Welcome to this month’s roundup of what’s happening at Lewisham Council.
Last time we covered the problems at Lewisham’s flagship leisure centre, Glass Mill. This month we look at the problems of their flagship park scheme at Beckenham Place Park.
Lewisham is our home and Lewisham Liberal Democrats want both Glass Mill and Beckenham Place Park to be a success.
Unfortunately, both show similar problems of a lack of transparency and a failure to listen.
Beckenham Place Park
The park has had almost £7m investment, including an extra £2m from Lewisham Council approved earlier this year. This should ensure that the park can deliver big benefits for everyone as a community asset.
But we and others have consistently raised concerns about aspects of the plans that the council failed to act on earlier. The wild swimming lake is one example, where the lack of formal changing facilities will limit those able to use it. The initial pricing also meant it would have been more expensive than swimming at Glass Mill.
We’ve also been concerned at the way it’s been marketed by the council – is it wild swimming, or a lido, or a paddling pool (there’s a beach but it’s only planned to be temporary)? This contributed to the concerns about children’s safety where the paddling area dips down sharply.
It’s good that Lewisham are acting on this now but better still to have listened earlier and worked out what the best offer would be from talking to those who might want to use it.
BAME representation at the council
The other issue we’ve been looking at recently is representation of black and minority ethnic (BAME) people at senior levels within the council. Half our community is BAME, but only 10% of full Cabinet roles are held by black councillors. Almost half the workforce at the council is BAME but this drops to just 18% of senior grades.
You can read our action plan for tackling this and our London Assembly candidate Ade Fatukasi’s comments on Lewisham’s poor record here.
Lastly, some of us have been trying to track down information about how Lewisham Council is performing, particularly given the chaos at the top without a permanent Chief Exec for most of the past twelve months.
Lewisham used to publish a monthly report on how it was performing against its key performance indicators (KPIs). That disappeared and since then we’ve been fobbed off when submitting freedom of information requests.
After appealing against the most recent request, it turns out that Lewisham hadn’t even got round to agreeing its KPIs in the last year since the new administration took over. KPIs might not be the most exciting topic but it’s another sign of the lack of grip from the top to ensure the council delivers for Lewisham. It also makes it harder for the citizens of Lewisham to hold our councillors to account.
We demand better from our council and we’ll keep working to get them to raise their game. Do let us know if there are any issues you’d like us to look into.