Monday, February 26, 2007

Back from Ireland

Having spent the long weekend in Ireland it is back to reality and the task of catching up with the e-mails and various other matters. That also includes getting back to the habit of posting to the blog again which due to work pressures coupled with Council commitments has accounted for the lack of postings recently.


Delighted that Helen Mirren won Best Actress at the Oscars, her portrayal of The Queen was an outstanding performance and the award is also regonition to what has been an outstanding careeer.

In terms of the other films, was delighte that Alan Arkin got Best Supporting Actof for his role in Little Miss Sunshine were he played the drug addicted Grandad. I hope to watch The Departed on DVD in the next few days but it was good to see that Martin Scorsese has at last been regonised by the Academy at the sixth time of asking.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Victory at the Nou Camp!

Unfortunately I missed the great triumph for Liverpool tonight in the Nou Camp against Barcelona as I had to Chair the Way we Work scrutiny panel at Merton Council. What I would have given to have seen the match given the result, the most exciting matches always seem to happen when I've got a meeting, one of the pitafalls I suppose of being a councillor. Still these things happen. The 2-1 result is beyond my wildest dream and sets us up nicely for the second leg at Anfield.

Another Champions League triumph on the way??? and it was one of my New Year predictions.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Windmill trading estate inquiry

The planning inquiry into the Windmill Trading Estate that took place over eight days In November and February has finally ended. This is the controversial proposal for 211 units on the site of industrial estate in blocks 3-5 storeys high overlooking an environmentally sensitive area opverlooking Mitcham Common. In the past I've posted about this application and the near unanimous opposition to the proposals locally in the ward and the inappropriate nature of the application.

This application has now been on-going for the past four years, with the developers into only sporadic consultation with residents it is an issue that has taken up great deal of my time. I hope the planning inspector upholds the decision of the Council and takes into account the huge opposition locally and rejects this application.

Gun crime in London

With my ward Pollards Hill being very near to Streatham ice rink where a tragic shooting took place a fortnight ago, as an elected politician I'm very concerned with the recent incidents of gun crime in South London. The tragic murders of three young people and another death through shooting in Hackney today it is quite clear we've a serious situation on our hands that has the potential for escalation and for this tragic cycle of violence to continue.

Within Pollards Hill we've also had shootings in the past and the present situation is a cause for concern given that the area is not too far from many of the areas which have suffered incidents recently. While these tragedies may be unconnected, if they are connected it is important that communities co-operate with the Police and break the spiral of silence that seems to be happening. While people may be frightened to speak to the police, enough safeguards exist for information to be passed on a confidential basis. I just pray that this tragic cycle is brought to a halt and perpetrators brought to justice.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another year older!

Valentines Day is here once again and I'm one year older and hopefully wiser. Having Valentines Day as my birthday has always meant that I've had no shortage of cards(apparently it the second biggest day for cards after Christmas) and being born on Valentines always gave a slightly more unique feel to my birthday.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cricket turnaround

After a generally dismal Winter, the return to form of the English cricketers along with their triumph in the one-day triangular series against Australia and New Zealand is very welcome news indeed. The success is in large part down to them of Paul Collingwood who has of late become a one day run machine in scoring successive centuries along with another decent knock in today's game.

England now need to build on their success for the Cricket World Cup that starts next month. If they can sustain the form they've had of late they may just be a surprise package come the World Cup.


Just watched the Ireland V France rugby match and just as it looked like Ireland would beat them, the French get a try right at the death and straight after Ireland has a scored a penalty which looked like it had sealed success for the Irish. The luck of the Irish was certainly not around today and I felt very sorry for them as they're a superb rugby side who were on course for victory in their first match at Croke Park.

On the more positive side my quest to secure tickets for the six nations Ireland V England in Dublin on 24th February may now be slightly easier now that Ireland cannot do the grand slam. Still tickets are like golddust and hopefully my Irish contact will deliver on his promise to get me a ticket.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pollards Hill fun day

With Pollards Hill in the process of having a Neighbourhood plan produced by the council in order to regenerate the area, an fun-day took place today in the New Horizons centre in order to hear the views of local people.

This involved a range of different community organisations coming together including the youth centre, Safer Merton, Groundwork Merton, Commonside Trust and the local PCT. A number of surveys were also filled out by local residents about what improvements they wanted to see in the local area.

The day was useful as I got to meet a range of different organisations and also hear the views from a range of local residents. One of the main issues raised by resident was the lighting on Donnelly Green which I'm now pleased to say that progress is at last happening. Many other improvements that people wanted so see made included improved public transport, more CCTV, more play facilities and improvements to the local environment.

In terms of the next stage, it will involve a multi-agency approach and a report that will take into account residents and partner organisations views which will then be fed into the Neighbourhood plan. Within Pollards Hill, we already have excellent multi-agency working and the neighbourhood plan will hopefully improve this further. Pollards Hill is an area of high deprivation with many challenges, however the area has improved significantly over the last 10 years. This has been mainly due to the Single Regeneration Budget between 1998 and 2002 which invested £5 million into a range of community schemes. Likewise the rebuilding and modernisation of housing on the estate has significantly improved housing in the area. Hopefully the Neighbourhood plan will allow further improvements to be made and to build on the progress made locally.

I would also to thank Jacqui Ceyenne from Merton Council and Naomi from the Commonnside Trust for helping to organise the day at short notice and making it a great success.

Friday, February 09, 2007

AFC Wimbledon 18 point deduction

The decision by the Ryman League Appeals panel to remove 18 points from AFC Wimbledon for fielding an illegible player is both absurd and disproportionate. In what was a relatively minor breach of the rules involving paperwork, it involved the failure of AFC Wimbledon to get international clearance from the Wales FA for the transfer of Jermaine Darlington from Cardiff City. The transfer was deemed international, even though Cardiff City play in the English league. The punishment of 18 points was the number of games that he had played for AFC Wimbledon and points gained by the club in that period.

This decision has the potential to wreck AFC Wimbledon's season and any chance that they had of gaining promotion to the Conference South this season.

What they have achieved since their formation in 2002 is nothing short of spectacular, given that they had to start from scratch after Wimbledon FC decided to abandon their roots and become franchise FC. This season had been going relatively well until all this happened.

If this had happened in the Premiership, I can guarantee that no team would've been deducted 18 points. Maybe some in the Ryman League are jealous towards the success AFC Wimbledon have enjoyed and wanted to do their best to undermine that success, thus the punishment. With them having enjoyed a great run of late, many of their opponents are probably delighted at the punishment handed out by the Ryman League.

A ray of hope however may be on the horizon as the club has secured the services of top QC Jim Sturman who is giving his services for free in order to help overturn this absurd punishment in an FA appeal hearing. I just hope that the FA will see sense on this matter.

The club has my full and utmost support in any campaign to overturn this points deduction and gross injustice.

Death of Ian Richardson

The news that Ian Richardson has passed away is very sad news indeed as he was a brilliant actor. I was an avid fan of the House of Cards and the follow up series To Play he King and The Final Cut in which he played the role of Francis Urqhart the Chief Whip who rose to be Prime Minister. Each series was both enthralling and brilliant political thrillers with twist and turns along the way, OK the storyline was slightly OTT but it added to the suspense and manoeuvres of Urqhart as Prime Minister.

The phrase "You make think that, I couldn't possibly comment" will forever be associated with Ian Richardson and his passing is a great loss to the world of acting.

LB Croydon - Bensham Manor By-Election result

In the Bensham Manor By-Election in LB Croydon last night, Labour retained the seat of Bensham Manor with a 10% swing in its favour. Given the appalling weather along with the challenging circumstances at a national level, this was a superb result. Having helped a few times in the by-election(the ward is very near my own ward of Pollards Hill in Merton) I know the Croydon Labour party put a huge amount of time and effort into winning this by-election.

In the election, the Conservatives had put considerable effort into winning with dozens of activists flooding the ward along with a deluge of publicity distributed in the ward. The Conservatives clearly saw a good performance in this ward as key to their ability of being able to break through in urban areas and the fact they performed so poorly does not bode well for them in terms of advancing in many urban areas.

If this result was repeated in a Council election, Labour would return to power in Croydon. With Croydon also being a Conservative council, the voters of Bensham Manor clearly do not have much faith in the incumbent Conservative council that has been in power under a year.

I would also like too congratulate Alison Butler on being re-elected to Croydon Council having lost her seat in Waddon last year.

The result is below.

Croydon LBC, Bensham Manor
Lab 1683 (61.6;+13.6), Con 617 (22.6;-6.4), Green 240 (8.8;-6.3), Lib Dem 126 (4.6;+4.6), UKIP 40 (1.5;-6.4), MRLP 15 (0.5;+0.5), P.Ch. 9 (0.3;+0.3)
Majority 1066. Turnout 26.2%. Lab hold. Last fought 2006.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Siobhain McDonagh protests against local NHS "gagging patients"

I enclose a press release from Siobhain McDonagh about yesterdays protest at St Helier about the local NHS "gagging patients".

Siobhain McDonagh protests against local NHS "gagging patients"

Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh, yesterday led a demonstration against NHS bosses for ignoring Government instructions to re-build a local hospital.

Hospital staff took leaflets, and passing cars, buses and ambulances honked their horns as around 50 protesters braved freezing conditions. The demonstration coincided with a 'stakeholders' meeting which discussed hospital plans for the area. Protesters complained that no meetings have been arranged in Siobhain's constituency, even though her constituents have the greatest health needs in the catchment area.

Ms McDonagh says:

"Over a year ago, the Government told officials to re-build the hospital on the St Helier housing estate, where the area's biggest health needs are. But the bureaucrats in charge want to move services out of London to Belmont, in leafy Surrey, closer to where well-paid managers like them live. They've kept ignoring the public on this, and they are trying to over-rule elected representatives. I arranged this protest because patients are being gagged by NHS bureaucrats."


St Helier Hospital is in Carshalton and Wallington constituency (Lib Dem), at the northern edge of the London Borough of Sutton - it is located in one of the most disadvantaged areas of South London. The catchment for the hospital trust ranges approximately from Mitcham in the north, down to the heart of Surrey, and the remainder of the catchment is extremely affluent.

Managers have admitted secret plans to shut St Helier were first drawn up in the mid-1990s, under the previous Government.

Studies circulated at public consultation meetings in 2004 originally rated St Helier as the first choice site for the area's new flagship hospital. It is where the vast majority of patients live, and the area has considerably greater health problems than elsewhere. The St Helier site was backed by the London Borough of Sutton's MPs for Carshalton, and by Mitcham and Morden's Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh.

A public consultation found that three quarters of Merton and Sutton residents backed the St Helier site.

An alternative site, two miles south of Sutton in the wealthy suburb of Belmont (but confusingly called Sutton Hospital), was rejected by local residents, the local MP for Sutton and Cheam (Lib Dem), and Councillors from all three parties. Fewer than 10% of residents supported the Belmont option.

However, NHS managers agreed to put the hospital at Belmont.

In December 2005, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt ordered NHS officials to build the hospital at St Helier after all and told officials to "stop work" on Belmont.

There is evidence NHS bosses refused to stop work at the Sutton Hospital in Belmont, and in February 2006, NHS papers still referred to Belmont as "the preferred site".

The NHS then claimed that the St Helier site could not be developed anyway because of legal constraints on the land. These claims have been rubbished by Labour and Lib Dem MPs as a "red herring", and the Greater London Authority has also rejected the claims.

In August 2006, the Chief Executive of NHS London said the NHS needed to review Ms Hewitt's decision, but she instructed officials to look at the regenerative impact a new hospital would have on disadvantaged communities, and how it could reduce health inequalities. Campaigners have complained that NHS bosses are not looking at these issues.

NHS officials have also admitted they will not need to consult the public again.

Elizabeth Howlett AM votes to abolish free bus travel scheme for 11,225 Merton children

It seems that the London Assembly member for Merton and Wandsworth has just voted to support abolishing free travel for Merton school children in their alternative budget proposals.

This was the same Elizabeth Howlett who was last year described last year by the Evening Standard 'as the least effective London Assembly member'.

Elizabeth Howlett AM votes to abolish free bus travel scheme for 11,225 Merton children

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone today criticised Assembly Member Elizabeth Howlett, for voting to abolish free bus and tram travel for all under-18s in full-time education.

Assembly Member, Elizabeth Howlett, moved the plan at the London Assembly meeting discussing the mayor's draft budget this week. In place of the bus travel scheme, Ms Bray proposed an impractical 'pilot' school bus scheme, which in addition to being impossible to implement in London, would deprive families of the advantages of the fares concession at weekends and bank holidays.

Elizabeth Howlett was one of those who backed the alternative budget to cut the free bus travel scheme for children.
The planned 'pilot scheme', backed by Elizabeth Howlett at the Assembly meeting, would operate in just six boroughs as opposed to the existing free travel concession across the whole of London.

Mr Livingstone said:
“We now have the reality of the alternative to my administration – with Elizabeth Howlett AM voting to abolish a benefit that saves Merton families with school-age children up to £350 a year for each child.

’11,225 young people in Merton are currently benefiting from the free travel.‘
‘Thanks to free bus travel for under 18s, access to education, sport and leisure has been opened up for thousands of young people in Merton. The proposal to abolish it would cost families hundreds of pounds a year and hit the poorest families hardest.

‘Polls show that eight out of ten Londoners support the policy of helping families by making bus travel for young people free.

'The alternative that has been put would only even apply in six boroughs, depriving most families of any benefit at all. This is a scorched earth agenda towards London's services.

‘The threat to free travel for young Londoners comes in the same week that London Councils tried in the House of Lords to abolish my ability to guarantee the Freedom Pass for over a million older Londoners and disabled people."


Notes for editors:
1. All under-18s in full time education were granted free bus and tram travel on 1 September 2006. The Mayor had previously introduced free bus and tram travel for under-11s in January 2004 and under-16s in September 2005.

2. 385,000 young Londoners benefit from free travel on buses and trams.
3. A MORI survey carried out on 30th September 2005 showed that 80 per cent of Londoners back the move.
4. London Councils is the umbrella body, which represents London's boroughs.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

House of Lords reform

I note with interest the proposal for House of Lords reform but I really do have to ask, why do we need a second chamber?

The current composition of the House of Lords is unacceptable consisting of peers appointed by the Prime Minister of the day and the 80 odd peers who are elected as part of the heredity element(and chosen by the heredity's). On many occasions in the past they have sought to frustrate the will of the elected chamber who have a democratic mandate unlike their colleagues in the Lords.

I also fear that any democratic element to the House of Lords will inevitably undermine further the supremacy of the Commons and lead to legislative problems further down the line. While the House of Lords does delay legislation at times, I fear the problems could be much worse if they had an electoral mandate. Also in this country we do not have a clamour for more elected politicians,House of Lords reform it is not an issue that I've heard recently on the doorstep.

While my view is very much a minority view within the Labour party, it is a shame that is not being pursued further within the white paper. At the end of the day, if people do not like what the Commons do, they can vote for someone else at the next election, the Lords are accountable to no one. I'm also a firm believer that all politicians should have an electoral mandate which is why I'm also against any hybrid element.

Many countries in democracies also manage perfectly well without second chambers(Scandinavian countries being an example) and the absence of a second chamber does not make them a bad democracy in my eyes, does a second chamber really improve democracy and how government works?, somehow I very much doubt that is the case.

Legislation could also be passed onto the statute books that much quicker.

In terms of payoffs to peers, while in some cases it is acceptable as some dedicate themselves to the Lords, should we really be paying off some of the wealthiest individuals in this country who sit in the Lords. Councillors do not get redundancy for losing their seats, should it really be different for many Lords, a great number of whom will be in receipt of parliamentary pensions.

Liverpool football club takeover

Being a Liverpool supporter when the the Dubai International bid collapsed, I was a bit disappointed as I knew that their pockets were likely to be very deep indeed and more then a match for Abramovich at Chelsea.

However, the new owners I believe are committed to the club and will ensure that the new 60,000 stadium will go ahead which will being in extra revenue to compete with the other big three(Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea). I also believe that they will give Benitez the funds required to ensure that we are challenging for the Premiership next season.

Liverpool at present have a very good nucleus of players, for far too many years we've been playing second fiddle to Manchester United, Arsenal and more recently Chelsea. In recent years we have enjoyed some huge success with the Champions League success of 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006, now it is time to win the Premiership again which we've failed to win since it was created in 1992 although we still enjoy the record of most league titles.

The success of Liverpool in English football is unparalleled in terms of trophies, this could just be the beginning of another period of domination.

Merton Overview and Scruitny Commission

On Monday night we had the Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting on the Budget. At the meeting a resolution was passed that the Cabinet "note the comments of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission" was passed on the casting vote of the Chair Cllr Peter Southgate of the Merton Park Independents. Cllr Rod Scott of the Tories moved a motion "That we support the administration budget in full" was defeated on the casting vote, at the meeting he sought to justify the motion on the basis that we should all support what the administration is trying to do. Well while it is true for you Rod(and I would suspect nothing less) is not true for the Labour group of 27 who were certainly not elected to support cuts to the vulnerable like at Bond Road and on SEN in the borough. With the Merton Park Resident, 30 councillors were also not elected to support Conservative policies on the Council.

The budget will now go to Cabinet later this month and it could still be changed by Full Council on 7th March given that the minority Conservative administration could be outvoted by Labour and the Merton Park Independents.

In terms of the pay rise for staff, when asked Merton would implement a rise above 2.5% for staff if recommended in national pay negotiations, Cllr Sam George refused to answer referring the question to the Director of Corporate Service Mike Parsons. Also the budget for single status is less then the private figure given to The Way We Work Panel, implementation of single status is still an ongoing debate within the Council and negotiations with the unions are still on-going.

Finally the issue of affordable housing was raised and the recent commission decision on referring back the Merton Road and Ravensbury Garages site. When I asked a question on when the St Catherine's site proposal would come forward Cllr Sam George muttered "in due course". Unlike the other two schemes it is not owned by the Council. It seems that it will be just another application with an affordable housing element, it is certainly not a replacement for the two abandoned schemes.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Merton Council phone network crashes

It looks like Monday morning is turning into a bit of a nightmare at Merton Council. All the phone networks are down and do not look like been restored for most of today, no doubt the Council will no have no shortage of irate people trying to get through and Monday morning is always the worst.

I wonder what went wrong and how much it will cost to fix?

Still I do feel sorry for the staff, like IT things can go wrong including the phone networks and when they do get restored it will place extra burdens on the staff in terms of backlog.

Maybe it is also time that the Council has a contingency when these things happen in future.

1pm update - Emergency numbers have now issued by the Council. Apparently it was down to some power cut at the weekend!

1.30 pm - Apparently the phones have sprung into life again!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jonny Wilkinson back to his best

After a dismal autumn of rugby test matches where losing became a habit, the performance of the rugby players especially Jonny Wilkinson was absolutely magnificent as was the whole performance of the England rugby team. His return after a three year absence is very welcome and hopefully the fortunes of the rugby team may now change, still it is only one match and the six nations still has a long way to go but if England build on today, more success could soon beckon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

At last some success in the cricket

Better late then never but it was great to see England cricketers getting one over on the Australian's today and winning the one day match, it has been a long time coming but it makes a change to the constant losing we've endured over the past few months. If we can beat New Zealand in the next one day match we play Australia in the best of three final, hopefully our fortunes have turned and this will last into the World Cup or maybe it is another false dawn?

Heathrow Airport and 3rd runway

Earlier this week a map was published which showed that Merton would be under the potential impact of a 3rd runway at Heathrow. Currently the Borough exposure to Heathrow is fairly limited and generally confined to the northern half of the Borough and mainly over the unpopulated Wimbledon Common. Potentially the impact on the Borough would be considerable in terms of aircraft noise.

Merton is a member of the 2M which a consortium of boroughs calling for a rethink on the proposed 3rd runway at Heathrow. Personally, I believe the 3rd runway will not get built as the potential envrionmental impact over a huge swathe of London would be great and given the location of Heathrow surrounded by a residential areas it would have a huge impact on many areas including Merton. Likewise it would also require the demolition of a number of homes to make way for the runway.

I also believe that Airports contribute a great deal to the economy and with five London airports we have the largest number of passengers using out combined airports out of any city in the world. The expansion of low cost airlines has fuelled demand further and given that the price of flights has dropped considerably in real terms over the past few years, many more are now flying to destinations across the globe.

Having travelled out of Heathrow on many occasions, it is clear that the airport is at full capacity and given the regular delays at the airport the situation shows no sign of improving. With other airports also running at near of full capacity we do need more runway capacity and choices do needs to be made. While I believe it was right to build Terminal 5 at Heathrow it is clear that further expansion is needed.

My personal choice is expanding Stanstead, OK the residents surrounding the airport will be up in arms but in terms of population impact on aircraft noise it would be considerably less. The airport has also considerably more expansion space around the airport then Heathrow. I also believe that Luton Airport should have a second runway and be expanded as like Stanstead the flight path affects a fraction of the people affected by Heathrow. Gatwick should be another option given that it is the busiest single runway airport in the world though a planning restriction till 2020 rules that option out for a number of year.

Long-term we do need to deliver extra runway space if we are to keep up with our competitors, however Heathrow is not the solution to our airport capacity issues or the easy way out.

PS - I'm not under the Heathrow flight path!

Severance and DVD rental

Tonight I watched Severance on DVD and I've got to say it was one of the most dreadful films I've watched in ages, utterly boring with awful characters and no real background to the script. It is also quite stomach churning in terms of severed anatomy, not recommended.

In terms of DVD rental, I've recently returned to Amazon who are a first class company in terms of you choices and speed of delivery. Up until last Summer, I'd been with Amazon for about a year and found no problem with their service, however a friend sent me a free DVD rental for Lovefilms and I swapped. After a promising start where I got the top titles, after a while I found I was getting low tier choices instead of my top choices which I never seemed to receive. They were also notoriously slow compared to Amazon, delievry time of up to a week.

Currently I get six DVD's a month for £9-99 though some months I do not manage to even watch six. As somebody who watches over 50 films a year some of which are excellent(Goodnight and Good Luck along with A History of Violence my favourites of the past year) down to the down right awful and I've seen a few turkeys of late including Severance(Proposition was also as bad). Over the weekend I've got Little Miss Sunshine and Childen of Men to watch, hopefully they'll be an improvement on Severance, you could'nt get much worse.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Merton Full Council Report

The last day of January brought with the latest Merton full Council meeting and probably one of the most acrimonious since I became a Councillor.

This was the first meeting with public questions in the meeting format and over 20 were submitted by the public, it was great to see increased participation from the public and some even stayed for the full meeting(usually at most Council meetings you are lucky to see more the half a dozen in the gallery).

A great deal of councillor questions was taken up with prepared answers to follow up questions from Conservative councillors to wind the clock down and prevent Labour councillors asking probing questions, mysteriously the first six questions were from Conservative councillors, coincidental or a fix? I suspect the latter.

In terms of the main debate, it was Children Services with a motion from Labour Councillor Maxi Martin on Bond Road Family Centre. During the debate placards were held up by members of the public against the closure, however during the debate placards were ripped up by security apparently under the orders of the Chief Executive(no doubt following the instructions of the minority Tory administration). This is despite the Mayor who controls the meeting not ordering their removal, apparently the press have photographed the incident and it it is likely to be in the press next week. Labour councillors thought the action of removing the placards was disgraceful, we are a democracy after all and they were not causing a disturbance. Not exactly good Council PR for Merton Council. The motion was sadly defeated but the fight to save Bond Road Family Centre continues.

Another motion was around affordable housing. At the meeting documents were circulated about the e-mail correspondence from Cllr Diane Neil-Mills about affordable housing in Merton. This made very telling reading about their complete lack of commitment to providing any affordable housing and how it has potentially affected our creditability with registered social landlords. At the meeting, the Conservatives raised legal issues about the documents circulated by the Labour group to all councillors and the Head of Legal gave an ambiguous answer about their release. Most of what we proposed was accepted(though no doubt the Tories did not really believe in the main contents of the motion), on the Conservative amendment the Labour group abstained as we had doubt about some of the information within their amendment.

In terms of Council House stock transfer, the Labour amendment on looking at Community gateway schemes based on the Preston model was accepted by Council. At the moment the Tories are desperate to get a consensus on the matter as they've been advised that without our support it will go down the plughole(and they are desperate to get rid of the stock). After the fiasco of the tenants letter back in October they suddenly seem willing to adopt a more consensual tone, the cynic in me thinks it is all a convenient sham. With the Tories not holding a majority in Council they probably also wanted to avoid an embarrassing defeat on the Labour amendment.

The Community Gateway scheme is an innovative, exciting and potentially new stock option that is still in an embryonic stage, but it may be a way of getting the long term investment that is needed into Merton homes. However it is important in any decision that residents are empowered and have a say rather then some remote unaccountable body, this is something that as a Labour group we will be pushing along with listening to the views of tenants in the Borough. I enclose a link below to Community Gateway.

My Pollards Hill colleagues Cllr Zenia Squire Jamison and Cllr Richard Williams both made their maiden speeches to Council and both made fantastic speeches, certainly better then my first speech to Council in May 2002. It is a very nerve wracking experience making your first speech, when I first got elected I hated making speeches but you gradually get the hang of it after a while and the self-confidence grows. My colleague Zenia made her speech in relation to Pollards Hill issues especially the on-going lighting issue that has still not been resolved on Donnelly Green but also Eastfields Station. Richard made a speech on the constitutionality of decision making. For the first time since the election, I did not make a speech to Council, it is is good to let other others have a chance and with a group of 27 it is important that we all contribute.

At the meeting we paid our respects to two retiring Directors, Richard Rawes who had been Director of Environmental Services for the past twelve years and Mike Parsons who has been with Merton Council for the past 33 years, the last 8 as Director of Corporate Service/Finance. Both will be sorely missed and have been of considerable assistance during my time as a councillor.

Finally congratulations goes to Cllr John Dehaney my Labour colleague in Graveney who was elected as mayor-elect at the Council meeting. John will make a fantastic mayor along with his wife Audrey who will make a wonderful mayoress.