I’m really looking forward to spending time with friends and family this Christmas. But the work in Riverside Ward and Southwark as a whole won’t stop for long. I’m very proud to have consistently gone on about affordable housing this year as it really is the biggest challenge for residents in our borough. People are starting to realise that the Labour Council’s strategy of allowing whole developments in the north of the borough to take place without a single affordable home in them really is not sustainable for local mixed communities. It is possible to get affordable homes across the whole borough if you invest council money and are tougher with developers.
The other area which we’ve really focused on is jobs and apprenticeships. This is partly because the Lib Dems in government have worked so hard to create one million new jobs nationally as well as 4000 apprenticeships in Southwark alone. But also because our council group has some really radical and creative ideas about how to boost jobs and our local high streets in Southwark. From the idea of a jobs and enterprise hub where people can come for support, training and entrepreneurial advice to more flexible business rates and rents for local firms. And we’ve had great fun with our free wi-fi campaign – involving a 7 foot i-pad!
As well as being Leader of the Opposition, I never forget my role as a ward councillor. I am a Liberal Democrat because I believe that decisions should be made as locally as possible and I love campaigning with Eliza Mann and Hamish McCallum in Riverside ward for the things which matter to local residents. Just last week the council agreed to allocate money for refurbishing the Southwark Park Athletics Track after our petition gathered hundreds of signatures.
In 2013 Riverside Liberal Democrats have worked hard to make sure that the council gets the basics right on local estates. A long campaign led to the council finally agreeing security and other major works on the Four Squares Estate. We managed to get CCTV on the Arnold and Keetons Estate. We convinced the council to decorate Spenlow and Wrayburn House and successfully fought for new door entry systems on four blocks of the Dickens Estate. We are still battling about damp and other basic repairs issues.
We stopped a new nightclub and an illuminated advert in the residential areas near Tower Bridge and we have battled to make sure that Pedibuses (pubs on wheels) consider their neighbours properly. We have also worked closely with Network Rail and the council to try to minimise disruption from the work at London Bridge station.
We are pleased that we have been able to reduce speeds and rat running north of Jamaica Road, although we are conscious that there is still work to do to make sure that the rat running really is reduced and the source of the problems along Jamaica Road is really tackled.
There are still big battles to have with Thames Water about their sewer plans and with the council about the lack of affordable homes which are being included in new developments in the north of the borough. We also need to persuade the council to back our business plan for jobs and growth in the borough. We will continue to fight these battles on behalf of Riverside ward and Southwark residents in the new year. But until then, please have a happy and peaceful Christmas and I wish you every joy and success for 2014.