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  • Writer's pictureLauren Dingsdale

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s back to work I go … (Councillor Diary - January 2023)

Yes – I am very aware that it’s the 10th of February and I’m only just writing my January diary. This month I returned back to the day-job following my maternity leave and, like many parents returning to work, I have had to figure out how to re-balance everything in my life! So keeping on top of residents’ casework and my scrutiny responsibilities took priority over this diary I’m afraid.

But I thought being a councillor was your job?

A lot of people don’t realise that, for many people, being a councillor is not their only job. In fact, technically speaking, it’s not a ‘job’ at all. We don’t have a ‘boss’, there’s no set job description and it’s really up to you how much you put into it (and the electorate will decide if you have done enough at the next election). That’s why – when you look at councils up and down the country – you tend to find a lot of councillors are retirees with lots of time on their hands.

Here in Greenwich, our councillors are wonderfully diverse. Not just in terms of ethnicity, gender and sexuality, but also in terms of age and ‘life-stage’. This is brilliant when it comes to forming policy, as it means we all have lots of unique perspectives and can therefore really represent our residents well. But for me it also means that I have to balance a demanding day job as a solicitor, two young children under 3, and the wants and needs of the residents of Eltham Town and Avery Hill. Luckily – I have a hands-on husband, a supportive job and pretty decent organisational skills!

Eltham Town and Avery Hill update

This month, Sammy and I held a street surgery and litter pick around the Pippenhall Estate. We picked up a lot of a casework, including some mould issues, some fly tipping and some leaseholder queries. We will slowly be making our way around the ward with our surgeries – but you don’t have to wait for us to come to you. We do run fortnightly surgeries at the Eltham Centre and the New Eltham Library – please contact me if you would like an appointment.

Lauren and Sammy at the Pippenhall Estate

I also attended a residents’ meeting at M’arks Skybar. These take place every six months and are a way for residents to voice any concerns with the owner (for example, noise complaints etc.). The meeting went well, and it was noted that some improvements had been made. It is so important, however, for any issues to be raised directly with the council as soon as they occur. You do not have to wait until the next meeting.

Later in the month, I joined PC Louise and a local resident for a “Walk and Talk” around Eltham High Street one evening. Louise is one of the officers focussed on violence against women and girls in South East London. We talked about a range of issues, including the recent incidents of violence on the High Street and a woman being followed from Mottingham Station. If you would like to raise issues with our local policing team, please come to our Safer Neighbourhoods Panel on 2nd March at the Bob Hope Theatre (at 19:00).

Lauren on Eltham High Street with PC Louise and local resident, Emma

At this month’s Full Council meeting I raised the issue of the Conservative Government yet again turning down our request for funding for the Avery Hill Winter Garden. This was incredibly disappointing as the Winter Garden is such an important landmark for the area – it should be protected and restored, to be enjoyed by today’s residents and visitors, and for future generations to come.

Whilst it is currently owned by the University, we would like to take it back under Council control. But to do that we need to find an injection of funding to refurbishing the building and find ways for it to be self-sustaining, so that it is not a burden on council tax payers. At Full Council, the Cabinet Member assured me that we won’t give up!

Scrutiny and Southeastern Trains

I think it is fair to say that the implementation of Southeastern’s new timetable has been an absolute disaster. Trains have been delayed, cancelled and overcrowded – culminating in a dangerous situation at London Bridge station that made national news.

When Southeastern attended my Transport Scrutiny Panel back in October, we were told that the unpopular changes would result in trains being more punctual and reliable. That clearly hasn’t happened so I have written to Southeastern twice (asking them to return to the Scrutiny Panel, and to the Secretary of State requesting intervention (all letters can be found below). Southeastern has engaged with us and a representative has said that they are trying to schedule in the Scrutiny Panel – I’m waiting with bated breath!

20230113 Letter to Steve White Southeastern
Download PDF • 118KB
20230123 Letter to Steve White Southeastern
Download PDF • 215KB
20230123 Letter to SoS for transport
Download PDF • 140KB

Family stuff

This month we have mainly been avoiding the dark and cold by taking advantage of the lovely warm swimming pool in the Eltham Centre. Both of my boys love to be in the water, so most weekends we try to find time for a swim! If you haven’t got a Greenwich One Card yet – it is well worth it. It’s free – and the discounts at places like the Eltham Centre are brilliant – you can find out more here.

I also had the pleasure of taking my eldest to see Little Red Riding Hood at the Bob Hope Theatre. It was his first theatrical experience (he is still only 2) and he LOVED it. He nearly sat still the whole time and he was enthralled by the Evil Queen (and the Three Little Pigs, who looked nothing like the ones in his favourite story book). It’s finished its run now – but we are already looking forward to next year’s panto.

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