The Perils Of the Cabinet System

We are not keen on the Cabinet system at Rochford – it’s expensive and not very democratic. Here’s an example from the Guardian website of how a Labour cabinet in Lewisham is pushing through a development that will force Millwall Football Club away from their home – even though the plan’s  not even supported by Labour’s own back-bench councillors:

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has joined the growing chorus of dismay at Lewisham council’s “extraordinary” plans to carry out a compulsory purchase of Millwall’s land at The Den.  n a statement to the Guardian, Farron called on Lewisham council to consider the full repercussions of its land seizure. The Liberal Democrat leader said it would be “heartbreaking” if the decision to sell the land on to a mysterious offshore-owned property developer led to the club having to consider leaving the borough….

…. Farron is the first senior Westminster figure to speak out on the issue. His call for the council to work instead with the club and the community comes three days before a town hall meeting at which the compulsory purchase order is due to be confirmed or rejected by the Labour cabinet.

This will be the second time the CPO has been ruled on. The council’s own scrutiny committee urged it to reconsider last September after grave concerns were voiced by senior councillors at both the murkiness of the process and the identity of the parties involved.

Lewisham plans to sell Millwall’s land to an offshore-owned property developer called Renewal, a company whose CEO is a former Lewisham council officer, and which, records have revealed, had the last Labour mayor of Lewisham as one of its founding directors…..

…..It is understood Lewisham’s cabinet still intends to push through a decision that has been condemned by a vast majority of its own backbench labour councillors.


Full article here.

Secrets Of The Northern Line …. and the Circle Line…

An archer, a miscounting, a widow”s wish and a plastic owl…

A cat memorial and a very thin house, plus some London Transport history!


If You Like Yachts, You Might Like To Take A Look.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race begins in St Katherine’s Dock London on August 30th and then begins in earnest from Southend Pier on August 31st. As the Port of London Authority explains:

30th August 2015
12 yachts will lock out of St Katherines Dock from approximately 1400 until 1530. At 1530 4
of these will pass under Tower Bridge and gather on the Starboard side of the Upper Pool as

31st August 2015
The yachts will gather south of Southend Pier from 1200, a cannon will be sounded at 1220 to
indicate the ten minutes before the race start. The race will commence at 1230 and yachts
will start their passage outbound.

There are also free yacht tours in the days leading up to the race…

“As I stood next to one of the Lib Dem councillors I would have done anything to give 50 of my votes to the Lib Dems to make sure the Conservative party didn’t get the seat.”

Jon Tolley runs a record business, Banquet Records in Kingston Upon Thames. The kind of inspirational business person that towns need. He recently won a by-election to become a Lib Dem councillor. His story is a bit unusual and you can find it here.

Here’s a few extracts:

…A friend, Charlotte, made a petition to stop the cancellation of the carnival. In her absence, I addressed the council about it at a full council meeting. I still didnt get a clear answer. A wishy-washy resolution to try to try or something was passed. I was left frustrated. I vowed to run as an independent on the next by-election, almost on a one-issue thing. After a false start, a by-election came up in Grove, the part of Kingston I live and work in. It was, for me, about arts and culture, and why our arts are as important as theirs….

…. Id made my point. I never really thought i could win, but i wanted to try. In the course of the campaign, people from the Lib Dems, but notably Chris, Rebecca and Liz were in touch. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, and saw that I had a reach to, and from ,people and a different way of looking at what was going on in Kingston…

On the night of the election, i was at the count. It was a pretty close-run thing. I wanted as many votes as possible, but there came the realisation that my standing might have taken some votes away from the Lib Dems. As i stood next to one of the Lib Dem councillors i would have done anything to give 50 of my votes to the Lib Dems to make sure the Conservative party didnt get the seat. The Lib Dems held the seat by 18 votes. It was so close. I was relieved that the Tories didnt get the seat. Id known that councillor for a good few years. Always had a respect, I know she liked me a little. She said on the night, How can we get you to join us?….. I never spoke to her again. That councillor was Chrissie Hitchcock….

I was shocked when i heard of Chrissies death. Genuinely. One of the good’uns, and special to many. Im not gonna pretend i knew her well, but i did know her. And anyone, and i mean anyone, who knew her better than me, could only respect her, even if they disagreed with her. The turn out for her funeral was big. The Walk On at it will live with me for some time. Democracy being what it is, I knew thered be another by-election. I wouldnt run as an independent. It didnt work. I wouldnt want to hand the seat to the Tories. Id help the Lib Dems. I met up with Liz Green for a cuppa. We talked about the potential of me running with and for them. I gave it some thought, but not loads….

Stations And Frustrations

Basildon Lib Dem Ben Williams is a big fan of the engineering wonder that is the London Underground. But he doesn’t like the way it treats its passengers:

Ive always wanted to be in awe of the London Underground, with its complex network of services and its myriad stations that take in incredibly varied landscapes. From the little boxes suburbia of Upminster, to the east end of West Ham, with its rejuvenated twin in Stratford, to the eerie Bladerunner majesty of Docklands and Canary Wharf, to the lush countryside of Amersham, the lines of the London Underground go to astonishingly different places.

Frankly, though, the customer experience (I dont dare suggest we are passengers) is appalling. A single example from a single day….

Read the rest of his article here.

If you are in awe of the London Undergound, you might enjoy this:

“Getting stuff done as a ward councillor can be a marathon not a sprint. “

A Labour Councillor in Hackney. Luke Akehurst, is stepping down after 12 years, and has written ten things he’s learned in his time in local government.

Putting party differences aside for the moment, there are some useful things for candidates from any party , especially the last five:

6) Getting stuff done as a ward councillor can be a marathon not a sprint. When I first stood in 2002 we pledged to rebuild two very rundown housing blocks, Bridge House and Marian Court. That project is happening, but it isnt complete yet as I come off the Council now.

7) But never take no for an answer. I was told the Council will never fit security doors on Trelawney Estate, theres no budget for it and the Council will never agree to adopt Stevens Avenue (an un-adopted road hence no street lighting or road or pavement repairs), it sets too expensive a precedent. Loud campaigning on both by the three ward councillors meant that miraculously the budgets were found to do both.

8) Life as a councillor is a lot easier when you have good colleagues in your ward. Ive been very lucky to be in a mutually supportive team for 12 years with Guy Nicholson and Sally Mulready as ward councillors. Ive seen councillors who fall out with a ward colleague or have to carry the workload for someone not pulling their weight made completely miserable by it.

9) Campaigning and casework arent separate activities. If you dont canvass and deliver survey leaflets you wont find out about most of the problems people in your ward want sorting out. Similarly when you do casework most of the people you do it for are far more likely to bother to vote for you.

10)Good officers are as important as good councillors to driving forward change. We were very lucky that at the point when we really needed to improve Hackney we were able to persuade key people like then Chief Exec Max Caller to take a huge risk with their careers and be part of Jules Pipes attempt at rescuing what was a badly failing council. Without dedicated and incredibly hard-working civil servants implementing the changes Labour wanted, we wouldnt have been able to turn Hackney round.

Hat-Tip to Southend councillor Julian Ware-Lane for this.

New Views Of The Thames

The Port of London Authority has linked up with Google:
– in fact they have linked up with Google Street View:

The Thames is the first river in the UK and Europe to be mapped by Googles Street View technology, which provides 360-degree panoramic imagery to users across the world on Google Maps. While Street View cameras had voyaged to Moscows Red Square, the explorer, Scotts, Hut on Ross Island and some of the worlds highest peaks, they were yet to make their way down Englands longest river until now.

The 360-degree photographic views of the river are live on Google Street View, which viewers will be able to find on or on

Incidentally, if you are ever looking for some really good photos of London or the Thames, try the PLA twitter feed– there are often some cracking photos appearing there.

A Chance to Nose Around London Buildings

If you are interested in architecture, buildings, history, engineering or just nosing around bits of London, you might be interested in Open House London 2013 over this weekend.

You have the chance to visit any of about 830 buildings! To give just 5 examples out of 830:

Argentine Ambassador’s Residence , 49 Belgrave Square, SW1X 8QZ, London “Owned by Argentina since 1936 and with sumptuous interiors still intact.”
Government Art Collection Queen’s Yard, 179a Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7PA, London “Guided tour of premises and behind-the-scenes look at how this major collection of British art operates.”
Bart’s Hospital Great Hall St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE, London “Founded in 1123 and rebuilt by Gibbs as the Hospital’s showpiece. Grade I listed, the staircase to the Great Hall is decorated by spectacular canvases by William Hogarth.”
Blackwall Tunnel Northbound Refurbishment London Street & Tunnel Operation Centre, 19 Naval Row, E14 9RY, London “Linking RB Greenwich and LB Tower Hamlets, the Northbound tunnel was built in 1897, was refurbished in 2010-11 and carries 55,000 vehicles each day.”
4 Bayer House Golden Lane Estate, EC1Y 0RN, London “Part of Golden Lane Estate which was the first public housing to be listed. A maisonette with many of the original detail and finishes.”

Find out more here.

Rare Colour Film Of London In 1927

Here’s some intriguing colour film of London in 1927:

You can find out more about this footage here.

Claude Friese-Greene, one of the earliest British pioneers of film, filmed a series of short clips around London documenting major attractions of the city nearly 90 years ago, specifically in 1927, using a primitive color process developed by his father William Friese-Greene…..Its like a beautiful dusty old postcard youd find in a junk store, but moving.

Hat-tip: Deathandtaxes