The census is a national survey that happens every 10 years and gives the Office for National Statistics (ONS) a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. The next census takes place on Sunday 21 March 2021.
The census asks questions about you, your household and your home. In doing so, it helps to build a detailed snapshot of different areas like Penge. Information from the census helps the government and councils to plan and fund local services, such as education, doctors’ surgeries and roads.
Census 2021 is a digital-first census, which means that the ONS will be encouraging people to respond online if they can. You will be able to complete the census using any device, including your mobile phone or tablet.
If you need help to complete it, there is an online help area on the census website and they offer help by phone, webchat, email, social media or text message. For help you can follow this link: https://census.gov.uk/help
At the end of last year, Beckenham Harris secondary school Academy undertook a consultation for their student intake for September 2022. Along with local MP Ellie Reeves and many local parents, we submitted comments opposing their plans to change their policy to give preference to students from a Harris Primary school, as we have concerns this will unfairly affect pupils from other local Primary schools that are not part of the Harris chain.
Following these comments, we met with the School Leadership and Harris Federation staff, to raise our concerns about their proposal and hear from them on the reasons for their plans. Whilst they provide understandable reasons for putting in place the arrangement for this specific school, which is on the same site, as they already share resources with the school and it is the most local school to Beckenham Harris, we believe that the principle of prioritising certain schools when assessing intake may lead to a wider feeder school system throughout the Borough.
Earlier in the year we carried out an online consultation of residents in Penge who had children of school age, those who responded were overall opposed to the idea of feeder schools. Children from all local primary schools can still apply to Harris Beckenham and there are a number of criteria they will apply to determine priority, but all other things being equal a child attending Harris Primary Academy Beckenham will be given a place above children from other primary schools.
While Bromley Council focus on their high overall success of children getting their preferred choice of secondary schools- Labour councillors have supported a number of families from the North West of the Borough in recent years, who haven’t been accepted to any of their chosen schools, so we continue to be concerned with any changes that could make it even less likely local parents will be able to get their choice of the best schools for their children to start secondary school at.
Last month, Bromley Council’s Conservative controlled Executive voted to sell the freehold of the Blenheim Shopping Centre, despite opposition from local traders and from Cllr Kevin Brooks and Labour Group Leader Cllr Angela Wilkins, who spoke strongly opposing the proposal.
Selling the freehold weakens any influence the Council has on the site and makes it easier for a developer to turn the shopping centre into flats (indeed- the current leaseholder put in plans for a 14 level Tower Block (which they have not yet applied for planning permission for). Just as we opposed the decision, we will vigorously oppose any application that threatens the future of the High Street.
The SE20 BID, Penge Traders and representatives from Penge Forum have opposed the move Representatives from Penge Forum have also voiced their similar concerns, we believe the Council should have consulted residents before taking any decision. Just as they fail to consult residents on many other matters.
The Blenheim Centre is not any old piece of land. It is the central to Penge High Street, brings shoppers and business to Penge- almost all trading depends on it. The presence of the car park attracts shoppers and new businesses to an area which has no other sustainable parking.
The importance of (free) car parking for shoppers has become even more vital since to installation of the Penge Parking Zone. If shoppers have nowhere to park in Penge, we are extremely worried they will not come and the local economy will suffer. Which is a particular worry given many businesses have been forced to close for much of the past year and are still a long way from recovering.
We are not against any possible form of residential development and would be happy to work with developers as there is a need for genuinely affordable housing in Penge and across Bromley (mostly because the Council has not built any for decades). However, the small amount of income gained by the Council was far outweighed by the negatives of selling the freehold.
LGBT+ History Month is an annual event in the United Kingdom taking place every February.The event came in the wake of the abolition of Section 28 in 2003. The Month is intended as a means to raise awareness of, and combat prejudice against the LGBT community while celebrating its achievement and diversity and making it more visible. History Month has three taglines -‘Claiming our past. Celebrating our present. Creating our future’, in addition to the ‘Educate OUT Prejudice’ motto of parent charity Schools OUT UK.
There are some great Films, TV series and other media which focus on moments in LGBT+ history- one which aired recently and that we fully recommend is Its a Sin, which was recently shown on Channel 4 and is available on All 4, it is a highly acclaimed Russell T Davies drama in five episodes which charts the story of AIDS and how it affects five friends in the 1980’s Use the link below to access the website https://www.channel4.com/programmes/its-a-sin
As usual, while many Councils across London and the UK flew rainbow flags, issued resources and held (online) events to mark LGBT+ History month, Bromley Council sadly once again did not. (Indeed they are one of the only Councils in London who do not mark Pride month in June, Black History Month and many other occasions throughout the year designed to celebrate, raise awareness or highlight the history of minority groups)
This month we submitted comments to Bromley Council’s recent consultation on their Open Space Strategy, which sets out their plans for our local parks, public gardens and other open green spaces (including Penge Rec, Royston Fields, Betts Park Alexandra Rec and Cator Park).
Among our comments, we called for sports fields and spaces for physical activity to be protected, for more support to be given to continue the great work our local Friends’ groups do to maintain our parks, with more council support for less well-off parts of the area to help maintain their local spaces, and to ensure our green spaces are fully accessible for disabled residents and others with additional needs.
We raised concerns with wording in the strategy suggesting the council would look at options to ‘develop or dispose’ and ‘increase commercial use’ of the council’s open spaces- particularly in recent times we have all seen how important having nearby access to parks and green spaces is for our physical and mental health- particularly around Penge where many people live in flats without gardens. We want to ensure all residents can continue to have access to green spaces in our local area.
Residents and other community groups also raised their concerns with these plans and the council responded with a statement indicating no parks would be sold off to private developers and lost- but have not yet committed that the plans will be changed to ensure no public land is privatised or built on- we will continue to monitor this when the final draft is published.
The start of the COVID19 vaccination rollout clearly gives us all hope that the difficult times and lockdown will hopefully end in the near future. Penge residents in the highest risk groups (starting with those aged 80+) have started being contacted by our local GPs to offer appointments to receive the first of the two vaccine doses needed. Healthcare and social care staff will usually receive vaccines through local hospitals and a small number of GP practices.
Until now appointments have been at Beckenham Beacon, but from last week this week all local practices around Penge have been able to offer appointments at a local GP Surgery to get vaccinated. It is therefore important that you are registered with a GP practice, and if you’re not. can quickly do so online or by telephoning to register.
People will be contacted by their GP practice and offered to book an appointment. This might be by telephone call or text message. Due to thousands of vaccinations happening very quickly in the area, please do not telephone your GP to try to book. The local NHS staff have assured us that people will not be forgotten and there is sufficient vaccine for everyone in the most at-risk groups.
The centre will be open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. After receiving the first injection of the vaccine, a second appointment will be needed around 12 weeks later to get the second dose. (Both doses are needed to provide full immunity from Coronavirus)
Larger vaccination centres are also being planned for February where appointments to get the vaccine will be bookable online for those who can do so and do not mind travelling; likely to be at Bromley Civic Centre and a venue in Sydenham.
Since our last newsletter in December, we have seen London and the country enter into tier 4, Christmas bubbles cancelled and now a new national lockdown to start off 2021- as always, we encourage residents to follow the Government’s restrictions and do what we all can to reduce the risk of infecting others at a time when our local hospitals are struggling.
We are very concerned that having struggled through the winter, many of our local businesses have faced a longer period of forcing to stay shut and many residents have seen extended periods furloughed or out of work completely.
We are also hoping that Bromley Council will also take more action to support businesses and people who are struggling. Some help is already available- the council has a hardship fund to assist those on low or no income unable to pay council tax. (along with a council tax support scheme that can see council tax bills cut by 75%) To apply you need to first contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have had any problems or would like support applying, please get in touch as we are happy to offer help.
No formal service is able to take place at Penge’s war memorials this Sunday.
This year’s Remembrance Sunday will unfortunately be different to usual, due to the COVID19 pandemic and government restrictions which went into force today. Bromley Council normally supports the parade by our war memorial in the High Street by processing the necessary road closure orders, and providing Police marshalling resources.
We already knew that the road closure and parade could not take place this year, but over the past couple of days they have also confirmed that no formal services should be taking place at 11am on Sunday.
This will be the first year in a very long time that our local cadet forces will not be able to parade and we know they and residents will be very disappointed this cannot go ahead, but we hope everyone will understand why a parade and a service at the memorial is not possible this year.
Local churches St John and Holy Trinity are holding online services this Sunday, which will include the two minutes’ silence and other elements of Remembrance services, both start at 10:30 and the details to join them are:
As your Councillors we believe it is important that wreath laying and other acts of Remembrance continue, so we encourage residents to observe Remembrance Sunday by joining these or other services if they would like, or to observe Remembrance day at home in other ways. Please remember to ensure to social distance and comply with the rules if you do choose to informally visit the war memorial at some point on Sunday.
Every November, we are proud to represent the Mayor of Bromley at Remembrance Sunday services in Penge in honour of and to remember the service of members of our armed forces, who fought and died in the line of duty, but as this is not possible this year, we will be informally laying wreaths at the war memorials in our ward (while complying with the Government rules) at some point during Remembrance Sunday.
For the past three years Cllr Kathy Bance, with local groups including Penge Partners and Penge Poppies, have coordinated putting up and maintaining knitted poppies on the railings around the war memorial on the High Street, we are grateful to all local residents who helped with knitting Poppies for this year, and also to Taylor and Abel, one of our local businesses, for creating ‘Poppy packs’ for knitters this year. Residents are welcome to add their own knitted Poppies and if you would like to knit some please get in touch- spares are needed to replace faded ones throughout the year!
Following the news last month that our local dementia centre would be closing, we arranged a meet for relatives and carers affected by the closure of the Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich (BLG Mind) centre in Beckenham, chaired by Ellie Reeves, to hear from and question the CEO and Head of Services at Mind about the closure and how the activities the centre provided will continue.
Carers spoke of the huge importance of social interaction the centre provided for their relatives, and the help and support staff there provided to them- they were clear that the existing respite at home service is not the same.
BLG Mind indicated they would not absolutely rule out reopening the centre but couldn’t see how this could happen at present. They are looking at how they can provide alternative services to support users and their carers.
We will be arranging a follow up meeting later this year to find out how these plans have developed and to ensure they have continued to engage with people to provide services they need.
As a result of the Covid pandemic there are increasing fears about the job market. Many businesses are struggling as a result of the pandemic, and this has led to many people losing jobs or having their hours cut, we are very concerned about what will happen when the furlough scheme is replaced at the end of this month.
Youth unemployment in particular has majorly increased. Following the cuts to youth services and as the academy system in Bromley has produced excess school exclusions, having another barrier for our young people is concerning.
For this reason your local councillors will be discussing with the SE20 Business Improvement District, a group of local businesses in Penge High Street, to encourage them the look at how local businesses could provide apprenticeships or work experience, in particular through the governments Kickstart Scheme
The Kickstart scheme provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16-24 year olds who are currently at the risk of long term unemployment. It provides funding for a six month period and up to £1,500 per 16-24 hired to cover costs including training. These cannot replace current jobs but instead will be additional placements designed to build young people’s experience and provide practical skills and experience for future employment opportunities.
With leisure activities for young adults in Penge having been cut and uncertainty about the future of Adult Education, we hope schemes such as Kickstart can help provide employment opportunities for young people in our area.