Missing London Squares of Lewisham

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

The Royal Commission report says that

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

The Royal Commissioners define the purpose of London Squares as

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

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

BL_0002186_19310904_026_0005

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

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

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

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

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

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

London Squares listed in Lewisham Council’s current planning policies

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

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

End The HIV ‘Crisis’ in Lewisham

End the HIV Crisis in Lewisham this World AIDS Day’s theme is end inequalities, end pandemics and end the corrosive stigma

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

World AIDS Day message from the United Nations on colliding pandemics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter-to-Matt-Hancock-HIV-AIDS-2021-AH-headed

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full exchange between can be viewed here

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN urges action to end HIV

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

Abuse Is Not Part of the Job Say Shop Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘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

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

New MP Boundaries – What This Means For Lewisham

new parliamentary boundaries proposed for Lewisham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the proposals and have your say on our online www.bcereviews.org.uk

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


End ‘fire and rehire’

In Lewisham Labour’s manifesto, we said that we would campaign on issues that affect our borough. Unite the Union have declared that Monday, 26 April, 2021, a national day of action, demanding the government end fire and rehire now. That’s why Cllr Alan Hall has written to the Minister to show support for the day of action.

The reason this is important to is that as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to create misery, unscrupulous employers – many in profit and some even claiming government financial support — are cynically exploiting the crisis to force workers to sign up to thousands of pounds of wage cuts and worse conditions or lose their jobs.

Unite figures estimate that one in 10 workers have already been threatened with fire and rehire, and many more will be as furlough comes to an end.

Businesses that have been supported by government and local Councils. Workers should be treated fairly too. Yet although some Government Ministers have described fire and rehire as “bully-boy” tactics, it is a fact that it is still legal.

Unite the Union say: “Millions of people are facing the sack if they don’t accept less pay and worse conditions. After months of pandemic hardship, this is no way to treat people. The government can put a stop to it and End Fire and Rehire once and for all. Businesses have been supported. Workers should be treated fairly too.”

Fire and rehire – real stories

  • One in ten workers already threatened with Fire and Rehire
  • Many more likely as furlough ends.
  • Denounced as “bully-boy tactics” by government ministers but still legal.
  • Already banned in Ireland, Spain and France.
  • Workers could lose thousands of pounds per year.

A report in the Daily Mirror says: “The campaign follows hundreds of British Gas engineers losing their jobs last week after they refused to sign up to longer hours under the firm’s controversial dismiss and re-engage scheme.

British Airways struck a deal with Unite earlier this year which ended the long-running dispute over the airline’s plans to ‘fire and rehire’ employees in its cargo division.”

Cllr Alan Hall has written to the Government Minister, full text below:

The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP – Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Daily Mirror reports on the campaign

Dear Minister,

I find it alarming that there is a growing number of employers who are dismissing and re-engaging staff on worse pay and terms and conditions, a practice commonly known as fire and rehire.

Government Ministers have said that such tactics represent an unacceptable abuse of power by rogue bosses, many of whom are exploiting the covid-19 crisis to increase profits at the expense of loyal staff who have risked their lives during the pandemic to keep businesses going and I welcome the Government’s stated commitment to tackle those shameful abuses.

However, I would like to request that the Government to publish the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service report into the practice received by Ministers on 17 February 2021.

Surely, this is the time for the Government to commit to including proposals in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech to outlaw this form of industrial blackmail. As this has been done in other European countries, please use your influence to bring forward this new legislation as a matter of urgency to protect UK workers from exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Why should the UK be treated to worse employment rights?

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

Bellingham, London Borough of Lewisham