The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Simon Nundy

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

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

I have proposed a package of measures designed to give local businesses the support they deserve and also encourage investment into the borough from people looking to set up or expand. This will not only provide much needed local employment but also better services and greater community cohesion.

Part of this strategy is a programme of low cost improvements to Lewisham’s streets and public spaces to create a safer and more attractive environment for those that live and work in the borough.

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

This is just the sort of initiative I had in mind in my first answer and whilst there is obviously a need to plan and consult further this seems one of those rare situations where there need not be any losers. I would be happy to support this proposal and provide the political backing required to push past all the usual bureaucratic obstacles.

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?

I intend to review all current procurement procedures to ensure that we not only get value for money but also monitor standards and keep disruption to a minimum. I have already consulted with Wandsworth Council on this and was impressed with the way they deal with external contractors and the way in which they consult widely with local businesses and community leaders.

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?

Guidelines on shop fronts are just the sort of thing that help change the feel and mood of a street and, whilst I can understand a degree of resistance from the local businesses that have to pay for them, it is nevertheless necessary to enforce these rules fairly and consistently if they are to make an impact.

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 have greater misgivings about Lewisham Gateway than I do Convoys Wharf but in both cases I would need to establish what my legal options were before looking at any possible changes to the current plans. I am not convinced that the height and density of Lewisham Gateway is appropriate and I am sure that the implications for traffic flow have been conveniently ignored. I suspect that Lewisham Gateway will probably stall at some point, meaning we’ll need a plan B.

Generally I tend towards low rise mixed development and am concerned that there has not been sufficient work done on the implications of both schemes for local infrastructure – both transport links and public services such as schools and hospitals.

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?

I’ve had as good a look at the books as is possible from the outside and am convinced there are millions to be saved without effecting front line services. Having consulted more efficiently run councils like Wandsworth and Bromley I believe it possible to cut council tax by 5% and still pay off debt and improve services. Less than 10% of expenditure is covered by council tax so a 1% efficiency saving goes a long way. Lewisham fails to collect £6.5 million in council tax each year, spends £27 million a year on agency staff, spends 25% of the education budget on admin and pays over £28 million in interest every year. I’m sure that those examples are only the tip of the iceberg.

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?

At primary school level we need more places urgently including additional special needs places. I would make this a priority and also take advantage of the necessary expansion to provide more special needs places in the borough. At secondary level the problem is more a lack of quality places. I intend to work closely with school Governors to make sure failing schools get the leadership they need whilst giving greater autonomy and control of budgets to those that know what they are doing.

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

As with Lewisham Gateway I would need to check the legal position but I am told that the objection was a technical one and that funding will still be available. Whilst I have some sympathy with the Brockley Society objections I believe that the education of the pupils at Gordonbrock is paramount and that a quick solution is required which may mean going ahead with the original rebuild as soon as legally possible.

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

I have proposed a Mayoral Crime Liaison Office that answers directly to the Mayor and is responsible for ensuring maximum co-operation between police, estate managers, schools, and other relevant bodies. This would include looking at schemes such as neighbourhood watch and other community initiatives.

I also believe that my plans to tackle truancy and illiteracy early will have a knock on effect over time as we see a reduction in the number of children dropping out of the system at a young age and drifting into crime.

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?'

First of all we need to address the chronic state of those properties still under direct control of the borough through Lewisham Homes.

Secondly we need to monitor the standards of the myriad of ALMO’s and housing associations, although to be fair they are doing a much better job than the council have done in the past and should be congratulated on their progress so far.

We also need to tackle issues such as empty properties and sub letting and ensure that estates are cleaner and more pleasant places to live which will in turn help reduce anti-social behaviour, vandalism and crime.

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