Changes to Local Plan - May 2015: Camden's draft new local plan takes up many of the proposals made last year by Councillor Maya de Souza, including new measures on housing, parking, protecting pubs, and greener buildings. Sian Berry has commented with further suggestions on bike parking, reducing the number of empty homes and buy-to-let properties, and more protection for cultural assets.
Budget - March 2015: Sian refuses to vote for cuts, but Camden Green Party's call for a small rise in council tax to protect some services is taken up this year (though not a referendum on a larger rise).
Repairs and major works - March 2015: The Housing Scrutiny Committee takes up many of the issues raised by Sian Berry and local residents in Highgate with major repair and better homes works on council homes, after residents attend a committee meeting to give evidence.
Victory for ethical advertising policy - January 2014: Camden Council confirms in a reply to a written question that they will introduce an ethical policy for new advertising spaces aimed at raising money for the council. Despicable payday loan companies will be prohibited from advertising on council sites, among other restrictions.
Call for more air pollution action - December 2014: A detailed response to the Mayor of London's consultation on an Ultra Low Emission Zone shows that the proposals cover too small an area, are too weak to properly protect the health of people in Camden and throughout inner London, and are being brought in far too late.
Success on reserve fund for community services - November 2014: A motion for a fund to support community organisations, including libraries and community centres was supported by all Councillors, and a £1 million fund was introduced into new budget proposals.
Problems with electric car charging points exposed - October 2014: After repeated reports from local residents, Sian obtained data that showed the network of 28 electric car charge points on Camden’s streets were out of action for nearly one third of the past year
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:
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:
b. Jobs and sustainability
c. Pilot Combined Heat and Power project – Brill Place:
3. Democracy - Better engagement with local groups
4. Small Shops & Businesses
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:
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.