Get Involved

Could you become a Labour Councillor?

Councillors are elected by the local people in a ward to represent them on the council - they are at the heart of local democracy. Becoming a councillor is a rewarding as well as a challenging experience. It gives you the opportunity to make a real difference in your local community.

Councillors are responsible for taking decisions which affect services provided in the borough and therefore affect the quality of life for the whole community.

It is an important responsibility and many councillors find it can amount to a full-time job, though others do manage to combine these duties while in full-time employment elsewhere. The amount of time will depend on your role within the council and the number of commitments you take on will increase the amount of time.

What does a Councillor do?

Councillors will have responsibilities to their ward:

  • to listen to and represent the views of their residents
  • to seek to ensure services are delivered effectively in their ward
  • to try to secure extra resources for their ward
  • to attend to individual enquires from residents.

and to the council area as a whole:

  • to help form policy
  • to help develop a council's budget and determination of the council tax
  • to make or scrutinise decisions
  • to contribute to best value reviews of the council or services
  • to contribute to community planning
  • to participate in quasi-judicial decision making such as planning policy and applications, licensing or staff appointments.

Checklist of a councillor's duties

As a Labour councillor my aim is to represent residents as effectively as I can. As Cabinet Member for Community Services I help ensure that the council gives strong community leadership by developing healthy and caring, safe and secure as well as vibrant, active and inclusive communities..

I am expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and seek to implement Party policy at local level in the interests of residents.

My duties include:

  • representation
  • policy making
  • policy review
  • regulation of services
  • scrutiny of services
  • partnership working and
  • consultation.

My role is to build and sustain relationships with my local residents and act as Labour's ambassador in the community.

Examples of the types of activities I carry out are listed here:

Representing my ward

  • holding surgeries and doing casework
  • taking up issues raised by an individual
  • representing the views of residents in policy-making forum
  • lobbying for resources for the ward
  • developing links with all parts of the community eg visiting schools; meeting local businesses; attending tenants' meetings; visiting local projects or voluntary sector groups
  • supporting local partnerships eg I Chair the Sydenham Assembly and the Sydenham Town Centre Steering Group
  • walking around my ward regularly, tackling issues around the street scene
  • attending appropriate ward events
  • reporting back to Sydenham Branch Labour Party.

Policy making

  • attending full Council meetings and answering questions on my portfolio
  • participating in Committees eg Mayor and Cabinet
  • participating in quasi-judicial Committees eg Pensions Investment Committee
  • seeking improvements in the wellbeing of the community through the Sydenham Assembly
  • participating in the Labour Group and Party local policy forums.

Partnership working

  • being aware of the Local Strategic Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, Communities First and other partnerships with service providers
  • taking part in consultations on plans or with residents' groups.

Building relationships

  • distributing a regular newsletter
  • sending direct mail to residents on local issues
  • holding roving surgeries and blitzing sessions, visiting residents.

As a Labour councillor, I am aware of the following

  • council procedures
  • declaration and register of members' interests
  • local government issues
  • time to read council papers and meet with relevant officers
  • meeting local stakeholders such as the Sydenham Society, Sydenham Traders, park users and the Safer Neighbourhood police team
  • Party policy and group standing orders
  • using my incumbency positively and with a view to re-election
  • balancing council duties with other commitments
  • having a good filing system
  • facilities available for members
  • personal safety issues at surgeries.

Lewisham has a directly elected Mayor, Steve Bullock, and he has chosen 9 Labour Councillors from the whole council of 54 elected members, of which 39 are Labour, for his Cabinet. Under the direction of Steve we have been given responsibility for delivering specific areas called "portfolios". My portfolio is Community Services.

The other Councillors are members of Overview and Scrutiny which looks at decisions that have been made to ensure they have been reached properly.

How can I become a Councillor?

The Mayoral and Local elections for Lewisham will be held on the first Thursday in May 2014.

The law specifies who is or is not able to stand for election to local government and you can become a Councillor for Lewisham provided you meet the following criteria on the day of nomination:

  • You are a British citizen or citizen of the European Union
  • You are over 21 years old
  • You are on the electoral register for Lewisham
    or
  • You have lived or worked in Lewisham for the past 12 months

Amongst other reasons, you could be disqualified as a candidate if:

  • you work for Lewisham Council or hold a politically restricted post with another local authority.
  • you have been declared bankrupt in the past five years and have not repaid your debts
  • you have a criminal conviction which has a minimum penalty of three months in prison or more within the last five years

Many candidates choose to stand in local elections as a representative of a political party. The Labour Party expects that nominees for the panel of local election candidates to be resident and a Party member in Lewisham. There is a formal selection process to stand for the Labour Party. However, individuals can stand in their own right as an "independent".

Before you can be accepted as a candidate you must get one person to agree to propose your nomination, another person to agree to second the proposal, and the support of eight other people. All these people must be on the electoral register.

What support will I get?

Councils pay a basic allowance that varies depending on the type and size of the council. We have agreed to keep the Lewisham basic allowance at £9,812 despite an independent review by Sir Rodney Brooke CBE to increase this to £10,597 to bring Lewisham in line with other London Councils. A special responsibility allowance is paid to Members of Cabinet as well as Chairs of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees. Again we have agreed to keep this the same as previous years. We have also agreed that we will not claim travel expenses for visits in Lewisham.

Lewisham provides all members with a broadband telephone line at home for enquiries by constituents and for Council business. The council also provides a computer to access Council systems, to email on Council business and manage your web site. Casework can be managed electronically through a Members Casework System. The Council has a comprehensive training package to help Members carry out their responsibilities. There is Governance Support to provide administrative back-up such as arranging meetings and producing surgery leaflets. There is also a political assistant for the majority and largest minority party.

Next step - get in touch with me for more information either ring on 020 8659 6445 or email on cllr_chris.best@lewisham.gov.uk or visit my councillor web site.

Labour Party

Sydenham Labour Party meets on the second Tuesday every month at The Sydenham Centre next to the Post Office in the high street starting at 8pm and finishing by 10pm. To see our General Election Campaign please visit the Sydenham Labour Party page

Sydenham Branch is part of West Lewisham and Penge Labour Party and the Constituency Office is 43 Sunderland Road in Forest Hill telephone 020 8699 2001.

Sydenham Assembly

The Sydenham Assembly is open to anyone to lives, works or studies in the ward. It meets quarterly at different locations including the Naborhood Centre in the high street, the Grove Centre in Jews Walk and Sydenham High School in Westwood Hill. Please see the Sydenham Asssembly page for more information. If you would like to be added to the mailing list please email Chris.

The Assembly elects ten members to work together on the Sydenham Coordinating Group that meets imbetween the quarterly meetings. The Coordinating Group review the previous meeting and plan the content of the next meeting.

Residents Associations

There are many different ways for residents to get involved and probably the most well known way is through Tenant and Resident Associations (TRAs). These are groups that residents set up in their street, groups of streets or estate in order to improve things for the residents living in the area. The Thorpe's Residents Association have now set up a blog to keep everyone up to date with what is happening locally. There is also a blog for Earsthorpe Mews.

Lewisham Homes manages a number of estates and encourages and supports in setting up and keeping TRAs going.

Chris is commited to resident participation and promotes Tenants and Residents Associations in Sydenham. Please email Chris at cllr_chris.best@lewisham.gov.uk for further information on a TRA where you live or in help setting one up.

Volunteer for a Community Group

Volunteering for a community group can be very rewarding and the type of volunteering is wide – it could involve delivering a service to people, administrative work, being part of a management committee. There are over 1,000 community groups in Lewisham, so the choice is vast!

The best way to get started is to contact the Volunteer Centre Lewisham(VCL). They run ‘introduction to volunteering workshops’ for people who want to find out about volunteering in their local community and what opportunities there are. VCL can assist people to find an appropriate volunteer opportunity; this can be done by speaking to an advisor or go to their website www.volunteercentrelewisham.org.uk to complete an application form. VCL contact number is 020 8613 7113.

Alternatively there is a national website that signposts people to volunteering opportunities; go to www.do-it.org.uk where they can search by area and interests.

Sydenham Garden

Sydenham Garden was formed in February 2003 to help people living with a significant illness in their lives. A wonderful community garden has been created in part of a nature reserve. The project is based at 28a Wynell Road, London SE23 2LW- 020 8291 1650 - in the beautiful new resource centre. .

Streetleaders

Lewisham has a Streetleaders Scheme to support residents to actively get involved in their environment and make Sydenham a cleaner, greener place to live. To find out more about the Streetleader Scheme contact the Streetleader Team by email streetleaders@lewisham.gov.uk or telephone 020 8314 2077. To report any environmental problems phone Callpoint on 020 8314 7171.

NEAT

The Council holds regular Streetleaders events at the Civic Suite to thank them for their efforts and achievements. The sessions are also an opportunity to find out how Streetleaders and community groups can make even more of a difference to their local environment through the Neighbourhood Environment Action Teams (NEAT) initiative. The NEAT initiative encourages streetleaders to get together with local residents in small groups to help contribute towards sustainable development in an area. The teams will get support for fundraising, publicity and general environmental awareness.

Park Users

Lewisham has published Service Standards with its partner Glendale and encourages park users to join a group to look after their park.

Sydenham Wells Park is one of the most attractive parks in the borough and has a fine water feature with two lakes. The park takes its name from medicinal springs which were discovered in Sydenham in the mid 17th century. There is an exciting water and play area for children as well as tennis courts. The park enjoys a sensory garden and water feature for those tranquil moments. Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group (SWPIG) meets quarterly.

Mayow Park, originally called Sydenham Recreation Ground, is the borough's oldest municipal park and celebrated it's 125 year anniversary in 2003. The park has a bowling green and tennis courts and work has started on the bowling club accommodation. The Friends of Mayow Park are working alongside the Grow Mayow Community Garden in developing a programme of events. We are currently working on the cricket square so that there will be a programme of matches in 2012..

The Friends of Home Park meet regularly and have worked hard to deliver some major changes to the park including an outdoor gym to add to the revamped adventure playground.

To join one of the user groups email Glendales at lewisham@glendale-services.co.uk or telephone 020 8318 3986 or contact the Friends Group.

School Governor

You can contact your local school and ask to speak to the headteacher or the chair of governors about governor vacancies. If you are the parent of a child at the school, ask at the school about vacancies for parent governors. You can contact members of your local community or religious organisation or contact the Diocese about being a governor for a church school.

School governors have a wide range of responsibilities including: • promoting high standards of educational attainment • managing the budget and deciding how the money is spent • participating in the appointment of staff, including appointing the headteache; • setting the policies by which the school operates.

Safer Neighbourhoods Ward Panel

Members of the Panel include local residents, local business representatives and members of charitable organisations. The panel meetings are held on a regular basis (approximately 6 weekly) and are an opportunity for the local community to meet with service providers such as the police, statutory service providers and other agencies. The aim is to enable members of the local community, through the ward panel, to determine the priorities for their local area and for the service providers to take away these priorities for action. Ward Councillors are also in attendance to provide advice and support to the ward panel members. Priorities for action could include environmental issues, anti social behaviour and other criminal activity as well as information on any new developments that are likely to affect the local area.

Neighbourhood Watch

The Neighbourhood Watch Scheme is an opportunity for residents to work closely in partnership with the police and the local authority to help protect your property and the local area.

Contact Sydenham Police Station for more information.

Sydenham Town Centre Steering Group

The role of the Steering Group is to: • ensure a vibrant town centre that is an attractive place to shop, visit, live and invest • support marketing events that raise the profile of the town centre • promote an inclusive traders association • understand the roles and activities of other related groups such as the Assembly, Safer Neighbourhood Team, the Sydenham Society, the Youth Forum • promote effective communications between key stakeholders • receive progress reports from the West Lewisham Town Centre Manager on the delivery of four agreed key projects • consider future initiatives/projects for the benefit of the town centre as possible key projects • encourage effective liaison with different Council Departments to ensure good environmental standards

I Chair the meetings and membership includes four residents, four traders and the SNT. The West Lewisham Town Centre Manager supports the group.

Lewisham's Young Mayor

Lewisham was the first borough in the UK to have a directly elected Young Mayor. Since 2004 there have been nine Young Mayors who have all brought something different and new to the role. The Young Mayor is in office for one year and has a budget of £30,000 to spend on things to make life better for young people in Lewisham.

Congratulations to Lewisham’s 11th Young Mayor, Liam Islam. Liam takes over from Emmanuel Olaniyan who was in office during 2013-14 who used his budget for the popular performing arts showcase at the TNG.

Jamel Higgins was the 9th following on from Kieran Lang who was the 8th Young Mayor with Kieza Silveira de Sousa who was the 7th, Jacob Saki who was the 6th, Miguel Gutierrez Astudillo who was the 5th, Justin Cole the 4th, Siobhan Bell the 3rd, Wilf Petherbridge the 2nd and back in April 2004 Manny Hawks became the first ever Young Mayor of Lewisham. In the biggest election of its type in the UK.

The Young Mayor and his advisors work is detailed on their website - http://www.binvolved.org.uk/. This interactive site:

  • tells young people what's going on in the borough
  • describes ways in which to get involved in other youth participation activities (like the young Citizens Panel)
  • gives young people the chance to have their say in topical online polls
  • invites young people to tell everyone what's on their mind.

Please visit the Young Mayor Advisors MySpace site.

There is a also a YouTube video on the Young Mayor Network.

Young Mayor Network