The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Sir Steve Bullock

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. The Labour Party's Sir Steve Bullock, the incumbent Mayor, answers our questions. Click for Cllr Dean Walton's answers.

1. How will you improve Lewisham's local high streets - in particular, Brockley Cross, Lewisham Way, Brockley Road and Ladywell Road?

Maintaining and improving these areas – and providing assistance to local businesses – is a key objective for me. One effective way of achieving this has been through our Town Centre Managers (TCM) and I will continue to ensure that the invaluable work done – in partnership with local business, traders and residents – continues over the next couple of years. From tackling vacant properties, to setting up outdoor markets, to working with the Brockley Cross Action Group and the local artist to extend the art mural, the Council and TCMs have built on the great community spirit in the area to make things happen in terms of local high streets, and across the community more generally.

2. Will you ensure that plans for the part-pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street happen and in what time frame?

Following the reference from the Brockley Assembly I considered a report at Mayor & Cabinet on 3 March and asked Council officials to prepare a further report on this proposal for action after the election. Finding the funding will be critical and the scheme would be eligible for funds from Transport for London (TfL). I’m committed to action on Coulgate Street and while a recent bid extra TfL funding was not successful I will continue to pursue this and hope that design work can be started in the next financial year with the scheme implemented in 2012-13.

3. There have been a number of problems with Lewisham Council contractors employed to maintain our streets and other public spaces (notably works to Brockley Common), including delays, poor quality work and poor quality materials being used. What will you do to improve performance?

The Council must supervise contractors closely. While on occasions we do have issues with their work as referred to above performance has generally been satisfactory. In terms of delays, these can be due to factors outside their control, including the lead-time for delivery of materials and the volume of work they are allocated at different times of the year. I will ensure that officers continue to monitor performance rigorously – if contractors come up short, we will act. I will also discuss with other councillors whether this would be a suitable subject for a Scrutiny investigation.

4. The Council has created a new Conversation Area in Ladywell. How can the Council better enforce the rules in Lewisham’s conservation areas, including the high street businesses that ignore current guidelines on shop fronts?

The Council regularly uses its planning enforcement powers in relation to this issue. If unauthorised works to shop fronts in high streets take place in conservation areas without planning permission, action must be taken. If residents suspect that the rules are being flouted I would urge them to call 020 8314 7400 or email with the details so the problem can be investigated. In order to reduce the amount of unauthorised work happening in the first place, the Council has produced a shop front design guide to advise business owners of the need to obtain planning permission for new shop fronts, and to provide advice on good shop front design.

5. Do you support the current plans for the redevelopment of Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf and - if so - what will you do to ensure that the projects are delivered as soon as possible?

I do support the current plans and have been actively pursuing these schemes. Inevitably the recession has had an impact but we have continued to work closely with the developers of both schemes. In the case of Lewisham Gateway I believe that any delays are entirely caused by the recession and a recovery will enable progress to be made. In the meantime I have authorised interim measures such as tidying up the Odeon site. I am concerned that the developer of Convoys Wharf is reluctant to submit a new application rather than amend the existing one which may risk potential difficulties in getting the necessary agreements through the GLA.

6. Does Lewisham Council need to make budget cuts in the next two years and - if so - how much needs to be cut and what specific cuts would you make?

All three major Parties have made clear that there will be a severe squeeze on public spending – they only differ on when and by how much this will be done. None of us can know until after the General election how much is needed but a 10% real terms reduction is likely to be the least that is required. When we face hard choices, we must make sure those people who have the greatest needs – whether through age, infirmity or accident of fate – are protected. That means those of us who are more fortunate will shoulder a greater burden and I neither shirk from that responsibility nor seek to obscure it. It is the very basis of a just and caring community.

7. How can Lewisham Council increase the number of places at secondary school level and reduce the number of children having to leave the borough to get an education?

Children have been leaving the borough not just because of a shortage of places but because of past poor performance by some schools. I have overseen major investment in the physical infrastructure but also seen many schools improve dramatically. Our best schools like Haberdashers Askes’ and Prendergast are now involved more widely through Federations and Academies that have raised standards. The building of a new school has been actively opposed by a minority of people causing delays despite the virtually unanimous agreement of the different parties son the right site for it and the bizarre intervention of English Heritage. The new school must go ahead and any doubts about the need for it have been removed with the increase in numbers lower down the age range.

8. What should happen to Gordonbrock School now that the decant and rebuild has been delayed by at least 6 months?

The proposals for the rebuild of Gordonbrock School were worked up the school some years ago and when it became necessary to drop that school from the programme because the available funding was insufficient I promised the school I would do everything I could to make it at happen in the future. I have made it clear that I am determined to make good that promise and instructed Council officials to take whatever action is necessary to get the scheme going again. I expect there to be a delay of about 6 months unless the legal objections are dropped and even at this late stage would urge the Brockley Society to do so.

9. How will you reduce crime and anti-social behaviour (including littering, flytipping and dog-fouling) in the borough?

There are two issues here. Reducing Crime is a priority for me and both Council and police have a role to play. Crime statistics are monitored and action taken for example a major initiative on Domestic Violence over the last year is showing promising results. Serious Youth violence remains the greatest concern and must be addressed by elected politicians, the police and the whole community. Anti-social behaviour of the kind referred to is perpetrated by far too many people – apparently normal citizens who think that dropping litter or dumping settees is OK. The council must clear up the mess but we must make clear to our fellow citizens that their behaviour is unacceptable.

10. As a result of various stock transfers, an ALMO and a PFI contract, Lewisham's social housing is fragmented between a lot of different landlords. This places a massive burden on the council in terms of ensuring consistent service provision and neighbourhood engagement. What will you do as Mayor to deliver on this?

The Council’s track record of doing this itself was a poor one and some of the landlords are now doing it very much better. For example the tenant owned Phoenix Housing Association. The Council needs to become more a regulator in the future in this context and set standards that the different providers meet. Dealing with complaints about social housing has always been a staple of ward councillors casework and the council will need to help those councillors do this effectively through good systems and support. More information on my approach to many of these issues can be found at


LewishamLovely said...

hmm, question 4 - steve, do you realise that simply calling to report something to planning does not fire a starting gun on an investigation? i have been trying for over a year to get flagrant disregard for planning dealt with for over a year. planning agrees my neighbour is in the wrong but have done nothing to address it. the people staffing planning are not exactly what you'd call "go-getters".

question 9 - is it just me or is there actually no substance to this answer? no policy? no new ideas to mention? we already know there's a problem and people need to be taught littering/anti-social behaviour is not acceptable. the question is HOW will YOU reduce it?

Tressilliana said...

Will there be regular meetings for chatty people in the Ladywell Conversation Area?

Sorry, off topic, could not resist.

Back on topic - same old same old is my feeling reading this. 'We're doing a good job and we'll carry on as we are.' I think Lewisham could be better run and I would like to see a change. The biggest change I would like to see is getting rid of the elected mayor position.

Anonymous said...

i agree... same old same old. i wish there was an 8 year limit on lewisham mayors and there was a new face representing labour this time.
that interview offers nothing new or exciting.
blaming the recession for the main reason the gateway is a non-starter is bit iffy. that plan's been gathering dust for years, well before the crash.

Well Done Sir. said...

And...from this site 24.10.07 'Robo Mayor vows to take out Brockleys Trash'....'Drug taking and dealing, drinking, shouting, partying and intimidating behaviour have been making residents lives a misery for years.'....'Sir Steve told the council on Wedendsday, the local authority has used its full range of powers in tackling antisocial behaviour in this area'. That was the full range was it?

Anonymous said...

How about 'look here Steve - you've been Mayor a really long time and Labour has been in charge of Lewisham for God knows how many years. what have you honestly done for this consitituency in all that time?'

Anonymous said...

the fact that he called the intervention from English Heritage in Gordonbrook school 'bizarre' shows why he shouldn't be mayor.
English Heritage intervened because there was strong local objection to the plans. His answer shows an arrogance inapropriate for a mayor.

Well Done Sir said...

That was concerning Upper Brockley Road, Lewisham Way end, B.T.W.

Anonymous said...

He hasn't done it in the past,will he do it in the future,just false promises as always

TJ said...

Sounds like he is sticking his head in the sand on a lot of these issues, by saying 'look what we are doing currently'. If what was being done currently worked then these questions wouldn't be here. Town centre manager and conservation area are cases in point - its not working but Sir Steve is not saying how they will fix it.

Not sure I like the 'I've given my word so it's going to happen' attitude to some of these responses too.

Refreshing to see that the other candidates are realising that a question in hustings usually means there is an issue on the ground.

rewardtheresponsible said...

The answer to question 1 is such wooly rubbish - these areas are horrible despite his TCM programme. It has failed and he is accountable (along with the Greens also in power) for our streets resembling something from the third world and being the most disgusting high streets I have ever seen in Europe.

Anonymous said...

rewardtheresponsible @16:52

don't blame the Greens. The Greens have only 6 councillors and have only had them for the last 4 years. They have done good work in the Borough but you can't blame them as the power of ward councillors is severely limited.

Anonymous said...

1) I doubt you've seen every high street in Europe

2) like the third world? Don't be silly

Anonymous said...


The Greens are not in power in Lewisham. They have six out of 54 councillors and all executive power is with the directly elected mayor.

What they have done is use their influence to the maximum to do things like pushing successfully for low-paid contract workers to be paid at least the Living Wage.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Green councillors backing Sir Steve in more than one council budget, rather than joining the opposition. Therefore they must expect some of the blame.

Anonymous said...

To be a professional politician you have to sometimes compromise to get something. It's the real world, politics is the art of the possible and all that. Simply opposing every proposal put in front of you unless it EXACTLY matches your aspirations is no way to do bussiness. I'm glad that there's some pragmatism in their approach, shows they are a mature political force and not a bunch of smug windbags.

Otto Von Bismark said...

“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best”

Otto Von Bismark said...

Mind you I also said this....

“The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they'll sleep at night”

Who said the Germans had no sense of humour?

Tamsin said...

Love it. My respect for the man - already considerable from my "O" level history years and the Punch cartoon "Dropping the pilot" goes up another couple of notches.

(Bismark not Bullock, that is.)

Rewardtheresponsible said...

Anon @ 17:01

I have not seen any efforts by the Greens to make shop-owners use attractive/sympathetic shop-fronts or indeed comply with conservation area rules. If I am wrong then show me the evidence where you have been sucessful and I will change my opinion.

Anon @ 17:33

1. I dont claim to have seen every high street in Europe. But I do travel frequently with work to Germany, France and Benelux and also holiday in the Spain, Ireland etc... I can hand-on-heart say that some of the high streets in SE London (parts of Brockley, parts of Lewisham, New Cross, Catford etc...) are without doubt the most unloved, rundown shabby commercial streets I have ever come across and people cannot simply use 'poverty' as an excuse.

2. This wasnt a flippant comment. Some areas of SE London genuinely remind me of of my holiday in India, with an explosion of signage and cheap plastic clogging the beautiful buildings. Heres an example...

rewardtheresponsible said...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, me too. But if you were a foreign bussiness chap why would you be visiting brockley? Susspect there are plenty of shabby high streets in Europe.

rewardtheresponsible said...

Anon @ 10:18

It sounds like you have accepted that our streets are awful and therefore agree with me that this TCM nonsense has been either been ineffective or simply too weak.

Brockley Nick said...

The underlying point is that we do indeed have some high streets in pretty poor condition (whether they are worse or better than some streets in Paris or Delhi is not really the point, although it's obviously hyperbole to describe them as third world, since we actually have pavements and functioning sewerage).

PS - Lewisham Way's actually quite well kept most of the way along. Although Meze Mangal lets it down...

rewardtheresponsible said...

Agreed Nick. Just giving my opinion when comparing it to other European countries. And I was just referring to the shop-fronts as opposed to ancilliary services when comparing to the third (or indeed second) world.
Personally I do not have children, claim benefits, live in Council housing or oppose to an inflationary increase of Council tax, therefore improving our street-scapes for everyone is a priority for me when deciding who to vote for in the forthcoming election.

Brockley Nick said...

Understood and agreed that it's a priority (and it is, even if you have kids, live in a Council house or claim benefits).

love detective said...

"Just giving my opinion when comparing it to other European countries."

when you holdiday in the spain (or elsewhere) do you go to the parts that are in the 10% of that country that are the most deprived and thus able to draw a like for like comparison?

otherwise you could make exactly the same point you are making by saving a foreign trip and travel a few miles across london and do the comparison there - inequality's a curious thing isn't it

Anonymous said...

Not sure how in 2004 the recession in 2008 caused a years' delay to the contract agreement between the council and its chosen developer of Lewisham Gateway.

No longer a Labour fan said...

I would agree that the state of some of our streets is on a par with third world countries I have visited. Broken pavements with huge puddles, random signage, fly tipping and litter are common occurrences. Of course, there are whole sections (think Blackheath) that are very much 1st world but that doesn’t negate the fact that some parts are severely lacking especially when it comes to shop frontages.

And on Cranfield Road there is a drain that regularly spews sink waste all over the pavement (usually left over noodles and beans and was a constant frozen slip hazard during the winter months). The state of the shutters on the Brockley Holistic Centre is a disgrace and I’m sure contravenes a number of H&S regulations. Just waiting for someone to slice their head open on the way home.

I think Labour has had their chance in Lewisham and its way past time someone else had a shot at it.

neanderthal d said...

For those short of time, Sir Steve's responses to the questions above can be summarised as follows: bromides served up with with really lousy punctuation.

Anonymous said...

Steve, what happened to your taking a 'personal interest' in the situation affecting residents along Upper Brockley Road? I am unimpressed with a Mayor who has made assurances like this only to abandon them as quick. You have had NO impact as far as dealing with this goes despite bringing your 'personal interest' into play. Big thumbs down from all of us.

Charles said...

H'mmm - no mention on the Prendergast issue that the plan depends on annexing part of the public park land i.e. Hillyfields for at least two years. Temporary school buildings will be placed in the fenced off annexed park land and trees will be cut down. The agents of the limited company making the planning application claim on their application that the land is not used. I wonder if SB gave his approval to this?

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