VE Day special plus new mental health support for young people

Cllr Peter John OBE

Dear resident,

Although it might not be what we had all planned for the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II, there is definitely a feeling of excitement about VE Day tomorrow. Whether we have a sense that we are living through a similar time, or we just need to focus on something positive, I know lots of us are looking forward to the bank holiday and the low-key celebrations planned for the day. I hope you all have a lovely VE Day at home, and if you need some ideas have a look at our VE Day guide.

Looking after your mental health

Inevitably at a time like this, there are highs and lows, and not everyone will be feeling happy this weekend or in the weeks to come. Feeling low, stressed and anxious are common feelings, and during the COVID-19 pandemic you might find that you are finding things harder than usual. We want you to know that you are not alone and help is available.

Our webpages include helpful information from the NHS and others including:

I’m delighted that this week we also launched our brand new support service, called The Nest, for children and young people aged 13–25 in Southwark. It offers free and confidential mental wellbeing support. Social distancing requirements meant plans for our landmark children’s mental health hub quickly changed. This vital and timely new service has opened as an online and phone-line support service and the face-to-face support service, based in Peckham, will open when it is safe to do so.

Finally, if you, or someone you know, is in a mental health crisis, please contact SLAM’s 24-hour support line on 0800 731 2864 or find more advice on the SLAM NHS website.

I wish you all the very best and thank you again for your ongoing support.

Cllr Peter John


Highlights from our stay-at-home library

Involve the whole family in learning about VE Day

Explore online resources and activities to mark VE Day such as Adventures in History with the Imperial War Museum a weekly video series introducing real life wartime experiences like those of Kitty Baxter who spent nights in a communal bomb shelter in Camberwell with her family, or become an expert on local history with some fascinating reading material on WWII from the Local History Archive.

Join Baby Rhyme Time online

Sing along with your local librarians at the Libraries’ weekly Baby Rhyme Time sessions on Zoom.

Connect and create with Dragon Café

Join the weekly Zoom group for a new creative project each week plus the chance to share your thoughts, poems, recipes, stories or just the view from your window.

Live art workshops

Take inspiration from nature that you can see from your window, and learn new drawing techniques with live art workshops from Art in the Park.

Superarts online dance classes

Get moving with low-cost dance classes for the whole family, brought to your living room by Southwark based dance company Superarts.

Help us capture this moment in history!

Help us capture this moment in Southwark’s history for the archives. From records of mutual aid groups to personal diaries and photographs, please get in touch with our Local history Library and Archives service if you’d like to donate something: lhlibrary@southwark.gov.uk.


GPs are still available during the COVID-19 pandemic

Doctors in Southwark are reminding patients they should still contact their GP surgery if they need to consult a doctor or nurse about their usual health issues or new physical or mental health problems during this pandemic.


Are you worried about domestic abuse?

If you or someone you know is suffering from Domestic Abuse, isolation rules do not apply. Police response and support services remain available. Nationally, there is advice and support available but you should call 999 if you are in immediate danger. Locally, the Solace Advocacy and Support Service is also available to women and men in Southwark aged 16 or over in Southwark.


35% Campaign update – Old Kent Rd scheme faces loss of affordable housing

Old Kent Rd scheme faces loss of affordable housing

May 01, 2020 12:00 am

Berkeley Homes threatens to reduce affordable housing at Malt St –Berkeley Homes is the first developer in Southwark to threaten to reduce the affordable housing in one of its schemes, since the onset of the Coronavirus crisis. Berkeley secured planning permission for the Malt St development, just off the Old Kent Rd, in June 2019, with a promise to build 40% affordable housing. Since then it has joined-up with Peabody, who had a smaller, neighbouring development on Nyes Wharf. Together the two sites will provide 1,569 new homes, with 40% affordable housing (359 at social rent and 222 shared-ownership), delivered by Peabody.

Now a planning committee briefing reveals that this affordable housing is at ‘risk’ because Berkeley intends to mount an appeal that will reopen the question of the viability of the scheme. To prevent this happening, the briefing recommends approval of an unprecedented clause in Southwark’s s106 planning agreement with Berkeley, that could see all the affordable housing lost, should development partner, [Peabody] hit financial trouble.

The Southwark Law Centre has written to the planning committee, objecting to the proposed clause and requesting a deferral, to allow the serious issues it raises to be properly addressed.

Why a Mortgagee in Possession (MIP) clause matters

The planning committee is being asked to approve a so-called Mortgagee in Possession (MIP) clause. Simply put, if a borrower cannot pay their mortgage, then the lender can take legal possession of the property and sell it – they become the ‘mortgagee in possession’ and up until now this has evidently been covered with a clause that keeps the affordable housing affordable ‘in perpetuity’ .

The MIP clause proposed for Malt St is different – it will not secure the affordable housing ‘in perpetuity’ , should Peabody fail. Instead, Southwark or another affordable housing provider would be given the option to take on the affordable housing, but if they do not, the affordable housing can then be sold onto the open market. If Southwark does buy the affordable housing, they would also have to pay anything outstanding ‘under the terms of the relevant security documents, including all accrued principal monies, interest and costs and expenses’ 1.

The MIP briefing is at pains to point out that such a situation is very unlikely to arise, because Peabody is in rude financial health; it has an annual turnover of £630m, an annual profit of £160m and assets of £7.6bn, so the possibility that it will fail is remote. The briefing reinforces the point by noting that no major housing association has ever gone into administration and quotes a GLA document that says ‘there is no known cases of a MIP clause being triggered…..’ 2.

Mayor of London opens the door…

This all begs an obvious question – why replace a MIP clause that protects affordable housing, in all circumstances, even unlikely ones, with a clause that does not?

Part of the answer is that this is what the Mayor of London wants. As Southwark’s briefing explains it, the Mayor wants ‘a consistent approach to MIP clauses across the London boroughs and to secure greater access to funding for RPs (registered providers) to increase the delivery of affordable housing’. The report continues; ‘In order to achieve this, the GLA MIP clause would allow, in certain limited and unlikely circumstances, affordable housing to no longer be “in perpetuity”’ . The briefing notes that Southwark’s own MIP clause is different from the Mayor’s, precisely on this point; Southwark does require affordable housing to remain such ‘in perpetuity’ , should a RP go into administration 3.

Peabody takes advantage

Peabody also wants the GLA MIP adopted, because it would allow them to borrow more money for other projects. To quote the briefing ‘Peabody have funds to deliver this scheme, but given the very large scale of the investment they are only willing to make such a commitment on the basis that they are able to secure additional funding in the future against the asset of the completed scheme’ . The report says that while the Malt St scheme is ‘entirely financed by Peabody from its own investment’ Peabody nonetheless wants more private bank finance and needs to make more of its ‘capital assets’ and the banks consider that the affordable housing ‘asset is not sufficiently liquid’. The briefing reiterates ‘Peabody has confirmed that they cannot proceed as the RP [registered provider] partner in this scheme without this clause’ 4.

Berkeley turns the screw

Berkeley backs Peabody, saying that it cannot, or will not, proceed without them. Berkeley goes on to threaten to reduce the affordable housing in the scheme, if the GLA MIP clause is not agreed, by way of an appeal to the government of ‘non-determination’. Berkeley would argue that Southwark had failed to conclude the s106 legal agreement in the required time, and also reopen the question of the viability of the scheme 5. Berkeley has a track record for such manouvers; this 2018 Guardian report shows that Berkeley has reduced its affordable housing obligations using viability reviews in almost all of its London schemes.

Southwark’s briefing tries to make the best of things; as well as emphasising the unlikelihood of any default, it claims that this decision will ‘not therefore set a precedent for other schemes.’ The Mayor has different ideas – he wants to see his MIP clauses used across London and says they will be used for anything he ‘calls-in’, (such as the Biscuit Factory) and that he ‘will promote their use for other schemes that are referable…and non-referable’ ie basically everything 6.

What we think

A Mortgagee in Possession (MIP) s106 clause that has evidently been perfectly adequate up to now is to be changed, compromising the ‘in perpetuity’ principle of affordable housing. The Mayor hopes that this will help meet his strategic 50% affordable housing target, but Peabody and Berkeley are not proposing 50% for the Malt St site. More generally, the Mayor has published no concrete commitment from developers and registered providers to increase affordable housing, in exchange for the Mayor’s more market-friendly MIP.

So, while it would be easy for Southwark’s planning committee to approve the clause in the almost sure knowledge that it will never be triggered and the affordable housing will remain as such, ‘in perpetuity’ , they should nonetheless reject the Mayor’s new MIP clause. It purports to facilitate a general increase in affordable housing, but there is no evidence before the committee that this will actually happen, either in Southwark or elsewhere. On the other hand, though, the Mayor’s MIP will definitely weaken the ‘in perpetuity’ status of affordable housing

This is the thin end of a very long wedge. These clauses have already been used in Islington, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth. They are being actively promoted by the GLA and the Mayor. Once they proliferate the whole principle of affordable housing being for ‘in perpetuity’ will start to be lost and developers and their registered provider partners will use the same kind of ingenuity that they have used with viability assessments to squeeze real affordable housing out of London 7.

The briefing and its recommendation, will be considered by the planning committee meeting on Monday 4 May, the first to be held online.

Footnotes:

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Weekend wellbeing

Hello Everyone,

We thought you might like this Isolation Wellbeing Pack – newsletter attached. It has some great links to museums, galleries and other mood lifting public spaces that are doing things online.

Over the weekend, why not try some indoor food growing? Thank you local tenant Tina who has provide us with this great information for indoor food growing from Random Acts of Green.

In Southwark we have a Universal Credit Network, made up of front line services. Next Tuesday they will be holding a Zoom call and taking questions regarding
Universal Credit. This won’t be an opportunity to ask direct questions about your case (but we can look into that at a later date). It will be an opportunity to learn from experts and ask important questions. It would be lovely if you could join us, if it is not directly relevant to you, it may be to one of your neighbours so you can learn about it and we can support you to share that
knowledge. Information is below.

Don’t forget to tune in to Resonance 104.4fm (from your kitchen radio) or online at resonancefm.com at 11.30am on Monday where you can hear our interview with Cabinet Member Leo Pollak.

Thank you all, stay safe. And remember – if you need a chat, we are hear for that!

Southwark Universal Credit Network Online – COVID-19 Special Q&A

Coronavirus updates from DWP, CAB + Southwark Law Centre and Q&A session. Bring your questions!

You are invited to special meeting of Southwark Universal Credit Network ONLINE:

TUESDAY 28TH APRIL, 10AM – 11:30AM

We will be using ZOOM for this meeting, please register here to receive a link to join the meeting:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/southwark-universal-credit-network-covid-19-special-qa-tickets-103216140254

Please pass this invite on to any frontline workers in Southwark who support people claiming Universal Credit.

Join the mailing list by emailing: sari@communitysouthwark.org

For further info on Southwark Universal Credit Network please visit:

https://communitysouthwark.org/resources/universal-credit-network

Entertainment, education and exercise: Southwark Council’s stay-at-home library of activities

Cllr Peter John OBE

Dear resident,

We know that staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives gets harder as time goes by, and that keeping yourself and your family entertained for such long periods is a new and often difficult challenge. To help in a small way, we’ve developed an online library of things to do at home to help you and your family keep active, creative and learning at home during the lockdown. There’s lots on offer from free film screenings to art workshops, dance classes and much more and we’ve included some further highlights below.

Sadly, we also know that not everyone who is staying at home feels safe. Remember, there is support for anyone who experiences abuse at home – you do not have to stay at home with an abuser.

I wish you all the very best and thank you again for playing your part in keeping Southwark safe.

Cllr Peter John


Donate to the community fundraiser

There’s still time to donate to the community fundraiser for local charities. United St Saviours are distributing much-needed funds to local charities who are playing a vital role in the local coronavirus response.


Are you worried about domestic abuse?

If you or someone you know is suffering from Domestic Abuse, isolation rules do not apply. Police response and support services remain available. Nationally, there is advice and support available but you should call 999 if you are in immediate danger. Locally, the Solace Advocacy and Support Service is also available to women and men in Southwark aged 16 or over in Southwark.


Do you know a vulnerable resident who needs help?

If you know of a vulnerable Southwark resident who can’t leave the house due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and who may not have friends, family or neighbours who can help with the delivery of essential supplies, please tell us straight away so we can help them.


35% Campaign update – The harsh reality of relocation for shopping centre trader

The harsh reality of relocation for shopping centre traders

Apr 23, 2020 12:00 am

Law centre survey shows that nearly half of traders have nowhere to go -The Southwark Law Centre (SLC) has written to Southwark Council, detailing the shortcomings of the relocation of the independent traders from the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, prior to its demolition on 31 July 2020. The letter is supported by Latin Elephant and Up the Elephant, which includes the 35% Campaign.

SLC’s letter supplies Southwark with the details of a survey of traders about the relocation, conducted just before the Coronavirus lockdown. This ‘snapshot’ survey of ten traders shows that 4 had not been offered a relocation space and the remaining six were offered the spaces that were inadequate, mainly because they were too small, but also because they were in poor locations for attracting trade and had no space for storage or for displaying their goods.

The letter also criticises the traders’ appointed business advisor, Tree Shepherd, for a lack of appropriate support, particularly during the lockdown. The relocation fund is described as not fit for purpose and the relocation database of limited value. It regrets that Southwark approved using CPO powers on Delancey’s behalf without any increase to the Delancey relocation fund.

The letter also notes that work on completing Castle Square had stopped and asks how this will impact on the traders’ relocation. This is one of the four relocation sites and due to open in June – but work has stopped as a result of the coronavirus crisis:

The letter acknowledges that Southwark is not able to control the wider economic circumstances, but nonetheless calls on them to give stronger and more effective support to the traders.

Loyalty not repaid

All the trader respondents to SLC survey come from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, the longest serving trader having been at the Elephant for 22 years, while the longest serving trader not offered relocation space has been there 15 years; all ten traders together clock up over 115 years at the shopping centre.

In their survey comments all the respondents say the same thing – that more money is needed, and more space, and if the space cannot be found then compensation should be offered.

Relocation applications rejected

The SLC survey is a relatively small, but its finding that 4 out of 10 traders have no place to go is mirrored by the much larger and earlier research of Latin Elephant/petit elephant. This has tracked the fate of nearly a hundred businesses, since December 2018 and estimated that only 40 would be relocated, a prediction that now appears to be confirmed by Southwark Council in its own assessment of the relocation process. This states that while there have been 64 applications for three of the four main relocation sites, only 36 have been successful, with 28 rejected1. Southwark gives no explanation for this, or says anything about what exactly it expects these 28 businesses to do. The fourth site, Elephant Park, has had one successful application out of 52.

Public support for development falls

Southwark prefers to emphasise the increasing confidence traders are said to have, that they will be able to at least remain trading, by reference to an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA). This is cited as evidence that the so-called mitigation measures are working, despite the 28 rejected relocation applications. The EIA also reveals the embarrassing fact that public support for the shopping centre redevelopment from 67% in 2016 to 42% today, mainly because of concern ‘about what will happen to businesses currently in the shopping centre’. The proposed remedy is to continue the well-meaning, but now hardly appropriate ‘Follow The Herd’ publicity campaign.

Crisis response needed

As we reported in our last blogpost Southwark has approved a welcome £200,000 in support of traders, agreed before the Coronavirus lockdown. Separately, Southwark has also launched a Business Hardship Fund of £2m, aimed at all the borough’s 10,000 microbusinesses.

But otherwise Southwark’s latest report on the progress of the shopping centre redevelopment takes no account of the entirely new, desperate circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic. This could be excused as it is dated 24 March, the first day of the lockdown, but was not considered until 7 April, two weeks after lockdown, without any amendment or addendum, that recognised the new trading situation.

The report also gives no figures for any amount of money actually paid out to traders, from any source.

Support traders, not Delancey

Southwark has done Delancey the huge favour of adopting CPO powers and leasing both the shopping centre and the LCC, to override residents legal rights. While Southwark claim that is at nearly nil cost to itself, it will be of considerable financial benefit to Delancey, who would not otherwise have been able to secure the necessary funding for their redevelopment scheme3.

Southwark did this without insisting that Delancey improve its own support for traders. The relocation fund remains the meagre £634,700, agreed nearly 2 years ago, at planning committee. Delancey also still insist on closing the centre on the 31 July, with some minor concessions and despite the SE1 survey that showed 72% of local people want the centre kept open.

Over the past 3 years and more the shopping centre traders have been fighting a hugely unequal battle to keep their businesses going, while the centre has been rundown and trade blighted. Now is the time for Southwark to start giving the level of support it has been giving Delancey. It must get cash to traders for their immediate survival. It must tell Delancey it will not be using its CPO powers on its behalf, until all the traders are either relocated or suitably compensated and that there must be no centre closure until this is done.

You can support us in our fight for fairness for traders, by sharing these hashtags;

#supporttradersnotdelancey #supportelephantnotdelancey #ElephantJR.

Footnotes:


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London Tenants Federation Spring newsletter: Tenants’ organisations responding to Coronavirus and new survey deadlines

Welcome to our Spring Newsletter

We hope you and your family, friends and neighbours are safe and well.

These are very difficult and uncertain times. Social housing tenants are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and its repercussions for our daily lives.

It has been heartwarming to see tenant representatives in London going above and beyond to help, whether in essential jobs or through local efforts to support vulnerable neighbours and keep spirits up.

We’ve written a blog about how one of our members, Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (SGTO), has adapted to the new circumstances; keeping tenants involved in local democracy and linking Tenants and Residents Associations together with some of the many mutual aid groups that have sprung up to help neighbours during the pandemic. Read more here.

Of course, Coronavirus and the lockdown have made it harder for some tenant reps to help or take part as they might normally. We hope you are taking this time to be kind to yourselves. Your health and wellbeing are most important.

We’ve produced a list of links and information about Coronavirus, some essential and some more fun. Please feel free to share this with your neighbours and suggest additions.

LTF’s response to Coronavirus

Alongside other renters’ groups, our call for an eviction ban was picked up by the Mayor of London and within the week an eviction ban was announced by the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the government’s support for those in housing need still leaves many people vulnerable.

On 19th March we made this statement calling on the government to provide better support: to homeless households; to tenants, leaseholders and shared owners who may struggle to meet housing costs; and to households who are overcrowded or in unsuitable accommodation.

We also worked with fellow members of the London Housing Panel to put out this statement calling for greater support to those in housing need.

We’d love to hear from you

How has your tenants’ group or organisation been affected by COVID-19?

Email info@londontenants.org

Extended survey deadlines

LTF Survey: What are your priorities as a tenants’ organisation?

New deadline 11th May 2020

Please take a moment to complete this survey to help us develop upcoming events and resources for TRAs, TMOs and Co-ops across London. Click here to take the survey.

The government’s First Homes consultation closes on 1 May

There is no evidence of need for yet another form of subsidised low cost home ownership in London. The evidence, by far, is that social rented homes are what is needed. We’ve shared LTF’s response to the consultation. Please feel free to use and adapt it.

New deadline 11.45pm on 1 May 2020

Responses can be sent to FirstHomes@communities.gov.uk

Working from home during the lockdown? 

We’ve been contacted by Dr Frances Holliss at Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design. She is examining the impact of compulsory home-based work as a result of COVID-19 on people with a range of living situations. She is interested in how those with less space and no garden, perhaps those affected by the Bedroom Tax, are managing during the lockdown. Email f.holliss@londonmet.ac.uk with a photo or description.

Other news

The UK Housing Review was published this month, and it shatters the myth that social housing is the most subsidised tenure in England.

Measures to stimulate homeownership and the private market in England amount to £53bn. That is 75% of the government’s planned housing investment for 2019/20 to 2023/24.. Only 25% was set aside for affordable homes (social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership). Note: these figures pre-date the recent Budget.

In contrast, government support for affordable homes in Wales is 74% of total investment, in Scotland 84% and in Northern Ireland 100%.

Other statistics that stood out were:

  • There were more than 170,000 families and individuals across Great Britain experiencing ‘core homelessness’ on a typical night in 2017. Core homelessness includes: rough sleeping, sleeping in cars, etc; squatting, in hostels, refuges and shelters; in unsuitable temporary accommodation (e.g. B&B), and ‘sofa-surfing’
  • Rates of core homelessness were almost identical in Scotland and England in 2010 but have since diverged markedly – steadily worsening in the latter
  • Grant for new build affordable housing has increased in England, but only from 7% of development costs in 2017 to 11% in 2019.
  • Over the seven years April 2012-19, the net loss of social rented stock in England reached 181,000 homes, despite the building of over 60,000 new social rented homes over the same period. Conversion to Affordable Rent and the Right to Buy were the biggest reasons, but in London estate demolition has played a big role.

Trust for London’s Poverty Profile: 2020 was published this week. Among the key findings were:

  • After housing costs, 28% of Londoners are living in poverty
  • 76% of children in poverty in London are in working families – an increase of 8%, or 80,000 children, from five years ago.

It is troubling to think this was the picture before COVID-19 hit. In a statement on Twitter, they said “Let’s use this as a baseline to measure the impact of #COVID19 on poverty in our city & work together to create a fairer London.”

What’s been said on Twitter

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth @HousingActionSL  shared testimony from members of overcrowded families dealing with lockdown.

Inside Housing @InsideHousing reported that Newham Council moved hundreds of homeless families out of shared accommodation amid the coronavirus crisis. This came not long after we highlighted the 300+ empty homes on the Carpenter’s Estate.

Pete Apps at Inside Housing @PeteApps reported that “for a couple of years now, the government has been refusing to test a commonly used cladding system (HPL + phenolic insulation). The test was just done privately and it failed in under nine minutes”

Trust for London @trustforlondon shared this article by Lynsey Hanley: Lockdown has laid bare Britain’s class divide

Somerton House Residents’ Association @SomertonHouseRA shared some beautiful photos of the flowers in their entrance green: jasmine, tulips and daffodils.

D’Eynsford TMO in Camberwell @Deynsford were among many tenant-run organisations across London to share photos of some of the good work being done to help neighbours during the pandemic.

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COVID-19: please support our local charities

Cllr Peter John OBE

Dear resident,

I want to thank everyone in Southwark who is doing so much to help slow the spread of COVID-19. During these extremely difficult times the response of the Southwark community has been extraordinary.

We’ve been in lockdown since 24 March and yesterday the government announced that the end is not yet in sight and lockdown will continue for at least three more weeks. Whilst this doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given the tragic news we are hearing about hundreds of deaths each day, I know how difficult this is for everyone. We are all feeling the impact of spending most of our time at home, but there are signs that lockdown is working by slowing the spread of the disease and so it’s really important that we all keep following the rules by staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

Sadly, not everyone is safe in their own home, and it’s really important we make sure that anyone who experiences abuse at home knows there is support available, and that they do not have to stay at home with an abuser. There is information below for anyone experiencing, or concerned about, domestic abuse.

Supporting our local charities

I want to pay tribute to the many fantastic local charities in Southwark who are doing so much to support the local response in Southwark. Their work – in extremely challenging circumstances – to support vulnerable residents in our borough, has been absolutely vital in the borough-wide response.

We are working with United St Saviours to raise additional funds for local charities to help them to continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This will, alongside the additional community grants that the council is offering, help to fund the extra work our wonderful charities are doing to support our communities.

If you’re able to, please donate to the Crowdfunder now.

In this newsletter you will find information about council services and support available to residents and businesses. This includes our latest announcement of a £2-million hardship fund for businesses. You can also check our website for regular updates.

Than you for your ongoing support,

Cllr Peter John


Do you know a vulnerable resident who needs help?

If you know of a vulnerable Southwark resident who can’t leave the house due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and who may not have friends, family or neighbours who can help with the delivery of essential supplies, please tell us straight away so we can help them.


Are you worried about domestic abuse?

If you or someone you know is suffering from Domestic Abuse, isolation rules do not apply. Police response and support services remain available. Nationally, there is advice and support available but you should call 999 if you are in immediate danger. Locally, the Solace Advocacy and Support Service is also available to women and men in Southwark aged 16 or over in Southwark.