Candidates hoping to be elected a councillor for Catford South have set out what they would do if elected.

A by-election will be held on Thursday, May 6, for the Catford South ward after Councillor Abdeslam Amrani stepped down last year due to personal and family commitments.   

Lewisham Council is made up almost entirely of Labour or Labour and Co-operative councillors, with one independent. 

There will be six candidates from six different parties on the ballot in May for residents to choose from. 

The local democracy service asked each of them where they stand on key issues affecting the ward, democracy, and Covid-19 recovery. 

What are the key issues facing residents in Catford South and how will you approach them if elected?  

Matt Barker, Green Party  

Currently, congestion, road safety and air pollution are serious problems for too many residents of Catford South. I would advocate for changes to the road layout, using modal filters, cycle paths and safer junctions.

People want to be able to walk and cycle to get where they need to go, but we need the infrastructure to make that possible.

As a member of the council, I would push to ensure that council houses and flats are made as energy efficient as possible, especially during any refurbishment.

I will push the planning team to make sure that new developments are environmentally sound and are genuinely affordable.

Diana Cashin, Liberal Democrats  

News Shopper:

The all-Labour Lewisham Council is planning massive building developments all around Catford. 

We need an opposition that will ensure that proper, affordable homes for local residents are built, not just opportunities for investors. 

The borough has a huge waiting list for housing– the council must come forward with solid proposals for how these developments will reduce the list. 

Paul Galloway, Young People’s Party YPP - awaiting response

Maureen Martin, Christian Peoples Alliance  - awaiting response

Favour Obi, Conservative Party 

News Shopper:

LTN’s have blocked main roads, increasing air pollution, and are causing hardship and misery for families and traders who are dependent on their vehicles.

I’d remove all of the roadblocks until there’s been proper consultation.  

Regardless of the good intentions behind it, in practice, ULEZ is a flat rate tax on local traders who need to drive into central London.

I’d rather we paid for ULEZ exemptions for local traders while they recover from the pandemic than pay the much higher financial and social cost of putting local traders out of business.    

Local schools are among the worst in London. I’d lead the campaign for a free school in the neighbourhood, unhampered by interference from Lewisham Council.

Free schools are achieving great results elsewhere in London. Their only downside is they mean a loss of power for council bureaucrats.

Obviously one of the biggest problem facing all of us this year is recovering from the social and economic costs of lockdown. 

James Royston, Labour and Co-operative Party 

News Shopper:

The central issue for us all has been the pandemic. Many have lost loved ones or caught Covid-19, and many have lost work.

People just haven’t been able to live their lives as they’d want to. So recovery from the pandemic is a key priority, and we need to ensure everyone in Catford benefits from the recovery.

I would push to protect our services, and address the housing crisis. As a part of that, it’s critical to support local jobs and businesses, many of which we’ve appreciated all the more during lockdowns.

And we need to ensure there is fair pay for all - with the London Living Wage a central element of that, but not the only factor.

We need to ensure there is equal pay for equal work across Catford and the Borough, and that we call it out when we see bad practice.

The environment affects us all, and there is still work to be done locally to improve it.

I will work to reduce pollution levels through making it easier for people to take public transport, cycle, walk or drive electric vehicles, tackle fly-tipping through better enforcement, and make our area greener through tree-planting and other measures. 

What is your view on how the council consults with residents on issues/developments in the borough? How do you plan to engage with residents?  

Matt Barker, Green Party  

As a councillor, I need to represent everyone in my area. I will always give someone an opportunity to put their perspective forward, even when they may disagree with me.

By being open-minded to other perspectives, I can ensure I find a solution that can work for everyone. Good discussion means that useful solutions or compromises could be found.

Diana Cashin, Liberal Democrats  

The controversy over LTNs and School Streets show how poor the Council’s consultation process is. It must be more proactive, even if this means knocking on doors like I am doing for this election. 

Paul Galloway, Young People’s Party YPP - awaiting response

Maureen Martin, Christian Peoples Alliance  - awaiting response

Favour Obi, Conservative Party 

My plan is to personally visit every home and every small business in the ward - that’s a lot of work but it’s doable – to introduce myself.

Then I like to revitalise the Catford South Assembly and make it more relevant, at the moment it's too much of a talking shop. I'd like to make the surgeries fun. 

The council is spending a fortune on fancy web sites that have too much content for any normal human to ever read, while they ride roughshod over the views and feelings of local people. 

They’ll continue to do this so long as Labour have a monopoly.  None of them is bothered – they’re all too safe in their jobs. 

James Royston, Labour and Co-operative Party 

It’s critical that the council is in regular communication with residents from across the borough, including those who are harder to reach or who don’t shout so loudly.

I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to residents across my local community, and would do my level best to speak to ALL residents, to understand their concerns and serve them as best I can. 

What would you change about how the council deals with/approaches any issues in the ward? If not, please elaborate.   

Matt Barker, Green Party  

Green councillors would be able to provide an alternative perspective and approach compared to the situation now, with only Labour councillors elected in 2018 on just over half of the vote share.

Opposition councillors are valuable in order to scrutinise and improve the council’s plans. Green councillors will always advocate for their constituents and are not ‘whipped’ by leaders of the council to vote against the interests of their electors.

Diana Cashin, Liberal Democrats  

Local forums reach only part of the community. Councillors must be accountable to residents with a commitment to responding to concerns within a fixed period.

If I am elected I would expect to hold a monthly surgery with residents. 

Paul Galloway, Young People’s Party YPP - awaiting response

Maureen Martin, Christian Peoples Alliance  - awaiting response

Favour Obi, Conservative Party 

I’d slash the PR budget. Did you know they spent £315,043.47 with a single PR firm over the last two years?

With just one company. No wonder we have the highest council tax bills in inner London. I’d put a stop to that, and scrap that self-congratulatory glossy magazine they produce with our money. It’s completely irrelevant. 

James Royston, Labour and Co-operative Party 

It’s been really hard over the past year for the council to communicate as often and as widely as it should, due to the pandemic restricting people’s movements.

In particular this affects those with less access to technology, and has meant that it’s been harder than ever to reach those most in need. I’d look to improve overall levels of access to technology, as well as inclusive conversations with those who don’t have, or don’t use, technology. 

Also I’d want to step up action on the blight that is fly-tipping - I would push for more prosecutions and larger fines, so we can deal with it once and for all. 

How do you think the council should approach Covid recovery? 

Matt Barker, Green Party  

Lewisham Council should properly enable active travel, due to the reduced capacity on public transport and to facilitate modal shift away from cars.

One year ago, I hoped that we could have embedded modal shift, due to heavily reduced traffic volumes but it has not worked out that way.

As a member of the council, I would be bolder with its LTNs and also try my best to get funding to build cycle paths on main roads as Greenwich did.

To see even whole families riding calmly and safely on the Woolwich Road cycle path that will eventually run between east Greenwich and Woolwich via Charlton has made me more determined that Lewisham’s main roads need that as well. 

It can be inconvenient and unpleasant to be caught in heavy traffic jams by bike, which would not happen with high-quality infrastructure.

Pollution and congestion are not inevitable byproducts of urban living. We can lead the way; we can turn situations around with the right policies and ideas.

The Green Party has the policies that take the situation seriously enough and delivers a society that works for everyone.

Diana Cashin, Liberal Democrats  

Catford has been particularly hard hit by the fallout from the pandemic – three major stores have disappeared from Rushey Green alone.

The council indulges in magical thinking that new businesses will just suddenly appear.

They must make Catford attractive to retail by making available short leases, financial incentives, doing up shop fronts to be more attractive etc.

They must also be much more efficient and not allow opportunities like the High Street Fund to pass them by – surrounding boroughs have received millions: Lewisham didn’t even bother to apply.  

Paul Galloway, Young People’s Party YPP - awaiting response

Maureen Martin, Christian Peoples Alliance  - awaiting response

Favour Obi, Conservative Party 

Firstly promote vaccinations, then, as we emerge from lockdown the council needs to help people get out of their homes and start interacting again.

I’d want to consider a temporary freeze on business rates for any local business that gets people out of the house and gets them interacting in a Covid safe environment: pubs and coffee shops are an obvious example.

But not everyone has disposable income right now, and that includes some of the people most needing assistance.

We need to provide Covid safe premises for job seekers and young people to come and meet up, and help to support volunteers who are prepared to make house calls to older people who may be more socially isolated than ever.

I will be doing this myself, come what may. 

James Royston, Labour and Co-operative Party 

Our community has really come together throughout the pandemic. We need to harness that spirit to ensure that the recovery benefits all of Catford, and brings the community closer together.

Many of us have made more use of local facilities like parks, and missed other local assets like sports facilities, hairdressers, pubs and restaurants. 

Lewisham’s Labour Council has already brought in positive changes; for example, the establishment of School Streets, closing roads at school drop-off and pick-up times to reduce traffic and pollution.

The idea of a ‘15-minute city’ - where people have everything they need within 15 minutes of their home - may previously have seemed like a desirable but unrealistic aim.

But I passionately believe we can make it a reality here - Catford already has so much going for it, and with the right investment and the community spirit we’ve already shown, Catford can be that better place.