Greenwich 10: Warwick Lightfoot respondsWarwick


Warwick Lightfoot is the latest London Mayoral candidate to tackle the Greenwich 10.  His responses are printed in full below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should the early morning contra-flow in the Blackwall Tunnel be re-introduced?


It would be convenient for the contra-flow to be reintroduced. It was ended because the Metropolitan Police told the Mayor there were safety problems caused by the driving behaviour of some motorcyclists.  The Labour mayor then closed it and said he would consult on the issue. Livingstone should have consulted the public first before making the decision. In my view the Police should ensure safe-driving standards in the tunnel and the contra-flow should re-open.   


How can Greenwich take advantage of its Olympic status to encourage healthier lifestyles amongst the borough's residents?

 

The Olympic Equestrian Centre will be in Greenwich Park, but it will only be a temporary structure and will offer no permanent legacy. My view is that in general to encourage healthier and more active life lives boroughs need to provide good parks. Streets need to be properly maintained for pedestrians and cyclists. There should be more trees to give shade to people when they walk.  Good sports, leisure facilities and swimming pools are essential. We also need a properly policed and safe community, so that people are confident about going for a walk or using a park. The Olympic Games gives us an opportunity to use the interest created to remind people of all of the benefits, and the pleasures, of a more active life. The British Equestrian Federation are campaigning with the London Horse Network to get a permanent equestrian legacy in the Olympic boroughs, which I support. I also support the English Cricket Board’s initiative A Chance to Shine that aims to take cricket into primary and secondary schools in London. All London boroughs have to use the interest that the Olympic games will stimulate to encourage their communities to be more active.
 
How do you evaluate the success or otherwise of the rollout of Safer Neighbourhood Teams across Greenwich?


The acid tests are how safe people feel and how much crime is committed. Measuring these things is very difficult in statistical terms. The preferred yardstick used by criminologists and emphasised by Michael Howard, when he was Home Secretary, is the British Crime Survey. This, however, does not go down to ward level and excludes a great deal of youth crime, which is significant in terms of local anti-social behaviour. The recorded crime figures are available, but are an inadequate measure, because the public have difficulty in getting through to the Police to report crime. The recorded crime figures can also be perversely distorted. For example, active policing, which is desirable may result in more crime being recorded. Surveys of residents that provide indications about how ward residents perceive crime are helpful. Another useful indicator is the number 999 calls that are recorded for a ward.

 

Do you think the current type of new housing units being built in Greenwich is right for the borough?


Housing is a policy area matter where the London boroughs should be in the lead. Only the people of Greenwich know the appropriate balance for their housing stock. In general people do not want homes to rent, but the opportunity to start to own their homes through shared equity schemes. Greenwich has a high proportion of its housing in the form of social housing for rent, this suggests that the emphasis should be on more family homes that can be bought through shared ownership. These housing and planning decisions, however, should be for the people and Borough of Greenwich.
 
South East London is poorly served by public transport. How would you address this issue?


The bus services in South East London need to be reviewed. We need Crossrail with the spur to Woolwich. Ultimately the transport problems of South East London will not be resolved without a huge investment in rail transport. This investment will include Crossrail, Thames Link and an orbital rail link for South London. Greater London needs a strategic investment plan that sets out the long-term investment that is needed in transport. In effect we have to re-open the issues that were looked at by London Transport in its first major transport plan after that Second World War and published in 1947 but never acted on.
 
Do you think the proposal to have a Congestion Charge zone in Greenwich is a good idea or not?


I am against road pricing. A local congestion charge in Greenwich, however, is a matter for the people of Greenwich. The local borough council, not the Mayor, should decide this proposal, unless it interferes with the strategic movement of traffic around Greater London, when as Mayor I would intervene and stop it.


How will you address the safety concerns of Greenwich residents travelling late at night on our buses?


There needs to be more Police on the streets, who get on and off buses as part of their patrols and more Transport Police. Transport for London needs to be more effective in permanently removing free travel passes from people, who abuse them by abusing bus drivers and other members of the travelling public. This particularly applies to youngsters, but the same rules should be applied to other people who abuse a free travel pass. 

 

Do you think the decantation of the Ferrier Estate has been handled well by Greenwich Council?


This is a matter for Greenwich Council which is the housing authority involved. Decanting a residential community is always difficult, although sometimes it is necessary; particularly when you are replacing over 1,910 homes on the Ferrier Estate with some 4,000 new mixed tenure homes. How these things are handled will depend on how good the local authority housing authority is. It is not for the Mayor of London to offer a running commentary about the work of the London Boroughs.


Assessing the competence and efficiency of work of Greenwich Council as a housing authority is the responsibility of the Audit Commission. The Audit Commission inspections of Greenwich Council as a housing authority have been repeatedly critical of the way in which it has failed to sort out identifiable problems. There are problems with the way tenants are treated. Performance standards are not challenging.  Information is poor. Complaints have been handled poorly. Often they are not replied to within the Council’s own perfroemce target of 10 working days, taking 3 week to be answered. E-mails do not receive prompt replies. The Council’s service standards ‘are themselves not always challenging’. The Council allows itself 10 days to answer telephone and e-mail contacts. Council repairs to empty property are poor. The time taken to turn around empty properties is slow; and too often disabled people are asked to move into properties that need decoration, which they are unable to do. The Audit Commission found that properties were often handed over to new tenants in an unacceptably dirty condition.


Greenwich Council fails to meet its own performance target for turning around empty properties and the rent loss is worse than 3 years ago. Greenwich Council does not achieve value for money when repairing empty properties for ‘either the Council or the new tenants’. The Audit Commission has found that value for money in relation to Greenwich Council’s work, as a housing authority, is weak. The Council ‘is not able to consistently demonstrate a track record of delivering value for money’. Performance management tools are underdeveloped and the Council could not demonstrate that value for money is embedded in its culture.  The Audit Commission concluded that the ‘failure to drive forward performance means that an organisation is not addressing fundamental issues connected to its service delivery’ And that Greenwich ‘ has been slow to respond to the finding of previous inspections’ and that the prospects for improvement ‘were uncertain’.
 
Would you support the construction of the Thames Gateway bridge as currently proposed?


I have serious reservations about the Thames Gateway project. Huge numbers of houses are proposed to be built in a rush in the far east of the Gateway. There are several problems with this. The development is a long distance from Greater London’s centre of gravity in terms of jobs, there is not the transport, cultural and social infrastructure to support building on such a scale. And much of it is on land with serious issues relating to flood risk. I will reconsider and replace the Mayor’s current Spatial Plan. Until the future of the Thames Gateway is decided it does not make sense set the precise location of the bridge in stone.
 
Do you think Greenwich gets value for money from the mayor’s precept?


No, the Mayor’s budgets have roughly trebled to over £10.5 billion. The Mayor’s Council Precept has doubled from£122.98 to £303.88. The principal services involved the Metropolitan Police Authority and Transport for London have not provided value for money for the huge increase in spending that has taken place. The fact that there has been such a big increase in spending for such disappointing results illustrates the need for a serious agenda of public service reform.


In terms of the Police where the gross budget is £3.3 billion this means looking at the working of the Police Act, the personnel management and disciplinary procedures and the framework of nation pay arrangements. This will be the only way to tackle the big efficiency issues in the Metropolitan Police such as the overtime budget, sick leave and effective early retirement. The Metropolitan Police Authority budget needs to be put on a proper basis with clear unit costs, a plan for costed efficiency improvements that is presented in a transparent and lucid way.

 
Transport for London, which spends £6.4 billion needs to transform its approach to employee relations, if we are to get value for money for huge amounts of money being invested in it. It needs to be more customers focused and to take account of what the public says about using its buses. There also needs to be another look at the framework of law relating to strikes in essential services.


The City Hall budget that amounts to £154 million should be subject to a zero based budget to ensure that things are only done by the mayor of London when the spending is justified the waste and duplication of the work done by the 32 London boroughs is cut out.