The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Chris Maines

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. The Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor, Cllr Chris Maines, answers our questions. Click for answers from Cllr Dean Walton, Sir Steve Bullock and Simon Nundy.

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

The new Mayor needs to work with local communities to produce a vision for Lewisham over the next 15/20 years, part of that will be how we think neighbourhoods will develop and how we protect them against both external and local pressures. Lewisham has weak planning guidance. I would like to see planning framework that defines the key elements of local high streets and that can be used to block change of use applications, if there is a resulting loss.

I have campaigned to retain sub post offices around Lewisham, as I see them as anchors to many local parades.

By devolving budgets to strengthen ward assemblies, the local community can explore ways of improving their own shopping areas – environmental improvements, changing parking restrictions, local promotions etc.

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

I do not agree with the system of elected mayor and would want to devolve many responsibilities (such as the traffic improvements and traffic management schemes) to strengthened ward assemblies. I would want to be assured that a proposal had been widely consulted on, received community approval and dealt with issues such as parking displacement, drop off facilities for station users etc.

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?

Lewisham is poor at monitoring contractors and contracts. This is an area in need of strengthening the recently introduced London Permits scheme should give the Council greater powers to enforce the utilities to work more efficiently and the Council needs to enforce similar constraints on our own contractors.

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?

This is another example of Lewisham Council being weak on enforcement. – everything currently is reactive. We need a regime that is proactive in promoting the rules and working with local businesses to conform. This is an issue that strengthened ward assemblies with devolved budgets can tackle more effectively than the Town Hall.

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?

No. The Council has failed in the past to produce full planning briefs for any major developments within the borough, these should be based on a full community consultation and be the vision document for anybody submitting a planning application on a major site. It will be necessary to review what consents have lapsed for the Gateway and negotiate with the current owners of Convoys about the way forward now there is a changed economic environment.

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?

There are many areas of inefficiency currently within Lewisham Council, regardless of the future financial constraints, this is inevitable after 40 years of one party rule and one reason why change is needed locally. There is duplication between many management functions within the council and with partner organisations – i.e. the PCT, Glendale etc.

I want to explore more income generation and improved use of existing resources. The Council currently has an excessive communications budget and poor recruitment policies has led to a reliance on agency staff at all levels within the organisation.

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?

I support the building of a new secondary school and will push for its early completion. We will reduce the number of children that go out of Lewisham by improving standards in our schools, smaller class sizes and well resourced facilities are key to that. The admissions policies need reviewing to ensure they are fair to all families and will work with all Lewisham schools to get agreement.

Many of the children that leave Lewisham go to selective schools (grammar schools) elsewhere in London – I believe in all-ability comprehensive schools and will not change current policy, so will have to accept that some parents choose to send their children elsewhere.

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

I was disappointed by the delay – I do not think children should have to learn in an Edwardian/Victorian environment and deserve modern facilities. I will work to get the expansion completed as quickly as possible. We need an action plan to extend primary school places to meet the current bulge – the result of poor planning by Lewisham.

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

I would strengthen ward police teams, with enforcement officers from the Council. Bring together all the people involved in fighting anti-social behaviour should make it more effective. Currently the Council has been weak on proactive enforcement work and this needs to be addressed.

Over the past few months there has been an increase in knife crimes within Lewisham. We need to protect young people from this – I want to see a zero tolerance of knives being carried and will introduce random knife arches and searches, until the message is understood that knives are not to be carried on the streets in Lewisham.

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?'

We are stuck with the variety of housing providers because that was the decision taken by the previous administration. I do not think it necessarily leads to problems suggested in the question – one boroughwide provider delivering a poor service was far worse than now where some provision is very good in parts of Lewisham. I believe in local solutions and do not think boroughwide neighbour engagement is better than trying to ensure that people are involved with the decisions that affect them and their immediate area. Ensuring a consistent service across the borough is not just a housing issue – inspection and monitoring is a area needing improvement by Lewisham Council.