Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/376/4234
Chris Flood, Socialist Party Councillor
An eventful year for a Socialist councillor
JUST OVER a year ago, CHRIS FLOOD was elected as the second Socialist
Party councillor in Telegraph Hill ward in Lewisham, south London.
Chris tells us what he and his fellow Socialist councillor IAN PAGE have done in that year.
FROM DAY one of my election Ian and I, backed by the local community have challenged rent increases, called for the compulsory purchase of empty homes and opposed student top-up fees.
We have also opposed the closure of a vital local swimming pool in Ladywell (working closely with the campaign that arose in the area), kept up the fight for a new secondary school in the northern part of Lewisham borough, supported a campaign to save Deptford Park and dealt with major problems with refurbishment on the Honor Oak Estate.
- why the number of senior council personnel earning over £50,000 a year has gone up by 48% while so many Lewisham council employees and Lewisham residents are low-paid;
- why Lewisham's council housing stock has declined by over 1,000 in the last year despite a growing housing crisis;
- why Lewisham council are backing the government's plans to force councils to sell off their housing stock;
- why Lewisham council has allocated £100,000 to date for the so-called 'consultation' on this proposal alone.
Ian and I have also taken up why tenants in newly built housing association homes have worse agreements on service provision than council homes.
Before we intervened, bins weren't being emptied, existing wardens weren't allowed to cover new Housing Association areas and the council and housing association had begun to squabble over who was responsible for ground maintenance! On the Honor Oak estate, the playground was severely damaged yet they still couldn't agree who was responsible.
We've supported the struggles of local workers. For example, we visited Deptford Job Centre's picket line when civil servants went on strike recently over 100,000 job cuts and attacks on the pension rights of mainly low-paid workers.
WE ARE still defending Honor Oak Estate residents, both tenants and leaseholders, in making sure their refurbishment is done properly. Leaseholders were sold asbestos-ridden council flats, without any warnings and now face huge council refurbishment charges that include the disposal of asbestos.
We have demanded that all asbestos removal takes place for leaseholders at no extra charge. Ian and myself closely scrutinised the whole refurbishment as we've worked alongside local people who understandably don't trust private contractors one inch.
The council should have carried out this work at regular intervals. It should not have handed it out to the private sector to make huge profits after years of neglect. Some of the bills could be more than £20,000, which Ian and I are fighting.
Sector J clubhouse
Now the council are threatening to withdraw funds from the Sector J clubhouse on the Honor Oak estate. This would mean basic facilities such as kitchens and toilets used by elderly and disabled people not being renovated.
This is despite local residents being told that the club would be totally refurbished. We are challenging the council on this miserly cut in the improvements they promised.
Recently we had further shocking proof that councillors from all the major political parties put their own interests above those of the community they are supposed to represent. They now have one more perk. Just minutes after justifying cuts to local services, they voted themselves onto the council employees' pension scheme.
All this, while council workers face attacks to their pension from New Labour. Compare this to Ian and myself. We not only voted against this scam, but we also only take necessary expenses, donating the rest to local campaigns and the Socialist Party.
The council should have considered the performance of the pension scheme for existing employees as a priority, especially as many employees are already low paid and there is uncertainty about pension schemes generally.
Working class party
WE ALSO take up individual constituents' problems, which can make a huge difference to people's lives. Ian and myself always tenaciously represent the people of our ward and the people of Lewisham.
More and more people from outside our ward seek our support. It's common to hear people, even life-long Labour voters, say "I'll never vote Labour again" and say what little time they now have for New Labour.
People are looking for a new political force in Lewisham. We believe we need a new party to represent ordinary working-class people. We're prepared to stand where we can in the future in Lewisham to win more seats for the Socialist Party but also to work co-operatively with all sympathetic forces.
In The Socialist 15 January 2005: