Council leader Cllr Tony Newman, was at the conference to congratulate Denise on her win.


One of Croydon’s most talented public health officers has scooped a £10,000 scholarship prize after coming out top in the local government equivalent of ‘The Apprentice’.

Denise Blair fought through five rounds of real-world problems posed by councils across the country to beat nine other finalists in the Local Government Challenge 2017. Her win was announced at the national Local Government Association conference in Birmingham.

Working at Croydon on sexual and children’s health in the public health team, Denise clinched the title with her proposal to tackle teenage pregnancy, which she pitched during the conference. She will now be able to use the £10,000 scholarship prize to turn her ideas into reality.

When asked about winning, Denise, who is a public health principal, said: “This journey has been one of personal growth, great learning and excitement. I’m really looking forward to implementing the ideas within my proposal. I’m so thankful for the support I’ve received from the council to have this opportunity.

“I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and taking part in this challenge has highlighted to me the importance of building relationships and being committed to solving problems by working together. I’ve also learnt how kind and supportive people can be, particularly when you are open and honest and ask for help.” (Source: Croydon council press release)


The Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, has urged the government to fund the removal of external cladding from three Lewisham tower blocks.

In a letter to Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Department for Communities and Local Government, Steve Bullock says the government should fund the removal of external cladding from three Lewisham tower blocks – and that lLeaseholders in Lewisham should not be charged for this vital work, as they would be for general building improvements to their properties.
The full letter from Mayor of Lewisham to Sajid Javid dated 06/07/2017 reads as follows:

Dear Sajid,

Re: Fire safety funding

Following the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower, council staff and those of our ALMO (arm’s length management organisation) Lewisham Homes and other housing providers have worked around the clock to ensure any buildings in Lewisham with external aluminium cladding are checked and tested so our residents are safe.

Last week the removal of cladding from three buildings in New Cross managed by the ALMO was ordered, following the results of Government fire safety tests. We have also put 24-hour fire safety patrols into each of the buildings to keep residents safe. Lewisham Council has also written to every individual or organisation who owns a tower block to remind them of their duty to have an up-to-date fire risk assessment.

As you know we have also deployed over 30 council employees to Kensington and Chelsea to run rest centres and support people who have been made homeless as well as releasing my chief executive to take over on an interim basis.

I welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment on 25 June that the government would be “supporting local authorities”, and, “making sure that the resources are there to make sure what is needed to keep people safe is being done.”

But I was concerned that on 27 June it was reported your departmental spokesperson had said there was, “no guarantee” of government funding and that it would be “up to local authorities and housing associations to pay” and that financial support would be considered on a “case by case” basis.

At this early stage we don’t know how much the detailed work to remove cladding and make the subsequent repairs to the three buildings will cost, but it is likely to be considerable. I am also clear that leaseholders should not be charged for this vital work, as they would be for general building improvements to their properties.

It was therefore disappointing that your speech to the LGA Conference did not clarify the willingness of the government to underwrite the costs which my authority and many others will incur.

I would therefore be grateful if you would now confirm if the Prime Minister’s commitment to support local authorities with funding, in London and across the country, still stands, and when any money would be available for this vital work.

Sir Steve Bullock Mayor of Lewisham

The three buildings are: 1–48 Hatfield Close, SE14; 49–96 Hatfield Close, SE14 and Gerrard House, SE14. (Source: Lewisham council press release.)


Southwark council have appointed national fire safety expert, Ben Bradford, and his specialist firm of consulting engineers, to carry out an independent review of the council’s fire strategy and fire risk assessments.

Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, Southwark committed to commissioning a review, to reassure residents and ensure that all fire safety policies and procedures are appropriate.

Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Following the tragic fire at Lakanal in our own borough in 2009, Southwark has done a great deal of work to improve fire safety across our estate and carry out fire risk assessments for all council properties.

“But no-one can afford to be complacent after Grenfell, and it’s right that we take a fresh look at what we are doing to reassure ourselves and our residents that we are doing all we can.”

In addition to the technical review the council are asking residents to come forward and join a new fire safety advisory group that will help steer the council’s next steps following the review.

“After Grenfell it is starkly apparent that councils need to listen to their residents about fire risks and safety” added Cllr Cryan.

“Southwark tenants and leaseholders already have a number of ways to make themselves heard, through tenants’ council, homeowners’ council, our new homeowners’ agency, and the many tenant and resident associations, but there is nothing specifically for fire safety, and I feel it’s important to create a new space for local people to air their concerns.”

The review will begin this month, and is expected to report back to the council in the autumn.  (Source: Southwark council press release)


Following Grenfell, Lambeth council have been working closely with the London Fire Brigade to reassess all their medium/high rise residential tower blocks (over six storeys) in terms of fire safety.

A spokesman said: “As well as the well-publicised testing on cladding (we have sent 31 cladding samples to central government), we have taken the following steps:

A full review of our Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) for all cladded or partially cladded medium/high rise blocks has been completed
Any urgent works have been completed and any concerns have been raised with the London Fire Brigade (LFB), who have inspected high priority blocks to ensure residents’ safety
A programme of enhanced Fire Risk Assessments (FRA-4s) has begun on all medium/high rise blocks that have cladding. These are the most detailed form of Fire Risk Assessment, carried out in collaboration with the LFB and should be complete within 3-4 weeks
A series of meetings with TRA representatives and residents have been taking place to listen to any concerns and answer questions
Information on fire safety, regular updates and a set of Frequently Asked Questions have been published on our website at

“We have so far received one cladding result back from central government, which has failed the combustibility test. “This related to cladding around two of the stairwells at Southwyck House in Brixton.

“We carried out an immediate inspection alongside the London Fire Brigade and commenced work to remove the cladding. “A 24-hour ‘walking watch’ patrol has also been put in place, until the cladding is removed.

“All residents have been kept informed throughout this process and councillors and council officers have been on-site. “The Fire Brigade are satisfied that the actions being taken are sufficient to ensure the safety of Southwyck residents.

“The government have indicated that none of our other submitted samples contain Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), and are therefore not being tested at the current time.  “We have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking for clarity on this matter.

“We continue to urge all residents to familiarise themselves with Lambeth’s fire safety advice.

“Any concerns regarding fire safety in your home, or your block, should be reported to Housing Management on 020 7926 6000 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm) or

“For all fire safety and updates following the Grenfell Tower fire please visit ” (Source: Lambeth council’s Love Lambeth website)


Stonewall, Britain’s lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, have named Southwark council as one of the best local authorities for tackling anti-LGBT bullying and celebrating difference in its schools.

The council was named the Highest New Entry in the Education Equality Index 2017, a list of the top local authorities in Britain.

Now in its seventh year, the Index remains a vital tool for local authorities to benchmark their success in making local schools inclusive of LGBT issues and young people, measuring practice and policy at all the participating local authorities.

A council spokesman said: “Southwark council and its partners have strongly supported ‘BOY’, a forum theatre piece created in collaboration with Alfred Salter and Goodrich primary schools and Hyperfusion theatre company.

“BOY focuses on tackling homophobic and identity based bullying and language and has recently been funded to also include pupil ambassador workshops and whole school staff training.”

The council also run an extensive range of training for school staff on preventing and tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Young people from Southwark’s LGBT youth group, SPARK, have received awareness raising sessions on the risks of sexual exploitation and are advising the council on tactics to combat this crime, particularly in relation to vulnerable young people questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity for the first time.

Sarah Rose, senior account manager at Stonewall, said: ‘We’ve seen outstanding work from all of those local authorities that have participated in this year’s Education Equality Index – especially our Top 10 and our award winners.

“Southwark council have made huge strides with its phenomenal initiatives and inspiring work with and for local young people, working to celebrate difference and challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.”

Cllr Victoria Mills, Southwark’s cabinet member for children and schools, said: “We are very proud of our schools and the work we do to stamp out bullying and protect our young people and it is fantastic that this has been recognised by Stonewall who are undoubtedly the leading campaigners for LGBT equality.”

The launch of the Index coincides with the release of Stonewall research, the School Report, a comprehensive survey into the experiences of young people, aged 11 – 19 years old, in Britain’s schools in 2017.

Stonewall works directly with over 1000 primary, secondary and special schools, as well as pupil referral units to help them celebrate difference and tackle anti-LGBT bullying.

The School Report 2017 found that anti-LGBT bullying has decreased substantially over the past decade. Other results showed that seven in ten bullied LGBT pupils say teachers who are present during homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying do not intervene.
(Source: Southwark council press release)


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