Lewisham Momentum

I have not written up my view as to what happened at the Lewisham Momentum AGM, but Rebecca & Jon have written to the officers elected by those who left and went down the pub.

 

Dear comrades,

Following your departure from the Lewisham Momentum AGM and the holding of a meeting to set up a new group at the Amersham Arms on 23 April, we are continuing to advocate a rescheduled, democratic AGM and for it to elect a broad, pluralist, united committee.

The split into two rival groups is weakening the left, in terms of wasted energy, duplication of efforts and most of all the bad blood it has caused on the Lewisham left. We should try to get unity. There is no good reason the two sides cannot be part of a united Labour left/Momentum in Lewisham.

We want to ensure that a united Momentum continues to provide an open, democratic, regularly meeting forum in which members can put forward and where necessary vote on proposals and policy, and decide the direction of the organisation.

We also want to deal with the slanders against us and our activists that have been made on social media and elsewhere in the course of all this, and re-establish normal, comradely labour movement standards of debate.

Some of you may disagree with some of these points. You may have your own issues you want to raise. That is all the more reason to open a dialogue, sit down and discuss.

Moreover this split, while it lasts, should not prevent us from finding ways to work together in the movement and in struggles.

There are lots of things on which can and should cooperate, even as separate groups: the Lewisham East by election; support for the Lewisham Southwark College pay strike and other struggles; opposing Trump’s visit; building stronger left caucuses in the three CLPs…

We therefore invite you to send representatives to sit down with ours (three officers from each side, say) to discuss things. If we can find ways to discuss moving towards unification, that’s good; but we should start by discussing cooperation in the struggle and how we can work together to build the movement. We owe it to the left and labour movement in Lewisham and beyond.

In addition to the immediate need to strengthen struggles and campaigning, no doubt both sides have things to learn from each other. Discussion can also help to dissipate some of the hostility and factionalism generated on the Lewisham left over recent months.

Get in touch and let us know what you think. We are, naturally, happy to discuss the specifics of how to move forward on this.

* Rebecca Lawrence and Jon Johnson, for Lewisham for Corbyn (Momentum) *

Stitched

Today, my campaigning comrade, Rebecca Lawrence published her views as to what happened at the Lewisham Momentum AGM held at New Cross Learning & then allegedly at the Amersham Arms public bar. Important & accurate things to note from the account are that the 2nd half of the meeting was held in a pubic bar, which would not have held all those who wanted to attend, and no checks as to eligibility were performed. Some claim the majority in attendance at the Library went to the Pub, but no-one knows since they weren’t counted and no-one knows how many stayed in the Library.

The only beneficiary for this piece of sectarianism will be Labour’s right and a small number of self declared left careerists.

Momentum’s gift to the right in Lewisham

The incumbent committee, of which I was a member, have published a statement, together with two witness statements and the text of our complaint to the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group. I mirror them here.

The witness statements make no mention of the fact that the Amersham Arms would not have allowed under age members in the pub.

Local Elections

I  usually comment on the elections I campaign in. The Lewisham results are in, or at least called by the BBC, we have a new Labour Mayor, Damien Egan, and every single councillor is also Labour. Now we need to learn how to listen beyond the Party, and how to scrutinise ourselves. It’s an honour and a responsibility. I hope we live up to it.

I campaigned in Deptford, Mottingham (Bromley) and Bromley North, which surprised me by being in Tower Hamlets. The Labour vote has gone up in London. I found little interest in politics, it’s become very tribal. The only exception is the issue of Housing. We’ve done well in Deptford, missed by 21 votes in Mottingham and I am still waiting for the Bromley North results.

Housing

A campaigning comrade wrote recently to Lewisham Council to ask about the state of its Housing delivery programme, the reply included the following words,

Since the housing Strategy was adopted in 2015 we have been working to deliver on all 4 of the key objectives it sets out. We regularly report on the outcomes of this work to Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet, and those reports are probably the best updates on the Council’s progress.

The most recent report was presented on 6 December, and is available on the Council’s website here; New Homes Programme Update

I’ve set out the 4 key objectives of Lewisham’s Housing Strategy 2015-2020 below and noted a few key pieces of work that are  helping to achieve these objectives. This list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully provides a bit more context on the work the Council is doing to provide and improve housing in the borough.

Key objective 1: Helping residents at times of severe and urgent housing need

 

–   Building new Temporary Accommodation
The Council is committed to delivering new temporary accommodation in Lewisham to provide high-quality places to live for families when they are in urgent housing need. This strand of work includes PLACE/Ladywell which provided 24 new homes, and will deliver 94 new homes to provide temporary accommodation by 2018.
 
–   Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer
The Council is deliver an innovative Homelessness Prevention scheme that will use service data to identify households at risk of homelessness, and will  develop a range of support interventions for households at risk of homelessness to enable prevention activities to happen sooner. This approach started in early 2017 and has already proven successful.
 
–   No First Night Out
Working with Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich, the Council is leading on delivering the GLA’s rough sleeping programme for a No First Night Out (NFNO) Shared Accommodation Scheme. The scheme works with boroughs’ housing services and voluntary sector agencies to identify single people at imminent risk of rough sleeping, referring them to support services and a new NFNO Shared Accommodation Scheme. This will comprise 180 units of shared accommodation and work with over 300 people at risk of rough sleeping in South East London.
 
Key objective 2: Building the homes our residents need
 
–   500 New Council Homes
The Council is delivering 500 new Council homes for social rent across the borough. This work was started when the 6 new Council Homes, the first built for a generation, were delivered at Mercator Road in 2015. Since then a further 86 have been completed, with 121 currently being built and 295 working their way through the design and planning process. Lots more detail on the programme, including details of the sites is included in the report linked to above. Of particular note is the project on the Somerville Estate, that will deliver 23 new Council Homes on the site of the former Extra Care scheme, which is in the planning process now, with a decision expected in early 2018.
 
–   Delivering more affordable homes through partnerships with Housing Associations
By working with different housing associations, to enable and coordinate development across the borough, the Council will be bringing about 2000 new affordable homes in Lewisham by 2018.
 
–   Providing new homes through Estate Redevelopment
The Council is providing direct support to partners on long term Estate Redevelopment projects at Heathside & Lethbridge, Excalibur, Amersham Vale and the Old Tidemill School. This will deliver 1,902 new homes over 15 years, of which 929 (49%) are affordable.
 
Key objective 3: Greater security and quality for private renters
 
–   Besson Street
This scheme will set a standard for how the private rented sector in Lewisham should work. The Council will be working in partnership with Grainger to develop around 232 homes, including 35% affordable homes to be let at the ‘London Living Rent’, on a site at Besson Street in New Cross. ‘London Living Rent’ is a rent linked to median local incomes so that it remains genuinely affordable in perpetuity. In addition to the 232 new homes, the partnership will also develop a health centre for the local community, new office space for the New Cross Gate Trust and an outdoor gym.
 
–   Rogue Landlords and
Whereas Besson Street will set a gold standard for how renting will work the Rogue Landlords team targets the worst offenders in the private rented sector, and brings forward prosecutions against them to drive up standards.
 
–   Landlord Licensing
We support accredited landlords through our landlord events and through discounts to licensing fees if they are accredited. We also run landlord forums where all of the London accreditation schemes are promoted.
 
 Key objective 4: Promoting health and wellbeing by improving our residents’ homes
 
–   Decent Homes Programme
The decent homes programme has been improving the standard of all Council Homes within the borough across the last years, and will be completed in 2018. Meaning that every Council Home will meet modern standards.
 
–   Disabled Facilities Grants
The Council provides grants for residents to convert their properties to allow them to carrying on leading independent lives within their own homes.

 

Deliberation

Here’s a little diary on last nights Labour Party General Committee for Lewisham Deptford, its main purpose was to prepare for Conference by submitting a “Contemporary Motion”and hopefully to begin to clear the motions backlog. There were seven motions waiting to be debated, some having being proposed last year. (It’s one of the contentions between the current CLP leadership and its opposition that their poor management of time is deliberate and designed to frustrate members making and developing policy. There hasn’t been a single ordinary motion debated this year ) .

Youth Violence

One classic trick to is to ask a guest speaker, and yet again, this was done. It was a pleasant surprise to here Jonathan Toy speak on youth violence. He has published a book “Silent Voices”, several years ago it would seem. He started by arguing that the central problem is trauma and he had stories to back this up. One sound bite, that I tweeted due to its resonance was that,

Kids carry knives because they’re scared.

Toy spoke of the discrimination, the loss of hope and the turn to criminality, mainly drugs and the inappropriate policing strategies focused solely, or largely, on enforcement. He told stories about the way in which ‘decapitating’ the gangs merely creates an updraught.

The presentation was interesting and the clearly based on deep experience and knowledge, some of it gained by his own admission on failure. Delegates to the meeting in a Question & Answer session contributed their knowledge on cuts in programmes exacerbating the problems, and reducing the care young people need. Bill Jefferies, said

…the good work of individuals can ameliorate the circumstances of other individuals, but those good works are not a solution to the problem. As the problem is not individual but social and so needs a social, collective solution.

In questioning, he was asked about the political will in the electorate for more understanding and less punishment, suggesting that strong enforcement is not just based on weak will and police management doing what they know. Toy is hopeful that the Lammy Review will be a starting point for change in programmes and approach. My concern is that this will take money and that is unlikely to be forthcoming under this government.

5 minutes about Parliament

The decision to invite a guest speaker meant that Vicky’s MP Report was truncated to 5 minutes. This is unfortunate as it was the first GC after the summer break and the 2nd Reading of the “EU Withdrawal Bill” had taken place earlier in the week with a small Labour rebellion leading to a comfortable Tory majority, as had the Tory stitch up of the parliamentary committee seats and Angela Rayner’s successful motion to stop the increase in Tuition fees.  MPs reports, where a CLP is lucky enough to have one, are important parts of the agenda and a critical piece of relationship building between the MP and their party. Five minutes is not enough time. I should add that Youth Violence is an issue of great concern to the constituency and its neighbours and one that Vicky has invested time and effort in.

#lab17

Three motions were proposed, one opposing military exports to Saudi Arabia, to work to improve human rights in Saudi Arabia and that Labour establish a shadow Defence Diversification Agency to plan for the civilian reuse of Britain’s military engineering capabilities. A motion supporting the UK’s remaining in the single market & customs union, written in response to Corbyn’s Marr interview was also put to the meeting. There are some who believe that arguments for Labour to support the single market are designed by the Blairite rump in the PLP to weaken the leadership; I am of the view that what’s right is right and that the UK should remain in both and that if the Leadership have doubts then they should be told by the membership what it thinks. The final of the three motions was based on the Labour Campaign for Free Movement’s model motion . The mover of the last of these motions concentrated on the Government’s squeeze and tightening of the no recourse to funds and Lewisham Council’s role in immigration raids and deportations. These three motions were all carried with very heavy majorities.

The meeting then voted,  by a very small majority, to send the motion on the single market/customs union to Conference, as we are only permitted one.

Talking to first time attenders who had been warned about the bad atmosphere that can occur, they said it had been a good and interesting meeting and the warnings unwarranted. I wonder if that was due to the absence of Dromey, Cooper and Lord Roy Kennedy.

Trade Unionists speak

The local Trades Council asked those seeking to be  Labour’s Candidate for Mayor to answer a short set of questions; they present the replies in this document, “Judge for yourselves who will be the Mayor we need!”. They asked questions on Cuts, Education, the Living Wage (in the Town Hall and procurement portfolio), employment rights, housing, training and council/union relations.

Richard Abendorff, a member of the Trades Council and the Labour Party, writes,

There are clear dividing lines, Paul Bell opposes cuts, opposes privatisation, promises to in-source services, opposes privatisation via academies, supports Union rights, will prohibit zero contracts, he will re-establish the town hall trade union negotiating structures and put the Chair of the Trade Union side on the Cabinet.

He also plans to abolish the Mayoralty. His plans are based on concrete promises, not based on aspiration. If not a first choice for Trade Unionists, he must be a second choice.

BackBell

The Labour Party’s Lewisham Mayor selections ballots have been issued, by post and email. Ballot papers for eligible Labour Party members in Lewisham to vote for who our candidate for Mayor will be will reach you over the next few days.

It’s crucial that to get out the strongest possible vote to help the Corbyn-supporting candidate, Paul Bell, win.

Paul is the only candidate

  • Who voted for Jeremy Corbyn either time and consistently supported his leadership
  • Who is committed to fighting to abolish the undemocratic mayoral system which has caused so many problems in Lewisham
  • Who has plans to rebuild the council’s relationship with workers and trade unions, stop academisation, stop privatisation and ‘insource’ services, build many hundreds of council homes and launch a fight against cuts and austerity.

Unsurprisingly, all five candidates are talking left – but it’s necessary to look beyond warm words to politics and policies.

Paul’s full manifesto is published here, on his web site and visible via this http://bit.ly/PB4M-Manifesto SURL.

Paul Bell & Schools

Paul Bell, one of the people seeking to be Labour’s candidate for Lewisham Mayor has announced his education policy and promises.

He promises,

  • I will as Mayor oppose new academies and free schools, maintaining Council control of schools wherever possible
  • I will as Mayor protect teachers’ jobs and maintain smaller class sizes
  • I will as Mayor secure affordable childcare for working families
  • I will as Mayor ensure every local child has the chance to go to a school a reasonable distance from home
  • I will as Mayor bring Lewisham ‘young people’ service back in-house for the benefit of the community
  • I will as Mayor introduce a Lewisham Fair Workload Charter, to improve conditions for teachers.