Council needs to ‘listen and lead’ to make Southwark cleaner and greener

Southwark’s Labour council needs to listen to local residents and environmental groups to make the borough cleaner and greener, according to Liberal Democrats.

Last week councillors debated the state of the environment and public realm in Southwark and the Council’s record.  Southwark Liberal Democrats highlighted how on many levels the Council was taking backward steps which were having a negative effect: 

  • a stalled recycling rate and the introduction of charges for food waste bags and bulky waste collections

  • a failure to persuade Transport for London to expand its Cycle Hire scheme in Southwark and the scrapping of the Cycle to Work scheme for council employees

  • dirtier streets and estates, including increases in the number of fly-tipping incidents

  • continued poor air quality as set out in recent research showing that 28,000 Southwark school children are breathing air above the EU legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, and allowing key regeneration projects, such as the Elephant & Castle, to contribute to worsening traffic conditions and air quality locally

  • cutting down trees at the Camberwell Old and New cemeteries.

Liberal Democrat councillors tabled positive proposals to improve the Council’s record, calling on the borough to listen to ideas from the community and local environmental groups to:

  • increase recycling rates by at least 2% each year

  • make cycling safer and easier on council-managed roads, including segregated lanes, and ensure that 20% of Southwark residents are cycling by 2025

  • ensure residents on lower incomes are exempt from charges for bulky waste collections to help keep our streets and estates cleaner

  • improve local air quality by implementing the Council’s Air Quality Strategy fully, fines for idling vehicles, air-filter systems in schools, greater use of car clubs and working with TfL to reduce vehicle emissions around bus garages in the borough.

Labour councillors voted down the proposals.

Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, Councillor Rosie Shimell, said:

“Liberal Democrats believe that clean air, streets and estates are key areas for the Council to get right to ensure all Southwark residents enjoy a decent local environment and good health.

“Sadly, the Labour council’s record has been poor.  There have been controversial decisions to scrap free food waste bags, which impacts on recycling levels, and introduce £16 fee for bulky waste collections.  Last week they started to cut trees down at Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. 

“As if that was not bad enough, Labour will introduce further cuts to the street cleaning budget and they have been weak on making cycling more of a priority in Southwark.  On all these issues, Labour has refused to listen to residents, experts or opposition councillors and has failed to take a lead on the community’s behalf. 

“Last week’s vote showed yet again that the Council does not take a cleaner and greener Southwark seriously.  Liberal Democrats will continue to fight residents’ corner to improve our local environment.”