central to departments is being disregarded and will be lost, through a misguided centralisation and drastic reduction of the number of posts.

We understand that academic redundancies are confined to the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History in this first round, but that there will be more. If they go ahead, these cuts will irremediably damage research capacity, academic practices and cultures, the student experience, as well as the viability of important and world-renowned departments, home to leading, and often unique, research hubs such as the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, the Decadence Research Centre, the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for the Study of the Balkans, the Centre of the Body, and the Centre for Queer History.

We are shocked to hear that the redundancies are being managed by external consultants with no disciplinary expertise, and who do not understand the immediate, middle- and long-term consequences of their decisions.

We hear with consternation that academics with high specialisation are under threat of redundancy even when their area of expertise is being retained – as though Black British and Caribbean Literature, Queer and Black British History, or Critical Theory were mere adornments on a portfolio rather than fields built upon rigorous training and deeply rooted scholarship. Presumably, their posts will be filled by cheaper, precarious staff; or staff with different expertise, asked to take on their (“redundant”) colleagues’ work. But a discipline is nothing without expertise; a degree is not a brand. Yet it appears that Goldsmiths’ management sees its core mission as no different from fast fashion, as a business built on precarity and the misguided flexibilization of a labour force rendered unable to develop long-term commitment to their discipline; in this, Senior Management show utter disregard for the integrity of the education they want to sell.

We are outraged that the Warden, Frances Corner, OBE, and Senior Management appear determined to pursue this damaging course of action instead of, with the same determination, proactively fundraising and lobbying the government for assistance as peer institutions have done – while also making a powerful case against the present ruinous and bankrupt system of funding for Higher Education, and in favour of the recognition of the immense contribution of the humanities and the arts to society and to the economy.

We call upon Frances Corner, upon Council, and upon Senior Management to halt the decimation of the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History, the redundancies within professional services and the current restructuring plans, and to find, in collaboration with their staff, more sustainable and more effective solutions that will protect not only the livelihood of their dedicated and loyal employees, but also the reputation of the institution.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

London Borough of Lewisham

Campaigners Say ‘Fund the Fight’ To End HIV

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners calling for government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the country.

HIV charities and organisations formed a HIV Commission in 2020 and published a report on the 1st December 2020 which is World AIDS Day. The report found that HIV testing is crucial to ending new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.

“By increasing testing, we can stop HIV in its tracks and make sure more people can access life-saving HIV treatment. Yet, despite testing being cost effective and taking just minutes to do, access remains inconsistent.” – HIV Commissioners

In 2019, there were nearly 550,000 missed opportunities to test for HIV in specialist sexual health services, with over 252,000 incidents of an HIV test not even being offered.

“Every missed opportunity to test someone for HIV is a failure to them, and to the goal of ending new transmissions. Stigma is often a key factor in declining an HIV test, this is well documented, particularly for Black African communities,” the report’s authors said.

Russell T Davies, Olly Alexander and Callum Scott Howells from hit Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin have joined forces with long-time campaigner Sir Elton John have made a new film demanding that the UK Government ‘fund the fight’ to ensure its goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030 is achieved.

Russell T Davies, creator of It’s A Sin, said: ‘The show has had a bigger impact than we ever dared hope. My initial motivation was to tell stories of love and loss that had gone untold for far too long. But it’s clear how much has still to be done in 2021.

‘The response to what we created has been overwhelming, but too many people’s views and knowledge of HIV are still firmly rooted in the 1980s. If we can play even a tiny part in helping to change that while supporting the work of charities and activists to end new HIV cases in this country by 2030, then what a wonderful legacy that would be.’

Florence Obadeyi, who is living with HIV, said: ‘Getting tested for HIV while pregnant was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It meant my child was born without HIV because of interventions they can make prior to birth and means I was able to access the medication and support I needed to keep me well.

‘If I hadn’t decided to have a baby and been testing during standard prenatal checks, I don’t know how long it would have been before I received my diagnosis. That’s exactly why we need to see HIV testing happening across healthcare.’

Campaigners say that the funding should be included in the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday 27 October where public spending will be allocated for the next three years.

Local Councils fund HIV work through their public health departments. The local NHS deliver much of this work.

Dear Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid,

Fund the fight to end new cases of HIV by 2030

Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in Europe.

Every week 80 lives in the UK are changed forever because they are diagnosed with HIV. 

It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is thankfully no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. The government has the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK. It has been nearly 1,000 days since Department for Health and Social Care Ministers committed to doing this by 2030. The clock is now ticking.

Millions of people in the UK watched Channel 4’s drama It’s A Sin, seeing the agonising destruction HIV/AIDS caused so many lives in the early days of the epidemic. This show galvanised thousands of people to test for HIV – many for the first time.

Now the government needs to play its part. That’s why I’m writing to you both to ask that you seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to change countless lives.

Across the UK, there are at least 6,600 people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed. There are still over half a million people who leave a sexual health clinic but don’t test for HIV. And there are still people who are being diagnosed so late that their health is irreversibly impacted. 

At the Dispatch Box on World AIDS Day 2020, the Chancellor underlined the government’s commitment to ending the domestic HIV epidemic within the decade:

‘As we remember those we have lost to HIV and AIDS, we also remind ourselves of the need for further action. I am proud that this Conservative Government’s policy is to end new HIV transmission by 2030—a commitment reaffirmed today at the launch of the HIV Commission.’

Now I ask you both to turn these words into action.

We need the government to fully fund its new HIV Action Plan as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The government promised to ‘build back better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic; now is the time to do this in the fight to end HIV. 

Here’s what must happen: 

  1. Expand HIV testing. Everyone needs to know their HIV status be able to get HIV treatment if needed. Free at-home testing all year round and tests in hospitals and GPs in areas of high rates of HIV in England.
  2. Greater support for people living with HIV. Regardless of where someone lives in the country, they should have access to life-saving treatment, mental health, and support services, so they can enjoy healthier lives.
  3. Increased funding for HIV prevention. More people need to be aware of and have access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP. 
  4. New national HIV prevention programmes and campaigns. These must inform and educate people about the realities of HIV in 2021, stopping HIV stigma including Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.

Action now will have huge impact and put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on the leadership and financial commitment that was made to fight to end new cases in this way.

I urge the government not to miss this opportunity. Fund the fight and take the decisions required to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need action now.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

London Borough of Lewisham

 

Fund the HIV Action Plan

River Pool Pollution – Environment Agency Responds

Residents complaints alert of pollution

Scores of fish including eels were killed after a “blue coloured substance” entered the local River Pool. Councillor Alan Hall wrote to the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan on the 13th September to request details of the investigation.

The reply says that Environment Officers, and Fisheries Officers, attended site to substantiate the reports and assess the impacts of the pollution. Our monitoring demonstrated an impact to water quality and there was visible evidence of discolouration and pollution within the watercourse. Dead and distressed fish were recorded from the outfall at Cator Park, to the confluence with the Ravensbourne, which is estimated to be just over 2 miles in length. Thankfully, no dead fish were observed downstream of the confluence, including Ladywell Park where good fish populations are known to exist. From our monitoring we are satisfied that the impact to the fish populations did not extend beyond the Ravensbourne confluence.

“Our initial assessment indicates that the fish population was severely depleted in the
length impacted. All life stages were affected including at least 40 large eels, plus
specimens of Chub, Dace and Perch. We plan to undertake a further survey of the
impacted stretch to assess the remaining population and from this will determine the
need for restocking. If the initial assessment is proved to be correct, then it is likely
that stocking of silver fish will take place. These fish will come from the Environment
Agency fish farm which was established for such incidents. However, these fish will
be 2 years old and will not be a direct replacement for the mature fish lost.”
– The Environment Agency

Due to the serious nature of the incident and the detrimental impact to the eel and
fish population the Environment Agency are continuing to investigate the circumstances of this incident with a view to considering potential enforcement action.

Cllr Alan Hall has asked to be kept informed.

The full text of the response from the Environment Agency following pollution in the River Pool is here

Enivironment-Agency-River-Pool-reply-CE12319-2021.09.28

Reports on social media indicate that the incident may have resulted from a portable toilet being emptied into the river.

In a statement the Environment Agency said: “With the assistance of Thames Water, we were able to identify that it was linked to a third party flytipping some waste material into Thames Water’s surface water network. This, then released the polluting matter into the watercourse via the Cator Park surface water outfall.”

Catford Island Site Planning Consultation Launched

A leaflet and website have been published for local residents outlining the early development proposals for the Catford Island Site – this is the area in Catford where Plassy Road School once stood. Currently, there is a shopping area with a Lidl, bingo hall and some other retail outlets with a car park.

Map of the road layout showing the Catford Island Site courtesy Google

The website sponsored by the partners involved in the development is here: www.catfordisland.commonplace.is

The five page leaflet can be read below.

Catford-Island-Consultation-1-leaflet-plassy-road-111021

You can contact the project team directly with comments by calling 0800 999 1523 or emailing hello@catfordisland.com

Lewisham Council have published a Catford Town Centre Framework planning document

Local Councillors have announced the consultation on twitter

A ten storey building at 161 Rushey Green has received planning permission on appeal. This is adjacent to this site and forms part of the Plassy Road land known as the Catford Island.

Full details in the brochure here

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.

Alan-Hall-letter_to_Michael_Gove-shelter-041021

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

‘End Centene’s involvement in London GP practices’ say NHS Campaigners

US health insurance giant, Centene, through its UK subsidiary, Operose Health, has been taking over GP surgeries and practices in London and across the country.

Centene has recently taken over AT Medics, a primary care provider responsible for 49 GP surgeries and over 370,000 patients in the Greater London area.

With a total of 70 GP surgeries and practices, Centene is one of the largest single providers of NHS primary care in England. According to GP Online: “Centene is set to hold nearly 1% of GP contracts in England – making it the country’s largest provider of NHS primary care with around half a million patients.”

The Daily Mail has called Centene a “profit greedy” company and “a corporate behemoth, with revenues tipped t o hit £45 billion in 2018 and a chief executive who pocketed £18.6 million last year.”

Local campaigners succeed

In April Centene’s contract renewal for a local surgery in Hammersmith was cut from 5 years to just 2 years – with stricter performance conditions following local campaigning.

In North Central London health leaders have just decided to get Centene out of two Islington GP surgeries as soon as July next year.

Councillor Alan Hall has joined the campaigners from We Own It to end this stealth take over of London’s GP practices.

The full text of the letter is here:

Dear Clinical Commissioning Groups,

We have recently been made aware of the takeover of 49 NHS GP practices by US healthcare company, Centene. These GP practices care for communities across London.

We are writing to you to express our disappointment that there was no consultation with the local communities that will be directly impacted by this change prior to approval being given to the takeover. We also want to put on record our strong opposition to the decision to allow the takeover and ask you to do everything in your power to end it.

The signatories of this letter disapprove of Centene’s involvement in London GP practices for many different reasons, but whatever one’s position on the involvement of the private sector in the NHS, it seems clear that Centene’s track record over just the last 5 years makes them unsuitable to run GP practices.

In March just his year, they were sued by the state of Ohio in the US for allegedly creating “an elaborate scheme to maximize company profits at the expense of the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the state of Ohio”. And the state of Mississippi has just announced that they are investigating Centene for similar schemes.

Last year, they were found guilty of systematically underpaying emergency room doctors who worked for them in the US state of Arkansas.

And in 2018, they were the target of a class-action lawsuit by people who bought health insurance from them because Centene allegedly failed to provide them with “adequate access to doctors in 15 states” despite taking premiums from those people every month. The year prior (2017), Centene had been fined $1.5 million by the state of Washington for, by Centene’s own admission, failing to provide a sufficient network of doctors for people who bought health insurance from them.

Their questionable activities have not been limited to the United States. In 2018, Centene was called “profit-greedy” by the Daily Mail after the company was also implicated in the closing down of a GP surgery in Harlow, Essex, here in England.

We have no reason whatsoever to expect that they will behave any differently in London. Such behaviour would undoubtedly have a profound impact on the quality of care Londoners, especially the elderly and vulnerable, receive as well as on the pay and conditions of the staff at our GP practices (including doctors).

We hope that you will heed our call to do everything in your power to end Centene’s involvement in London GP practices on which our local communities depend.

Cllr Alan Hall

London Borough of Lewisham

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.”

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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