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An Interview With Dulwich Councillor Dr Andy Simmons

Do you feel as though as councillors you have much of an impact on the community of Dulwich?

Dulwich is a very mixed community. Southwark council and Southwark councillors do have a major impact on community of Dulwich, but this will vary between different parts of Dulwich often depending on housing tenure and resident age. Issues like schools, pub and restaurant licensing, traffic and transport, council housing and policing are all important issues to the local area and where councillors play a key role, either as advocates on behalf of local communities or as decision makers.

What are the strengths of the community and is there any problems which you feel could be changed?

Different parts of Dulwich have very different communities and feels. Perhaps one thing they share in common is a strong sense of community, inclusiveness and tolerance. Dulwich voted very strongly for Remain in the European referendum, which many of us are very proud of – particularly given the divisive nature of the Leave campaign. The housing crisis is one of the most important issues that needs tackling in the wider Southwark and Lambeth area – we need more homes across all tenures, particularly affordable homes for rent and sale.

Do you feel the surgeries help Dulwich as a community to get their ideas across or problems solved?

Residents and traders contact councillors by different routes – email, telephone, letters, surgeries and at public meetings and council committees. Surgeries play one role and are often particularly important for those who don’t use email, or who want to discuss a difficult issue face to face.

Did the statement that ‘Dulwich is the burglary capital of the UK’ put fear into the residents of Dulwich? If so, how would you tackle this problem?

There has been high levels of burglary in different parts of the wider Dulwich area over a number of years. In College ward we have used delegated council funds to purchase and promote SmartWater, which is a property marking kit which has been demonstrated to significantly reduce burglary rates if a high proportion of households sign up. We have supported the installation of CCTV in burglary hotspots and Southwark council has invested in new secure front doors and double glazing for council homes which has massively reduced the rate of burglary on council estates. The new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has committed to an additional dedicated police officer for every ward and this will increase the number of police on the ground – tackling crime and working on crime prevention.

Has there been an increase in multi-cultural influences in the last few years and if so, has there been any impact on businesses?

Dulwich has become more multi-cultural over recent decades. This is reflected in some changes to local businesses, but perhaps not as marked as some other areas. As an example, more than half of those shopping, eating or drinking on Lordship Lane come from outside the area, while many Dulwich residents will also travel to Brixton or Peckham to shop, eat, drink or setup their own business.

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A London Journalism Student, blogging about the life and community in Dulwich.