My South London Press column, 18/12/2015

The Holiday season is a time when we both look back over the year past and forward to the New Year and what it might bring.  2015 was a year that many of us will look back on with mixed feelings.  Local Government and the services it provides have continued to be put under enormous strain as the Government has pushed its austerity programme harder and deeper.  But we have seen public servants working long hours to make sure that essential services continue and our residents doing more and more to help their fellow citizens whether helping at a Community Library, setting up Food Banks  or running one of the hundreds of community Groups we have in Lewisham.

The General Election promised the possibility of change but ended in defeat for my Party.  That defeat was particularly difficult to swallow in Lewisham where Labour won strongly.  We said farewell to Dame Joan Ruddock after 28 years serving Deptford and welcomed Vicky Foxcroft as her replacement.  Along with Jim Dowd and Heidi Alexander she also served as a Local Councillor and it is reassuring to know that when ministers who haven’t had that experience say some of the things they do we have three MPs who can point out their errors.  It has been particularly good to see Heidi being such a powerful advocate for the beleaguered NHS in her new role as Shadow Health Secretary.

London’s Housing Crisis has deepened during the year but in Lewisham we have stepped up our efforts to increase the number of new homes that are being built including building some ourselves.  Last year there was a net increase in Lewisham of 1,468 homes and over 300 long term vacant properties were brought back into use.  This was 33% above the figures in the London plan.  Lewisham and every borough in London will need to match this performance year after year if we are to start turning the crisis round.  2016 will see London elect a new Mayor and I very much hope it will be my good friend Sadiq Khan who has made clear that addressing that Housing Crisis will be his top priority.

The Christmas holiday season can be a time of joy for some but for others it can be a sad and lonely time.  And for some it will be just another working day helping to keep our city running. However you will be spending it may I take this opportunity to wish you, your family and friends a safe and happy new year.