Keeping people in work

Gordon fired the starting gun on Tuesday, and we were away! – a few days before the Grand National.

Of course, in Blackheath Westcombe we’ve been out talking to people all year round – but it will now be meeting and greeting voters every day until 6 May. Still, time for my morning run with my eldest today before canvassing and for the traditional Sunday dinner with the family afterwards.

On the doorstep, I am finding people are very friendly, even those that are confirmed supporters of other parties. The main local issues are schools and probably Greenwich Park being used for the Olympics. People are very happy with the recycling and bins, generally with the state of the streets, public transport and with other public services.

On schools, the good citizens of Westcombe Park are very pleased with Halstow – an excellent primary that is consistently the best or second best in Greenwich and the good citizens of Blackheath with Brooklands (which has overcome the glitch from last year’s OfSTED inspection after some great support from Halstow). Invicta in the middle of the ward is fast improving and many also go to Sherington just over on the west of Charlton which is one of the most improved schools in recent years. At nursery and primary level, most parents are concerned about getting into the school. That is why Labour is committed in our plans to expanding Halstow from 1 form entry to 1.5 form entry and under the building schools for the future programme there is a commitment to rebuilding Invicta school.

I am only too aware that secondary schools have been more of a challenge for parents but am very pleased at the wide recognition that John Roan school is steadily improving in terms of its ethos, behaviour and, most importantly, its results. As Chair of Governors there with an excellent team of Governors we have worked extremely hard to transform the school with the new Head while building on the traditional strengths such as pastoral support. The fruits of all this will continue to come through with this year’s results and further improvements year-on-year. I did hear of a disturbing incident at the end of last term on Humber Road, which I shall get to the bottom of, though I am pleased to say this does appear to be isolated. After improving the school so it is the school of choice for all the local community, we our focusing on the physical transformation of restoring the listed Maze hill site and rebuilding the Westcombe Park site. At this point, we are waiting for approval of our Outline Business Case from partnership for school, the Government body in charge of the programme. Of course, there is no guarantee that a Conservative Government would honour this commitment and with the cuts proposed, the chance of rebuilding Invicta school would be very slim. Thomas Tallis, of course, has started their new building on the Blackheath Park side, so we trust this will be quite safe!

Overall, we have seen a transformation in school standards but I fully appreciate that all parents want the best for their children and we have further to go. Am very interested in people’s constructive ideas and comments. All I can say, from a Roan perspective, is that it is a school now of real energy and determination as well as commitment to our local communities – and perseverance of excellence.

Greenwich Park has been raised a lot with me and everyone loves the park – I am a longstanding friend of greenwich park and cherish it too. I understand people’s qualms about the impact the olympics could have, but I think the fears are largely misplaced. Not one tree will be knocked down and the park will only be fully closed for one day. There will be some inconvenience obviously, and if elected my job will be to make sure that the Royal parks agency and Olympics’ organisers are working closely with the four key societies – Blackheath Society, Westcombe Society, Greenwich Society and Friends of Greenwich Park to ensure that the whole process is smooth, causes minimum disruption and deals with issues that are bound to arise. But Greenwich will be a showcase for the world for the modern pentathlon and equestrian events and this will be excellent.

I intend to carry on talking to everyone throughout the ward, taking up issues with my fellow candidates Alex Grant and Pat Boado-Darko and getting things done. Now, I think a walk with the family (without knocking on any doors as people enjoy a sunny, peaceful sunday afternoon!)

David L Gardner

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