Notting Hill Genesis Agrees to Delay Rent Rises for Key Workers

After putting their lives on the line during the Covid19 pandemic, key workers living in Lambeth were shocked to discover Notting Hill Genesis’ intention to implement an enormous rent rise from 1st June.
Residents living in discounted accommodation in Brixton Water Lane under a fixed term tenancy were facing the prospect of substantial rent rises when their tenancies are renewed. In the middle of lockdown tenants of Notting Hill Genesis’ received a notice dated 5th May advising that the Housing Association were set to charge and extra £90, for a 1 bed flat, £120 a month for a two-bedroom flat and £150 for a three bedroom property. Those who cannot afford the new rents under the renewed tenancies will have to consider finding cheaper accommodation.
After Tulse Hill ward councillors got in touch with me, I immediately wrote to Notting Hill Genesis and received a call the next day from the Group Director of Housing confirming that they had got the timing wrong and agreeing to suspend the rent increases for three months whilst they engage with residents to determine their financial circumstances.
Although we have won a reprieve from rent rises, it is only for three months. So, the threat of them remains. Whilst it is important to acknowledge that housing providers need to raise rents (Notting Hill have had a rent freeze for five years), any rent rises should be small and incremental over a period of years. So many people have experienced or are facing Covid-related unemployment or wage cuts and are already struggling to pay rent. Housing Association tenants’ finances are likely to be even more precarious in three months given predicted downturn in the economy.
Rent rises at the levels proposed is wholly inappropriate and blind to the economic realities of most renters in intermediate accommodation.
This unfortunately is not an isolated incident. Other housing associations in Lambeth have notified tenants of their intention to implement substantial rent rises. This is a kick in the teeth to all those key workers who have put their lives on the line during this pandemic. Placing them and their family at risk of becoming homeless. It is an unethical step, especially from a housing association who are meant to provide affordable/intermediate housing for those residents who are unlikely to get council housing and cannot afford the high rents in the private rented sector.
I am in the process of arranging a meeting with those housing associations operating in Lambeth to discuss proposed rent rises and the use of fixed term tenancies. I will be writing to the government demanding more protection for renters against unjustifiable rent increases and working closely with our MPs, the GLA, London Councils and, of course, local councillors on this matter.
A request to all councillors – you need to be alert to the threat of substantial rent increases in your wards. If you know of any Housing Association (or other landlords) in your ward planning to implement substantial rent increases, please let me know.
Jennifer Brathwaite jbrathwaite@lambeth.gov.uk 07805 943813

Government Must Act Now to Protect Tenants

Almost a third of Londoners live in private rented accommodation. With the forecast of the worst recession in 300 years and unprecedented levels of unemployment looming, renters will face a deluge of eviction proceedings when the temporary ban on evictions is lifted on 25th June.  The government needs to act now, extend the suspension of evictions and introduce long terms measures to protect renters.

RIGHT TO A LONGER EVICTION NOTICE

As it now stands, a landlord who wishes to end a tenancy must give all renters a minimum of three month’s written notice that they want to end the tenancy and seek possession of the premises (the previous minimum notice period was two months). The landlord will then have to wait for the three months to pass before starting possession proceedings in the courts. Currently the requirement for longer notices applies to the 30th September 2020 but it may be extended in the future.Tenants are effectively only getting an extra month’s grace which in these precarious economic times is totally inadequate.

SUSPENSION OF COURT PROCEEDINGS

From 27 March 2020, all housing possession proceedings going through the courts are suspended until at least 25 June 2020 (this suspension might be extended beyond this date). During this period, no court can hear possession cases or make an order for possession, neither can bailiffs evict tenants. The landlord is still, however, able to serve a notice seeking possession as mentioned above.

The Government has failed on its promise to protect renters

At first glance these emergency measures come as a welcome relief to renters. On closer inspection, however, the new rules are lightweight and do not provide the reassurance orprotection tenants need in these financially precarious times.The government has failed to deliver on its promise to protect renters.

An extra month’s notice is not enough. What are you meant to do in that extra time? As former shadow Housing secretary John Healey said, it “just gives [renters] some extra time to pack their bags”. Landlords are still able to serve a possession notice during this crisis which will add to pressures renters are already facing.

The rules also offer no protection to those in temporary accommodation or to lodgers. Many are familiar with the sad case of Rajesh Jayaseelan, the Uber driver who died from Covid-19 after he was illegally locked out of the house he shared with his landlord who feared he might bring the virus into the house. I fear that this is not an unusual experience for lodgers.

There is no help to deal with the accrual of rent arrears. The new rules do not address the problem that a large proportion of tenants now face – not being able to pay the rent. The Government does not have an exit plan for renters who will be building up rent arrears during this crisis. Neither does it provide any protection for renters who face substantial rent rises. Government guidance merely suggest that tenants talk to their landlordsand agree a rent repayment schedule or agree a rent reduction. In cases of illness or financial hardship due to covid-19leading to rent arrears, the government has asked landlords not to issue a possession notice. This is sadly only voluntary and has no legal force. Whilst some landlords may be sympathetic to a tenant’s plight, most, I suspect will not be.  

Unless a landlord agrees to a reduction in rent, many tenants will accumulate rent arears without the means of paying it off.  The London Renters Union launched a campaign on 15th Maydemanding the government freeze rents to stop renters building up big rent debts.

The threat of eviction remains. The 90-day suspension of possession proceedings in the courts is merely a pause. Once the suspension is lifted, normal service will resume in June and there will be a tsunami of possession cases in the courts. Most tenants who have accrued arrears during the covid-19crisis will face possession proceedings and the courts will have little discretion to save them from eviction; provided the landlord establishes (at least 3 months) rent arears, the courts must grant a possession order. Worse still, even where there are no arrears, a landlord can obtain a section 21 no faultpossession order once the tenancy comes to an end.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT URGENTLY NEEDS TO DO 

Immediately increase welfare support for renters -suspend the Benefit Cap, restore Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to median market rents, and cover any shortfall in rental payments of private tenants unable to pay them due to COVID-19 – including those with no recourse to public funds.
Extend the suspension of court possession proceedings by the further 3 months

 

Make Section 8 discretionary for Covid-19 arrears– Once the suspension of court proceedings is lifted, give the courts discretion not to grant a possession order under section 8 (currently the courts have to grant a possession order if there are 3 or more months arrears) making it difficult for landlords to evict a tenant for Covid-19 related arrears.

 

Scrap so-called ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions, the leading cause of family homelessness.  This will transform the lives of renters making it impossible for landlords to evict tenants for no reason once the contract comes to an end. The government needs to commit to and accelerate its promise to abolish no fault evictions and provide genuine security to renters.
Build more social housing The fundamental cause of high rents and tenants stuck in poor quality homes is the paucity of properties available to rent at affordable levels.  Sign Shelter’s petition demanding that the government builds the social housing we need

Better funding for legal advice – Due to the lack of legal aid, there is still a dearth of free legal housing advice. Allowing landlords to flout the law and force tenant’s out without due process.

The financial stress that most private renters are under is due to the long-term failure of a series of Tory governments to invest in building social and truly affordable housing to rent or buy.  We need a government who is able and willing to deal with the immediate challenges the coronavirus pandemic brings and who is committed to seriously investing in a radical nation-wide house building programme on a massivescale.  The government has left this most important issue in the hands of private developers, tinkering at the edges with schemes designed to keep house prices and rents high.

INFORMATION ON LAMBETH’S HOUSING SERVICES

Homeless or at risk of homelessness Lambeth’s Housing Options Adviser.

Telephone: 020 7926 4200    Email: housingoptions@lambeth.gov.uk

Lambeth’s council tenants or residents living in temporary accommodation in financial difficulties Housing Support Team –  Telephone: 0207 926 6399 Email:@lambeth.gov.uk

RAISING THE GAME – BLACK CARIBBEAN ACHIEVEMENT

Raising the Game- Black Caribbean Achievement – Interim Analysis

I went to a school which did not have faith in, or aspirations for, their Black Caribbean and working-class pupils. We were not expected to attain the giddy heights of academia or have a successful career. In spite of this poor start, I fought the system and eventually became a lawyer.

Sadly today, the educational journey of Black Caribbean pupils reflects my own.  The education system has lower expectations of Black Caribbean pupils and many fall short of their intellectual abilities.

We have decided to act on this issue.

It’s been a year since Lambeth Council working with the Lambeth Schools Partnership launched Raising the Game our 2-year project to improve the educational attainment levels of Black Caribbean children. 32 schools, primary and secondary (Project Schools), were in the project last year and 5 more have joined this year.

Lambeth has many great schools. In fact, 93% of our schools are rated good or outstanding by OFSTED which is a tremendous achievement we are very proud of.  However, Black Caribbean pupils underachieve when compared to their peers by 7-8%.  This is a similar picture to that found nationally. We wanted to challenge the inequalities within the system which are leading to this group underachieving.

Raising The Game started in September 2018 and introduced a range of measures to improve the work of teachers and pupils in the Project Schools. An interim assessment shows that these measures, after only one year, have yielded very positive results.

At age 11 results are positive and indicate that Project Schools have improved their results for Black Caribbean pupils by 11% from last year. This is compared to all Lambeth Schools where the improvement for Black Caribbean pupils is also an impressive 3%.

Exclusions – There are early indications from our own data that the rate for Black Caribbean pupils for all Lambeth schools has fallen by about 18% in comparison with last year. This needs to be verified over time and, of course, as numbers are relatively small we will need to see continuing progress over the next year too.

GCSE– 2019 GCSE results by ethnicity will be available soon and we look forward to seeing these.

Each Project School devised a Raising Achievement Plan to improve outcomes and raise aspirations amongst their respective Black Caribbean pupils.  These plans focused on

  • Head Teacher Coaching– Head Teachers challenge and support one another on achievement at their schools, identify interventions and review their impact prioritising the needs of Black Caribbean pupils.
  • Behaviour – Project Schools reviewed their behaviour management strategies and how they impacted on the attainment levels of Black Caribbean pupils. This included unconscious bias training to Heads and Chairs of Governors.
  • Exclusions– Addressing the risk of permanent exclusions and improving reintegration for excluded pupils.
  • Parental Engagement– Improving parents’ involvement in their child’s learning and helping pupils transition from primary to secondary school
  • Aim High– Raising aspirations among Black Caribbean pupils by planning annual events, identifying successful role models to inspire them and challenge perceptions. Well over 1,200 pupils aged between 5 and 14 took part in events in the first year
  • Inclusive Curriculum – Reflecting Black Caribbean experience, history and culture in our National Curriculum.  Reactions to the primary school materials have been very positive. Changes to secondary school curriculum materials will be introduced this year.

All of the above is encouraging and I really want to commend the hard work put in by the Lambeth Schools Partnership, Headteachers, teaching staff, Lambeth Officers, parents and the pupils themselves in making tremendous strides. Once we have the full panoply of data for the first year of the project we can give a fuller picture of the outcome. I can’t wait for next year’s report by which time we hope that good practice that proves successful in raising the attainment levels of Black Caribbean pupils will be extended to all schools within Lambeth.

We are Raising The Game.

Jennifer Brathwaite

GCSE Results: Time to Raise the Game

Yesterday, it was that time of year when young people across the borough nervously anticipate the results of their GCSEs. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate every young person in the borough for their hard work in preparation for results day. I wish them all the very best for their future, be that as they go onto further education or as they enter the world of work.

However it is also a time to pause and reflect on some of the inequalities that we find within the borough, particularly those found within an education system which has been failing pupils of Black Caribbean heritage when it comes to educational attainment.

In Lambeth we have excellent schools, with 96% being rated good or outstanding and where children and young people perform better than the national average at GCSE. Yet Black Caribbean pupils have consistently achieved less than their peers. As a multi-cultural borough we should be looking at ourselves to set the example to other local authorities and schools when it comes to bridging this attainment gap.GCSE

My own experience as a Black child is of teachers having low expectations of me and other Black pupils. Decades later I found that my daughter faced similar experiences. Although we both managed to overcome a poor educational start in life, becoming successful in our respective legal and medical careers, many young people of Black Caribbean heritage are not so lucky and go through the school system not reaching their full potential.

Under previous Labour Governments successive investment was made, via the Ethnic Minority Education Attainment Grant (EMEA Grant), to close the attainment gap between Black pupils and their peers. Encouragingly this led to a reduced gap in attainment for Black pupils from 18% in 2004 to 8% in 2013.

However, since 2010 successive Tory led governments have ended the EMEA Grant and underinvested in our education system which has resulted in a substantial increase in the attainment gap in GCSE English and Maths results which now stands at 15.1 (between Black Caribbean pupils and White pupils). In Lambeth this stands at at 27% in 2018 (between Black Caribbean and White other). Had the investment that was made by Labour through the EMEA Grant been sustained and the direction of improvement continued we could have been celebrating the attainment gap closing this year.

In the absence of leadership and investment from the Conservative government in Westminster, Labour Lambeth council in partnership with a number of schools decided to take positive action and develop a strategy for closing the attainment gap for pupils of Black Caribbean heritage. In autumn 2018 we launched Raising the Game, a two year programme which has begun putting in place interventions to close educational attainment levels for Black Caribbean Pupils and decrease exclusions.

Features of the programme include putting in place head teacher coaching and mentoring for pupils at risk of exclusion; setting up a parental engagement network and a series of events to raise aspirations of Black Caribbean pupils; putting in place a buddying support system; training teachers to manage behaviour positively to avoid exclusions; and taking steps to diversifying the curriculum. We aim to improve the outcome in all key stages by 7-8% by the end of the project and I look forward to reporting on the programme’s first year’s achievement this September.

As a Labour council we are ambitious for each of the 67,900 children and young people in Lambeth, with every single one of them deserving the best possible start in life. An excellent education is essential to this which is why reducing inequality forms an integral part of the council’s Borough Plan and our Children and Young People’s Plan. It is my determination that future results days will not be a time to dwell on the inequalities that lead to the wasting of talent and potential of disadvantaged young people, but will be a time to celebrate the reaching of their potential after being given the best possible start in life.

Campaign to Restore Legal Aid

Last week I attended a double funeral where a friend was burying his two children who died following separate operations performed by the NHS. If, and when, these tragic deaths are investigated, the family of the deceased are unlikely to get legal aid to be represented at a coroner’s hearing.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 yet the ruthless cuts to legal aid coupled with the loss of funding to Law Centres has severely restricted access to justice to those who need it most. The right to justice should be a fundamental entitlement equivalent to the right to education and health care and should not depend on one’s personal wealth.

When I was practicing law, I remember a client whose previous solicitor had messed up.  After correcting the mess, I offered to get her compensation from that solicitor who I felt had been negligent.  She thanked me for my suggestion but declined to take the matter forward because she could not afford to.  I felt this was unfair and offered to write one letter for free that I promised would get her the compensation she deserved.  She agreed. I wrote that letter (took me two hours to construct) and an offer of compensation came swiftly.  My client was delighted as she was broke and wondering where her next money was coming from.

This is not a demonstration of my legal prowess but an illustration of how money, or the lack of it, is a barrier to justice. No matter how many laws exist giving rights to this and that, it is not much use if you are unable to enforce those rights because you cannot afford legal help and/or the local law centre no longer exist. Access to justice should not be dependent on the depths of one’s pocket. That is why I support Labour’s campaign to reinstate proper funding of Legal Aid.

The Tory led coalition government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) was the tool used to dismantle Legal Aid. It saw entire areas of law being removed from its scope overnight and hundreds of thousands of people on modest incomes became ineligible for legal aid.  Compared to pre LASPO data, the number of people accessing Legal Aid dropped by 82% and spending on legal aid has fallen by almost £1bn per year.

Law centres have been hit by a double whammy. Not only has their income been slashed because of the cuts to Legal Aid they have been affected by central governments cuts to local authority funding.

As a graduate, volunteering at a law centre in Bermondsey I gave advice on welfare rights, housing, debt and education claims. People often came to us with bags full of paperwork, desperate for us to help them sort things out.  LASPO has been a disaster for those who would have been entitled to help. Today with the onslaught of austerity, universal credit, cuts to council tax credit, the bedroom tax, high rents, rogue landlords, homelessness, housing benefit reductions, attack on employment rights and cuts to local government funding, many ordinary people find themselves in crisis and in desperate need of legal advice which they struggle to get because they are no longer entitled to Legal Aid and/or the local law centres have closed.  It is no coincidence that the Tory-led coalition government introduced austerity measures and at the same time cut off people’s ability to challenge those measures by gutting Legal Aid and funding to law centres.  Under the Tory’s, legal aid for welfare benefits cases has decreased by 99%.  A recent BBC article reports that 1million less claims for legal aid are being processed each year. The government’s attack on justice has gone too far. LASPO has left our justice system in crisis.

Bereaved families who want to know how their loved one died at the hands of the state (police, prison service, ambulance service) such as in the Hillsborough disaster, are denied legal aid for inquests in direction contravention of the 1999 Macpherson recommendations.

Tenants no longer have access to legal aid to enforce their rights against rouge landlords or to challenge housing benefit decisions and prevent and defend evictions.  This is at a time when statutory homeless, rough sleeping and evictions has risen sharply.

The welfare of children cannot be prioritised in the family court if one of the parties is not legally represented. In a recent letter to the Guardian a judged described the impact of the lack of legal aid in the family court on the welfare of the child as “evil”.

The exceptional case funding (ECF) scheme, designed to mitigate the effect of LASPO cuts to legal aid has failed.  The government had anticipated around 847 children and 4,888 young adults would be granted ECF each year. Yet between Oct 2013 and June 2015 only eight children and 28 young adults were granted legal aid under the scheme.

Cases in areas of law such as clinical negligence, immigration and debt has been taken out of the scope of legal aid.

Huge numbers of claimants whose benefits have been miscalculated can’t get a solicitor to help them calculate what they are owed.

Disabled or ill claimants unfairly denied benefits or having been found fit to work would find it difficult to afford to challenge the decision.

Recently the government seem to acknowledge this that their attacks on Legal Aid have gone too far.  In 2017, it published its review into the impact of LASPO and formulated an action plan which recommended reinstating legal aid for face to face interviews for advice on debt, special educational needs and disabilities and discrimination (rather than telephone) and agreed to review of the financial means testing and eligibility of legal aid.  It also promised £8m mostly for IT to help people get the right help. The government also agreed to run a pilot to measure the impact of early advice.  I understand that the pilot began earlier this year.

These changes do not go far enough. LASPO needs to be overhauled not picked at.  Even the once LASPO Tory enthusiast, Nigel Evans, former shadow secretary of state for Wales, has been open in his regret; “If I had my time again I would stand up and argue against the implementation of LASPO. It’s wrong, completely wrong, to remove people’s right to have expert legal representation, and now I’ve gone through it I can see that clearly. We’re definitely talking about justice being denied as a result of LASPO”.

The situation, however, remains largely unchanged with families in poverty still unable to access justice. I reiterate, the right to justice should be a fundamental entitlement equivalent to the right to education and health care and should not depend on one’s personal wealth.

That is why I am supporting Labour’s campaign to restore Legal Aid through a new Right to Justice Act that establishes a new right for ordinary people to receive reasonable legal assistance without having to pay costs they cannot afford [right to justice – see Labour’s Bach Commission Report 2017]

Gloria De Piero MP (Labour, Shadow Justice Minister) stated that: ‘A Labour government will return all funding for early legal advice, because we know that prevention is better than cure. We will re-establish early advice entitlements in the family courts, restore legal advice in all housing cases to protect 50,000 households a year against rogue landlords’

The Law Society is also spearheading it’s campaign to broaden the scope of Legal Aid and introduce early legal help.

You can read about it here

https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/policy-campaigns/campaigns/

https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/criminal-justice-campaign-support-builds/

Jennifer Brathwaite

Deputy Leader Lambeth Council

Cabinet member for Children and Young People

Take part in the Mayor’s Clean Air Consultation

Air Quality Consultation

From 4 April – 25 June the Mayor of London is undertaking a statutory consultation on the following proposals

  • Proposal 1 – An earlier introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London bringing forward the start date by 17 months to April 2019 (original start date was September 2020)
  • Proposal 2 – Strengthen the ULEZ emission standards for diesel vehicles to include a Euro 6 minimum requirement for Particulate Matter (these are tine airborne toxic particles) in addition to the NOx Euro 6 requirement.

Have your say and find out more about the Mayor’s proposals tfl.gov.uk/airquality-consultation

  • Lambeth supports the Mayor’s initiatives to improve London’s air quality
  • In places London’s air is amongst the worst in Europe
  • Lambeth has some of the highest levels of pollution in London so we welcome the early implementation of ULEZ
  • Air Pollution contributes to the premature death of 9,000 Londoners each year
  • Over 100 residents in Lambeth die each year from conditions aggravated by air pollution
  • Tackling air quality would contribute to increasing healthy life expectancy and reducing early death from cardio-respiratory diseases
  • Clean Air is an equality issue – There is a close link between areas of high deprivation and pollution
  • Diesel exhaust is a major contributor to London’s air pollution so Lambeth welcomes raising the minimum standard for Particulate Matter in diesel vehicles.

London air pollution

Lambeth Wins Cycling Award

Lambeth’s Positive Spin & Silver Cycling projects won the Excellence in Cycling and Walking category at the London Transport Awards this week.

Positive Spin is a groundbreaking programme enabling people with dementia to learn to ride or return to cycling. It offers a fun social activity to enhance the health and wellbeing of people with dementia and their helpers.  The award acknowledges the benefits of cycling for people with cognitive impairment.

Silver Cycling is a project to link older people with volunteers who can take them out for a spin on an adapted bike.

Cycling sessions take place over a number of weeks in parks near a cafe. All-ability bikes as well as regular bikes are provided. Cycling instructors are on hand to help people try out new bikes and to take people on rides. https://www.cycletraining.co.uk/our-services/positive-spin.html

The next Positive Spin sessions:

Where: At the bandstand at Clapham Common SW4 9DE

When: 11:00am-1:00pm. Starts Thursday 16th March for 12 weeks

Me with founders of Positive Spin and Lambeth’s Suzy Harrison, who kept the bottle!

jb-cycling-awards

 

 

UK’s most polluted cities urge Prime Minister to take action on air quality

In a historic move, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the leaders of the five UK cities worst affected by air pollution have called on the Prime Minister to take urgent action to clean up the country’s toxic air.

Every year in Britain 40,000 people die early as a result of air pollution (1) and research from London demonstrates the resulting health effects disproportionately impact the most deprived communities (2).

For the first time, Sadiq Khan and the leaders of Derby, Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton have written to Theresa May urgently calling for:

  • making vehicle manufacturers more accountable for emissions – with a zero-tolerance approach to malpractice, following the recent Volkswagen scandal;
  • national minimum emissions standards for private hire vehicles to ensure local requirements are not undermined;
  • greater regulation powers over the use of diesel generators;
  • a new 21st century Clean Air Act which will update existing legislation;
  • enshrining the ‘right to clean air’ in law after the UK leaves the European Union; and
  • unlocking new powers for local authorities, particularly regarding limiting construction and river emissions.

The letter describes the government’s current £3 million fund for local authorities to clean up their air as “woefully inadequate” and criticises the uncertainty around funding for transport schemes for preventing accurate and detailed planning in the long-term.

It also underlines the fact air pollution is not a problem local authorities can solve alone, they need government to devolve powerful fiscal incentives such as Vehicle Excise Duty and create a national diesel vehicle scrappage fund.

It comes as the government prepares to consult on a new national air quality plan to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide as soon as possible, following the recent High Court ruling against its previous plan.

 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The quality of the air we breathe, both in London and in major cities across the UK, is killing thousands of people every year and is creating a national health emergency. As city leaders, we are doing what we can to tackle this problem, but the fact is we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs and lasting progress will only be made if national government matches the ambitious action we are taking. The time for urgent action is now.”

 

Wood burning stoves

The Guardian’s article on 29th January on Smog in the cities: the truth about Britain’s dirty air https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/29/pollution-air-quality-london-environment? referred to the levels of nitrogen oxides and particles in London’s atmosphere which  recently reached maximum measurable levels at 24 different locations across the capital. The levels of pollution in London  reached an unprecedented high on Sunday 22nd January.

What was the cause of this high level of pollution on a cold winter’s Sunday a day when car use is low? The culprit: The wood-burning stove.  The Guardian article described the new heating fashion that is the wood-burning stove as “a villain threatening the air we breathe”.

Wood burners produce particulates that have a distinctive colour and spectroscopic signature that can be picked  up very accurately by pollutant measuring equipments.  And with people sitting next to their comfortable wood-burning stove two Sundays ago, the  impact on our environment was clearly measurable.

What is Lambeth doing about wood burning stoves? Our draft Air Pollution Action Plan refers to wood burning  stoves and plans a communication strategy to raise awareness of the issue and discourage its use. To examine what additional  action Lambeth will be undertaking  to tackle air pollution refer to our draft air pollution action plan: https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/consultations/lambeth-air-quality-action-plan-2017-to-2022

Whilst raising awareness of the contribution wood burners make towards air pollution, we must not lose site of the fact that  ” the illegal levels of air pollution in our towns and cities  comes overwhelmingly from road traffic, in particular diesel vehicles,” Andrea Lee – ClientEarth.

UNJL

When I became a councillor in 2010 one of the first campaigns I ran with my fellow local Labour councillors was the fight to save the Upper Norwood Joint Library.  The then Conservative Croydon administration was intent on withdrawing funding and in effect closing a library which had served the community for over 100 years. Our persistent fight resulted in Croydon agreeing to continue to jointly fund the library with Lambeth Council and the library was handed to a Trust run by the local community.

unjl

The Upper Norwood Library Trust has gone from strength to strength.  Not only have they doubled the opening hours of the library,  refurbishment work has now begun.  The refurbishment will include much needed repairs to the roof, full redecoration of the public areas of the building and repair to the carpark at the rear.

The work will be carried out in two phases:

First phase (beginning of redecoration on first floor)

The Library service will continue to be delivered on the ground floor, while work is done on the first floor. A free book reservation service will be offered to Upper Norwood Library customers during this period as there will be reduced stock available.

Second phase (which includes more significant building work)

This phase will run from 19th March to 20th June. During this period the ground floor will be completely closed and it will not be possible to provide a library service. However, for those residents in Lambeth who have mobility issues and are unable to travel to their next closest library, the Home Library Service will be available. A similar service is available in Croydon for their residents.  To use Lambeth’s Home Library Service email:   libraries@lambeth.gov.uk

For customers who wish to use another library while the building works are taking place their nearest libraries are:

Croydon: South Norwood Library, Lawrence Rd, London SE25 5AA.  Tel: 020 3700 1021

Lambeth: West Norwood Library, 14-16 Knights Hill, London SE27 0HY. Tel: 0207 926 8092

The refurbishment work will ensure the range of community services undertaken in the library will continue in a watertight modernised building.