Mayor of Lambeth

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Lambeth 2013 Model United Nations Conference – Wednesday 20 March 2013

The Lambeth Model United Nations Conference held at Elmgreen School last week was a fine example of young people courageously giving back to teaching and learning.  Because on display for guests and observers to applaud and staff to be justly proud, was their confident approach to some daunting issues and highly articulate presentations constructed in response to amendments and delivered as member states, facing the realities of delegates and the responsibilities of global citizens. As a guest and privileged observer it was encouraging to see their words starting to become friendly allies in the articulation of thoughts, with previous hints of apprehension starting to fade, to be replaced by a command of both language and their situation, something that had always been there for them and with practise it always will be. 

As with all events success is dependent upon careful preparation and their frequently measured response to challenging questions, experienced within the cut and thrust of debate was clearly grounded in the professional guidance from their teachers and a generous level of expertise from external consultant Ms Mussaret Bagum.  This invaluable experience of learning by doing was negotiated well by the students, demonstrating an wholly self-managed expression of student voice in Lambeth.  Another essential learning curve, providing further proof of early ability in Years 8 -10 and the advancement of our Lambeth schools, who with venues like Elmgreen and the leadership from John Wilkinson and Assistant Director CYPS Cathy Twist, we are steadily becoming a force for the good, in continuity of credibility and all that is noteworthy in teaching and learning in the Twenty First Century.  Congratulations to you all!

 

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Policy protection for our heritage pubs – Wednesday 13 March 2013

Good to see the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea snapping at the heels of developers by introducing policies that all local authorities across London should adopt in protecting our heritage pubs from the same fate of closure suffered by real ale gems like the Crocker’s Folly in Maida Vale or the Hope and Anchor in Hammersmith. 

In Lambeth the realities of this decline are yet to be brought home to local communities in the same way as our neighbours in Wandsworth, so the event at City Hall hosted by the Campaign for Real Ale was an evening of enlightenment. 

Introduced by Tom Copley from CAMRA the Pub Protection Summit on Wednesday last allowed us to hear the passion of Jonathan Wade senior planning officer from K&C, who spelt out their response to the accelerated losses, to be followed by Cllr. Liam Curran who made it very clear that Lewisham were in no mood to compromise.  Whilst the main messages were succinct and hard hitting, I was able to hear about the experiences of the micro-brewers like East London Brewing Company who produced their first keg of real ale in August 2011.  Delivering this shared vision of independent brewing alongside her equally adventurous husband is Claire Ashbridge-Tomlinson, who generating an excited sense of personal achievement was there to promote one of their darker ales. 

Its early days for this fledgling organisation but against the backdrop of a double or even triple dip recession, East London Brewing, are doubling their workforce.  Admittedly, this upgrade will mean their having two employees instead of just one but in reality, ELB are adding weight to our in-work statistics.  ELB have translated business plans into growth, with their Income Tax and NI contributions welcome news for the chancellor and further growth compounded by the knock-on effect of real jobs in real ale pubs employing more staff in their local communities. 

ELB is just one of 44 micro-brewers but this figure is set to rise with their contribution to the economy coming in alongside social cohesion that real ale pubs uniquely bring to their local communities, so it was heartening to see that Lloyds TSB Commercial are starting to lend to these SME’s.  Small beer though it may be at only 4% of their overall capacity for gearing, but if allowed to thrive these micro-brewers are growth business and I do hope that next time CAMRA sound their clarion call, real ale brand awareness is given an even bolder presence with the chosen venue made over to an environment that is fitted out with a large presentation screen at one end and a mock-up of a heritage pub at the other, echoing a style of Victorian or Edwardian elegance but of course with the beer displayed at its contemporary taste bud best.

 

 

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Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology – Wednesday 6 March 2013

Learning through genetic inheritance and discovering outcomes made available through twin research is a well used and productive academic formula for advancing our knowledge of disorders and disease.  However, this comparative research technique has been finely tuned over many years across the natural and human sciences with the controlled methodology of twin research able to yield a considerable wealth of information through empirical testing supported by the use of non-experimental questionnaires.

Having briefly met the team from Kings College on a previous visit to St Thomas’ Hospital, I was very pleased to look for ways of assisting Dr Kirsten Ward and her colleagues in the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, in trying to find more twins for their register, specific to an 18 – 25 age range across all ethnicities.   Their task is to trawl opportunities across all seven London boroughs south of the river in putting together a far deeper research analysis of what their original data had revealed through applying twin research techniques to a far greater representative sample of this younger age range in our multi-cultural capital.

With the experience of gigging with Ragz CV and Junior Booker at the Brixton Jamm last year, I was keen that Dr Ward found a slot in her busy schedule to welcome us to their department and the result was a meeting of minds from very different ends of a research learning continuum. It came as no surprise to be told that the age range and ethnicities that we needed were off the radar of research involvement and therefore, our opportunities were confined to gaining the confidence of young people, using what social scientists used to refer to as participant observation.  Here young performers like Ragz and Junior could display the benefits of positive rap, whilst projecting a comedy style that allowed us to laugh at our apprehensions and forget about the predictable reaction in turning down the volume when asked to help find those valuable twins who could be instrumental in producing a research breakthrough for those living and working in our seven London boroughs south of the river. 

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Southbank Centre’s Festival Wing – Wednesday 6 March 2013

It was so rewarding, as an elected member of longstanding to see the Southbank connection growing and dare I say it, spreading its wings with the local authority engaging enthusiastically with the vast array of artistic expression right on our doorstep.  These are events that some years ago might not have seemed possible but with our inspirational riverside neighbour; Jude Kelly at the helm, who knows what else we might achieve as a co-operative council.

Although much has been written about the brutality of the original design, with the concrete blocks courting much of the critical attention; it is this roughness of sixties style that offers the perfect raw material through which to accommodate the imaginative concepts of spatial extravagance presented by grateful architects of the twenty first century who, with the support of serious investment will allow us to add an exciting dimension of artistic focus to our town centres north of the borough.

Whist the preview of plans for the Festival Wing on Wednesday last was pitched just right for congratulations and praise, I would like to think that this excitement will be captured as an expression of borough-wide regeneration, something that this festival site knows only too well.  Sadly, our co-operative links with the Old Vic as a prime site in theatrical prestige is still in need of a cultural therapy that might be even more demanding than the Southbank connection.  Here it might be down to a perception of social divide that has been allowed to separate what should be their regular inclusion on our council radar, by a local authority keen to be associated with such a wealth of artistic achievement and a share of their national acclaim.  Thankfully, the scene dock doors are now open on the Southbank for us all to encourage wherever and whenever possible, a dialogue for essential funding that will make such a huge contribution to the progressiveness of a London Borough south of the river.

 

 

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A double whammy for the Streatham BID and BRAVE the movie – Friday 22 February 2013

Next door to the Mayor’s Parlour is Room 126 and on Friday last it became the nerve centre for Electoral Services and the emotional focus for the long awaited outcome for the Streatham BID.  As the count was being completed, in what was a crucial decision for the business community, the burning question for everyone in the room was, would Streatham businesses lend their support to the concept of a Business Improvement District?  Well the answer was a definite and resounding yes, with 84% of those who voted clearly in favour of what must surely be good news for Streatham and a further endorsement for the commitment of our Commercial Town Centre Manager Angelina Purcell.

Equally, congratulations, to the Streatham Odeon for their highly original promotion for BRAVE the movie because back in late July the following appeared on the Mayor’s Webpage. `Meridian is the central character in the latest Disney movie now playing at the Odeon in Streatham where I caught up with Cinema Manager Sussannah Mortimer and General Manager David Carpenter on Saturday afternoon.  

The exploits of BRAVE is your local movie must.  Its just right for the holidays and if the foyer games and activities that await you ahead of the onscreen action, written for audiences of all ages are as much fun for you as they were for me, then is entertainment all the way in the safe hands of Marie, Leon and Steve, our Odeon team who add that extra ingredient of welcome to the enjoyment of this delightful movie.

 

With that sort of appeal it was not too much of a surprise to hear that this animated adventure story was amongst the nomination but to learn that it had won best in its category at the Oscars was surely a high-five for the team at the Streatham Odeon.  And although this congratulatory link to Hollywood is only tenuous it is an indication that Streatham has much to offer and not least in the contemporary influence of the creative arts and if the decision on the BID is anything to go by another substantial credit for the local business community.”

 

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Twenty Five Years Loyal Service to Housing – Monday 25 February 2013

It was with great pleasure that we were able to welcome Lambeth Living to the parlour on Monday in celebration of achievements by colleagues who had successfully completed twenty five years loyal service. The occasion was a timely centre piece in acknowledgment of how far the local authority had advanced over the last decade in meeting challenges posed by housing and yet, when faced with finding lasting solutions to those longstanding issues raised at Neighbourhood Forums and Tenants Council, the rewards for this steady progress seem slow and irritatingly small in comparisons to other areas of our advancement.

However, as each recipient was congratulated by Keith Hill Chair of Lambeth Living, I became very conscious of what we had achieved as a local authority and that it was only our historical past that prevented us from giving it full recognition, because the light at the end of the tunnel so often turned out to be yet another train heading towards us and more than ready to derail the process and comfort the doubters. 

Well on Monday last I was confronted by a deeply ingrained and professional enthusiasm for a no surrender approach as an endorsement of progress in difficult times by five highly committed members of staff each with 25 years of loyal service.

As a long term subscriber to the learning organisation I was heartened by what I heard as we began to network following the awards in being told about the introduction of the Solutions Team.  An intuitive response to addressing gaps in service delivery that 25 years service would not be slow in revealing, such as those interfaces where we have not been able to learn enough, or not communicating the learning that we have, or perhaps even more worrying, still not able to learn from mistakes that can be rectified. 

According to one contributor, we might not fully appreciate service gaps within the Client, Contractor and Sub-Contractor relationship.  A vital information chain from which the links are too often missing or simply not seen as necessary, leading to delays, disappointment and then anger aimed at whoever is next in line to pick up the customer service phone. 

We wish the Solutions Team every success in finding the gaps and learning from mistakes but I do hope recipients of the awards will be asked if there are any lessons still to be learned in moving from a housing operation offering customer service to delivering a contractor regulated service to a housing operation.

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Entrepreneurs on high voltage with Brand Amplifier – Tuesday 19 February 2013

Enterprise is sometimes difficult to define when taken out of context but when applied to women in business it generally means a self-motivated crafting of opportunities through which to be seen, heard and taken seriously, with environments suitable for promoting self and your product few and far between.  But not at the Brand Amplifier Awards at the ITV studios on Tuesday evening, because marketing a brand name was the driver for animated conversations and visualising, a standard technique for all those who presented to the judges.

This promotional experience was a huge success, with the sell out event sponsored by RBS and packed with young female entrepreneurs whom Lambeth council have recognised in demonstrating that they are a local authority prepared to lend their practical weight to the predicable rhetoric.  The evening delivered an inspirational event aimed at getting more young women into business roles as leaders of SME’s, that is those small to medium sized organisations that made up the majority of the trade delegation that the prime minister very wisely decided to take with him on his trip to India.

The event was hosted by Jeannette Pritchard from JP Creative, an established entrepreneur herself and acknowledged Lambeth Champion who gave us some very good reasons to celebrate this clever rebranding of the original business awards.  Apart from offering us the benefits of being Brixton based, her on-platform photogenic presence as a young woman with top quality business skills, is just the role model we need and stacks up well alongside South London’s best loved son, Levi Roots and our Guardian award winning Chief Executive, in promoting achievements and increasing our inward investment.

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Chance UK Graduation Ceremony – Friday 15 February 2013

There is a bitter-sweet irony attached to the graduation ceremonies that always become increasingly sensitive as we work our way through the names and achievements that accompany the awarding of certificates.  Although these well attended events turn the Council Chamber into an environment of infectious praise, it is in reality the start and finish of a close and often hard won partnership that ends in celebration but also with a final contribution from the mentors. 

I shall never forget the fond gaze and whispered words of “will you still love me” from a bright eyed little lad who with the inspirational help of his mentor had made it through from doubt and disruptive behaviour, to an acceptance that they had worked at together and achieved as a team.

The Chance UK mentor is a type of person that I have encountered many times at these ceremonies with qualities well beyond the anticipation of care and compassion.  It could be that there is as much in it for them as the giving of their time might offer to others, with the rapport experienced in different ways and often by individuals who share neither background, age or ethnicity, but the common denominator of defeat for an emotional handicap and the feelings of hurt and mistrust. 

Because over time they become the owners of their own behaviour and seeing in their mentors a person that they might become if the blemishes of early development can be tackled together, in rescuing a life and redirecting energies for the good and benefit of others.

The task for the mentor is to find out what’s behind the behaviour because people are seldom upset for the reasons they think.  We often decide to upset ourselves, become annoyed and then angry and blame it on the behaviour of others.  In reality, we decide to upset ourselves and as the mentors quickly discover it’s a long way back for someone so young to realise that there is another way but many find it with the perseverance of their mentors. 

In real monetary terms what they achieve at this early stage will reduce the heavy burden of correction for a society still struggling to cope with the unacceptable; with solutions still not available by chance but rather with the motivational enterprise of mentors and the work of Chance UK.

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Deputy Lieutenant welcomes award winning cadets to Lambeth Town Hall – Tuesday 29 January 2013

The Mayor was very pleased to be able to offer the use of parlour to our Deputy Lieutenant on the important occasion of awarding certificates to Army and Air Cadets.  The evening was one of professional celebration with the impressive citations delivered with an obvious sense of pride, in the presence of Commandant South East London Army Cadet Force Colonel Simon Ettinghausen, ACF and ATC Officers and welcomed support from family and friends.

The strength of the ACF following is much to be applauded but this would not be possible without the dedication and commitment from those adult leaders across the whole of the youth group representation throughout London and the Home Counties.  Moreover, unless familiar with the work through personal involvement or previous background, we tend to take for granted the availability of leadership roles in guiding the ambitions of these young people.  With the hard facts being that gaining a placement as a cadet is very much dependent upon the weight of commitment from adults with time and experience to take on the demands of leadership, so essential in developing the qualities of achievement that were clearly apparent in the citations at the award ceremony.

The occasion marked a first for the Mayoral Team as hosts for the ceremony in Lambeth, but certainly not to been seen as a one-off for those fortunate enough to be receiving awards because by the end of the evening plans were well in hand for another award ceremony arranged for next year, followed by discussions as to attendance at the Remembrance Day Parade in November and the expectations for what the Summer Camp in August might deliver in getting the very best out of life for a young person experiencing the companionship of belonging in an ACF or ATC uniform.

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CAMRA – Meeting up with real ale at the Battersea Beer Festival – Thursday 7 February 2013

With the event promoting customised glasses sponsored by Harveys, a true Sussex brew, the 23rd Battersea Beer Festival got underway for real ale drinkers in the Victorian splendour of the Grand Hall on Lavender Hill.  A great venue for a great occasion and meeting en masse the real ale fraternity from straight glass classics like the Cat’s Back in Wandsworth, the legendary Brick Layers Arms and lively conversations from a bevy of informed brewers like Duncan from Sambook’s and Steve Wright from Hop Back Brewery in Salisbury, it was hard to peel off in time for the next engagement.

Without doubt it was a pleasure to meet up with these brewing entrepreneurs for whom creating real ale is an artisan craft that pays its way, with any monies owed to Inland Revenue received on time and in full.  Despite coping with cash flow and the tightest of margins, they like to keep a clean sheet with up to date payments on National Insurance contribution and Business Rates; because for the majority who operate successfully in the real ale world of competitive pump prices, a pint is exactly that and when enjoyed in the company of connoisseurs it makes pulling the ring on a tin the occupation of infants.

The facts behind the campaign for real ale are not difficult to appreciate since duty alone accounts for 50% of cask cost price, with the on trade having no option but to pass this onto customers, whilst supermarkets choose to absorb much of these costs, leading to a widening of the gap between the price of on trade beer across the bar and the off trade beer found on supermarket shelves.  And as such, a calculated and heavy handed loss leader that has decimated the on trade over recent years, resulting in the closure of pubs, job losses and a contraction in the social fabric of our local communities.

The collective future of these media free social environments, created, managed and maintained by our real ale pubs is wholly dependent upon the continued success of SME’s and the sheer hard graft of those working behind the logo of a local brewery.  According to many of the experts responsible for brewing real ale; for every 100,000 litres of top quality stout, mild or bitter, produced, these businesses will employ on average about five people as opposed to one on the payroll of those supplying the off-licensed beer sold in supermarkets and retailed outlets nationally.

SME’s are the life blood of business success, often starting from the home-grown enthusiasm of a cottage industry or the shrewd management of family funds.  They proactively support our economy, provide much needed local jobs and when experiencing  economic difficulties do not plead the special case scenarios, with handouts from the tax payers or negotiate reductions in the demands sent by the Inland Revenue.  Quite the reverse, they make their own running in a tough business climate with eyes and ears to the outcome of the budget, since each year the duty escalator will accelerate the decline in pub numbers.  Why? Because increasing the duty does not result in increased revenue, whilst at the same time these hard pressed SME’s continue to be starved of funding from the banks.  A case study is the need for bottling cask-conditioned ales for waiting markets across the Channel, but the request for plant and equipment meets with the same immovable stance from those lenders awash with cash but lacking in confidence or recognition for the enterprise of SME’s who could get our economy out of the doldrums and into the growth that we all seek.      

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