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