Reaction to the Spending Review

The failure of George Osborne’s economic polices were laid bare in today’s Spending Review, forced to make £11.5bn of additional cuts in the first year of the next parliament.

Further cuts to local government budgets were well trailed ahead of the announcement but it does little to soften the blow. We’ve already had £77m of cuts forced on us in Lewisham with a further £50m to find over the next two years. An additional 10% on top of that in 2015-16 will be incredibly hard to find and place front line services under threat, but we will continue to do all we can to protect the services that are most vital to our community.

The government’s assault on the poorest in society also continued, with further ideological attacks to the welfare budget. It is despicable that this Tory led government is proposing to make people who are made redundant wait a week before becoming eligible for Job Seekers Allowance. It will cause unnecessary suffering and do little to save money.

One thing that is welcome is the government’s commitment to integrating health and social care. We have been working with health providers in Lewisham to better integrate our systems over the last few years to ensure we provide a seamless and efficient service for residents. Given the challenge that a rapidly growing ageing population presents, this move is long overdue.

We will have to wait until tomorrow to find out the details of the planned investment in infrastructure, but as Ed Balls pointed out in response to George Osborne, this governments record leaves much to be desired. Just seven of 576 projects promised in the government’s 2011 infrastructure plan have been completed – and five of those started under Labour! Eighty per cent of the planned projects haven’t even begun.

Instead of further cuts, the chancellor should be concentrating on creating jobs and growth. This would be what a Labour government would be focused on and it is why we will be working hard to return one in 2015.

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Freedom of the Borough for Doreen Lawrence

The allegations that the Metropolitan Police carried out undercover investigations of Stephen Lawrence’s family and other campaigners and attempted to smear them are shocking. They must be investigated quickly and fully and those responsible brought to account.

It does not matter how long ago this happened – it still damages the relationship between the Police and the community they serve and undermines the efforts that many of us have made to create trust particularly between our young people and the Police.

Doreen Lawrence is one of the most inspiring women of our times.  Her response to tragedy has been both to relentlessly pursue justice for her son and to create a lasting legacy for him.  To have achieved one of those would have required courage and dignity on a scale few can offer.  To do both is simply astonishing.

We are very proud that the Stephen Lawrence Centre is located in Lewisham and tomorrow evening Lewisham Council will begin the process of making Doreen Lawrence a freewoman of this borough.

http://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/

Fire Service Cuts – Downham and New Cross Fire Stations

Boris Johnson has been rightly criticised for his proposals to closes 12 fire stations, cut 18 fire engines and 520 jobs across London to save £29m in two years.

Lewisham Labour has been campaigning strongly against the proposals locally which would see Downham and New Cross Fire Stations close. I believe that this would have a disproportionate impact on the safety of local residents. Not only would we lose two of the five fire stations but also a third of all appliances based in Lewisham.

I am also concerned that Lewisham will lose a disproportionate number of officers to redundancy compared to other London boroughs.  Lewisham’s total officer numbers currently are 212, a loss of 64 officers based at Downham and New Cross Fire Stations would represent a 30% reduction.

The council has made it’s opposition to the proposals clear and submitted its response to the consultation earlier this week.

You can find out more information about the campaign to save our fire stations by visiting the London Labour’s campaign website, and can sign the Fire Brigade Union’s petition against the closures here.

Glass Mill Leisure Centre is open!

Earlier this week, the new Glass Mill Leisure Centre in the heart of the borough opened its doors. We promised in 2010 to build a new flagship Leisure Centre in Lewisham and this is what we’ve done.

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I had a sneak peak at the Centre last month and tested out some of the equipment. I was very impressed by the facilities on offer which includes a regional competition-standard 8-lane swimming pool with seating for 300 spectators a 20m training pool, a 100-station gym, a climbing wall, a crèche and two studios offering a programme of classes.

We have now opened two new Leisure Centres, with swimming pools, in Lewisham in the past two years. Forest Hill Pools is proving very popular with local residents and I have no doubt that Glass Mill will prove to be the same.

You can find out more information about Glass Mill and all other Leisure Centres in Lewisham here.