Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top posts of 2015

This shouldn't take long, I've only posted 13 times in 2015 (and five of those were in January...).

13. Lewisham Council advertises for "Change and Innovation Manager", 29 December 2015, 207 views. Not surprising that this only has 207 views given that I posted it yesterday... In fact with 207 views in under 24 hours I have high hopes for this post's future... ;)

12. Catford's "poo patrol" take matters into their own hands, 9 September 2015, 320 views. Perhaps people aren't all that interested in poo after all.

11. Update on the Safer Brownhill Road campaign, 21 January 2015, 360 views. This deserves more attention - a local resident's campaign to get Transport for London (TfL) to install a safe road crossing at the junction of Torridon Road and Brownhill Road in the wake of a particularly bad crash on Brownhill Road where a student was sadly killed. The campaign continues and TfL are currently in the process of carrying out an assessment of the site.

10. Ace's Bar applies for change of use, 26 February 2015, 416 views. Poor old Ace's Bar. It didn't get its change of use and is currently closed. Maybe £2.50 pints of Carling just aren't very Corbett, dahling.

9. Was Labour's purge worth it?, 11 September 2015, 570 views. No.

8. More through trains from Catford to Kentish Town are coming!, 22 January 2015, 662 views. Not any time soon mind you.

7. Catford Bridge Tavern fire - some pictures and some speculation on what the future holds, 11 March 2015, 757 views. The CBT going up in flames was one of the big stories in Catford in early 2015. The roof and a large part of the upstairs was destroyed by the fire and there was plenty of speculation about both the causes and the consequences. Towards the end of the year the company that owns the pub, Solitaire Limited, announced that they will be applying for permission to redevelop the site, restoring the building and opening at the end of 2016. We live in hope...

6. Free travel on national rail for under 11s - beware the small print!, 4 December 2015, 816 views. I wrote this when I realised that Boris's announcement that free travel on national rail for under 11s wasn't quite what it first seemed. I'm still banging on about it because I think many parents are going to get caught out by the fact they need an Oyster Zip card for the children to be able to take advantage of this. Tell your friends!

5. Don't mention the prefabs - Lewisham Council plans new "pop up" housing, 19 January 2015, 924 views. The new "pop up housing" is coming along. In the meantime, Excalibur is left to rot.

4. Lewisham's borough-wide 20mph plans - a good news update, 7 January 2015, 941 views. The good news that Lewisham are continuing to press ahead with implementing borough-wide 20mph.

3. Cleverly's Bakerloo bungle..., 14 January 2015, 957 views. Unfortunately, despite the fact that extending the Bakerloo line to Hayes would actually speed up journey times for residents of the Hayes area (the subject of this post), Bromley council refused to back it and towards the end of the year TfL announced that the extension would be going ahead, but only as far as Lewisham. Gutted doesn't quite cover it.

2. Pollution monitoring in Catford and Hither Green - some shocking results, 25 May 2015, 1,057 views. The results of a frankly shocking piece of work I undertook with some friends at the beginning of 2015 showing that all of the Corbett and Culverley Green estates in Catford have moderate or worse air pollution. Unfortunately the council remains entirely uninterested in stopping rat running through the estates.

1. The General Election in Lewisham East, 8 April 2015, 1,280 views. Everyone loves an election. Shame about the result nationally. Still, Heidi did well anyway, she's now Shadow Secretary of State for Health.

A busy year despite the small number of posts. Bring on 2016.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lewisham Council advertises for "Change and Innovation Manager"


This job dropped into my inbox on Christmas Eve, courtesy of the Civil Service jobs search website email updates and it immediately caught my eye...

It's a secondment to Lewisham Council from Whitehall - the job description is quite short so I've reproduced it below:

"An important role, this is an opportunity to lead complex projects, work with senior members of the organisation, and be at the forefront of issues facing local Government. These roles will play an important part in the overall success of the organisation: To lead complex organisational redesign projects and be responsible for achieving the successful delivery of £85m savings via the Lewisham Future Programme, To lead on and effectively manage multi-disciplinary and multiple project teams to deliver organisational and cultural change across the Council. To advise Heads of Service, Executive Directors and Members and support the Head of Technology & Change to deliver the objectives of the Lewisham Future Programme."

Salary £50,000pa for two years.

If you're an existing civil servant who fancies a challenge, you have until 18 January to get your application in.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Free travel on national rail for under 11s - beware the small print!



Back in November, the mayor Boris Johnson announced something that a lot of us with young children living in South East London have been waiting for a long time - free travel on national rail for under 11s, bringing them into line with the tube and other services. This was widely reported and welcomed.

But beware the small print that the reporters missed! Unlike our counterparts in north London, parents of children south of the river will need to obtain a 5-10 Oyster Zip card in order to benefit from this, otherwise we will be charged the child paper ticket fare (currently £1.45 for a single from zone 3). The cost of this is £10 per child.

We already have them because they were worth having to reduce the cost of a single journey on national rail to 75p, but I suspect many other parents won't. It's likely many will just have heard the general announcement, maybe seen it in the paper and will assume their child can travel freely with them as they do on buses, DLR etc now. This could lead to many being hit with a penalty fare without realising they were doing anything wrong! I certainly hadn't realised we would still need the Oyster Zip cards in the new year until I received an email from TfL yesterday.

So while the change is welcomed, we are still being penalised for living south of the river, as if we weren't penalised enough by having to use Southeastern, Southern and Thameslink!

If you're a parent of a 5-10 year old, or you know someone else who is, do let them know about this change! Forewarned is forearmed and all that.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Was Labour's purge worth it?

Last month the was a huge hoo-hah over the fact that the Labour party had been weeding out non-supporters from people who had signed up after the general election, removing the vote from people they suspected didn't "support Labour values". I'll declare now that I think this was the wrong thing to do, so this is the background from which I am writing this post.


I'll also declare up front that I signed up as a registered supporter and paid my £3, before the general election, on the basis I wanted a say in who the London mayoral candidate would be for Labour. Getting a vote in the leadership election was a surprise. You can see me above supporting Labour values at People's Day back in the heady days of July when no one thought Jeremy Corbyn stood a chance.

Anyway, the point of this post is to determine whether the purge of 3,000 people who had signed up to vote in the leadership election was worth it, statistically and then following on from that from a PR point of view. It's clear from the post I linked above that the purge has removed some people who were in fact genuine supporters of Labour, so from that position I argue straight off it wasn't a wise thing to do.

But onto the stats. In order to determine whether or not the purge was "worth it" we need to determine whether or not those purged could influence the result. This requires a bit of information about who gets to vote in the election and their likely voting intentions and it requires you to make a few assumptions about those who were purged.

I have taken the data on Labour party membership from the Guardian live blog on the purge (yes, they liveblogged it...) and the data on likely voting intentions from a compilation of opinion poll results on wikipedia.

So the total electorate for this leadership election was made up as follows:

Pre-election members  187,000
Post-election members 105,973
Affiliates            148,182
Registered supporters 112,799

This gives a total of 553,954.

According to the Guardian, 3,000 people were "purged". My first assumption is that all these were registered supporters, not members. In fact I know this to be false, but I think it's reasonable to assume the majority were so let's stick with that.

This gives an electorate of:

Pre-election members  187,000
Post-election members 105,973
Affiliates            148,182
Registered supporters 109,799

Next we need to decide how these people will vote. I have taken a range of opinion poll results to try to reflect the views of the different categories above. Obviously these are all assumptions. I have also assumed that 12% of the electorate won't vote and that all these are pre-election members.

I've assumed the pre-election members vote as the Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard of 14-16 June:

Burnham 23%
Cooper  20%
Corbyn   9%
Kendall 11%
Unsure  37% (it's these people I have removed from further calculations).

I've assumed the post-election members vote as the Opinium poll of 21-25 August:

Burnham 27%
Cooper  22%
Corbyn  39%
Kendall 12%

I've assumed the affiliates vote as the Opinium poll of 11-14 August:

Burnham 29%
Cooper  19%
Corbyn  37%
Kendall 15%

I've assumed the registered supporters vote as the YouGov poll for The Times of 6-10 August:

Burnham 21%
Cooper  18%
Corbyn  53%
Kendall 8%

And lastly I have assumed that every single purged supporter was an infiltrator intending to mess up the Labour party good and proper by voting for Corbyn.

Following through these numbers, it follows that if the purged voters were removed this would be the outcome:

Burnham 28.4%
Cooper  22.4%
Corbyn  35.9%
Kendall 13.3%

Removing the purged voters has the following effect:

Burnham 28.6%
Cooper  22.5%
Corbyn  35.5%
Kendall 13.3%

That's right. Removing those 3,000 people affects the result by 0.4 percentage points. That is it has absolutely no impact on the first preference results.

The eventual winner of the contest depends on what you assume happens to the second and third preferences but making some assumptions about who transfers to whom, the impact on the outcome is still 0.3 percentage points, that is keeping or removing those 3,000 people does not affect the result.

So was it worth it? I argue on the basis of the stats the answer is no. Those 3,000 people couldn't influence the eventual outcome and it's certain that some of them were genuine supporters, who may now be lost to the party forever. And that's before we get started on how incompetent and petty it makes the party look - a PR disaster.

And who will be the eventual winner? Well that really does depend on the distribution of second preferences. I worked out two, both plausible, scenarios, one of which leads to eventual victory for Burnham, the other for Corbyn. No doubt there's a third way that would lead to Cooper being victorious. The one thing that's certain is it won't be Liz Kendall. But she's philosophical about it:

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Catford's "poo patrol" take matters into their own hands


Residents of Catford's Corbett Estate have decided to act over the levels of dog poo being left around the allotments on Hazelbank Road. Overnight these chalk markings have appeared, encircling the offending excrement piles, and imploring dog owners to have some respect.


The area around the allotments appears to be a popular dumping ground for people to bring their dogs to do their business and simply leave the droppings behind rather than clearing it up. Presumably this is under some misguided notion that leaving poo by some allotments doesn't affect anyone.


This is obvious nonsense, and people who have to walk their children to school along "poo road" as my children affectionately call it, appear to have had enough.


In the past the council would have cleared this mess up on a fairly regular basis, but with cuts to street cleaning and weed control, the section of pavement surrounding the allotments is in a pretty terrible state.


What do you think? Is this a good tactic to get people to stop letting their dogs poo wherever they like? Can foxes read? Should the council be clearing this stuff up more regularly?

More poo news as we get it!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pollution monitoring in Catford and Hither Green - some shocking results


Back in February a small group of us undertook some air pollution monitoring in Catford and Hither Green (basically covering the Corbett and Culverley Green estates and slightly beyond). This was made possible through funding and support from Mapping for Change. We put up 30 nitrogen dioxide monitoring tubes - that look like this:



We put them on lamp posts and other street furniture, left them up for a month, took them down then sent them off via Mapping for Change to a lab to be analysed to determine the level of nitrogen dioxide in the air in that area. The results are in the map above. Anything between 30 and 39 is amber and is considered moderate air pollution. This would be considered harmful to health. You can see that the level outside Torridon Infant School is 34.



The level outside Rushey Green school was 36.


Anything 40 and above is above the EU legal limit. You can see that there are a number of places where the nitrogen dioxide levels exceed 40, mainly on the main roads such as Rushey Green, Bromley Road, Verdant Lane, Hither Green Lane and Sandhurst Road. What these all have in common of course is that they are on bus routes and our buses are unfortunately some of the worst polluting vehicles on out streets. Hazelbank Road also came out as red, this is a road often used as a rat run by drivers wanting to avoid the South Circular.

Ah yes, the South Circular. You'll see that some of the circles on the map are black. These are places where pollution was more than 1.5 times the EU legal limit - and these are all on the South Circular road. Those of us who live here know that the traffic on this road is horrendous and that it is snarled up at all times of the day and sometimes night! Now we know that the pollution on this road is harming our health.



Low emission zone? Ha ha.

Incidentally, Lewisham Council monitors air pollution across the borough and publishes a report annually on it. The area we covered is in two Air Quality Management Areas - which means the council recognises there is a problem and is supposed to take steps to actively reduce pollution in the area. However, it only monitors three locations in our area at present, and none of these are in the most polluted places. Incidentally, the council monitors outside Torridon Junior School and the results the council is showing for that location over the years are very similar to what we found outside the Infants. This is not a new problem.

When we got the results we were shocked, so we went to the papers with our findings. We had articles featuring our work in the South London Press and News Shopper:





Since then I've arranged to meet with both the council and our MP, Heidi Alexander, to discuss the results and consider what can be done about air quality in our area. I'd like to put pressure on Transport for London to speed up the introduction of hybrid buses on routes through residential areas like ours and I also want the council to consider stopping rat running traffic on roads like Verdant Lane and Dowanhill/Hazelbank Roads. It was also announced last week that councils may be able to opt in to the ultra low emission zone when it is introduced in 2020, and I think Lewisham should definitely do this if that becomes possible. I'll report back on the results of my discussions in due course!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The General Election in Lewisham East

(picture from Heidi Alexander on Twitter)

It won't have escaped your attention that there's a general election coming. Unless of course you live under a rock. I live in the Lewisham East constituency so that's the one I'm going to write about here. You'll have to look elsewhere for your Lewisham Deptford and Lewisham West and Penge cutting edge analysis I'm afraid.

(picture from wikipedia)

What do we know about Lewisham East? Well, it's formed of the council wards of Blackheath, Lee Green, Grove Park, Rushey Green, Catford South, Whitefoot and Downham. These wards returned 21 Labour councillors at the last local elections.

Historically the seat was Conservative from 1983-1992, when it was held by former Sports Minister Colin Moynihan (a name that might be familiar to the real politics geeks amongst you.) Interestingly, the Conservative victory in 1983 was largely as a result of Labour losing votes to the SDP, whose candidate was Polly Toynbee. In 1992 it was won by Bridget Prentice and when she stepped down in 2010, Heidi Alexander took the seat. Heidi had previously been a councillor in Deptford, and, fact fans, is 40 during this election campaign, being only a couple of months younger than me.

I had a look back through the election results from 1992 to 2010 using the amazing Political Science Resources website by Richard Kimber, to produce a couple of charts with some interesting info about previous results. Did you know, for example, that only four parties contested the seat in 1992 - Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and the Natural Law Party. In case you've forgotten the Natural Law Party here's one of their party political broadcasts to remind you:



Genius. Who could forget yogic flying?

And did you know that one James Cleverly, London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley, contested the seat in 2005, gaining 7,512 votes for the Conservatives?

Here's a chart of the historical results. I've included "did not vote" as a category.



I think it's pretty clear who's going to win in 2015, unless all those Did Not Votes decide to do something very different. The only sign that there's a general election on when you pootle about the constituency is the proliferation of these signs in people's front gardens...



What's of interest, apart from taking bets on the size of Heidi's majority, is who is going to come second. I think we can expect the Lib Dem vote to collapse, as seen in the council elections when their vote share plummeted from 27% in 2010 to 9%. They got a 28% share in the general election in 2010 if you exclude the DNVs from the equation.



The chart above shows the 2010 election results, including only the parties expected to contest in 2015. I've left off the English Democrats as they only got 426 votes in 2010 and don't appear to be standing a candidate in 2015, thankfully.

The Conservative candidate is a Bromley councillor, Peter Fortune. I guess he might fancy his chances of coming second given past form and what's happened to the Lib Dems. However, this leaflet seems wildly optimistic.

They can't even get the name of the constituency right.

I've had no election literature from the Lib Dem candidate Julia Fletcher, until last year a councillor in Downham, or from the Green candidate Störm Poorun. I'm promised something in a couple of weeks from the Greens...


We'll gloss over the complete inability to spell my name.

The Greens got 16% of the vote in the 2014 council elections, and were the second party, so you'd think they might fancy their chances at second place in this general election. But in 2010 they polled 11% in the local elections, coming third behind Labour and the Lib Dems, but managed only 1.5% in the vote for MP. So it's pretty clear that local results aren't a huge guide to what might happen nationally.

It's been suggested to me that Lewisham East is on a list of constituencies where UKIP might come second. I couldn't find evidence of that on googling but if anyone wants to point me to it I'd be interested to see where the idea has come from. They polled less than 2% in the last general election here. They did poll fairly high numbers in the council elections last year in Whitefoot, Downham and Grove Park, to the south and east of the constituency where you might expect them to do well, but even there their vote share is nowhere near sufficient to see a leap in voters of the magnitude you'd need to put them second. The UKIP candidate is Anne Marie Waters, founder of Sharia Watch (nb she is listed as Anna Maria Waters in the nomination papers).

Taking the top six parties and including only the highest scoring person from each party at the council elections last year in the wards that make up Lewisham East, you get a vote share that looks like the above chart. This sees UKIP coming last, with a share of 8%. It wouldn't surprise me too much if this isn't pretty much the order of the parties come May 7th, although I'd expect the Tories to score somewhat higher than this.

People before Profit did quite well in the council elections in some of the wards in Lewisham East, and their candidate Nick Long seems keen and willing to answer questions (more than can be said for some of the other candidates) but if we're honest, this is a bit outside their main stamping ground of Deptford, Telegraph Hill and New Cross.

So there you have it. The state of play in Lewisham East. I'm expecting a stonking victory for Heidi Alexander, with the Tories in second. The Lib Dems will collapse and I think People before Profit and the Greens will increase their vote share from 2010 significantly. I hope we see nothing of UKIP.

Any predictions, readers?

Update 9 April 17:30: The Christian People's Alliance are also standing a candidate (the link is to Lewisham Deptford candidate Malcolm Martin, they don't have a page for the Lewisham East candidate, Maureen Martin), and the UKIP candidate is listed as Anna Maria Waters, not Anne Marie Waters, but I'm 99.9% certain it's the same person. Full list of candidates here.

Update 10 April 11:15: You can see what YouGov are predicting for Lewisham East based on a whole range of factors (not local opinion polls....) here.

Update 24 April 20:30: corrected an error in the 2010 election results that had transposed the Conservative and Lib Dem vote. Oops! Still think the Tories will come second in 2015 though.