The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Dean Walton

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Cllr Dean Walton, Green Party Prospective Mayor for Lewisham answers our questions:

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

An excellent local example of small-scale improvements is at the foot of Tanners Hill in Deptford. I want to emulate the success of this scheme by creating a borough-wide area improvement project whose aim would be to transform key areas of our borough into stunning examples of the value of investing in our public spaces. I would propose more protection for the smaller parades of shops and high streets in the planning policies to prevent unwanted development and conversion. I would introduce a Lewisham-wide style guide to standardise the mish-mash of street signs and street furniture used in Lewisham. When people arrive in Lewisham I want them to know simply by looking around.

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

As Chair of the Brockley Assembly I worked with the community to make this a key priority of Assembly and have called for further work to be done into the scheme by Council officers. On being elected I will draw up more detailed plans for the areal plans with the help of local groups for formal consultation with residents and businesses soon after being elected. This stage should be completed fairly soon after the election. As part of that process a formal timescale for the agreement and implementation of any agreed plans would need to be drawn up which would identify funding.

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?

Any work that is below standard carried out by our contractors should be rectified at their expense. I would take performance of existing contractors into account when considering bids for new highways maintenance contracts. We need to also review the quality of materials used – poor quality materials means a poor quality finish and a shorter life which means it can be more expensive in the long run.

In addition I would give serious consideration to bringing much of the work 'in-house' to create a more accountable and adaptable service – but also a significant workforce that can be re-deployed to other tasks such as keeping a far greater proportion of our pavements clear during the winter.

4. The Council has created a new Conservation 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?

I will ensure that we have an appropriate number of enforcement officers to adequately 'police' the Conservation Areas. I would ask our Town Centre Managers to work with Enforcement Officers to identify the 'worst offenders' in terms of shop fronts. However we also need to understand and reassure businesses that there are other types of shutters and grilles that satisfy their security needs without spoiling the look and feel of the area.

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?

The plans for Lewisham Gateway will: lower air quality; provide no affordable housing; provide 500 car parking places in an area which must have best public transport connections in the borough; fail present policy on sustainability; provide 7 jobs for each of the wards in the Lewisham Deptford Constituency; take years to build resulting in long-term serious disruption in the town centre. The road layout will make conditions for cyclists worse and increase journey times for motorists. The current plans are a significant barrier to improving Lewisham Town Centre as they are not financially viable.

Convoys Wharf is an excellent opportunity for building new homes and a community but I remain unconvinced that the current scheme is the best.

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?

The 2010/11 budget has already been agreed and I will not be making cuts to that.

Last year the Mayor called for £8.8m of savings but only produced about £2.5m. I believe that there remain significant savings such as energy efficiency measures that can be made without major impacts on services.

I would not rule out increasing the increasing the Council Tax raised over and above the rate of inflation but would link this to a package to protect Lewisham's services. I will propose a pensioners' discount on their Council Tax.

If I need to make any cutbacks I will protect those budgets which vulnerable members of the community rely on and those which are needed to deliver sustainability measures.

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?

With question marks over Council's current plans for Lewisham Bridge we need to look at the options in order to get a high quality new school built as quickly as possible.

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

Plans for the redevelopment of the school need to be finalised quickly and before the end of March 2011 to ensure that the funding for the school is not lost. There was room for improvement in the original plans but the main priority now is to provide a much improved learning environment for the current children and future generations of children. I believe that there is time to provide such a school that meets the needs of these children, their parents and others before the funding runs out and I will make this a priority.

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

Levels of crime are linked to the levels of inequality and reducing this is at the heart of many of our policies.

I would increase the opening hours of the safer neighbourhood teams and improve communications with residents about crimes committed in their areas that are timely and provide genuine reassurance.

I would introduce a borough-wide scheme for tackling fly-tipping that would provide community skips, bulky waste collections, grants for furniture reuse charities, designing out fly-tipping hotspots and provide information for residents on avoiding unlicensed waste carriers.

I would continue the use of fixed penalty notices for littering and dog-fouling but this must run in conjunction with good street cleaning services where this fails to properly address the issue.

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 PFI is not a cost-effective way to deliver improvements to services but we are stuck with these contracts. Sadly it will be necessary to strengthen the monitoring of these contracts.

Generally, the tenants and residents are the best judges as to whether service provision is satisfactory. Tenant engagement in Lewisham is in a poor state. Many people living in social housing estates in Lewisham do not belong to a functioning Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) – which means that problems are ignored and tenants have no way of shaping how their estates are run. I would give more support to TRAs. This would allow tenants to be involved but not overwhelmed by the bureaucratic hurdles of running the TRA.