Staff in Southwark Council’s regeneration department in South London are ferried to the nearest train station every night after work to prevent them having to walk through three areas with large non-white and immigrant populations. (Image alongside: Aylesbury Estate residents.)
The first private hire bus pulls up at 4pm outside the council offices to take workers the half-mile to Elephant and Castle Underground station.
The half-hourly shuttle service continues — at £130 per day to the taxpayer — until the last workers are dropped off at the station around 7pm.
A total of six journeys are made each day, at a cost of £910 a week, to ensure the workers do not have to cross the notorious Aylesbury Estate, where, according to official figures, more than 70% of residents are from black and ‘ethnic minority’ communities.
The area is part of the constituency of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, who caused controversy in April when she walked around nearby Peckham wearing a stab-proof vest. Her decision to wear body armour came weeks after Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she would not walk the streets of London at night.
The private bus service ferries staff across two of the country’s most dangerous areas, including the Camberwell and Peckham borough wards of Faraday and East Walworth, where the number of robberies is much higher than the national average. Crime is highly prevalent in parts of the estate with police figures reporting a crime taking place every four hours. The population is very racially diverse with two thirds of residents being of black and minority ethnic heritage.
The 2001 Census shows that the borough of Southwark is home to a number of communities which include a high proportion of ‘refugees’. These include Sierra Leone, Cyprus, Somalia, Yugoslavia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Money sent from Southwark indicates the African communities which make up Southwark’s large African population: 27% to Nigeria; 26% to Ghana; and 24% to Somalia. The number of Nigerian-born people alone is close to 8,000; the number of people of Nigerian ethnicity (that is, both Nigerian-born people and the British-born population of Nigerian descent) is likely to be around twice that figure and there is also a similar number of people of Sierra Leonean descent.
In Camberwell, people of black African origin make up 41% of the local population, and in the ward of West Camberwell 24% of the population are black African, 12% are black Caribbean and 31% of the population in West Camberwell were born outside the European Union.