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LEWISHAM MAYOR GIVES INAUGURAL SPEECH

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South London's first directly elected local mayor, Steve Bullock of Lewisham LBC has delivered his inaugural speech...
South London's first directly elected local mayor, Steve Bullock of Lewisham LBC has delivered his inaugural speech.

As well as formally announcing his cabinet team Mr Bullock also outlined some of the themes for the next four years of his administration.

These will include the continued regeneration of the borough by Creative Lewisham, the search for a solution to the issue of secondary school places in the north of the borough and the issue of Social Services funding.

Mr Bullock said: 'Our dilemma is that for many people in Lewisham neither regeneration, education or social services are the issues by which they judge whether the council is doing a good job

'The prime minister has coined the phrase 'Liveability' and I believe he has captured in that phrase a bundle of concerns like vandalism, roads, refuse, lighting that together create a sense of whether somewhere is a good place to live or not. The dumped car which is quickly vandalised creates a feeling that the street is less safe, less cared for and so the rots sets in. We know that council performance in some of those areas has faltered in recent years and we all heard the complaints on the doorstep during the election.

'But liveability is not just about the short term issues - it is also about creating sustainable solutions that future generations will see the benefit of. Why is that car dumped in the first place - because we are a throw away society that wastes resources without a second thought. Lewisham has a track record as a pioneering council addressing environmental issues but as the problems get worse it becomes clear that we are not doing enough.

'As a council we must ensure that not only the things we do ourselves make sense but that we make it possible for our citizens to behave responsibly too. This challenge will have my personal attention throughout my term of office.'

A full copy of the speech follows.

'Let me start by making one thing clear - I do not mind people looking at their watches while I am speaking but I strongly object when they start shaking them to make certain they are still working.

The last three weeks have sped past and tonight marks the point at which preparation ends and the real work begins. I have appointed Gavin Moore as deputy Mayor - demonstrating an historic compromise between the Tyne and the Tees and along with my cabinet he takes office tonight. I believe that the team I have persuaded to work with me represents the right mix of experience and change. I also intend to appoint a small number of specialist advisers who can bring insights and ideas to particular aspects of our work. I am pleased to announce the first of these tonight - Father Paul Butler, Vicar of Bellingham, who will act as my adviser on matters of Faith. The contribution which faith communities make to our borough is sometimes overlooked and I intend to work with those communities and their leaders to address our common concerns for the people of Lewisham.

It is traditional for the Mayor to identify a charity to which contributions are made following fundraising events throughout the year. The Lavender Trust has been the mayoral charity for several years and is one that has special meaning for many of us in Lewisham. I am therefore pleased to announce that this will continue to be the principal charity for the coming year. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those whose tireless fundraising efforts have been so important to the mayoral charities over the years. I want to use the fact that this is the beginning of a different style of mayoralty to review our approach to charitable fundraising - if there are unexploited opportunities we should seek them out. I have therefore asked my wife Kris, who is a veteran of both the old Mayoresses committee and the Lewi Appeal to help me with this by bringing together some volunteers to carry out a review of this aspect of the Mayor's work. Anyone who wants to get involved in this should let either Kris or Derek Johnson know.

There is one further announcement I want to make - the cabinet will shortly be considering the appointment of 'Cabinet Assistants' - non-executive members who work with individual members of the cabinet. However I have decided to appoint a Mayoral Assistant as well who will work with myself and the Deputy mayor - there will be many aspects to this role but in particular I hope it will help to sustain a productive relationship between the Mayor, the Council and the community. I am particularly pleased that the Vice Chair of the Council, Cllr Crada Onegbu has agreed to serve in that role for the coming year.

I have had only limited opportunities to pause and think during these last few weeks - not only has there been a great deal of briefing and preparatory work to do but many requests to be dealt with - some only making demands on the mayor's time but others seeking the application of resources. While still Leader of the opposition Tony Blair said something which I have considered frequently during these weeks - 'The art of leadership is saying no, not yes - It is very easy to say yes'. Indeed it is and I fear my colleagues may have to get used to hearing me say no in the months ahead. I have been elected to serve for four years and I believe that this lengthened planning horizon is one of the great advantages of our new system. There are some pressing issues which must be addressed now not least among them being the provision of secondary school places in the north of the borough. Neither can we delay dealing with the difficulties arising from the pressures on the Social Service budget. Additionally I have already made clear that the condition of many of our roads has reached the point where action is essential. But I do not intend to fall into the trap of ticking off items on a shopping list during the first few months of this administration only to spend the remaining years trying to pay for them.

We have to take stock of our policies and programmes as we plan for the future and I believe that we face a challenge born of our very successes.

- We are pursuing a strategy of regeneration which is based the notion of creative Lewisham - this is succeeding and has the potential to transform parts of the borough - its success should not be understated nor the continuing efforts needed to deliver it. I pay tribute to my predecessor Cllr Sullivan whose personal commitment to this has been so important and I welcome his continued involvement which can only be to the benefit of the borough. There can be no stepping back from this approach - we must press on and in particular maintain the quality of architecture and planning associated with the major projects. We must also continue to rebuild our infrastruture. Lewisham has an historic opportunity to become integrated with the larger city - the eastward movement of employment means that if we can deliver the transport links we will change forever where Lewisham sits in the mental map of Londoners.

- Our freedom to spend revenue as we see fit is severely constrained - the ring fencing of Education resources is likely to be increasingly matched by directions concerning Social Services expenditure not withstanding the current budget difficulties. Any additional spending must be matched by decisions not to spend elsewhere. I will be seeking every opportunity to increase the resources available but no one should have any illusions. There is no 'back pocket' from which additional money can be easily produced. We will be talking the language of priorities and making the often difficult, occasionally unpalatable decisions that go with that process.

- Much of our time as well as the resources of the council and our partners will be spent on regeneration, education and social care and health. Each of these poses real challenges and we cannot afford to fail in any of them. The future prosperity of Lewisham depends on delivering the regeneration strategy. Our education performance is improving but there is still much too great a difference between the best and the worst - the quality of education our children receive should not be a lottery - parental choice is a fiction today for too many parents and we must make it reality. Our Health service is beginning to recover from the long years of Conservative neglect and we have a duty to work ever more closely with our colleagues in the NHS to provide a seamless service where needs of the service user take precedence over administrative convenience.

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- But our dilemma is that for many people in Lewisham neither regeneration, education or social services are the issues by which they judge whether the council is doing a good job

- The Prime Minister has coined the phrase 'Liveability' and I believe he has captured in that phrase a bundle of concerns like vandalism, roads, refuse, lighting that together create a sense of whether somewhere is a goodplace to live or not. The dumped car which is quickly vandalised creates a feeling that the street is less safe, less cared for and so the rots sets in. We know that council performance in some of those areas has faltered in recent years and we all heard the complaints on the doorstep during the election.

- But liveability is not just about the short term issues - it is also about creating sustainable solutions that future generations will see the benefit of. Why is that car dumped in the first place - because we are a throw away society that wastes resources without a second thought. Lewisham has a track record as a pioneering council addressing environmental issues but as the problems get worse it becomes clear that we are not doing enough. As a council we must ensure that not only the things we do ourselves make sense but that we make it possible for our citizens to behave responsibly too. This challenge will have my personal attention throughout my term of office.

- We must make real progress on both Liveability and Sustainability while at the same time delivering the Creative Lewisham Strategy, producing real improvements in Education performance and squaring the circle on Social Services spending.

This will require cool heads, tough decisions and hard work by councillors and public sector workers alike but acting in isolation they will ultimately fail. Success means working with the community both through organisations and individuals. We must unlock the imagination and abilities of the people of Lewisham. As Shakespeare said 'What is the city but the people'. The people of Lewisham are what sets the place apart - in their strength and fortitude, their willingness to help others, the warmth of the welcome given to new comers; their magnificent diversity - what unites us all is that Lewisham is the place we call home.

I am proud to be the mayor of Lewisham and to have the chance to give back something to the borough. I have only been able to touch on what I see as the biggest issues for us tonight. Each of you will be able to point to something I have omitted - affordable housing, special needs education, Arts funding - the list is long and the issues matter - we will need to find time to address them all but I believe that a framework which aims to make Lewisham a place we can all be proud of is the starting point.

Tonight marks a new beginning for Lewisham and while we are entering the unknown we do so with confidence and commitment but this is also a time to look back. Lewisham was a council that began to modernise long before the phrase Modern Local Government was coined. We have a history of achievement in service delivery and of innovation in how we relate to our community. That history provides a strong platform on which to build a new model of governance. Many people have contributed to that history - some of them are here tonight. When I was first elected as a councillor 20 years ago Andy Hawkins was the Leader and the patience, tolerance and concern for other that Andy demonstrated has always seemed to me to be an approach to Leadership that those of us who have followed can only aspire to knowing we will inevitably fall short. Andy has remained a source of both inspiration and advice and I trust he will continue to do so for many years to come.

The council has been led for the last four years by Dave Sullivan and no one should under estimate Dave's contribution to Lewisham not just over those four years but the last 20 years. Andy, Dave and myself have led Lewisham for 25 of the last 31 years and I believe that we can claim a significant share of the responsibility for Lewisham's standing as a ' can do' local council which has served its people well. It is my privilege to have the task of building on that legacy. I want to take this opportunity to give notice that later on this agenda I will move a vote of thanks by the council to Dave Sullivan for the work that he has done as mayor over the last four years.

Chairman, Councillors, citizens - I thank you for your attention and look forward to talking to you informally later in the evening.'

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