You are here: Southwark \ News \ DULWICH & WEST NORWOOD - JONATHAN MITCHELL
30 April 2010
Occupation: Dulwich & West Norwood MP since 1992. Secretary of state for Olympics, Secretary of state for London, Cabinet Office minister.
You stood last time and people rejected you by a big margin of votes. What makes you believe that anything is different this time?
We broke through this particular glass ceiling. We got [Tessa Jowell’s] vote down from about 30,000 to about 19,000 last time. We've made considerable inroads in to her position. She's got a problem in that she's been an MP for longer and she's done less.
In 1997 she promised a new hospital and not only is there no new hospital, there's no hospital, full stop. There isn't a hospital because there are no beds in it.
Two promises broken - one that she would build a new one, preserving the existing one might have been a good thing. She did pretend in 2005 she wanted to keep intermediate care beds there... it's gone from bad to worse.
We stopped them from selling the police station as well.
Starting with Tessa just on those two issues alone, you can test whether she has done anything for local people and the answer is no.
What are your main achievements locally?
I think her failings will make some of the difference, but what got me into a favourable position last time is that I'm local. People really respond to that.
Having got the second position in 2005, obviously I've gone on and been a local councillor in East Dulwich. I've taken it on to correct the policies of the Estate governors in East Dulwich.
Rent rises for local businesses was a fight that I took on. My fights arise from local problems. We as councillors have been looking at the CCTV problem in Herne Hill and it has taken a long time.
What's happened in Herne Hill is a new system has come in, where instead of linking the police up and instead of having the very expensive either lay or police people sitting there for hours on end, what they do is... if there's an incident immediately, the CCTV footage is taken down and then looked at. This is going to be a much cheaper way of getting CCTV done than the police have always said was possible.
Tessa was nowhere around when any of this was going on.
Would you fight for the Herne Hill velodrome to be a dedicated centre for cycling, rather than a sports centre with cycling facilities?
I think I would err on the side of having it as a dedicated cycling centre and what I would like to do is give it a face lift. I would be for saving it... and making it a gem of a cycling heaven without offending too many people.
It's possible to do. I've found that out as a councillor in East Dulwich - things are possible to do if you bloody well work at it.
What do you see as the issues regarding public transport in Dulwich and how will you solve them?
I think we've really got to get people on to public transport. We've done very well as local councillors in getting local car clubs started, that's very important.
If we have car clubs and people use them we might get back to something sensible like one car [per family].
Cycling is the next thing obviously. Well we've created cycle routes, we've created cycle green chain routes so people can get off roads... proper cycle parking bars all over Village and East Dulwich.
I would have integrated rail fares pegged at under inflation I'd have lower systems, I'd have more trains. It's appalling that the number of services on offer have decreased under Boris.
If you really are serious, and not being political about it, you have better trains services for everyone. I must say I think the bus services are pretty good.
The increases in buses is excellent. Sad we can't get the number 42 extended, we've all tried - Lib Dems and Conservatives. These are things that we are doing, these aren't empty promises.
How can you ease people's worries in your constituency when they express concerns about living in tower blocks following Lakanal?
My part of the borough, down here, has got housing which by and large hasn't been built as early in the 20th century as some of the housing elsewhere. I'm in and out of the blocks that are in East Dulwich all the time, particularly the one at the top of Friern Road. The usual problem there is not fire safety but the signals that are coming from the mobile phone towers on top of the blocks there.
Those sorts of things mean that I do tend to go in to the blocks on a pretty regular basis. I don't think there is a huge fire risk in this area, in council blocks. They tend in this area to be better maintained.
There are less council estates per capita in this part of Dulwich and west Norwood, the Southwark part of it.
Are the bulge classes enough to solve oversubscribed primary school rolls?
No they aren't. The problem is of a number of different facets. We hadn't seen it coming to be honest, because obviously we built the secondary school and that was the thing that seemed to be the main problem. What actually was happening was the conflation of a number of different things.
Instead of young marrieds all moving out at a certain time regular as clock work and freeing up the local schools, they all stayed put.
Then a second thing happened, one year into the recession which was last year. Instead of keeping their kids in the privates, they all felt very worse off and worried about the future and they all piled into the state system.
We were confronted by a tsunami of applications for primary school places that didn't exist.
We've now got a scheme where quite a large amount of money is being spent to enlarge some schools and bulge classes are going through the rest. That seems to be working quite well at the moment. So we don't see any difficulties with the current year's applications.
I'm reasonably proud of it. I felt for the parents and the difficulties, an unnecessary hue and a cry was made by Tessa and the Labour party about it and actually over sensitively whipping up the parents into a frenzy about it, when actually we got pretty much most people into the schools that they wanted.
62.3 per cent of the people got into the schools of their first choice.
For all their whingeing that's a pretty high percentage.
Have you given up the battle for Dulwich Hospital and the intermediate care beds?
The answer to your question is no. If I get in whether as an MP or as a councillor I am determined we are bloody well going to turn that Dulwich Hospital site round.
We will get the keyhole surgery, the minor operations, we will get some money from somewhere.
I know exactly what I'll do there.
We've got to keep the services, we will not chuck out the family silver, MacMillan said, and we certainly won't as Liberal Democrats.
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