My response to Theresa May’s conference speech 2017

The PM says it’s her ‘personal mission’ to fix our “broken housing market’. If this were the start of a wholly new approach to building housing for those who need it most, then I would welcome it, but if the Prime Minster thinks that £2bn by itself will solve the problem, she is wrong – it will be just a drop in the ocean.

The London Boroughs are ready, willing, and able to step up the amount of new building that we do and recognising that there are more homeless families in London than in the whole of the rest of the country, we expect to be at the forefront of a renaissance of Council Housing.

The housing situation in London is now a full-blown emergency that requires immediate action. According to the Government’s own calculations, the capital needs 72,000 new homes a year to meet demand. Yet, without urgent investment in social housing, and a lifting of the borrowing cap for councils to build more of its own housing, many Londoners will not be able to secure the homes that they desperately need.

I grew up in a Council House and I have spent years trying to get more homes built in London, despite the obstacles put in our way by this government and its predecessor. If Mrs May is serious I would be very happy to meet her personally and explain how she can go from conference rhetoric, to action tomorrow.


My South London Press column 06/10/17

One of the first problems I had to deal with when I became Mayor in 2002 was the poor performance of the Council’s Refuse collection service. It had to be a priority because it is something that affects everyone and quite reasonably if a Council can’t take the rubbish away properly, then folk are going to be sceptical about their ability to deal with other things too. I did get it sorted out eventually and with help of some great staff who both do the collecting as well as organise things it has been one of the most successful services provided by the Council for the last 15 years.

Lewisham was one of the first Councils to send its rubbish to an incinerator rather than bury it in holes in the ground. This means we provide a more environmentally friendly service not least because our trucks don’t drive all the way to Essex to unload.  However when it comes to measuring how much waste is recycled, Europe choose to ignore the fact that by burning our rubbish we can reclaim both heat and power as well.  They only measure what goes into the green bins and are complaining that our recycling rates are too low.

Fifteen years ago it wasn’t possible to recycle food but now it is and that has opened up the possibility of changing the way we deal with waste in Lewisham. Over the last few months many of you will have received new grey bins for recycling food waste. These come with instructions about how you can separate food waste and put it out to be collected each week. This new food waste recycling service started this week and as a result we will only collect the reduced amounts of rubbish that go into the black bins once a fortnight.  The new grey food bin, green recycling bin and the brown garden waste bin, if you have them, will still be emptied each week.

Making a change like this is inevitably going to be a bit complicated until we all get used to the new system so please bear with us and if there are a few hiccups to start with, it doesn’t mean the system isn’t working, it just will take a few weeks to settle down to a new routine.

We consulted you, our residents, before we started to make these changes and the great majority of you felt it was the right thing to do – some of you were particularly keen to see our recycling rate go up in future while others thought that a potential saving of £0.5m each year was important in these very difficult times of continuing austerity.

Finally a couple of things to remember – only put food in the new grey bin – nothing else please and when you put it outside make sure the handle is in the position that locks the lid down so nothing gets spilled!