Councillor Beverley Brewer (Labour, South Woodford) explains why she thinks South Woodford resident Omar Salem was right when he confronted Boris Johnson at Whipps Cross Hospital in September
South Woodford resident Omar Salem was in the news recently when he confronted Boris Johnson at Whipps Cross Hospital.
Omar was absolutely justified to complain about understaffing. I was delighted to hear that the government has finally relented and agreed to fund new buildings at Whipps. All credit to those who have tenaciously campaigned for this, not least the hospital’s constituency MP John Cryer. But I am concerned this will do nothing to address the urgent need for increased funding for the hospital’s day to day running costs. Accident and emergency waiting times have been unacceptable for years, and the waiting list for Barts NHS Trust is now an unbelievable 88,172 cases.
Even with the extra money, Whipps will be overwhelmed unless there is investment in other NHS services as well, including GPs, mental health and, of course, King George’s.
Turning attention to housing, I was pleased when local people contacted me about the recent George Clarke Channel 4 housing documentary. His message was crystal clear: “We are in a housing crisis, in desperate need.” His petition for a massive national new council house building programme won tremendous support, with many South Woodford residents signing – if the government responded positively, there would be no need for modular housing. So, it is disappointing that the government has instead now made it even harder for councils to build new homes. George’s points about modular housing were similar to concerns I raised with the planning committee last year.
Although the modular homes are not ideal, they are a response to a desperate situation and are far better than the temporary accommodation many of our most vulnerable residents are currently offered. The council is committed to building 600 new, permanent, affordable council homes for rent on existing council owned sites by 2022.
One of my top priorities after getting elected last year was to improve street cleaning locally. This is a real challenge for the council, as we have had over half of our funding (£133m) removed by central government. So, I was delighted when the council agreed to invest an extra £1m a year to clean our borough’s streets, including special attention for our area. This was strongly supported by local MP Wes Streeting.
New street cleaning arrangements are due to commence by November. I will, of course, be keeping a close eye on this – as your local councillor who lives in the ward, I am out and about every day – and as always, I will be keen to hear the views of local people.