The Green Party Autumn Conference 2017, Harrogate

Southwark Green Party at the Greens’ autumn conference in Harrogate, 7 to 10 October 2017

This was an occasion that injected a new spring into the steps of all those who were there, and we left with a fresh sense of purpose. Here is my personal view.


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Air pollution in Southwark is illegal


Last week, Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell delivered on our behalf our petition to the Mayor, asking for buses through Camberwell Green to be replaced with electric, hydrogen or hybrid buses. The petition got 525 signatures in total (online and on paper). Thanks to everyone who signed, tweeted and helped collect signatures - 

The South London Press also published the results of our nitrogen dioxide monitoring. Out of 20 sites, only two were within the legal limit - and one of these, Camberwell Grove, has no through traffic at the moment.

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Thames clean up

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Photo: John Tyson

We joined Thames 21 for the Big Bottle Count on Saturday 2 September. We picked up and counted plastic bottles, clear bottles for still water, fizzy drinks bottles, and milk bottles. Then we picked up a lot of plastic, mostly brightly coloured broken fragments gleaming against the pebbles and gravel. Here's a list of some of the things we found...


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Concerns about conditions for residents on Ledbury Estate

 

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Southwark Green Party has serious concerns about the escalating situation for residents on the Ledbury Estate in Peckham.

Safety issues on the estate were first raised over 30 years ago, and the blocks have since been the subject of reports by industry experts. While we recognise that control of the council has changed over the years, and mistakes made in the past are not the responsibility of the current leadership, it should not have taken the tragedy of Grenfell Tower for Council leaders to acknowledge problems on the Ledbury.

Residents have been without hot water and proper cooking facilities since 10 August. They should not have to heat water on a stove or with kettles to have a bath, or travel to a sports centre to use showers.

Although the gas supply to the flats has been turned off, the fire safety issues raised in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell remain unresolved. Electrical faults started the fire at Grenfell and also at Lakanal House in Southwark in 2009. Compartmentalisation has been breached in the Ledbury flats, and residents continue to live in unsafe conditions.

While the Council has promised to give priority to Ledbury residents who wish to be rehoused, the alternative accommodation on offer has in some instances proved unfit for human habitation. Furthermore, the Council’s pledge is unrealistic. There is a housing crisis in Southwark, with at least 2,000 people already on the waiting list for homes (based on figures from 2013). Council estates have been sold off to private developers, and rents on the new homes that have replaced social housing are unaffordable to local people. Southwark Green Party believes that the borough-wide target for new development to provide a minimum of 35% genuinely affordable housing is much too low, and should be nearer 50%.

We welcome the statement made by Southwark Council leader Peter John at his meeting with Ledbury residents on 23 August that the land on which the Ledbury stands will remain as council housing. However, we believe the council can and must do more to help residents. We have been appalled by the attitudes of some housing officers – which has in certain cases bordered on harassment. This cannot go on. Council employees should have clear instructions from senior management to treat residents with respect, work with them and keep them fully informed of all decisions. The residents are paying for their homes, and deserve to be given a decent level of service. They have organised, coming together as a group, rightly bringing their demands to the Council, and yet are dealt with one by one, effectively undermining the community. Cllr John has been quoted in the media as saying that residents are satisfied with the Council’s treatment, but the residents themselves have confirmed that this is just not the case.

We call on Cllr John and Cllr Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing, to confirm that residents who have chosen to move off the Ledbury since 10 August have the right to return to their homes, regardless of whether they have received “home loss” compensation from the Council.

As the Ledbury Action Group points out, Southwark Council is being given an opportunity to prove that it is not like Kensington & Chelsea, the local authority that failed the Grenfell residents so grievously. The 2009 Lakanal fire was, tragically, a warning that went unheeded by Kensington & Chelsea and by central government, but Southwark’s current leadership is in a unique position to show that it has learnt from the mistakes made by its predecessors. It is not too late for it to demonstrate this in its handling of the Ledbury crisis.

 

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Stop risking lives

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Handing in the petition on 22 August (left to right): Dave Lewis, of Sceaux Gardens TRA and a witness of the Lakanal House fire; Sian Berry, Green London Assembly Member; John Tyson (Southwark Green Party), who started the petition.

After the Grenfell fire, Green activist John Tyson started a petition aimed at getting the Department for Communities and Local Government to implement the findings from the Lakanal fire inquest.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • use of fire resistant materials
  • regular fire assessments
  • providing residents with full instructions about what to do in the event of a fire.

The petition has received over 104,000 signatures, from people up and down the UK. 

On 22 August, John delivered the petition to the Department for Communities and Local Government, with the support of Green London Assembly member Sian Berry. You can still sign it to keep up the pressure.

 

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Standing up for democracy in Poland

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Southwark Green Party member Ania Marzec-Manser has been supporting pro-democracy protests in Poland this month. She writes:
 
At the Global Greens and European Greens congress in Liverpool this year, I made contacts with the Polish Green party. I was asked to meet and help with setting up structures in the Gdansk branch of the party.
Two weeks ago I attended an international summer school where besides representatives of Polish Green party, there were representatives from Czech, German, Ukrainian and Dutch parties as well as foundations and Brussels institutions supporting green NGOs. I also met the sole Green councillor in Poland. Next year there will be local elections and for the first time the Greens want to have candidates in at least half of constituencies. It's a massive task.
As soon as I returned from the summer school, the pro-democracy protests to defend the constitution and the independence of the courts started and spilled all over Poland. I have been taking part in these protests. (News coverage here and here.) 
The peaceful mass demonstrations held that all the new judicial laws proposed by the ruling far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) were unconstitutional. Under pressure from the demonstrations, the president, who is a puppet of the PiS party, vetoed two out of three proposed laws but is signing the third which says all regional judges will be selected by the minister of justice. The minister of justice wants to sack all the judges in Poland and put his own people in their place. Local courts judge the validity of elections so the ruling party might thereby be able to twist the results. I don't need to tell you the disastrous consequences of this!
Last night our Green group was joined by the leader of European Green Party in Brussels and German MEP Reinhard Butikofer (below).
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Not One Day More

On Saturday 1 July, Green Party members from Southwark joined thousands of people from across the UK at a march on Parliament organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity to demand an end to Theresa May’s minority government.

Many of the protesters carried placards calling for justice for victims of Grenfell Tower, and a minute’s silence was held to remember them. Speakers at Westminster included the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and the Green Party’s Siân Berry, who chairs the London Assembly’s housing committee.

Siân spoke powerfully about the need for councils to listen to their tenants, noting that the “appalling attitude” displayed in the Grenfell disaster was a problem for Labour as well as the Tories. Name-checking the Aylesbury in Southwark, among other estates where council homes are being demolished, she told the crowd: “I want to hear some solid words from Jeremy Corbyn about the conduct of Labour councils.” You can listen to her full speech here.

 

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Sunday 4 June 2017

 

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. … Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. - John Donne, 1624

This is a day of shock and deep sadness. Our hearts go out to all those affected by last night's tragic events. Thank you to Southwark's emergency services, who responded with such speed and bravery, and to the countless Southwark residents who offered shelter and support.

Today we are remembering the seven people killed yesterday at London Bridge, the injured and affected. We also remember Abdirahman Mohamed, a boy of 17 who was fatally stabbed on Southampton Way on Friday night.

We will be meeting at 2pm in Camberwell to have a space to talk. Please feel free to join us there.

At 5pm, we will come together to share a moment of silence for the victims in the Peace Garden outside the Imperial War Museum. This is open to all who wish to attend.

If you are concerned about friends, relatives, or anyone else that may have been affected then please contact the Casualty Bureau on 0800 096 1233 or 020 7158 0197. Any images or videos of events can be sent to the Metropolitan Police.

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Make your vote count on 8 June!

Every Green vote counts. With more support, we will influence the direction of British politics.

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In two Southwark constituencies, Camberwell & Peckham and Dulwich & West Norwood, the previous Labour MPs had huge majorities. They are not marginal seats.


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Shocking levels of air pollution in Southwark

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Eleanor puts up a difusion tube monitor in Peckham

We are demanding cleaner buses after our tests found pollution levels in Southwark more than double legal limit. We have  launched a petition demanding London Mayor Sadiq Khan take action this year to clean up every bus driving through Camberwell Green.

Pollution monitors placed around Southwark by local members recorded levels of nitrogen dioxide at more than twice the legal EU limit outside McDonalds on Denmark Hill. Just two of the 20 locations monitored for the full month of February fell within the legal limit.

 


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