Ross Archer is the Conservative candidate for Mayor of Lewisham.
I often get asked why I am standing as the Conservative Candidate for Mayor of Lewisham. The answer is simple. My borough has been badly let down by the local Labour-dominated Council and I had to do something about it. I have lived in South East London all my life – I was brought up on a council estate in Bermondsey and have lived in Sydenham, Lewisham for over 20 years.
Lewisham means a lot to me – a fantastic, but often forgotten part of London. We have a proud history and have had an important cultural impact on this city, facing down fascism in the Battle of Lewisham, while acting as a successful melting pot for London’s new arrivals and communities throughout the last century.
Today, however, Lewisham is in danger of being left behind as the rest of London surges ahead in prosperity, quality of services, and opportunity. As an inner London borough only a few miles from the bright blur of the city centre, we ought to be benefiting from London’s status as the world’s capital city. We ought to be aspiring to the higher standards that other boroughs achieve, but under the local Labour governance we are not.
Instead we see only a sad litany of failure. Over 40 per cent of Lewisham secondary school pupils do not go to a good or outstanding school while in neighbouring Southwark over 90 per cent do; Lewisham has the slowest broadband speed in South East London; the Council has only built six new Council homes in the 10 years from 2005-2015; according to a leading insurer Lewisham has the most dangerous roads in South East London; and a 2016 report showed Lewisham is in the bottom three local authorities nationally for its recycling rate with only 17.1 per cent of household waste being recycled.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg of local Labour failure.
Labour has been in power since 1971 in Lewisham and they have held the elected Mayoralty since the post was created in 2002. The same man, Sir Steve Bullock, has been in charge ever since. The Lewisham Labour party has grown complacent, lazy and arrogant.
The issue that highlights this most is the scandal surrounding the Millwall Compulsory Purchase Order. For the last few years, Millwall FC has faced a compulsory purchase order by the Labour-dominated Lewisham Council on the land around their stadium where the football club bases its community schemes, car park and youth academy. This land was under threat for a proposed 2,400 home development where only 12 per cent of these homes would have been affordable or social. You can read more on the problems with the scheme here.
Even if we ignore the appalling treatment of the football club compared to the positive relationships other boroughs have with their local teams, it’s obvious that Labour botched the scheme from the start. Since I wrote about this for Conservative Home, the Council has put in place an inquiry costing £500,000, an absurd price tag that compounds the initial error rather than recognising the failures with the scheme. But with terms of reference and the investigating QC set and chosen by themselves, how can it be trusted by the local community and fans? To boot, they have missed housing zone deadlines, meaning this scheme has lost over £10 million of public funding going to affordable housing. There are problems left, right, and centre with this scheme, but the Labour-dominated Council seem determined to press ahead with it.
This issue has been a main part of my campaign and I have used it to expose, beyond theory, why a virtual one party state is not a good thing for local democracy and accountability. Since being selected back in March 2017 I have focussed on key local issues in my campaign and linked these back to the lack of accountability and opposition in Lewisham.
As we all know, the Labour Mayor of London has decided to close police stations and remove the crucial role of Borough Commander. In Lewisham the Labour Mayor has closed two police stations leaving the borough with just one and merged the Borough Commander with Bexley and Greenwich. I have led Lewisham Conservatives in opposing these measures, while local Labour councillors and the Mayor have done nothing to campaign against it.
This again highlights the need for a strong local opposition and the need for genuine political change in Lewisham. Labour councillors would have screamed blue murder if Boris Johnson had decided to implement Sadiq Khan’s policing plans in Lewisham, but they are happy to sit on their hands under a Labour Mayor. It shows how cynical local Labour politicians are. That is why we have been putting forward a positive vision for a genuine change in our borough as well as highlighting local Labour failures.
Our key pledges for Lewisham are:
To build 3,000 new homes a year with 40 per cent being genuinely affordable based on local wages. To build 1,000 new socially rented homes.
Look into creating a Lewisham house building not-for-profit to drive up house building and new social and affordable home building.
Create a Lewisham First Time Buyers Scheme for existing Lewisham residents.
Build at least two new homeless shelters in Lewisham.
A Safe Place to Live:
Campaign to re-open closed police stations and counters in our borough and fund 10 new community support officers.
Creating a Mayoral Crime Prevention Unit, which would meet monthly, where key stakeholders such as the Police, local youth services, schools, youth clubs and organisations, Neighbourhood Watches, and community leaders can meet to share intelligence and concerns.
Taking a zero-tolerance approach on fly-tipping and re-introduce weekly bin collections.
Guarantee that 60 per cent of waste in our borough will be recycled, unlike under Labour.
Introduce more book banks, rag banks, and recycle points across the borough, working with local charities to increase their fundraising.
Introduce Town Wardens to reduce littering, spitting, and rubbish dumping in our streets.
Install 250 electric car charging points across Lewisham over four years.
Plant at least 3,000 more trees along busy roads to reduce noise pollution and Co2 emissions.
Education and Young People:
Ensure all Lewisham school students are going to a OFSTED rated good or outstanding school by 2022.
Invest at least an extra £750,000 in youth services across Lewisham to re-open youth clubs closed by the Labour Council.
Create an Education Improvement Unit where local teachers, parents, youth workers and other education stakeholders meet to discuss school improvements and local education policy.
Campaign to re-zone Grove Park, Lower Sydenham and Beckenham Hill Stations to Zone Three, saving local commuters over £400 a year.
Help night time workers by ensuring more night buses and 24 hour train services run in the borough.
Campaign for London Overground Services throughout Lewisham to operate 24 hours on the weekend by 2022.
Explore options for the Docklands Light Railway to be extended further South in the borough.
The above are some of our key manifesto pledges. We have presented a bold and positive manifesto for Lewisham, one that really shows the kind of change Conservative representation can bring. You can read the full manifesto here. In the General Election the Conservatives came second to Labour across Lewisham and we are the only alternative to more Labour complacency and laziness. We will be fighting hard up to and on May 3rd to show Lewisham residents there is a real alternative to Labour in Lewisham – the Conservatives.