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Our eNewsletter, theBALANCE, has been published every month since October. Every issue offers subscribers the chance to give their views on a range of issues relating to the Council, Lambeth and beyond.

We answer these individually - and publish some of the responses in each issue of theBALANCE. But below is a wider collection of the feedback received in response to each issue of theBALANCE so far. You can add your comments by emailing theBALANCE@lambeth.gov.uk.

theBALANCE 7: March 2015

theBALANCE returned after a break for the General Election with an issue headlined on the thorny subject of "enviro-crimes", including spitting, littering and even urinating on Lambeth's streets. The issue generated an unprecedented level of feedback, and much of it is reproduced below. If you have any thoughts on the comments, please email them to theBALANCE@lambeth.gov.uk, stating which one you're responding to.

Enviro-crimes

Work with fast-food outlets to reduce littering. If there is a way to persuade the businesses to be good neighbours and/or take responsibility for the external cost of their clients' littering habits, it should be pursued.
Also, a local dog owner clearly likes using the asphalt as a dog toilet and never cleans it up. This is an area that could use enforcement. GW

RESPONSE: We currently work closely with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to ensure that businesses are involved in tackling street cleanliness issues such as litter.
Members of the public can send requests for dog poo to be cleaned up by using the online form on the website. Street sweepers carry a supply of dog waste bags which can be handed out to dog walkers who don’t have one with them. Dog waste should be taken home or can be dropped into any Lambeth litter bin. Areas which regularly suffer from dog fouling can be nominated for ‘No Fouling’ signs by emailing: knaish@lambeth.gov.uk. If appropriate, signs will be installed within 28 days.

Nice to see the council is doing something about this huge problem and I suggest more enforcement towards Brixton market around Iceland's wall where loads of people think that's a public toilet, it stinks. I suggest also same enforcement towards Atlantic Rd and Coldharbour lane. PV

I was really pleased to see how seriously you are taking the littler issue - it is not just an anti-social issue it is a health issue as rubbish breeds vermin that pollute our streets where children and babies spend time. Can I ask that there might be an email address that you can send requests for clean-up to? JP

RESPONSE: Members of the public can call our StreetCare number on 02079269000 to get through to the environment team. They can also email streetcare@lambeth.gov.uk to get a response to their query.

Put CCTV on all green recycling bins I pass two or three on my way to work daily and there is almost always litter such as mattresses broken furniture etc strewn around them. DR

When I was a child there was a big campaign to Keep Britain Tidy and we were taught in school to stop littering. If the children are taught they can stop their parents and grow up to not litter so surely that is the best way to help with your campaign? FB

RESPONSE: The Eco-Schools programme focuses on encouraging pro-environmental behaviour in schools throughout the UK. They focus on nine environmental topics, one of which is litter. There are currently 56 schools in Lambeth which have been involved with Eco-schools. We provide support to schools where we can around pro-environmental behaviours such as preventing littering. We also work closely with Recycle Western Riverside who currently have two education officers who provide a service to Lambeth.

I think this is really good that you are tackling this but would like to know if you have any specific plans in place to deal with shared properties? I live in a converted house with 3 flats and it can be a nightmare with people dumping rubbish in the front garden, near the bins, or down the side of the property. BR

You make the point that high levels of rubbish are associated with poverty, but I don’t understand how being poor prevents a person from picking up his rubbish or showing pride in his surroundings. My grandparents were poor but my grandmother always kept her house immaculate and her little patch of garden neat and tidy.
I notice that the bin men often scatter rubbish along the street but don’t stop to pick it up. FL

RESPONSE: When the bin collection crew are collecting the bins, they will collect all waste contained within the bins. They do not collect side waste. If there are any spillages caused by the bin crew, they will endeavour to clear it all before they move off.

How to keep Lambeth cleaner? Rethink the recycling process. The plastic bags provided are misused by residents and are torn up by foxes and cats. They also make the streets look untidy and neglected. DJ

RESPONSE: We do have an option in our Waste Strategy to trial wheeled bins for recycling; however this would have to be over a whole round and is not really an option in the current financial climate due to the cost of the bins. Many households in Lambeth do not have space for two wheeled bins, particularly where houses have been converted into flats. We do have a major problem with contamination in the recycling in Lambeth and there is a risk that providing wheeled bins for recycling would make this worse.

I agree with your approach, but I think if anything it is a little soft. The minority of people who don't give a damn will only change their behaviour if there are meaningful deterrents and they think they may not get away with it. One thing that particularly annoys me and which many smokers seem to think is socially acceptable, is chucking cigarette butts wherever they like (many still burning). They are not only unsightly but they are also toxic and take a long time to degrade. MW

I fully support your “Do The Right Thing” campaign. It is high time and long overdue that some action was taken against the selfish, inconsiderate people who drop rubbish and throw it out of car windows, allow their dogs to foul the footpaths and then don’t pick up the mess afterwards, and spit and urinate whenever and wherever they feel the need.
I only hope that this campaign is not just political posturing on your behalf, and that it has real teeth behind it, and your officers do actually give out as many fines as possible. Indeed, if your officers applied themselves to this escalating problem with the same zeal and energy that your traffic wardens do to the issuing of parking tickets, then we would have streets that we could eat our food off in no time at all. RH

How about a collection centre in Streatham? Like a place where these people can put all the stuff (and some I have seen is perfectly usable... I've seen a sofa on Twitter that was so much better than mine...) AB

RESPONSE: We currently have six Local Recycling Points in the borough – at Streatham High Road, at junction with Gracefield Gardens and by Sainsbury’s, Telford Avenue, Cowley Road, Valley Road, and Streatham Vale, in front of Homebase car park. There is a map of these on our website.
At these points you can recycle the following: Shoes, Textiles, Electrical Items, Light bulbs and Tubes, Batteries, Books and Plastic bags. There are also a number of charities which collect items for reuse. For larger items, we provide a chargeable bulky waste service where the items are sent for reuse. If you have any questions about what can be recycled you can use the recycling a-z on the website to find out where it can be recycled.

I am a Streatham resident. One of the biggest issues we have on our road and the surrounding roads are people leaving their rubbish bins out days before they are due to be collected by the bin men. These bins are left on the ground on the pavement which are then ripped apart by foxes and the rubbish spread all over the pavement and roads. TD

RESPONSE: We are currently starting a scheme called Street Champions which is designed to support residents to make positive change in their area. This can include ensuring that bins are not left out on the street. More information about the scheme can be found on the Street Champions website or email streetchampions@lambeth.gov.uk.

Try actually hiring people to clean the streets, a revolutionary idea I know but it works... Also spitting is not dirtying anything up so you should not be fining people that need to spit. I wouldn't allow anyone to fine a friend of mine that needed to spit because they had a mouthful of bile. In fact I will tell those people to spit into a bin; that will be ok won't it? I just wish you would stop punishing other people for doing things you don't like and instead work for the society that employs you. MK

RESPONSE: All residential roads are scheduled to be swept every four weeks alternating between a manual sweep and a mechanical broom. All streets are also scheduled to be litter-picked twice a week.

I agree the spitting and littering on our pavements is too much. our pavements look dirty as if nobody cleans. Spitting is wrong because you can easily spread germs in that way and littering there is no excuse – there are bins provided. Maybe if people seen could be made to pay, then we shall take notice. MK

To prevent “temporary’ fly tipping be more flexible on days for collection. Also, encourage our “bin men” to pick up litter around the bins. That would show a good example, and a clean space would hopefully influence others to keep the place clean. AS

RESPONSE: When the bin collection crew are collecting the bins, they will collect all waste contained within the bins. They do not collect side waste. If there are any spillages caused by the bin crew, they will endeavour to clear it all before they move off. For larger items, we provide a chargeable bulky waste service where the items are sent for reuse if requested or sent to our Energy from Waste Facility.

Sorry to say, but I have absolutely no faith in Lambeth's ability to keep the streets clean. We have had a problem with residents in the flats at the bottom of the road leaving their rubbish and fly tipping out on a daily basis for over a year. No amount of reporting it to Lambeth makes any difference. Lambeth make a big deal about 500 fines issued yet this is minuscule when set against the size of the borough and the endemic problem with littering and fly tipping.
So, basically I'll believe it when I see it. AM

RESPONSE: All residential streets are scheduled to be litter-picked twice a week and swept once every four weeks. We clear all fly tips twice a week from residential roads.
We currently have a programme to install targeted No Dumping signs where they are needed. We do this on the basis of fly-tips cleared. If there is a particular area which residents feel would benefit from a sign installed then please get in touch to let us know at streetcare@lambeth.gov.uk .

Your New Town Hall

I have asked at several of the consultation meetings for the evidence and assumptions on which the claim for £4.5 million in savings a year is made, I have been promised that this would be provided but nothing has been forthcoming. LK

RESPONSE: The Your New Town Hall project involves reducing the number of core council buildings from 14 to 2, and this will obviously have a direct impact on the cost of running our offices. We expect to save £4.5m a year on the amount we spend on renting/leasing buildings and the associated running costs.

Garden Bridge

It’s a wonderful idea and anything that improve the quality of life is not wasting money. LN

Just to say the garden bridge has my full support. GB

1 - The Garden Bridge is a total waste of money. 2 - We will also be losing the best and most beautiful promenade on the Southbank. 3 - We will also be losing Jubilee Gardens, a much bigger green space than the Garden Bridge for years while the bridge is being built. 4 - Lambeth has no right to give away public land that was given to them with the proviso it wasn't used for commercial development. 5 - On the weekends the Southbank is already often overcrowded. 6 - The Garden Bridge is totally unnecessary as a transport link. Who needs to get from the LWT offices to The Temple? MB

RESPONSE: Full details about the Garden Bridge proposal, and the planning process, are available from “Garden Bridge - questions and answers”, on the Lambeth Council website, at http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/gardenbridge

Rushcroft Road Homes

I object to the disingenuous and misleading information appearing in the latest issue of theBALANCE (7) regarding the Rushcroft Road flats. My partner spent 8 years living in Clifton Mansions and I visited many of the flats there. If Rushcroft Road was similar, and I imagine it was, then flats would not have needed to be "gutted" due to squatters allowing the flats to fall into disrepair. Squatters are humans too, and don't want to live in run down places, squatters have much DIY savvy and tend to look after their homes better than the council does! MS

RESPONSE: We said at the time of the evictions that it was unfair on the thousands of residents in need of housing in Lambeth that a small minority had been unlawfully squatting in six mansion blocks on Rushcroft Road, and not paying any rent or council tax.
Photographs published at the time and since show the buildings were in a poor condition and not in a state suitable for tenants. Surveys subsequently revealed severe structural defects.
Lambeth pledged to bring three of the blocks back into use as 22 new homes for social rent and, after extensive and essential building works, this has now been achieved.

Oval Gasometers

If you are going to use the land for property, likely expensive apartments, have the designers use the shape and design of the Gasometers as the brief and homage to our heritage! KB

At least one of the gasometers should be retained and redeveloped in some way. As others have said, they are an important and iconic historic part of the landscape. There have been very interesting redevelopments of gasholders in both King’s Cross and in Dublin (and elsewhere).SW

theBALANCE 6: March 2015

Issue 6 of theBALANCE was published on 11 March, with the regeneration of the borough as its core subject. The question: “The New Lambeth: What do YOU want it to look like?” helped to generate a huge amount of feedback, including a large number of responses to the question of what should happen to the Oval gas-holders.

Regeneration

“I think that the changes and regeneration in Lambeth are welcome and probably not moving fast enough. I can understand how people might feel left behind but economically the whole area will benefit.
“Undoubtedly there will be people who may suffer - there always is when change happens but if we used this as a reason to stop change we would never move forward. We should try instead help people to re-establish themselves within the community.” - SS

“Would also be good if plans were pursued to improve transport links in the Streatham area – what happened to the Cross North/South rail extension being extended to Streatham? Surely that would help improve the links in the area and also help re-generate the Streatham High Road, which remain congested and fairly unattractive in most parts.” - DP

“There's a couple of major Brixton issues at the moment. First of all, all of the evictions of people in social housing who have been there for ages. Secondly the eviction of people from the railway arches, they've been there for ages too and are staples of the Brixton community. “People aren't against the railway arches being maintained or refurbished, but they're massively against the gentrification which the new rents will induce. While you say 500 jobs will be created, it looks like 500 jobs will be lost before that.” - MH

“I WOULD like to see small independent retailers given protection against high rent increases and evictions carried out in order to make way for bigger businesses with more money. I would NOT like to see any more council tenants forced to relocate so their rented accommodation can be sold for profit.” - DC

“The gentrification - primarily through the shutting down of locally owned business (making it too costly to launch independent retail) and your consistent disregard for affordable housing - seems to be apparent to everyone but you.” - EM

“Not happy at all. I agree with the gentrification idea.” - EF

“It's all changing quickly all over Lambeth, and there are brilliant businesses and residents being chucked out, and it's a disgrace. London's changing, and Lambeth as well, but Lambeth owes a duty to its residents and citizens to keep the pace of change to something reasonable.” - GM, Brixton

“I value living in a diverse borough - economically and otherwise - and do not wish to see that fundamental nature of the borough destroyed by unrestrained development for the benefit of corporations and cronies.” - NU

“As a fairly recent resident of Brixton, I am disturbed by the amount of gentrification occurring in the town centre which threatens to alter the traditional face of Brixton.
“There is a delicate balance to strike and at the moment many residents feel it is not the locals who are being listened to. There is a real danger of the borough becoming sanitised and losing its identity.” - KP

“In the context of all the changes going on in Lambeth (many of which I welcome) I think priority should be given to: Affordable housing; Energy saving/green initiatives; Youth employment and training; Combatting gangs; Tackling low level crime; Home visits and services for isolated elderly people.” - TR

“I agree that Lambeth is changing. It is changing fast. I cannot say that the change is for the benefit of those that have lived in Lambeth for over 15/20 years.” - LP

“Affordable housing, particularly for residents who are first time buyers, is what is needed most. Help to Buy, though a good scheme, is not enough, for those who find that hefty 10% deposit almost impossible.” - DF

Libraries

“Put the Waterloo library back in the old library. Sell the Minet to a developer who will provide a library on the ground floor. Archives to Brixton Town Hall.” - BS

Oval Gas-holders

“I would like to propose that one of the Gasometers be retained to create a new and flexible performance space which could accommodate theatre, music or dance events." - NN

“I should like to see the largest of the gasometers retained and repurposed. They are an iconic part of Lambeth's skyline and the site offers a great opportunity for doing something different.
“Alternatively, they might be used as an indoor sports and games venue for local children, since schools have so few playing fields these days.” - RG

“All the gasometers should come down and make way for a productive new use of the land. It would be ridiculous to keep obsolete items blocking the way for all the better things that could go there, and they're eyesores too.” - JP

“I think the best thing that could be done with the space would be to keep the frames of the gasometers, and use the rest of the space to be turned into a public space as a park.” - LR

“They should stay.” - SC

“My opinion is to use the whole site for something else. It will be interesting to see the draft plan once it is drawn up. Ideally a Primary and Secondary school should be included in the plans, with plenty of landscaping, i.e. trees to absorb pollution.” - LW

“Just one should stay, the most iconic. And there should be a garden under it.” - SC

“I think that the 3 metal structures should remain in place and gardens or vegetable allotments should be created for the local residents. I am on a waiting list for a communal allotment but there is no availability in my neighbourhood. This would save the landmark through a change of use that would benefit the local residents.” - DO

Parking

“Paying by mobile is not at all user friendly and it seems that every borough has a different supplier, requiring a different account. Why not have machines which take contactless cards and even Oyster cards or Cycle Hire accounts so people don’t need anything special?” - D

Social housing

“It is obvious that we need more houses protected for the poorest. We also need to, and indeed must, do more with the current housing stock. Many terraced houses could benefit from roof conversion, there is often the possibility of adding an extra floor although this breaks the "roof line" unless many conversions are undertaken in adjoining houses.” - AV

Streets

“A big yes to cleaner streets - anti-littering and dog fouling campaigns. We can't be proud of a dirty place that looks uncared for.” - TW

Urinating in the street

“I condemn the behaviour and laud the ingenuity of the solution, but I doubt it'll work: directing the stream at a different angle will likely decrease spraying to an acceptable level for a drunk person. And, more importantly, people will just start using trees instead of walls.” - R

theBALANCE 5: February 2015

Issue 5 of theBALANCE covered Lambeth’s ambitious plans for developing its cultural services by 2020. The proposals provoked a great deal of feedback and examples of it are listed below.

However, the issue of raising Council Tax to help pay for Lambeth services, tackled in issue 3, is continuing to dominate interest – and comments – two months later:

"I would prefer maintaining and improving services rather than a tax cut. I would also favour an inflation-linked council tax bill, because otherwise I am technically endorsing service cut-backs." - GH

"As a Clapham resident all my life, I visited the new library in the High Street last Summer. I was frankly astonished to see how few books were on the shelves." - KR

"I don’t understand the idea behind selling off two excellent Libraries and replacing them with “Community Libraries”. Don't the existing Libraries already serve the Community? Minet Library already provides an excellent service and houses the Lambeth Archive. What will happen to this?" - JC

"No to council tax cut and yes to public services being maintained and improved." - BDB

theBALANCE 4: January 2015

Council Tax, speeding and even urban foxes featured among the feedback for issue 4 of theBALANCE, but the issue of spitting dominated. Full details of feedback from all previous issues is on our new bulletin board, but a selection of the latest contributions is below.

Spitting

"Along the short walk from my house to Streatham Common station, I'm constantly looking down as to avoid the disgusting spit people leave behind. It's anti-social and unhygienic and I'd really like to see more pro-active fines issued for this behaviour." - JP

"Spitting on the street is absolutely endemic in London! It’s difficult to avoid when walking and this must be a health hazard! Yes people should be fined and we should be re-educating people by public notices that it is totally unacceptable and anti-social" - DD

"Spitting may not be pleasant but at times people will have a need to spit and it would be unfortunate if the powers Lambeth now has were used in a manner that is not sensible or measured. Urination and dropping litter strike me as worse from the point of view of antisocial activities" - DI

"Spitting, litter and food waste, notably chicken bones, are disgusting and litter the pavements of Brixton. Why not make shops responsible for their pavements - directly in front of their shops - and clean up the streets?" - FS

Council Tax

"I am against an increase in council tax this year and urge the council to do more to reduce waste, fraud and other unnecessary costs" - PW

theBALANCE 3: December 2014

This issue provoked a record amount of feedback, mainly on the subject of Lambeth’s financial position and the calculation that a Council Tax increase of 1.99% a year for the next three years would reduce the deficit by £5.7m.

A selection of the comments – for, against and in between – are below.

"I am against clawing back essential services if they impact on the vulnerable or reduce educational and recreational opportunities (as in libraries and children’s centres). I for one would be happy to opt for an increase in council taxes, if such an increase were equitably apportioned to those who can afford to pay." - CW

"I strongly feel that the council should balance its budget by cutting spending rather than increasing tax. Council tax is already far too high, especially as it is paid out of income that has already been heavily taxed." - SS

Increase taxes for God's sake. Increase council tax, please, to keep some semblance of council services going. The current government agenda of cutting taxes and cutting budgets is crazy. Taxes should be increased a bit to help. SL

Lambeth council tax is already too high and an increase is unacceptable - services should be adapted to allow the budget to be balanced in the absence of a rise. PG

Look at other LA or district councils which are roughly comparable and share good practice also the government should give guidelines as they are imposing damaging cuts therefore they can give leads. JoL

Lambeth is a great place to live and we must recognise our part to pay for the services that we get. I would be happy with a 1.99% increase and I would be happy to see a 4% increase if I could be sure that the extra money would not be seen as a ‘licence to spend’. DF

I am happy to pay considerably more if this allows services to be protected. FM

The proposed 1.99% rise in council tax is a good idea, a sensible contribution to closing the funding gap for the council. I'd rather pay a bit more than see even more services cut. JP

Council Tax

Mr KS, of Clapham, suggested that an optional levy could be added to Council Tax bills, to fund the borough's parks. He added: “I understand that it is controversial, and I certainly don’t want my council tax to increase, however if it means the Lambeth parks are maintained, then perhaps it’s worth it.”

Response: “Unfortunately, Council Tax regulations do not allow for an optional levy to be raised and so this could not be added to council tax bill . Lambeth parks (and commons) have 33 community groups involved at all levels from volunteering to management committees. The council's cooperative parks programme is helping groups who want to become more involved in their local park.”

Garden Bridge

“This is the first I’ve heard about it. And I would love to know more about it to make an informed decision.” - ES

“I love the Garden Bridge” - Andrew

Turning Off Traffic Lights

“It's incredibly dangerous and I've personally seen plenty of incidents as a result of traffic lights switching to flashing amber after midnight.” - TE

“It's [a] brilliant idea , also consider street lights … as all the vehicles are equipped with very good lighting system.” - PS

“No – Brixton (for example) seems to have heavy traffic throughout the hours suggested. But, in more remote areas I can see that this could work as a money-saving idea.” - ES

Please send us your views on anything you have read in theBALANCE this month.

theBALANCE 2: November 2014

Issue 2 of theBALANCE asked for feedback from readers on everything from housing in the borough to the proposed Garden Bridge and the idea of turning off traffic lights in the wee small hours. Here are just a few examples of the contributions, with a flavour of the replies from council officers:

Council Tax

Mr KS, of Clapham, suggested that an optional levy could be added to Council Tax bills, to fund the borough's parks. He added: “I understand that it is controversial, and I certainly don’t want my council tax to increase, however if it means the Lambeth parks are maintained, then perhaps it’s worth it.”

Response: “Unfortunately, Council Tax regulations do not allow for an optional levy to be raised and so this could not be added to council tax bill . Lambeth parks (and commons) have 33 community groups involved at all levels from volunteering to management committees. The council's cooperative parks programme is helping groups who want to become more involved in their local park.”

Garden Bridge

“This is the first I’ve heard about it. And I would love to know more about it to make an informed decision.” - ES

“I love the Garden Bridge” - Andrew

Turning Off Traffic Lights

“It's incredibly dangerous and I've personally seen plenty of incidents as a result of traffic lights switching to flashing amber after midnight.” - TE

“It's [a] brilliant idea , also consider street lights … as all the vehicles are equipped with very good lighting system.” - PS

“No – Brixton (for example) seems to have heavy traffic throughout the hours suggested. But, in more remote areas I can see that this could work as a money-saving idea.” - ES

Please send us your views on anything you have read in theBALANCE this month.

theBALANCE 1: October 2014

The debut issue of theBALANCE provoked a flood of comments on Lambeth's financial position, in advance of the latest Budget deliberations.

Ms F, of West Dulwich, suggested that the Council could set up a "Lambeth ISA", to help bring in extra cash. She added: “The publicity would also be good for the Council because it shows initiative and a pro-active approach to dealing with the current difficult times!”

Response: “It is clear from ISA guidance issued by HMRC (read in conjunction with the Income Tax Act 2007 - specifically on banks) that Local authorities are not allowed to issue ISAs.”

Mr I K, of Lambeth, complained that: “We pay amongst the highest council tax in the land for the poorest services subsidising everybody else.”

Response: “Council tax in Lambeth is amongst the lowest in in London – 26th of 33 – and has been frozen for six years in a row. This summer’s resident survey revealed that satisfaction with council services is at an all-time high.”

Ms F also suggested that residents could make one-off annual payments to help bridge the funding gap: “I, for one, would be willing to do this and think you should send a well worded letter to everyone on this Estate asking if they would be willing to make a contribution towards protecting our valuable, much needed services.”

Response: "Whilst it is laudable that you would consider making an annual contribution to the Council’s finances, the Council cannot assume there will be like-minded individuals willing to do likewise.

“We must not forget that the residents within your area already make a significant contribution to our costs, due to the higher Council Tax bandings their properties fall into. There is a further complication in that some residents may consider it unacceptable that the Council comes along with the ‘begging bowl’ when they are already paying their Council Tax, which is an understandable response.“