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).


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

Deptford Is Changing – Is it for the Better?

Deptford is changing – residents protest

The fact that ‘Deptford is Changing’ is not in dispute. Anita Strasser’s well researched and colourful book looks at today’s Deptford and the people who feel that they are not in control of their own destinies. The people who say that ‘this is not for us’ and feel that the social history, sense of community and cohesiveness of this super diverse part of London are not being recognised.

Deptford is known for being Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyard, the place where Russia’s Peter the Great came to learn shipbuilding and John Evelyn’s Sayes Court, his friend wood carver, Grinling Gibbons and Christopher Marlowe’s murder – he is buried in the historic St Nicholas’ Church in Deptford.

This maritime history led to a ship’s anchor being placed in Deptford High Street in 1988 becoming a famous and much loved symbolic landmark for many local Deptford residents. The book details to extraordinary lengths that campaigners had to go to get the anchor re-instated after Lewisham Council removed the landmark in 2013. Even when the Mayor of Lewisham had agreed to return the landmark a battle ensued with the resistance from the Executive Member at the time, Cllr Alan Smith being described as averse to it being installed in a position where it could actually be seen!

Interestingly, the book raises the prospect of a museum for Deptford and I can see with such a rich and varied history that this would be a very attractive proposition by the River Thames.

The influence of Goldsmith’s College is evident in the area. The Crossfields Estate is famed as the place where a radical arts and music scene that gained Deptford an almost legendary status in the 1970s and 80s. Local bands included Dire Straights, Squeeze, the Fabulous Poodles, The Realists, Electric Bluebirds and Mark Perry and his punk rock band Alternative TV. Members of the band Dire Straits lived on the estate and the band had its first gig in 1977 on the lawn behind Farrer House. A member of the group Squeeze also lived here. This is Deptford’s recent history as well.

Is that Jools Holland on the keyboards? – Alternative TV

Anita Strasser’s book has an admirable aim, to help work for and with Deptford’s diverse community – the very definition of a participatory democracy. It is well worth reading the incredible achievements of some wonderful South East Londoners.

Buy Deptford Is Changing here

Port Of London Call For Convoys Wharf To Open

In a statement following public concern on the construction site, the Port of London Authority has issued a position statement on the controversial, high rise, riverside development in Deptford on the former Henry VIII Royal Dockyard known as Convoys Wharf. The Port of London Authority was created to bring order to the chaos and congestion that prevailed on the Thames as rival wharfs, docks and river users battled for business in the late 1800s.

In the statement the PLA state that they would like to see ‘expeditious progress with reactivation of the wharf’. They are in touch with a number of potential operators.

The PLA support the use of the river to ship construction materials and they expect to be consulted on this.

On Tuesday 9th June and the early hours of Wednesday 10th June 2020, Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the first phase of the development since Boris Johnson determined the planning application himself at City Hall whilst he was Mayor of London. He held a reprentation hearing on 31st March 2014 to listen to concerns. Cllr Alan Hall was present and he had led the Lewisham Council non executive councillors who had agreed that the use of the river for construction materials and waste from the commencement of the project should be used to manage and mitigate construction impacts.

Surprisingly, Boris Johnson agreed with the Council’s representation that the Build the Lenox Project – a vision to build a replica wooden ship in the historic dockyard – was important. However, he granted the application and passed it back to Lewisham Council to sort out the details of implementing his decision.

“The approach to Sayes Court fails to provide a meaningful green link between the site of the Gardens with the remains of Sayes Court House. The opportunity to link these two historically significant spaces should be fully explored. The Lenox preferred building location is either within the Double Dry Dock or Olympia Warehouse. These options need to be explored further, as does the future use of the Olympia Warehouse and an agreement reached on the deliverability of the double dry dock or Olympia Warehouse as options for constructing the Lenox.”

Lewisham Council’s formal response in 2014 led by Cllr Alan Hall
Promises made to reflect the historic and strategic importance of Deptford

Port of London Authority Statement:

“Convoys Wharf is currently safeguarded by ministerial direction and planning policy protects it for waterborne cargo handling use (policy 7.26 of current Plan – Sl15 of emerging London Plan). As part of the Mayors Safeguarded Wharves Review (2018), the safeguarded wharf boundary for Convoys wharf is recommended to be reduced in size to reflect the extant planning permission for the site (Ref: DC/13/83358). The PLA supported this proposed change, whilst emphasising the requirement for the site owners and partners, including the PLA to expeditiously progress with reactivation of the wharf.

The GLA hearing report (March 2014) on the overall redevelopment strongly features the requirement to reactivate the wharf (which would be located at the western part of the application site) stating the overall redevelopment was acceptable.

And that the location of the Wharf provides a viable, flexible and commercially attractive environment for a range of potential river freight operators. The PLA is aware of interest from several operators about reactivating this as an operational wharf. The PLA wish to work with all stakeholders to achieve this.

We point out the S106 agreement for the overall development requires that “every 6 months commencing no later than 18 months prior to anticipated completion of Phase 1, the owner shall request details of suggested potential wharf operators….using it for waterborne freight handling uses from the PLA, GLA and the Council”. The PLA is keen to ensure this forms a key part of the overall project plan for the Convoys development.

Turning now to the specific recent applications for plots 08 and 15 (both southeast corner of site) and plot 22 which comprises the proposed riverbus terminal. We understand the planning committee discussed all three plots and plots 08 and 22 were approved. Plot 15 has been deferred.

Plot 15

The PLA made representations on this in May 2019.

We emphasised the need for the design to take into account potential impacts (eg noise) of the adjacent wharf (once reactivated) on future occupants of the building. We highlighted the need for the development to progress in line with the Agents of Change principle, set out in para 182 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and policies D12 and Sl15 (water transport) of the emerging London Plan.

The PLA also requested further information regarding use of the river as part of the construction stage. The previously submitted site wide Code of Construction Practice (CoCP) referred to the potential for bulk deliveries and material removal using the Thames. It further stated the client and their consultants would explore river use with all contractors to achieve this. The CoCP stated the volumes of river movements would be determined on a phase by phase basis to confirm river use was economic and viable. The developer committed to investigating for each phase or sub-phase a strategy to maximise river use where reasonably appropriate. It was not clear from the submitted documents for plot 15 whether this process was carried out.

The submitted Remediation Strategy for the application stated the contractor will produce a works specific Construction Phase Environmental Management Plan (CEMP). The PLA emphasised this must include full consideration of using the Thames as part of the construction phase of the development and that this form a condition as part of any planning permission.

The PLA’s position on these matters is unchanged.

Plot 22

The PLA initially raised an objection (Aug 2018) due to the lack of a Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) in the submitted documents. However following discussions between the PLA and the applicant – including on the need for freight operators to be involved because of the close proximity of the safeguarded wharf to the river bus terminal – the scope of the NRA was agreed. An appropriately worded condition was also agreed. Further issues were also discussed and agreed to be dealt with via condition including on riverside lifesaving equipment.

Plot 08

The PLA raised no in principle objection to the proposals for plot 08 (July 2018). However – as with plot 15 – we emphasised again the importance of using the river during the construction stage of the development.

Deptfords narrow and congested streets by the River Thames

Lewisham Council has clarified some frequently asked questions here:

1.     What arrangements will there be for using the wharf for the the delivery and removal of construction materials and to limit traffic through Deptford’s narrow streets in this area?

This was addressed in the outline approval.  Condition 44 requires the submission of a code of construction practice for each plot or phase and needs to include details of arrangements for the use of the river for construction.

2.     Will there be a proper cycle path along the riverbank and pedestrian footpath? The Thames Path is well loved and a new development is a great opportunity for a proper cycle path as well.

Yes – this was secured in principle in the outline approval

3.     Has the Port of London been involved in the decision making process? What do they say?

Yes – their comments are reported in the committee reports in the P22 officer report at paragraph 6.29

The full text of this paragraph says:

  1. No objection subject to the following issues being managed by condition
  2. The Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) for the proposed river bus terminal and consultation with freight operators. It would be helpful to confirm that depending on the outcome of the NRA, the final position of the terminal may need to be amended.
  3. Provision of Shoreside Safety Measures
  4. Requirement of further assessments mentioned in the jetty structural assessment (part 2.6 of the assessment)
  5. Ecology statement (Timber fenders) and lighting strategy (sensitive lighting strategy) conditions

4.     Have all the formal conditions of the planning permission granted at City Hall in 2014 been discharged or satisfied?

No – not all are required to be discharged by this point.  The committee reports outline what conditions have been discharged in table 8 in the P22 officer report, table 11 in the P08 officer report and table 10 in the P15 officer report.

5.     What was the final formal agreed decision of the Strategic Planning Committee? I would not wish to misquote or misunderstand this.

Plot P22 was approved subject to additional informatives.  Plot P08 was approved subject to additional conditions/informatives.   An informative note allows the local planning authority to draw an applicant’s attention to other relevant matters – for example the requirement to seek additional consents under other regimes.

Lewisham Council’s Strategic Planning Committee reconvened on Monday, 22nd June at 8pm and approved the remaining application subject to a condition on ‘pepperpotting‘ the affordable housing.

Cllr Paul Bell said that London Affordable Rent was social housing and this has prompted questions in the past.

Here is the exchange of letters between the then, Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock and the then, Mayor of London Boris Johnson. This outlined the Lewisham Strategic Planning Committee’s concerns in 2014.

It is interesting to note that Boris Johnson heeded the advice of his officials and refused to meet the Mayor of Lewisham directly on a planning matter he was to determine and referred the representations to his trusted Deputy Mayor, Sir Edward Lister former Leader of Wandsworth Council.

In the news: South London Press