What have Camden's Green Councillors ever done for me?
Report from Maya de Souza to January 2014
1. I have sought to ensure a wide range of issues are raised so that different groups can see and understand the Green Party approach.
2. The three main issues I have focused on are:
- Social Justice considerations: London Living Wage, zero-hours contracts, equalities, protecting vulnerable groups from the cuts and benefit reductions.
- Sustainability: street by street insulation, pilot project on Combined Heat and Power, cycling, protecting green spaces
- Small shops and businesses: exploring options here to support high streets and small businesses from reduced sell-offs of premises, ensuring consideration by scrutiny committee, and supporting individual campaigns eg the Peoples Supermarket, Pure Fruit and the White Bear pub, Hampstead as well as Studio 69, Highgate Ward.
1. Social Justice
a. London Living Wage (LLW)
I have continued to use opportunities to highlight the importance of the LLW in all contracts, putting questions to Full Council, as well as in writing to the Leader. This includes a question to Sarah Hayward (July 2012), question to Full Council October 2012, and a call-in on the September 2013 decidion to award the social care contract without a LLW provision.
b. Zero-hours contracts
Camden takes advantage of them through contracts but blames govt. I have asked questions to challenge the idea that we cannot do anything about them and have written to Cabinet Members to support Unison’s Ethical Care Contract. It would be a success of we could in the next few months get some agreement to action by Camden.
c. Benefit Cuts
I have supported community groups in asking for protection for those families at risk of losing their homes because of the bedroom tax. Labour said that they would only evict as a last resort. I called for a public meeting, and special session at scrutiny was agreed which I spoke at.
d. Mental Health provision
I chaired a working group on mental health provision and women, because of higher suicide rates in Camden. Some recommendations were accepted, and there will be follow up during the February Health Scrutiny meeting. There have been cuts in this area and change - eg the new Greenwood Place proposals, and I’ve supported community groups in getting more information and involvement for example in the new “well-being hub”.
e. Equality and Equalities
There is a high level of inequality in Camden; low number of BME staff at high ranks and larger numbers made redundant.
I put alternative proposals to the Cabinet to those put together by the Equalities Commission focused more on job creation rather than training and housing which was the core of the Equality Commission report.
In terms of equalities in particular on race grounds, I raised these issues in 2013/14 with the Leader and Chief Executive, put questions to scrutiny committee meeting, and obtained some promises re better reporting and improved training to deal with unconscious bias.
f. Ethical Investment:
Following up on work in earlier years, I supported Move your Money in raising these issues with the Council. This has started to get people thinking. With the problems with the Co-operative bank, I have asked for ethical considerations to be taken on board.
a. Air Quality: member of working group:
- We have made ambitious recommendations on buses, taxis and motorbikes, going beyond simply making information on pollution available for the public.
b. Jobs and sustainability
- Working with CamdenCAN, I have continued to put a street-by-street insulation scheme to the Council as a means of job creation. This followed the meeting I organised with others - the Economy for the 99% meeting in Camden in October 2012
- Again working with CamdenCAN, I supported a proposal for application for DECC funding for such a scheme.
c. Pilot Combined Heat and Power project – Brill Place:
- I asked for a commitment by developers to this scheme, which is now being progressed.
- I have continued to push for safe routes and action on HGVs plus improved junctions and more segregated routes. Met with Cabinet Member and Cynthia Barlow (Road Deaths) in 2013, which led to firmer commitment from Camden on planning as well as contractual commitments (FORS – which we had asked for in last administration and which was accepted).
- I have also asked for the expansion of Boris Bikes into Kentish Town and Highgate and for the Arctic Road link in Kentish Town to be opened again for cyclists and pedestrians.
- I have raised concerns about re-use facilities at the Regis Road centre, and brought these to the attention of the North London Waste Authority through the newspapers. Things have started to improve as a result.
- I have also raised concerns about expensive new plant proposed at Pinkham way, supporting various campaign groups. The campaign was successful and the proposal withdrawn. Camden has trialled some smaller scale projects as I asked for.
3. Democracy - Better engagement with local groups
- I have taken part in the Council's Democracy Working Group. Key asks have been for improved scrutiny that considers issues early enough to have an influence, as well as consideration of radical options like a return to a committee system.
- I asked for better engagement with groups, including environmental groups but with limited success.
4. Small Shops & Businesses
- I have pushed for protection of business premises in letters to Councillor Blackwell
- Encouraged debate and discussion on Council involvement including on the use of business rates discounts. This will come back to scrutiny in February 2014.
- In a recent planning policy consultation, I asked for stronger protection for pubs and such businesses with a community aspect
Ward-based work in Highgate
1. Highgate Newtown Community Centre site: I have argued that the site be developed, looking at potential for a co-housing scheme, downsizing as well as sufficient community space.
2. Highgate Library: I have sought a clear commitment to keep the library open (along with the excellent residents group). Initially, the Council said the library would only have enough for ½ a day. But now have guaranteed that will be open at least 3 days a week. I also asked for new computers and have been promised that something will be done.
3. Chester–Balmore: I have sought to ensure that they retain high standards in terms of sustainability, and ensure a good traffic scheme
4. Swains Lane: worked with residents to negotiate with developers an alternative scheme of lower rise and affordable shops, and in trying to ensure Tesco did not cause noise nuisance to neighbours. In the latter case, my intervention seemed to make a vital difference.
5. Bowling Club: I have supported residents in opposing this use for large private dwellings, and supported alternatives which include leisure use and co-housing.
6. Small business – Chetwynd Road: I strongly supported the planning application for small local gym
7. Whittington Estate: I have been involved in trying to get an affordable new hot water and heating system under a good value contract. This issue is still on-going.
8. Leaseholder Repairs: I put in a paper summarising concerns and asking for improved systems to get affordable repairs.
9. 271 bus: I continue to support residents groups on relocating the terminus for this route away from Pond Square.
10. Older people’s services: I have highlighted the limitations of the services for taking older people to the shops and the desperate need for luncheon clubs. Met with officers to ask for support.
11. New children’s centre, Holly Lodge: I’ve pushed the Council to ensure that electricity is connected to the centre.
12. Anti-social behaviour: I supported residents in the Whittington Estate in asking for more police to patrol and for a CCTV camera in a particular hot spot. A person almost killed was saved by police in the area, and anti-social behaviour has reduced since the CCTV was installed.
13. Planning Issues:
- Athlone House – I have called for enforcement of section 106 agreement, supporting a popular petition.
- Water House – I have put in objections on the grounds of scale and massing, as well as the impact on the bathing ponds. See our Highgate Green Facebook site for the full letter.
- Carob Tree restaurant – I registered objections to the extension on the grounds of more traffic, and that the rubbish will be too much for the area.
- Studio 69 – a small gym on Chetwynd Road, for which I supported a change of use.
- Highgate Road proposed development – from feedback from residents I have asked for small scale, co-operative style housing as we have at Heathview, Gordon House Road.
Report and achivements to 2010 from Maya de Souza, Adrian Oliver and Alex Goodman
1. Obtained a commitment through a motion to Full Council from the Council to sign up to the 10:10 campaign and reduce its emissions by 10% in 2009/10.
2. Commitments through the Sustainable Taskforce Reports to refurbish a number of homes to zero carbon standards as exemplars for others to learn from, and a greater focus on reuse and waste reduction in Camden's waste policy.
3. Ensured additional tree planting and protection of trees on the agenda of Environment and Culture Scrutiny Committee meeting, which led to a Council commitment to plant more trees and put in an extra £30k for tree planting.
4. Brought to the attention of the Health Scrutiny Committee the flaw in the procurement process which had led to United Health winning contracts. This led to a recommendation of censure of the PCT. Supporting the Keep the NHS Public campaign activities.
5. Ensured the issue of the London Living Wage being paid to all people working for the council (including contract staff) is on the agenda.
6. Initiatied a Call-in of the Executive's decision on the closure of the Frank Barnes School for the Deaf in Camden, and its integration with another school for the deaf in Haringey. Led to a reversal of the Executive decision after considerable backbench support was obtained, and the school retaining its own identity and teaching methods and remaining in Camden.
7. Raised issue of ethical investment of our pension funds and obtained a commitment to ensure that pension trustees raised these issues with companies with which they invest. Further more far -reaching commitments are still being sought.
8. Asked the new Area Forums to be given some spending powers like parish councils to ensure greater power at local community level - this has now been introduced. Our demands for greater local involvement by implementation of the Sustainable Communities Act have not been taken up and the Council did not unlike other Councils put recommendations in to central government.
9. Ensured greater focus on sustainability issues in planning decisions through raising issues at Development Control meetings, and working with Council officers on drawing up the new local development framework, as well as obtaining a commitment to ensure that new school buildings under the BSF programme are as energy efficient as possible, and built to Passiv Haus standards if practicable.
1. Improved road safety in Highgate Village (the Grove/Highgate West Hill), organising a walkabout for officers and residents to identify changes needed.
2. Worked with Council to ensure action against perpetrators of harassment and anti-social behaviour on a several estates. Eviction proceedings commenced in one case, and flat swap organised in another.
3. Lobbied Camden Council to ensure matters taken in hand in respect of failing regeneration works, which led to new contractors and architects being appointed.
4. Increased dialogue between local conservation committees and the Council through organizing a series of meetings.
5. Protected road surfaces in Highgate West Hill to avoid changes that do not fit in with conservation area
6. Worked to ensure that buildings such as the Highgate Library building are properly protected. A missing Victorian urn on the rooftop has been reinstated.
7. Reduced service charges for leaseholders where residents agreed to allow ball court on their estate to be opened up to the public.
8. Lobbied successfully for developers responsible for works at Fitzroy Park, Highgate were not able to proceed with a construction plan that would involve thousands of vehicle journeys on the quiet roads approaching the Heath used by Heath visitors, walkers and joggers.
9. Reduced waste by councillors by asking for grey plastic delivery bags to be reused as well as recycled if need be.
10. Preventing siting of a bus stop outside the door of John Betjeman's old house when it could be located on stretch of road with no homes close to the road.
11. More bicycle stands in Swains Lane, York Rise and Highgate Village.
12. Cleaning of graffitti at York Rise shops.
13. Working with residents to develop community sustainability groups which include Highgate Climate Action Network and Highgate Local Environment Action Forum.