Like for many of you, December was an extremely busy month for me. On a personal level, I was preparing to host various family members for two weeks over Christmas, starting back at my 'day job' after maternity leave, preparing for my youngest's first Christmas and building snowmen.
Eltham is also a lovely place to celebrate Christmas - with a particular highlight for my family being Sparkle in the Park at Well Hall Pleasaunce and the Eltham Church of England School Fair.
I also attended a beautiful carol service at the St James Mar Thoma Church, and visited the Roots4Life Holiday Food and Fun club, where I saw the children baking stained glass window cookies and building habitats for wildlife. Whilst I was there, I checked in on the compost we started back at the Pumpkin Smash, and can report it is coming on nicely!
Connecting across Eltham Town and Avery Hill
As mentioned in previous entries, whilst I have been on maternity leave from my “day job”, I wanted to ensure that I had met and established good lines of communication with a variety of key community leaders and groups across Eltham Town and Avery Hill. You will have seen that in July, Sammy Backon and I met the headteachers of our four primary schools and that over the summer I started to meet with various faith leaders. It is important to me that I consistently speak to a variety of people across the ward, from all different backgrounds, so that I can understand their concerns and priorities in order to better represent them. So far these meetings have gone well, with casework referrals coming in from both headteachers and faith leaders and the mutual sharing of key information to help our residents.
This month (my last month on maternity leave!) I continued to make connections across the ward (and South East London more generally):
sitting down for a cuppa with Father Daniel from Holy Trinity where we swapped stories of sleepless nights (as he has also recently had a little one) and discussed the common issues facing his parishioners;
discussing options for children leaving care with Billy-Jo of Homes for Good; and
touring Orangery Studios with Max, the director of The Greenwich Enterprise Board.
The long road home
At this month’s Regeneration, Transport and Culture scrutiny panel (which I chair), we received a report on road maintenance within Greenwich. I was surprised to learn that, unlike virtually the rest of England, the Government provides no sustained funding for highway maintenance in London and Greenwich is often ineligible to compete for other ad hoc national funding. In comparison, if Greenwich were eligible for the same funding as the rest of England, it could expect to receive £4m of central Government funding from 2022-2025. The situation is made even worse by the fact that, in 2018, the Secretary of State also withdrew highway maintenance funding to TfL (which had been ring-fenced to resurface TfL's red routes and the 32 borough's main roads - Greenwich usually received £900k per year from this pot). We therefore have to find our own sources of funding to maintain our roads - and with cost of living crisis and record high inflation hitting the Council's pockets too - it's going to be an uphill battle.
And that's a wrap for 2022!
I'm back at the day job 4 days a week from January, after an unexpectedly busy maternity leave, having been elected as a councillor when my youngest son was just 7 weeks old. I've had a really enjoyable 8 months getting to know my home ward better, and little W has enjoyed coming along to lots of meetings! A big thank you to everyone who has been so accommodating so far, and a thank you in advance for your continuing support over the coming months.
It's going to be an interesting transition back to (nearly) full-time work, with two children under three, whilst also balancing my elected role as a Councillor. I ask that you all bear with me as I adjust (and as I, no doubt, spend the next six months catching a lot of germs from nursery). Councillors have historically been predominately older (often retired) men - and I do think it is important that we have councillors from all walks of life and at all stages of life - but it does mean putting my money where my mouth is and finding a way to balance it all!
We will see what 2023 brings, but in the meantime - I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year.