Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Lewisham Mayor's proposed Council Budget 2020/21 - A Point Of View

At the last meeting of the Council’s Public Accounts Select Committee (PASC), I made the point that, when I was Cabinet Member for Resources during the 2010-14 administration, I was sent out to defend the reserves from demands that these be used to support the Council’s day to day spending, thereby reducing the need for cuts. In those days, the use of one-off reserves which, when spent, would be gone forever, to fund ongoing expenditure on things like social services, street sweeping and bin collection was seen as very bad practice and not the kind of thing that a local authority should be doing if it wished to maintain public confidence. I said this in order to emphasise how times had changed. A report that was put before us made it clear that the Council’s General Fund had had to be bailed out using reserves in every one of the last 6 years. Why is this significant? One of the main reasons is that it means that for the last 6 years the Council has spent £100,000s of tax payers' money on the process of setting budgets that disintegrated on first contact with reality. We have spent 6 years on a pointless exercise. 

I suspect that most residents do not appreciate what is involved in a Council Budget setting exercise. All I would say is that it takes months, involves all 54 Councillors plus the Mayor and many highly paid Council Officers in hours and hours of meetings and, in some cases, expensive staff and public consultation exercises. Clearly, we needn’t have bothered. Why spend months and scarce resources in setting budgets for Children’s Social Care and Refuse Collection, for example, which were clearly unrealistic and had to be supplemented by a raid on the reserves? What’s more, why, if we have gone through this exercise in futility for 6 years in a row are we doing it a gain for a 7th year? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, at least according to Einstein. On this basis we are all clearly insane. We would all be better off in terms of saved time and money if we just got a baboon to pick numbers randomly out of a hat and inserted those into the Budget spreadsheet. After 6 years of the Budget needing a bail-out from the reserves, I think that it is reasonable to say that there is evidence of systemic failure in the Budget setting process. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that the same thing will happen to the 2020/21 Budget. The King is indeed in the all together, to quote Danny Kaye. 

This state of affairs should come a no surprise though. Last week when I met up with Barry Quirk, former Chief Executive of Lewisham Council and current CE of RBK&C, for one of our regular catch-ups over a few beers, he showed me something that he had been working on. He had looked at every local authority in the country and ranked their spend relative to their income from Council Tax and Business rates combined. Lewisham was in the second worse position in the Country. Its net revenue spend was around a third higher (32%) than its income, behind Knowsley that spent more than half its income (54%). This compares with neighbouring Greenwich which spent 11% more. In starker contrast lay our other neighbours. Lambeth spends less than its income (79%), while Southwark runs an even larger ‘surplus’, spending only 63% of its combined Council Tax and Business Rate income. Much can be said about this disparity, particularly as the current government seem to be committed to local authorities funding themselves from the income they can generate locally. How are Councils supposed to fund what should be universal services like Adult and Children’s Social Care together with Refuse Collection, which account for nearly all their General Budget spending, from localised property taxes? How can Knowsley provide the same care for its elderly and vulnerable people as Westminster can, when its income from Council Tax and Business Rates is over 12 times its spending? 

I would emphasise another point though. Cllr John Muldoon and I have been arguing since the beginning of this administration that Lewisham is going bust and the issuing of a Section 114 Notice, akin to the raising of the financial white flag to the government, is inevitable. Initially our warnings were dismissed. Latterly the messaging has changed. Now it seems to be accepted that we are going bust, but only to the extent that all local authorities are going bust due to unremitting Austerity that is cutting local authorities’ incomes to below what is required to fund basic statutory services. Politically, in Lewisham, the view seems to be, as I have said before, ‘extend and pretend’. Extend the time-frame for setting proper balanced budgets that can be delivered and publicly pretend that things will be fine. And do this in the belief that there are many authorities that will go over the Section 114 cliff edge before Lewisham. Are we being complacent? Who really knows? However, what Barry’s analysis shows is that Lewisham may be further up the peloton that is racing towards bankruptcy than The Very Serious People, to borrow a phrase from the economist Paul Krugman,  in this administration realise.

NB I have added a copy of Barry's analysis here.  I'm afraid that it is very small.  I'll see if I can get a larger version.  Lewisham is in red.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

The Lewisham Mayor's proposed Council Budget 2019/20 - A Point Of View

Below is the text of an email I sent to Cllr Jim Mallory, the Chair of Lewisham's Public Accounts Select Committee, of which I am a member:

There are two elements to the proposed 2019/20 Council budget about which I have expressed concern. The first is the proposal to set the base budget for Children’s Social Care (CSC) at £45.7m, some £7.5m less than the forecast spend for the current financial year. There is a proposal to top this up with a ‘once off’ additional sum of £5.4m. But this still leaves a shortfall of £2.1 between the total budget and this year’s forecast spend. The broader context is that last year, when the service overspent by £12.6m, we still spent £2.9m less on the service than we are estimated to spend this year. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the service faces budget pressures that will push spend even higher than the £53.2m expected to be spent this year. It was this background of ever-increasing demand led spend outstripping inadequately set budgets that led Bill Root, commenting in a report commissioned by the former Chief Executive and received by the Council’s Public Accounts Select Committee (PASC), that it was inappropriate to describe the situation as an ‘overspend’. Yet given this state of affairs, we are being asked to believe that we will actually spend £2.1m less this year than last and, on top of this, we will be able to take out a further £5.4m from the service next year. This, to my mind, is unrealistic. To provide £5.4m on a ‘once off’ basis merely pushes a budget pressure down the road to next year. It is akin to planting an unexploded bomb in the budget. Under questioning, we were told that in fact it may not actually be a ‘once off’ provision. It may have to be reprovided the year after next. This raises more questions than it answers. Why carry forward this destabilising budget pressure to future years when recognition that it will have to be met will generate the need for further cuts? Surely it would be better to put the £5.4m into the base with the hope that, if its provision does turn out to be ‘once off’, then the Council can realise a very welcome saving? What is the process and timeline by which it will be decided whether this £5.4m is ‘once off’ or will need to be reprovided? The truth is, I suspect, that funding has been provided in this way to avoid the £5.4m showing up an ‘overspend’ in next year’s budget monitoring, while side stepping the need to make the cuts necessary to fund it if it was put into the base. This is bound to give cause for concern. 

By way of reassurance, we are told that considerable effort is being made to transform the service so as to drive down the costs of placements. This is nothing new. Although I didn’t shout about it quite so loudly, we attempted to do this for every one of the 4 years that I was Cabinet Member for Children & Young People (CYP). This administration may succeed where I failed. But if we assume that if we did nothing then CSC spend would be around £56.2m next year (£53.2 from last year plus £3m of assumed budget pressure) then by agreeing this budget, we are being asked to accept that the service will find £10.5m of savings next year (56.2m less £45.7m). This surely is a heroic assumption. To be frank, it’s fanciful. 

My second area of concern relates to the reserves. We are told that the reserves have been prudently husbanded through the better years to help us in time of greatest need. Now that day has arrived due to unremitting Tory Austerity. So now is the day when we must draw them down to fund vital services for our community. When I was Cabinet Member of Resources our non-earmarked, rainy day, ‘in case of emergency break glass’ reserves stood at £15m. We were told at the last PASC meeting that they now stand at £13m. This year the Council, if memory serves, is expected to overspend its budget by about £10m. Last year it overspent by about £15m. The year before it overspent by about £12m. We have overspent by about £37m in the last 3 years. Where has this money come from? Clearly not these ‘rainy day’ reserves. The answer appears to be the earmarked reserves. The report says that we have used £20.3m of these reserves to fund the General Fund this year and plan to use £15.9m next year. Again, this raises more questions than it answers. As these are earmarked reserves, what were they earmarked to fund? If we spend these earmarked reserves on funding things for which there were not earmarked, what budget pressures are we storing up for the future? What is the opportunity cost we are being asked to bear? What risks are we exposing ourselves to? On these matters the report is silent. 

The broader context to all this, of course, is that Tory Austerity is driving local government into the financial buffers. Some time ago, I wrote that every Council in the country is like a car that is heading towards a cliff edge. Every car is desperately trying to slow down as they approach the precipice. They know they will not be able to stop in time. They just hope that they will not be in the first group to go over the edge in the hope that the sight of some cars plunging to the rocks below will somehow be enough to get someone to see sense and bring the whole ghastly situation to an end. In this story, the cliff edge is going bust, a section 114, and the deceleration is the implementation of the cuts. It seems to me that, although we all accept that local government generally is eventually going to run out of money to fund its statutory services like social care and waste collection, if the announced programme of Austerity is implemented, no one wants to accept that their own Council is actually going to do so. What we appear to want to do instead is to kick the can down the road and just hope that something turns up to save the day. Or, to borrow a phrase from the former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, which he used to describe the policy of the Troika to deal with a bankrupt Greece, we extend and pretend. In our case we extend credit to ourselves from our reserves and pretend that everything will be all right in the end. This policy was understandable in the run up to the 2015 election when it was reasonable to assume that there was a strong possibility that Labour at the very worst would emerge as the largest party in Parliament. It was not after this and was even less so after the General Election of 2017. 

How can we expect to generate the outrage and alarm amongst our residents to generate the kind of protest that has any hope of stopping Austerity, unless we tell them the truth about the Council’s financial position and what this means for their services? Extend and pretend are antithetical to this. In order to tell the truth to the people we represent we first need to face up to it ourselves. The truth is that we are running out of money. Even if we closed every library and leisure centre, cut all the third sector grants and ended the Assemblies and the Young Mayor programme, we would not make the cuts we need to set a balanced budget in 2021/22. Failing to be honest about this merely serves the Tories’ interests. 

Yet a concentration on Austerity, though entirely justifiable, shifts the focus away from our own internal failings that also need to be addressed as we seek to modernise the Council. I have already mentioned the £37m recent overspend. At the end of the last administration I was invited, along with the Mayor and the rest of the Cabinet, to brief the consultants who had been engaged to help us recruit a new Chief Executive as to the kind of candidate we were looking for. Some colleagues talked about the need to appoint someone who shared the vision of the likely new administration and would lead on building the new partnerships required to deliver it. I said that this wouldn’t be my priority as there would be no money to invest in this. I argued that what the Council needed was a new Chief Executive who could get to grips with the parlous state of its finances. The Council had a track record of setting budgets that contained savings that proved to be undeliverable, witness the recent large overspends, and that this was evidence of management failure that was in urgent need of being addressed. 

One of the reasons that I regretted the early departure of the new Chief Executive who was subsequently appointed was that it represented a lost opportunity for a fresh start. A new senior leader would have brought a valuable new external perspective on an organisation that had been run by an Executive Management Team (EMT) that had seen little change in many, many years. There is no agreed time frame to recruit the next Chief Executive. The existing EMT will probably be in place now for the rest of this year. We will be expecting them to deliver savings and service transformation that they have not previously been able to achieve. 

At the beginning of this financial year it was reported to PASC that the overspend in Children’s Social Care had doubled. The report said that this was due to a big expansion of expensive placements in the final quarter of 2017/18. Under cross examination, it was conceded that this was implausible. It was subsequently admitted that reason for the massive increase in the reported overspend was the fact that it was under reported in the previous quarters because of inaccurate financial reporting due to inadequate financial management systems. My understanding is that, in consequence of this intervention by PASC, an addendum had to be added to the report that went to Mayor & Cabinet. At a subsequent meeting of PASC the weaknesses in financial management that led to the under reporting of the CSC overspend was explained more fully. The explanation relating to the big increase in expensive placements hasn’t been spoken of again. It seems to have disappeared from our collective corporate memory, although it is probably still in the original report that is on the Council’s website. The fact that officers presented a report in public to elected members which contained a false and misleading statement has never, to my knowledge, been addressed. No one has been held accountable for it. We seem to have subconsciously decided to draw a veil over it and not mention it again. 

As well as being honest about the state of the Council’s finances and what this will ultimately mean for service provision, we need to be honest about the organisation’s management weaknesses. An organisation that is not sufficiently self-critical will not flourish. I say to team members in my own business, if the most insightful, penetrating and accurate criticism about our gallery comes from the outside, then we are lost. 

Some people have said that I bear a large part of the blame for the current state of the finances, especially as I was Cabinet Member for Children & Young People from 2014 until 2018. There is plenty I can say in my defence. However, I am content to point out that I made a decision not to seek any position in this administration and part of my reasoning was based on my belief that I had a duty to take responsibility for the failures that had taken place under my watch. I did seriously consider not standing for the Council in 2018 but decided in the end that I would have some counsel to offer from the backbenches which if not exactly wise, would be from an experienced perspective. 

Others have asked me what I would do faced with the current situation. I put forward some ideas 18 months ago. Those who are interested can view them here

In order to support the proposed Budget we must express confidence in the opinions and beliefs of the Mayor, Lead Members and Senior Officers and the reassurances they give in response to our doubts. In short, we are being asked for our trust. My response is to quote the old Russian proverb – Trust, but verify. My view is that in this, as in all things, we must hope for the best, but plan for the worst. So far we are being asked to do plenty of the former whilst the Council does very little of the latter. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Lewisham School Exclusions

People may have seen an article published yesterday on Eastlondonlines which said that Lewisham has the third highest school pupil exclusion rate in England. My response is below.
The DfE has released exclusion data, not for the academic year which has recently finished, but for the year before that (2015/16). This shows Lewisham near the top of national league tables for numbers of excluded pupils. This isn’t a surprise. We knew the figures were bad but my concern is what it means for young people’s lives – that’s why reducing exclusions has been and continues to be a priority. And not just playing the numbers game to massage the figures down, but ensuring that more young people continue and thrive in mainstream education, despite the challenges they face. Challenging targets for reducing exclusions are part of our ‘Secondary Challenge’ partnership approach to improving our secondary schools. And the schools are working better together and agreed a revised Fair Access and Managed Moves Protocol to use alternative options to exclusion. We are also working towards earlier identification of problems and earlier intervention to prevent escalation. This has yielded a 22% reduction in permanent exclusions since those published figures. That’s progress but it’s not enough. So the work continues, with new leadership in our Pupil Referral Unit and ever closer working between our schools, working with social care and our education services which support vulnerable pupils and help schools tackle persistent absence from school and the other precursors to exclusion.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

'We Few, We Happy Few'.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the 114 people who voted for me to be Labour's candidate for the Lewisham Mayoralty. My offer was to modernise the Council to enable it to take advantage of new opportunities and to respond innovatively to the coming drastic cuts to the Council's budget. This was comprehensively rejected by the party membership in favour of a manifesto that promised far more than I thought would be possible to deliver. I accept this result.

I was grateful for the opportunity to offer my congratulations to the winner, Damien Egan, in person at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday night. I send my best wishes to the other defeated candidates. To my friend Paul Bell, my co-councillor and valued colleague Brenda Dacres and to the irrepressable Alan Hall. The fact that five people put themselves forward for selection showed that people thought that the Mayoralty was a prize worth fighting for. I think it was a pretty clean fight. At the end of the day we are all members of the Labour Party and we now come together to support the Labour candidate.

I offer two observations on the result. Firstly, I was extremely surprised by the low turnout (45%) The fact that less than half of members could be bothered to spend a few minutes filling out a ballot paper, less if you did it online, has to be a disappointment. Such a lack of willingness to do something as simple as vote, undermines the argument that the vast increase in party membership in recent years demonstrates that the Labour Party is building a mass movement. Secondly, Alan Hall and I, the two candidates with the most polar opposite views on the Millwall CPO, ended up a long way behind the other three candidates, fighting it out for the wooden spoon. This demonstrates that this issue is ultimately of less interest locally than elsewhere, something that many of us have always believed.

I would particularly like to thank Cllr John Muldoon for supporting me through this campaign. I do not think that I would have stood if it had not been for his encouragement. It is normal for politicians to speak about how humbled and privileged they feel for the support they have received. I usually find this language grating. But when it comes to John's support for me, I feel that it is entirely appropriate. I do not think that there is another Lewisham Councillor who is more respected for their knowledge, work rate, integrity and thoughtfulness than John Muldoon. Paul Bell has described him to me as a genius. When John stands to speak, people pay attention. Success is a many fathered child, but failure is an orphan, so the saying goes. Many people have sought to claim credit for saving Lewisham Hospital from Jeremy Hunt's attempts to close its maternity & A&E units. Yet it was the evidence of John Muldoon, as Chair of the Council's Healthier Communities Select Committee that proved decisive for Judge Silber in finding for the Council in the Judicial Review that it brought against the Secretary of State (see the full judgement here, paragraphs 195 & 196, page 40)  The fact that he has received no credit for this is deeply regrettable in my view. The fact that John has remained silent about it is to his eternal credit.

Wednesday's Full Council meeting was significant in another way as it was an opportunity to say thank you and farewell to our Chief Executive, Barry Quirk. Barry was seconded to Kensington & Chelsea Council following the resignation of their Chief Executive in the aftermath of the fire in Grenfell Tower. He has now resigned from Lewisham to become their new Chief Executive. I have always felt an affinity with Barry as we come from similar working class beginnings, him from Bermondsey and me from Deptford. I really admired his intellect, rigorous analysis, knowledge and wisdom. He was disdainful of sloppy thinking and set high standards which officers and members couldn't help but seek to rise to meet. As a local resident himself, he knew first hand what it was like to live in Lewisham and be on the receiving end of the Council's service delivery. He cared about the borough and lived the job. He knew how to speak to people. He was a credible voice that would be listened to whether he was speaking to Cabinet Minsters, senior civil servants, academics or a group of residents. So it came as no surprise to many of us when he was asked to step into the hugely challenging role at Kensington & Chelsea. I will miss his support and advice. Barry is committed to the public sector because he believes in its power to make the lives of ordinary people better. I am sure that he will be absolutely focused on the task of restoring the confidence of the people of Kensington & Chelsea in their public institutions. I wish him every success.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

My Hustings Speech

I believe in the transformative power of the public sector. The power of government not just to protect the vulnerable and help the needy, but to also lead innovation, to be entrepreneurial and to create wealth. It's why I got involved in politics and why I have been a councillor for almost 20 years. 

But be in no doubt, even Jeremy Corbyn himself as Mayor of Lewisham, couldn't stop the £52m worth of cuts that the Tories are determined to impose on the Council over the next 4 years. And do not be misled. Every year the Mayor has to decide on her budget and it is this budget that he must bring to the Labour Group to get support for and then to Full Council. It is the Mayor who must defend his budget to the public. In this regard he can run, but ultimately, she can’t hide. 

But before the Mayor is even able to face this huge challenge, he has to win next year's election. Whoever gets selected will not have Steve Bullock’s profile, record or personal vote. They will have to sell Labour's message to a community that has changed. New people have arrived here from other countries and other parts of the UK to make their homes in Lewisham. We know that people do not automatically vote the same way locally as they do nationally. Lewisham spends most of its budget on Social Services, but what has it got to offer the vast majority of our residents who don't use these services? Most of our citizens own their own homes or live in the private rented sector, not in social housing. What are we offering to the majority of voters? 

Also, when a leader of long standing stands down the opposition sense an opportunity. This is why I believe that next year's Mayoral election will be the toughest ever. The Tories have selected a young, determined, ambitious candidate. The Lib Dems are likely to choose an experienced campaigner as their standard bearer. Perhaps a high profile independent will see their chance and have a go. This is why it is imperative that whatever your personal view, whoever you would like to be the Mayor in an ideal world, you vote for the person you believe will impress ordinary voters the most. Labour must show that it can pick the best, not just indulge its own parochial ideals. If there is the slightest hint that Labour didn't choose the best person for the job. Then the Tories, the Lib Dems and all the rest, will spend months shouting out that Labour hold this borough and its residents in contempt. And frankly, I think that they will have a point. 

You will have received my literature through your door. Someone referred to it as my 'War and Peace'. I didn't want to spend time sending you text messages, cold calling you or banging on your door. Nor did I want to send out emails and leaflets that contained little more than various pictures of me, happy clappy slogans and un-costed pledges with no plan of how to achieve them. I wanted to treat members with respect. The selection process is the means by which we choose our candidate to run a billion pound organisation and be its public face. You're not being asked to select some kind of super community campaigner or civic mayor. It's a real job. For a real leader. 

I've set out what I think the job is and a plan to deal with the clear challenges. We need to modernise our organisation. We need to recruit innovators and entrepreneurs who are committed to the public sector and are determined to build a Council for the 21st Century, not run one that reflects the needs of the 20th. There are opportunities that we are not taking advantage of, particularly where council housing is concerned. 

I believe that the majority of our residents are ambitious and aspire to do well, to build a better life for themselves and their families. They want a council that shares their aims and values. They want a Council that they believe is on their side. They want a Council that has vision and can generate a sense of passion, pace and place. Lewisham becoming the best place to live, work and learn. 

You may have read my story. It’s not a story of one person's success from humble beginnings. It is one person's story of how they started out and how, thanks to the help, support and encouragement of others, family, church, the NHS, education, the Council, colleagues, they succeeded. It can be anybody's story. It should be everybody's story. 

I am standing in the contest because I believe that the Mayor can make this happen. I believe I can be that Mayor. Put your trust in me and I won't let you down.

Paul Maslin with Cllr John Muldoon

You can read more about my views on my blog :

You can follow me on Twitter @PaulJMas

If you’d like to get in touch you can email me

Friday, 1 September 2017

Why I'm Backing Paul Maslin4Mayor By Councillor John Muldoon

There is a rumour circulating that I am not serious about being the next Mayor of Lewisham. That my campaign is about running interference, to increase the chances of another candidate. People can make up their own minds. What I say is that I am in earnest. Every Labour member will be getting a leaflet from me this week through the post. Those who say my campaign is about doing the bare minimum to assist someone else need to check the facts.

Granted, my support for the Millwall CPO will strike some as surprising, given the controversy surrounding it. One of the reasons I decided to stand in this contest was the expectation that no other candidate would support the Council’s policy and record on this issue. I believe that it is important for someone to defend the Council’s actions against biased, one-sided opposition, even if this does appear in the pages of a national, broadsheet newspaper. The Charity Commission has dismissed the Guardian’s allegations against the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation, the charity that Renewal set up to deliver the Sports Village in the New Bermondsey development. Sadly, it has yet to report this. Instead, in response, the Guardian has embarked upon a damage limitation exercise. It seems to be anticipating that the Freedom of Information Tribunal will fail to uphold the complaint that Millwall has made against the Council for refusing to disclose certain information. Further, it looks like it accepts that the Dyson inquiry, when it reports, will not have found anything to support its suspicions. (For more on this see here)

The Council’s reputation has clearly been damaged by this coverage. I am standing to defend and repair that reputation. The Labour Party has run Lewisham Council for many years. The Labour Party has made the Council a force for good. This is a testament to the selfless efforts of many hundreds of ordinary party members, some who were councillors, sustained, year in and year out, through good times and bad, over many decades. Thanks to them, the Council has made the lives of its residents better in so many ways. This is the reality. It is not, despite the inferences of vested interest, a self-serving corrupt organisation that operates in a way that would shame a banana republic.

The Council deserves to have a Labour politician who will defend it against such assaults, however difficult it may be.

Some of you will, understandably, have a few doubts about my campaign. Yes, it has been slow to start. My expectation, at the beginning of this Council administration, was that the selection process to choose Steve Bullock’s successor, should he decide to stand down, would begin in the Autumn of 2017. I must admit that the decision to run the contest over the Summer holiday when many people, including myself, would be on holiday, took me by surprise. Due to my business, family and Cabinet responsibilities, it was not possible for me to decide a year or two ago that I was definitely running. So I could not ask for people’s endorsement when I was not sure if I would be able to run when the contest was called. I was able to make a few tentative preparations. The truth is that I didn’t decide to run until the letters from the Labour Party arrived on 15th July announcing the start of the process. I had my interview with the selection panel the evening before I went on holiday. I did what I could from a campsite in France, with very poor phone and internet signals. It’s been flat out since I returned two weeks ago.

I know that I have support. If you would like to endorse me, either publicly or privately, then please get in touch. Do remember that many people pledged support for the other candidates months, if not years ago, long before I announced my candidacy.

Ballot papers should begin to arrive on 1st September. I urge all members to delay casting your vote until after the hustings. If you are unable to get along to one of them, please ask someone you know who went for some feedback. I call upon all the other candidates to join me in making this plea. Surely, no one would want to encourage people to vote before the candidates were exposed to the challenge of the hustings process. I think that candidates should expect to have to present themselves in person to Party members before they ask them to vote.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message.

Paul Maslin

Why are you voting for Paul Maslin?

Paul Maslin with Councillor John Muldoon

I’m backing Paul Maslin because I believe he will make the best Mayor of Lewisham. Since I met Paul almost 20 years ago, I’ve been impressed by his determination and resilience, and, above all, his modesty. Paul grew up in a family where selfless service to others was the touchstone – the Labour Party is his natural home. Apart from three years at university and a year volunteering overseas, Paul’s lived in Lewisham his whole life.

Paul’s built a transatlantic business, starting in Deptford, starting from scratch, whilst raising a family, being a Labour Councillor and serving twice in Sir Steve Bullock’s Cabinet, holding two major and challenging portfolios.

I remember clearly the moment in 2010 when Paul phoned me to tell me that Sir Steve had asked him to be the Cabinet Member for Resources. Paul told me he had accepted. I couldn’t think of a better person to tackle what was to become the Coalition’s relentless attack on Labour-controlled local government. This was uncharted territory – would it be Thatcherism Mark 2? Would the LibDems tone things down? Paul calmly started to prepare Lewisham Council for the onslaught to come. Doing his best to protect those services most needed by our most vulnerable residents. Because that’s what Labour stands for in Paul’s mind.

And Sir Steve clearly was pleased with Paul’s achievements in that role when he asked him to take over the Children & Young People portfolio in 2014. To provide political leadership to education and children’s social care, at a time when Tory ideology threatens all that Lewisham Council had created over the years.

Paul has never shied away from delivering the difficult messages, even if some don’t always agree with them.

Let’s be clear, we aren’t choosing someone who’ll have a dozen special advisers and spin doctors to micromanage the workload. We’re selecting someone who can and who will make tough – sometimes unpopular - decisions and stick by them, not someone who’ll flip-flop in response to the latest press coverage. Someone once said “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation”. Paul has experienced great pressure, from one particular journalist, from football supporters’ Twitter accounts. He hasn’t wavered. Paul is someone who knows when and from whom to seek advice. When to speak, and when to listen. Paul Maslin will be a great Mayor.

If you want someone who gets their picture in the local paper every week, Paul might not be the candidate for you. That’s not the main qualification for this role - we have a chair of Council who is our civic ambassador. After all, we’re not promoting the next Hollywood blockbuster, our Mayor will be too busy running Lewisham Council.

Being an executive Mayor demands a skillset unlike any other role. Someone who can and will lead, not someone who says they lead. Our local leader. Someone with vision. Someone with integrity. Someone respected by and who respects all our communities. Someone with the competence to steer Lewisham over the coming years, years of great austerity for Lewisham Council. Someone with the agility to deliver great change for Lewisham, whilst never forgetting our duty to the weak, the vulnerable, the poor. Someone ready to seize the opportunities the next Labour Government will bring, whenever that may be. That’s why I’m backing Paul Maslin for Mayor."

Councillor John Muldoon
You can read more about my views on my blog :

You can follow me on Twitter @PaulJMas

If you’d like to get in touch you can email me