15 November 2005

15 November 2005

Manifesto aims for grey power

PENSIONERS are hoping grey power will force decision- makers to give elderly people a better deal.

The Lewisham Pensioners' Forum has published its first-ever Pensioners' Manifesto, which sets out a list of proposals designed to improve the lives of older people.

Those responsible for drawing up the report hope it will help achieve "official recognition" for the contribution the elderly make to society.

The manifesto, which addresses both local and national issues, includes a 13-point plan for change.

Among these is a call for more older people to be included on policy and decision- making bodies.

The report also demands better access to new technologies for pensioners and an improvement in home care services.

Pensioners' forum chairman Doris Smith says the manifesto will give the elderly in Lewisham "a voice" and act as "impetus" for change.

She said: "We are not plucking things out of the air.

"These are issues which truly affect older people.

"This is about putting real pressure on those in power to change things.

"It will give us official support and recognition."

Last month, News Shopper reported how Lewisham Age Concern was forced to close its drop-in advice centre due to a lack of funding.

Mrs Smith says service cuts such as this and the controversy surrounding pensions means it is more important than ever for the elderly to have their say.

She added: "Pensioners in Lewisham play a terrific role.

"We are taxpayers and contribute to the borough, so we deserve to have more attention paid to our needs."

Lewisham Council says it welcomes the manifesto.

Cabinet member for social inclusion Councillor Chris Best said: "We will coninue working closely with the excellent pensioners' groups to address the issues they highlight."

Mayor criticised over school plan

MISTAKES have led to the mayor being accused of "incompetence".

Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock has acknowledged blunders were made while planning a new school at Ladywell.

He told a meeting of Lewisham Council's overview and scrutiny committee last week there were mistakes when trying to choose a site for the new school.

The mayor also admitted a formal notice issued in February, saying the new school would be temporarily located in Leahurst Road, was flawed.

In January the same site had been approved for the expansion of Northbrook School as part of a £150m plan to renovate every secondary in the borough.

Then less than eight weeks later the Government told Lewisham Council it was at risk of losing the money if it used the temporary site for the new Ladywell school.

This resulted in a two-year delay to the new four form school, which will now open on the Ladywell Leisure Centre site in 2009.

At the meeting Mr Bullock was questioned over why plans to use land at the former Ladywell police station, originally earmarked for the new school, fell through.

He admitted relying on the willingness of the police to sell the site to the council, despite the Metropolitan Police Authority never returning its letters.

Mr Bullock also announced his decisions were always based on advice from officers.

He said: "Unless there is a very powerful reason, I shall not substitute my personal prejudices for the professional advice of council officers."

Lib Dem councillor Julia Fletcher said: "I find it unbelievable the Lewisham Mayor believes he has no role in decision making and expects to rubber stamp everything put before him by officers.

"It just shows once again how out of touch he is with the wishes of the people in the borough.

"The whole decision-making process is a mixture of incompetence and unrealism."

Save Ladywell Pool campaign's Max Calo said: "Steve Bullock is a politician who is writing his own epitaph, so complacent, not driving along the political process to make a proper decision."

Home work set to start next year

WORK to improve more than 8,000 homes in Lewisham is set to begin in just over a year.

A timetable has been set for the homes to be transferred to new ownership under the Decent Homes programme.

Decent Homes is a national target set by the Government, which says all homes must be improved to a certain quality standard by 2010.

The Lewisham plan will see residents on seven estates balloted to see who they want to take control of their homes.

A report presented to Lewisham's mayor and cabinet committee last week says the ballots will take place in July next year.

Work to improve the homes a total investment of more than £100m will then begin in March 2007.

The Excalibur prefab estate, Downham, is one of the housing sets affected by the programme.

Residents have argued the estate should remain under their control but the council looks set to demolish the existing prefab houses.

The report says: "Only demolition and redevelopment provides a viable solution to achieving decent homes in the area."

Last year a consultant's report revealed 61 per cent of Lewisham's housing stock does not currently meet the Decent Homes standard.

Task force finds 1,000 cannabis plants during raid

OFFICERS have closed down a cannabis factory in Catford.

Lewisham's Crime Task Force searched the premises at Ardgowan Road on Monday at 11.30am.

The police discovered around 1,000 cannabis plants and hydroponics equipment.

A man has been arrested but no details have yet been disclosed.

Priority Crime Task Force head, Detective Inspector Andy Wilkins, said: "Lewisham police will continue to close down factories set up to produce, cultivate and distribute cannabis."

He added: "I hope the closure of any cannabis factory continues to send out a strong warning to others who may be involved in the production or selling of drugs. You will be caught and the drugs will be seized."

Anyone who has information about the production or selling of drugs in Lewisham should call 020 8284 5101.

Blitz horror at hospital

A WARTIME nurse who was killed by a bomb while she worked has been commemorated by former colleagues.

In the early hours of July 26, 1944, in one of the worst raids suffered by South London during the Blitz, Lewisham Hospital sustained a direct hit.

A doodlebug, the dreaded German flying bomb, destroyed two wards, the registrar's office and the hospital's library.

It killed nurse Eileen Crouch, 21, from Ashford, Kent. Seventy patients and staff were injured.

According to documents in local history libraries, three other people are believed to have later died.

On Thursday, former colleagues of the young nurse joined hospital staff for a service to remember and pay tribute to those who worked there during the two world wars.

Kathleen Hallett, a friend and colleague of the late nurse, recalled: "I was just starting my shift at about five in the morning.

"We had just had our morning cup of tea in the ward kitchen.
"I turned back to Eileen and asked if she wanted some help washing up.

"She said, 'no', and at that very moment, the bomb dropped. She was killed immediately."

Mrs Hallett added: "Eileen died but I have had a further 61 years of life."

Former staff member Joyce Woodbridge described arriving for work that morning: "It was all rubble everywhere and there were ambulances and fire engines all over the hospital. I didn't know what was going on."

At the service, hospital chief executive Claire Perry said: "Nothing symbolises the great courage and dedication of our staff throughout our history as much as that shown on that dreadful day in 1944."

Exploding the myths of ‘segregated Britain’

Far from heading towards deeper segregation, Britain is becoming increasingly racially and ethnically mixed, according to a new study released this week.

The analysis by Dr Ludi Simpson of Manchester University is based on the 2001 census. It flies in the face of claims by many politicians and commentators that Britain is “sleepwalking” towards greater segregation, as the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, said this summer.

Phillips claimed, “Residentially, some districts are on their way to becoming fully fledged ghettos — black holes into which no one goes without fear and trepidation, and from which no one ever escapes undamaged.”

But Simpson’s study found that “the number of mixed neighbourhoods (electoral wards) increased from 964 to 1,070 in the ten years between the last two censuses of 1991 and 2001. There will be at least 1,300 mixed neighbourhoods by 2011 — one in five throughout England.” Click link for whole article.

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