My South London Press column, 31/07/2015

Watching my Labour colleagues in Parliament ties themselves in knots over how to respond to the Government’s welfare changes brought into sharp focus just how difficult it can be to explain the complexity of such decisions.  In our case in Lewisham it isn’t about whether we should oppose or accept Government proposals but how we can get the balance right between different services with a constantly shrinking pot of money to pay for them.

Most residents only use a few council services,often the most basic ones that affect us all like collecting the rubbish and recycling, sweeping the streets or repairing potholes.  When those services work well no one notices but when things go wrong people rightly tell us about it very quickly.

We have to fund those services from the same pot as the work to support adults who need social care.

Changes to those services can have a huge impact on those who use them and their families. The size of that funding pot is controlled by Government but the source of that funding is our taxes, whether they comes from national taxes like Income Tax or local ones like Council Tax.  The only other source of money is charging and the recent announcement of a delay in capping contributions for care costs can only be justified if Government make the money saved available to local councils like Lewisham so we can deal with the pressures on social care that our community faces.

It’s that time of year when some Lewisham residents head off for a holiday abroad but why not visit a foreign country without leaving London this summer? As the novelist LP Hartley said “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” and two of the best places to explore the past are close by.

The first is the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill with its African Worlds gallery, Natural History collection, featuring the famous walrus and the musical instruments which are always a favourite for youngsters – not forgetting the Aquarium. A little further away is the Museum of London Docklands at West India Quay near Canary Wharf. It tells the story of the how London became the greatest trading city in the world – for children the hands on Mudlarks gallery is the highlight of any visit! I know both museums well and I know you will get a warm welcome at either this summer.