We hope that Brockley Central sometimes serves as a useful forum for discussion between Lewisham Council, our local Councillors and Brockley residents. Since the May elections, there has been a hole in the site in the shape of many of the area’s newly-elected Councillors, who haven’t been as quick to embrace social media as their predecessors. However, we’re delighted to say that we managed to get hold of one of our new Councillors, Vicky Foxcroft, via Twitter and she kindly agreed to an interview.
During our conversation, she didn’t want to pre-empt the public consultation about how to implement Council cuts, currently underway. She said she would do her best to represent the views of her constituents in this respect. She also admitted to being on a steep learning curve about local issues since her election.
With that in mind and on the basis that we hope this won’t have been the last opportunity we have to discuss local matters with Cllr Foxcroft, here is the interview:
Brockley Central: Local consultation notwithstanding, please can you tell us what your biggest priorities will be, based on your political views?
Cllr Foxcroft: I have always said that my goal is to help those who need it most. That’s the basis on which I campaigned. My two biggest priorities will be housing and jobs.
I’ve joined the Housing Select Committee and I’m going to be paying close attention to the Regenter PFI deal. I’m not opposed in principle to PFI deals but quality and budget controls are something I want to keep a close eye on.
I’ve also met with individual private leaseholders and listened to their concerns. I have also offered to meet with Patrick McGinley from the leaseholders association.
BC: So what can you do as a Councillor to protect jobs? Does that mean you will try to minimise job losses as a result of the Council’s spending cuts?
CF: Yes, I will. Lewisham is going to be hard hit by Government spending cuts, due to the high number of people in the area employed in the public sector.
BC: What about job protection and creation in the private sector locally?
CF: I certainly think the planning process can help here. The Talbot is a good example of a local business that could have gone forever and is now a great local business. The Council should work with local landlords and business people to help them make their premises viable and prevent business premises being lost when there is a clear demand for space.
In my day job, I work for the Unite union and a focus of mine has been extending Lewisham Council’s policy of paying its workers the London Living Wage to sub-contractors appointed by the Council.
I also support the campaign to save Deptford Job Centre.
BC: So what else are you working on right now?
CF: I think that the Local Assemblies are great and I’m working hard to encourage wider participation, particularly around applications for funding. That’s not to say that the groups getting funding aren’t doing good work, but I think it’s important that everyone knows about it as a route for getting funding for projects local to them. There are lots of little projects that would benefit from a very small amount of money.
Given the coming budget cuts, it’s also important that we use the Assemblies to find new ways for people to help each other in areas like neighbourhood action to reduce crime. An interesting example of what’s possible happened on Tanners Hill, where simple physical changes like moving bins on the street cut crime in that location.
I’m also keen to help improve the situation with some of the area’s mews. I took part in the tour organised by the Brockley Society recently and Breakspears Mews is one I’m looking in to. It’s important not to punish legitimate businesses though. I’m trying to encourage a cross-departmental approach to this issue.
BC: And what about the campaign to save local libraries, threatened with possible closure?
CF: Again, I don’t want to pre-empt any consultation, but I think treating the libraries as shared facilities for other groups and Council activities could be a way forward.
BC: What do you think about Controlled Drinking Zones, which are currently being considered in Lewisham?
CF: I think they can be a good idea but we have to be very careful over use of discretionary powers. I would want to see detailed proposals for any such scheme before giving it my support.
BC: And there has been a lot of discussion of CPZs on the site recently. We ran a poll that showed a narrow majority opposed to the idea of one around Brockley Station and Brockley Cross. Do you think Brockley ward needs any?
I would only ever support the introduction of CPZs if there was a clear demand for them from local residents. I understand there was a consultation a few years ago, which rejected the idea and I don’t get the impression that the majority of people support them now.
BC: Some readers have suggested that the Labour Councillors in the area were swept in to power by the turn-out for the General Election and that they had not expected to get elected…
I’d like to put on record my respect and appreciation for my predecessors in Brockley ward. I think they did a good job. But I’m a long-time resident of the area, having also lived in New Cross and Crofton Park in the past and I worked really hard to get elected. I can assure constituents that I intend to serve a full term!
BC: And with Labour so dominant in Lewisham politics now, do you think there is a risk of complacency?
I will fight for the best interests of Brockley Ward. Being part of the Labour Party means that I am in a good position to encourage constructive engagement at Council level and co-operation between different wards.
BC: What’s the best thing about living in Brockley?
CF: I know it sounds like an obvious answer, but the sense of community. I’m from the north and community is really important to me. You feel that in Brockley.
BC: And what about the worst thing?
CF: [Pause] I’ll have to have a think about that one. Can I come back to you…