- After a hard fought local campaign, the council has agreed to fund and build a new swimming facility in Forest Hill on the site of the old baths. These plans have now reached the stage where they are due to be submitted for planning approval at the end of May and the construction contract has been put out to tender. What commitment will you make to the future of these pools and what guarantees will you give that the pools will be built and will not fall victim to any budgetary cuts after the election?
- At 70%, Lewisham has the highest proportion of residents that work outside the Borough of any Borough in London. What will you do to attract employment to the south of the Borough?
- Approximately 30% of Lewisham's commuters use the train service to London Bridge along the Sydenham corridor. While welcoming the introduction of the East London Line and the new travel opportunities it presents, we recently presented a petition of 5800 signatures to the DfT and are greatly concerned by the reduction in service to London Bridge. The timetabled services due from May 2010 are predicted to be severely congested at peak times from day one. What will you do to lobby the DfT, TOCs and National Rail and achieve increased capacity to London Bridge?
- According to Lewisham's LIP, Forest Hill Town Centre has had the highest vacancy rates in the Borough for at least 15 years. What will you do to revitalise the town centre?
- The success of the Beach in the Horniman Triangle highlights the need for better youth provision in the ward. How will you address the needs for primary school places and extra curricular youth provision?
I do have to be careful not to appear to be favouring Forest Hill over other areas but as a Forest Hill residents I must say I am looking forward to being able to use the new facility myself as soon as possible. The decision to go with the new build behind the old facia of the building was taken by me and I also identified the funding needed. Forest Hill residents can be very sure that if I am re-elected I will make sure the project is completed. It may be worth explaining that the funding for the Forest Hill Leisure Centre is capital and the expected squeeze on public expenditure is likely to hit revenue (i.e. day to day) spending more quickly than its hits capital – at least over the next year.
Lewisham has always been a largely residential borough and that is one of the reasons that I have given a high priority to improving transport links and making sure our residents are able to develop the skills they need to compete for jobs elsewhere in London. The actual patterns of employment are complex in London with both inflows and outflows to and from Lewisham. It would not be realistic to expect to create large-scale opportunities for employment growth in the South of the Borough but we do need to protect the employment that is already here and identify opportunities for growth.
The retail sector is important and I want to launch a “Shop Local” strategy building on the positive work that has already been done with local businesses. Lewisham as a borough has some particular strengths like the cultural sector and an unusually high number of successful Social Enterprises. I have worked with these sectors in the past and the Council should go on providing support to enable both those sectors to grow further.
Lobbying ministers, the London Mayor, Transport for London, the TOCs and National Rail are almost an everyday part of the mayor’s job. That extends from pursuing long terms campaigns to get things like the DLR and the ELL to very detailed issues about the operation of services and management of stations. I am not happy about some of the changes not least the end of through running to Charing Cross. I am aware as mayor of the whole borough just how complex some of these issues are with changes on one line impacting on capacity elsewhere. I will want to see what happens once the new services start running – as a regular user of the line I know only two well how bad conditions get at times and if there are problems I will seek to use the links that I have developed to not only lobby those who can do something about it but make sure they are held to account for their actions.
The fact that units remained unlet even during a period when the economy was buoyant points to an underlying problem. It may be that there is an over supply of units and this is something which should be looked at carefully. We know that shopping patterns have changed with an increase in Internet shopping (I can remember buying vinyl records from a specialist record shop in Forest Hill!) and also the increasing tendency for Supermarkets to offer “one stop” shopping.
The businesses that appear to be most successful in centres like Forest Hill are either specialist retailers or personal services. The new Leisure centre on the Pools site offers a major opportunity to look at Dartmouth Road. It will pull more people to that location and I would like to see an exercise carried out that looks at the whole stretch of road from there to the junction with London Road to seek ways of improving the lay out and facilities with a view to not only encouraging pedestrian use but trying to create small but attractive spaces where potential shoppers can linger – the work which is going to be carried out in Sydenham High Street may offer some ideas.
The revamp of the Horniman Triangle through the Play Builder scheme has proved a great success and the missing link i.e. the toilets is being sorted too. Provision for older young people is more challenging. There are good youth projects either within the ward boundary or close by which will need to be supported. The new Leisure centre should offer young people much more than the old pools did and they have had a voice in what is planned. A major investment in a new youth facility will be taking place near Wells Park and this is intended to serve young people from a wider area including Forest Hill.
London Councils, the body that brings together all the London Boroughs, reports that this problem has emerged quickly and is likely to be due to a number of factors, Including an increase in migration to London and the accompanying rise in birth rates and changes in London’s housing stock, which has led to parents remaining in the capital rather than moving away as their children reach primary school age.
Neighbouring Southwark has had a government bail out because of the problems it faces. In Lewisham we did not act as precipitately and retained some so called “surplus places” even when the figures seemed to falling. However the spare capacity in the Borough’s schools is in the upper years and demand is, of course, lower down the age range. At least 17 “Bulge” classes have been created for September, and a number of these are in the local area.
It does appear that this is a permanent shift in numbers rather than a temporary change and we will need to increase primary provision across Lewisham. I have already instructed council officials to work on plans to do this either by expanding current schools or building new ones. If I am re-elected I have made it clear that this will be one of my priorities for the next four years.
A little background...Source: citymayors.com
Steve Bullock’s public service career began in 1982 with his election to the council of the London Borough of Lewisham. Bullock steadily worked his way up its civic ladder, becoming Chair of Finance and Deputy Leader before taking the council leadership in 1988. Bullock spent five years as leader before standing down in 1993 and from the council altogether in 1998. During this time (1993-1995) he served on the Commission for Local Democracy, an influential think tank which was successful in getting elected mayors on the agenda for the reform of local government by the incoming Labour government in 1997. He was also instrumental in establishing the New Local Government Network in 1998, the leading campaign and think tank in favour of elected mayors and modernisation in local government. After leaving the council in the late 1990s, Bullock became Head of the Labour Group Office at the Local Government Association (formed in 1997), an important time for the body given the new Labour government and Labour’s pole position among the ranks of local government. He also took up the post of chairman of the local hospital trust, a central government appointment, which he held until becoming mayor in 2002. He was reelected in 2006, though Labour lost control of the council chamber that year for the first time in 25 years.