Damien Egan confirmed as new (Labour candidate for) Lewisham mayor

Unless local voting patterns shift more dramatically than even the most ambitious Kremlin-sponsored election tinkerers could imagine, the future mayor of Lewisham became clear earlier today – decided by a fraction more than 1 per cent of the total registered voters in the borough.

Members of the Lewisham Labour Party comfortably voted to put forward Damien Egan, currently the council’s cabinet member for Housing, as the party’s candidate for the mayoral election next May, which will run simultaneously to the local council elections. His nearest rival was Paul Bell, a councillor for Telegraph Hill and a Jeremy Corbyn supporter whose candidacy was endorsed by the local Momentum movement.

In the final run-off, after other lower-scoring candidates had been eliminated and their second preferences transferred, Egan registered 1,434 voters in his favour, compared to 911 for Bell. Such is the dominance of the Labour Party in Lewisham at the moment, that bookmakers – if they paid much attention to local politics – would probably refuse to take bets on the outcome of the mayoral election in 2018. Continue reading “Damien Egan confirmed as new (Labour candidate for) Lewisham mayor”

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Which Lewisham councillors miss two thirds of their meetings?

Snap election blamed for decline in attendance

A third of all Lewisham councillors missed more than one in every four of their scheduled council meetings, recent figures show.

Of Lewisham’s 54 councillors, 18 of them were present at less than 75 per cent of their meetings from November last year until the end of last month.

The worst attendance was jointly held by Downham ward’s David Britton, who defected from the Conservative Party to the Labour Party in 2012, and Roy Kennedy, a councillor for Crofton Park, who also serves as Lord Kennedy of Southwark in the House of Lords. Both attended only one in every three of their scheduled meetings. Neither responded to emails from Lewisham Lately.  (Update 16.09.17: a resident of Mr Britton’s ward has informed me he has been away due to his wife suffering from terminal cancer). 

Continue reading “Which Lewisham councillors miss two thirds of their meetings?”

Lewisham Council rapped by Ombudsman for not consulting mother of autistic boys

Mother was not allowed any kind of input into care review of her two sons

Lewisham Council failed to consult the mother of two autistic brothers properly when cutting their care plan, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

Both of the boys have autism and other special educational needs. Their care package included seven hours a week short break payments and 24 nights a year respite accommodation.

Both care packages were reduced on review – including the removal of the respite accommodation for the younger boy – without the mother having the chance to comment.

After she complained, the council took several months to respond properly, the ombudsman Michael King found. Continue reading “Lewisham Council rapped by Ombudsman for not consulting mother of autistic boys”

Parents denied chance to quiz mayoral hopefuls on Lewisham schools

Organisers criticise “shocking” cancellation and “high handed” London Labour Party

school-silhouette
Parents were unable to discuss Lewisham’s schools
The London Labour Party abruptly cancelled an event organised by a local education network this week, depriving parents from hearing the views of nine mayoral hopefuls.

The event, a panel focussed solely on education, was due to take place tonight in Lewisham Town Hall. More than 100 parents were expected to attend the discussion, organised by Parent ENGage Lewisham, to exchange views about the future of the area’s schools. While the borough has some of the most highly ranked primary schools in the country, a number of its secondary schools are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Nine local politicians, most hoping to be on the ballot for the Lewisham mayoral elections, had confirmed their attendance, including two from the Liberal Democrat Party, the official Conservative Party mayoral candidate, a Green Party representative, and the five councillors shortlisted to be the Labour Party’s official candidate (unless voting patterns shift dramatically, the next Lewisham Mayor will almost certainly come from these five).

On Wednesday, however, the London Labour Party told organisers that no Labour candidate could attend. Permission to use the Civic Suite venue was also withdrawn, reportedly as no-one from the Labour Party would be present, and the event had to be cancelled.  No Labour candidate had requested the cancellation, according to Ali Craft of the Labour Party, who contacted organisers to inform them of the decision.

Nicky Dixon, a parent of two Lewisham schoolchildren and one of the education campaigners behind the event, said: “We weren’t given a reason. Just informed, out of the blue. It was quite shocking that Labour London felt it appropriate to do so, in such a high handed way, without discussion, when it was a public parent meeting.”

“Many parents thought that it was an extremely important meeting, especially as it would have given them the opportunity to hear from all candidates.”

Matthew Thomas, a Lewisham resident, father of three children, as well as a secondary school teacher in Bexley, had agreed to chair the event and told Lewisham Lately that the cancellation came as “a huge disappointment”. 

“I think we are owed a clear explanation,” he wrote in an email.

Ross Archer, announced as the official Conservative mayoral candidate in March, was due to attend. He described the cancellation as “shameless behaviour from a complacent and arrogant Labour Party. It shows they hold the residents of Lewisham in contempt.”

He added: “Lewisham’s secondary schools are rated among the worst in London… We need to have an open and honest discussion about how we can turn this around.”

The Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Lewisham Deptford, Bobby Dean, was also scheduled to take part. He told Lewisham Lately:

“It’s shocking that Labour have pulled the plug on this event at the very last moment. This was a community-driven democratic forum put together by hardworking and caring parents, who are rightly concerned about their children’s education in Lewisham.

“Our borough has been rated the worst in London for GCSE results. It seems that Labour are taking Lewisham for granted and it’s about time they are properly held to account.”

Paul Maslin, one of the five shortlisted Labour Party mayoral candidates, and the council’s current Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said on Twitter: “We were all prepared to go. But I understand and support the Party’s decision.”

Lewisham Lately contacted the London Labour Party for an explanation of the decision to cancel the event but did not receive a response.

‘Ludicrous’ and ’embarrassing’ planning expertise: a Lewisham councillor’s view

“You might as well have spoken to people at the bus stop”

Lewisham Gateway
‘Build at greater density and greater pace’, says Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock

The London School of Economics held an event earlier this week exploring the shape of the city’s development.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attended the “Good Growth by Design” evening as a speaker, before a panel discussion and question and answer session.

Topics ranged widely, from issues such as diversity within architecture firms (limited), to London’s rising skyline, the stretched resources of council planning departments and the crucial topic of affordable housing.

There was also an interesting insight into the planning process in Lewisham and the expertise of council members.

Suzannah Clarke, a Labour councillor for Grove Park since 2010, revealed she had only had “about two hours” training before joining a planning committee. Continue reading “‘Ludicrous’ and ’embarrassing’ planning expertise: a Lewisham councillor’s view”

The astonishing gall of councillors in Lewisham’s most neglected ward

More detail emerges on how Lewisham’s Evelyn ward representative Jamie Milne earns his allowance

Earlier this week, we reported on serial skiver Jamie Milne, a Labour councillor for Evelyn whose increasingly rare appearances are but the latest in the ward’s strange pattern of absenteeism and scandal.

According to the latest figures, he attended council meetings marginally more than one in every two occasions for most of last year. But we didn’t know the half of it. Since that post, Lewisham Lately has delved a little deeper into his record and more has come to light. Continue reading “The astonishing gall of councillors in Lewisham’s most neglected ward”

The curse of Evelyn: the strange recurring cases of the errant Lewisham councillors

Serving Evelyn ward can have a strange effect on councillors

An unenviable streak of bad luck has hit the Lewisham council ward of Evelyn in recent years – at least as far as its local politicians go.

There’s been scandal, outrage, absenteeism and even deselection in the ward, which sits on top of the borough like a hat.

Back in 2013, a row broke out at a byelection after a member of the People Before Profit party referred to “an ethnic mafia”.

That byelection itself was called following the resignation of another councillor, Joseph Folorunso, who hadn’t turned up to any meetings for almost six months.

He quit a week before he would have been forced out, stating he was going to run an orphanage in Togo.

His replacement didn’t fare much better. Olufunke Abidoye was deselected just a few months after her election when it was discovered she faced disciplinary proceedings by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Then Jamie Milne stepped in. He had tried previously to serve on the council as a Labour candidate in the 2010 local elections when he was only just kept out of Lee Green ward by a Liberal Democrat incumbent (remember when there was an opposition in Lewisham?).

Once he gained the nomination for Evelyn, he was duly elected in the die-hard Labour ward, along with two other councillors from the same party.

The early signs were positive in 2014 and then into 2015 (when Milne received £13,499.27​ for his councillor duties). Milne’s attendance record was strong. He sat on various committees, including one of the three planning groups, as well as scrutiny and public accounts. In short, he seemed to be balancing his responsibilities as a councillor with his official job as the head of the constituency office of Heidi Alexander, the MP for Lewisham East.

Had the Evelyn effect lifted?

In 2016 things changed, official attendance figures show. Of the 50 meetings from January to early November where Milne’s presence was expected, he showed up to just 29.

The Guardian previously pointed out that Milne was not at an important committee meeting last September to review the compulsory purchase order for the controversial New Bermondsey development scheme.

Jamie-Milne-council-website
Jamie Milne as seen on the Lewisham Council website

 

In fact if Mr Milne was due at a council meeting, the chances of actually seeing him there were only slightly higher than one in two (58 per cent to be precise).

And of the 21 meetings he didn’t go to, he sent his apologies to only nine.

It’s not quite the staggering seven per cent attendance rate of Mr Folorunso – but engaged local residents were perhaps hoping for a higher bar.

Lewisham Lately didn’t wish to highlight this if there were extenuating circumstances so we emailed Milne (no response) then contacted him at Heidi’s Alexander’s office to check.

There was no particular reason for his absences, he said – just “work and family commitments”. He confirmed he wouldn’t be standing for reelection in 2018.

Until then, Evelyn residents may feel more inclined to direct queries to the two other councillors, Joyce Jacca and David Michael. And what of Jamie Milne’s successor? Will the mysterious absentee blight of Evelyn strike again?