Category: Blog

In all the fuss about Natalie Bennett’s unfortunate media interviews, for which she has penned this very strong and courageous apology, we have seen this idea talking hold that governments can cost policies down to the last penny. The Green Party always puts forward broadly costed proposals, but the direction of travel is equally important and needs more attention. Read More False realism in costing policies

Peckham was my first port of call when I moved into London. So it was nice to return there to talk to Southwark Green Party about housing last night. Read More Southwark’s housing crisis

Anerley Town Hall is one of those Victorian projects that provide some of the few civic spaces left for local people. I’ve written to Bromley Council making clear that they need to secure its future, rather than continuing the neglect or flogging it off for a one-off lump of cash. Here is my letter: Dear Mr Thompson, I am writing as a local resident and occasional Anerley Town Hall user to feed in my views on the four options you have circulated regarding the building’s future. Regrettably, the council took the damaging decision to close the library service. This decision was the council’s, in view of funding cuts and the view – wrong in my opinion – that the new library in Penge made this facility unnecessary. But the library’s closure should not be taken as any indication of the building failing to provide value to the local community. While…

Read More A future for Anerley Town Hall

Since it came to power, this government has delighted in cutting great big holes in our welfare safety net. Conservative, Liberal and Labour politicians have jostled to “get tough” on welfare, buying into the idea that most benefit claimants are either cheating the system or sitting on their bums not looking for work, or possibly both. So they have cut and capped the amount of housing that tenants can claim to cover their rents. But these cuts have taken their toll, making it increasingly difficult to find somewhere you can afford. So more and more people have had to move somewhere cheaper. First, this hit central London, and then inner London, and in the past couple of years it has started to hit my constituency of Lewisham West & Penge. This chart shows the relative change in the number of private tenants claiming housing benefit since January 2011. Westminister started…

Read More Exporting Lewisham and Penge’s poor

I’m not a very regular cinema-goer, so I’ve never felt particularly passionate about the campaign to bring one to Crystal Palace. But I do fully support the Picture Palace campaign in trying to keep 25 Church Road as an assembly/leisure building for the local community, in the face of repeated attempts to turn it into a church. We have planning rules that designate the building a certain “use class”. This one is D2, which means it is protected for uses like a cinema, dance, concert or bingo hall, gym or skating rink. It’s the only facility of its kind in an area already blessed with lots of fantastic places of worship. This area of planning policy exists to ensure we have a good mix of facilities in the local area, and can be used by councils to prevent communities being overrun with cafes and takeaways, or losing valuable office space. I hope…

Read More Saving 25 Church Road, Crystal Palace

Today I helped unveil a new manifesto pledge from the Green Party – we will cut public transport fares by 10 per cent, and bring our railways back into public ownership. We believe that the railways should be run for the benefit of the people who use them, not for the private profit of people that happen to own them. We need affordable and reliable public transport to help reduce car usage, so reducing our carbon footprint and reducing air pollution that blights most main roads in London. Here I am introducing our policy at London Bridge, thanks to Let Me Look TV: This cut in fares would save a commuter in Crystal Palace or Bellingham who bought a zone 1-4 travelcard more than £200 per year, and a bus pass user in Penge or Forest Hill about £75 per year. We can pay for a 10 per cent cut in fares by…

Read More Cut fares with publicly owned railways

Like many commuters, I’ve been getting increasingly fed up with the delays and cancellations from Southern Railways, and the lack of information when things go wrong. So I wrote to the company asking what on earth was going on: Dear Sir/Madam, I am writing to complain about the standard of your service in recent months. I use your services on a fairly regular basis between Crystal Palace and London Bridge, and other services to get connections from Clapham Junction. It seems that trains are late, delayed or cancelled on a daily basis, causing myself and many other commuters inconvenience and frustration. It is not just the unreliability of the service, but the information provided. Services are often shown to be on time long after the train was due. This can then change to show the current time, and then that changes again, until it switches to the useless ‘delayed’, and…

Read More Delays, cancellations and anger with Southern

One of the best things about Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, is her independence from party whips. You can always be sure that she will vote in Parliament for her constituency, for her conscience, and for her Green principles of equality and ecology. When the anti-Green attack unit set-up by Labour claim that a vote for the Green Party will land you with a Conservative government, it makes me wonder – so what will a vote for Labour get you? In Lewisham West & Penge, it has delivered us Jim Dowd. He seems like a decent person, but according to the Public Whip web site he has voted loyally for his party line in 99% of the votes. So you can be fairly sure that a vote for Jim Dowd is a vote for whatever programme Ed Miliband leads the party on. Caroline, pictured below, is a different story, and…

Read More Vote Dowd, Get Miliband?

The Chancellor has announced a cut in stamp duty for most people in yesterday’s autumn statement, claiming it will help first-time buyers. Labour’s shadow chancellor quickly supported him, adding that it will “help people on middle and low incomes who are moving homes”. Given the extremely high prices in London, you sounds like great news! But it could actually make things worse. Let me explain with an example from Anerley. Imagine you were a rich enough first-time buyer to go for the average two bed flat in SE20, which according to Nestoria costs £329,000! You’ll now have to pay just over £3,000 less in stamp duty to buy it, which will be welcome news. But this means you, and every other buyer, now has £3,000 more to bid on the price for the home. The Government’s own economists – the Office for Budget Responsibility – say this will push up house prices. Using Shelter’s…

Read More How to push up house prices in London

Campaign groups like Generation Rent have been doing a great job of pushing renters up the political agenda. They’re in the Independent today with a story showing that renters will outnumber homeowners in 107 Parliamentary constituencies by 2021. But political parties will take figures like those with a pinch of salt. Private renters, in particular, are filtered out of the democratic process and so have much less clout than their sheer numbers might suggest. The first filter is that almost half of private renters aren’t even registered to vote. According to the 2012-2013 English Housing Survey, only 56% of private renting households are registered, compared to 78% of social renters and 87% of homeowners. This obviously means that political parties will be less interested in chasing their votes. The second filter is that they won’t then be canvassed on the doorstep. Parties will use the electoral register for this, because it makes…

Read More How private renters are filtered out of democracy