Secret Histories

by Anood Al-Samerai on 11 July, 2012

I know that everyone has been really enjoying this series and it was been great to have two Southwark streets featured.

I found the Camberwell Grove episode fascinating as I grew up walking up and down that road and it was great to see so many well known faces. It was also really important for the current councillors in Southwark to fully appreciate what a great responsibility we have to future generations and to try to learn from some of the mistakes in the past.  That’s why I really hope that today’s council administration will be able to look beyond this financial year to see how special the Victorian terrace in Manor Place, Walworth is. 

All credit to the Walworth Society for their excellent campaign which is really making the case to the politicians. And actually I think that, in the long run, the local economy will benefit far more from a sensitively refurbished development which retains the character of the area. And historic character is why people have so loved the secret streets programmes.

And I have finally been able to catch up with the Reverdy Road episode which was aired last week during our full council meeting. The portrayal of hard working people in Bermondsey certainly chimed with my experiences of being a councillor in the area. And it was great to get coverage for the campaign to replace the Dr Salter statue. But the real sadness I had was seeing a family sized council home being auctioned off to a developer instead of being allocated to one of the 20,000 families on the council list.

Last year, the Labour council decided that any empty council property worth more than £300k would be sold off. This pretty much covers any larger sized family council home, particularly in the north of the borough. It’s all very confusing as they have talked about building more council homes, but appear to be selling off more than they are building. The Lib Dems put forward an amendment to ask them to think again, but every single Labour councillor voted to sell off more council homes. And on one estate in my ward, the Four Squares, the Labour cabinet has recently decided to sell off one and two bedroom council homes too.

I know that budgets are tight, but if we don’t protect council housing then our communities will change beyond all recognition. The council is putting millions into contingency funds (there’s over £80 million already in there) while family homes are being sold off left, right and centre. Something’s not quite right and, once again, it’s short term electoral gain over longer term investment in protecting heritage and communities. Thankfully programmes like Secret Histories remind us of our responsibilities to all residents of our borough, even those who haven’t yet been born!

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