Labour councillors in Wandsworth have launched an independent commission of local government finance and business experts from across London, to uncover fresh ways to keep council tax low in the Borough while maintaining crucial frontline services.
The commission will be chaired by Michael Ward, former Chief Executive of the London Development Agency, who is a long-term Wandsworth resident with more than 30 years’ experience in local government, as an officer, an elected member, and a researcher.
The commission’s report will be independent of the Wandsworth Labour Group and the Wandsworth Labour Parties.
Michael will be joined on the commission by Martin Pilgrim, former Chief Executive of London Councils; Gareth Daniel, former Chief Executive of Brent Council; Stephanie Elsy, former Leader of Southwark Council; and George Kessler, Joint Managing Director of a London manufacturing business and a member of London First, the influential business organisation representing London’s leading employers.
Heavy cuts from the Tory-led Government have put local authority budgets under severe pressure since 2010. But Labour Councillors suspect that Wandsworth’s Tory Council no longer has a convincing long term strategic vision for the Borough, preferring to pursue damaging and penny-pinching savings.
The commission will produce its report in Spring 2014.
Councillor Rex Osborn, Leader of the Wandsworth Labour Group, said: “The Tory-led Government has imposed the biggest squeeze in history on local authority budgets, leaving local councillors with difficult choices to make. However, unlike Wandsworth Tories, who have demonstrated the wrong priorities – cutting back frontline services and toying with charging children to pay to use the Borough’s playgrounds – Labour believes there are better ways to balance the books and keep council tax low without penalising residents.
“That’s why I’ve asked an independent commission of local government and business experts to identify fairer ways to make the necessary savings. When voters go to the polls next May for the council elections, we will offer them a clear choice –more of the same from the Wandsworth Tories, or a fresh, fair approach from Labour, which will keep the council tax low.”
Michael Ward, chair of the commission, said: “I’ve lived in Wandsworth for a total of 28 years, and am excited to be embarking on a project that could have a real impact on the lives of Wandsworth residents. I’ve warned Rex Osborn and his Labour team that there are no easy answers, but I hope that our report will provide some new thinking and some genuine alternatives for local residents to consider.”
The Commission’s Terms of Reference are:
“To examine Wandsworth’s revenue and capital budget.
This should include:
- forecasting trends in the balance sheet
- examining the Council’s treatment by central government in the allocation of grant
- reviewing the Council’s policy on, and use of, reserves
- reviewing the policy on user charging
- reviewing the relationship between the budget and the Housing Revenue Account
- making recommendations for an alternative budget, structured according to clear principles and priorities making recommendations on improving the management of the budget.”
Michael Ward is a researcher and consultant on economic and social policy. From 2000 to 2004 he was Chief Executive of the London Development Agency, the London Mayor’s agency for business and jobs. In the 1970s he was a Wandsworth Councillor, and in the 1980s Deputy Leader of the GLC. He and his family live in Furzedown, Wandsworth.
Martin Pilgrim has spent most of his 39-year career working for bodies representing local government. His last job before retirement was Chief Executive of London Councils, the body which brings together London’s local authorities. Martin is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and has a Master’s degree in management from the University of Kent.
Stephanie Elsy has 30 years’ experience working at a senior level across the public, private and charity sectors. She is a former Leader of Southwark Council, and spent nine years as director of external affairs at Serco, which holds a large number of contracts with local authorities across the country.
Gareth Daniel has worked in London local government for more than three decades and served as Brent Council’s longest-serving Chief Executive from 1998–2012. A resident of Ealing in West London, he is a qualified social worker by background. He has also served as a councillor on the GLC and was chair of Ealing Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee for four years. He now runs his own management consultancy undertaking change management and partnership development projects across the country.
George Kessler is Joint Deputy Chairman of Kesslers International Limited, a London based manufacturing business employing an ethnically diverse multi-skilled workforce of 300. Kesslers are Europe’s leading designers and manufacturers of permanent Point of Purchase Display. George is also a member of London First, Made in London, London Economic Panel and EEF’s Economic Policy Committee as well as being Chair of EEF’s London region
News that another betting shop may open in central Tooting is being met with anger by the local community. The former HS Samuel jewelers at 17 Mitcham Road has been targeted for planning and licensing permission to become a bookies.
Tooting residents have expressed their dismay about a new betting shop being located in the town centre to Graveney Councillors and MP Sadiq Khan.
Sadiq said: ‘Many of my constituents are concerned that there is already a heavy concentration of betting shops in Tooting, especially along the High Street, including Tooting High Street, Garratt Lane and Mitcham Road. Local residents, who live and shop in the area do not want another betting shop to open in Tooting Broadway and I share their concerns. It is important that Wandsworth Council encourages diversity on our High Street and does not allow so many betting shops to operate in one town centre.
In a recent article in the Evening Standard Tooting was described as ‘rooting’ and ‘the next Shoreditch’, following the recent surge in popular bars, restaurants and art clubs on the High Street. The popular franchise, Eggfree Cake Box has just opened in Tooting and the Soho House group are soon to open a Chicken Shop on Tooting High Street. It is fantastic to see Tooting attracting exciting new businesses and being seen to the outside world as a desirable place to live, eat and shop, but I am very concerned that allowing any more betting shops to open on our High Street will put people off from shopping here and other retailers from setting up in business here.
Another concern is that a betting shop in such a prominent location, across from Tooting Broadway Station, could attract more on-street drinking in the area and therefore lead to more anti-social behaviour and disruption. There is an alleyway adjacent to the property where groups can gather, and there is a real worry that this could ultimately lead to the site becoming a source of noise and disturbance in the local area, and one that residents avoid.’
Graveney ward Councillor Andy Gibbons said ‘It’s important that the local community objects to this application as residents’ opinion should count when it comes to deciding what kind of area we want to live in. A lot of school children travel through Tooting Broadway to get home, and they shouldn’t be walking past a parade of gambling arcades, bookies and pawn shops. The government should be looking at ways to keep a mixed economy in town centres, not making it easier to turn retailers in to betting shops.’
You can find the application and object online here: http://planning.wandsworth.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do?appType=planning&appNumber=2013/5390
Sign Sadiq’s petition to save Tooting high street: http://www.sadiqkhan.org.uk/save_our_high_street?recruiter_id=27509
Labour’s policy on betting shops: http://www.labour.org.uk/betting-shops-clustering-in-areas-of-deprivation
Evening Standard article on Tooting: http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/attractions/tooting-is-officially-rooting-sw17s-best-bars-restaurants-and-culture-8929104.html
By Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group On October 31, Wandsworth councillor Robert Morritt, who represents East Putney Ward, was removed from the Wandsworth Conservative Group. For now he remains a councillor but the voters of East Putney did not elect an independent in 2010. The honourable course of action for Cllr. Morritt is to resign his Council seat. To be removed from the Conservative Group, Cllr. Morritt must have done something wrong. The voters of East Putney should be told what it was Cllr Morritt did. Allegations have appeared in two national publications, and a website, concerning the conduct of Cllr. Morritt and his handling of funds during his time employed by Wandsworth Conservatives and his early days as a councillor. He has insisted he is innocent. The voters of Wandsworth deserve to be told which, if any, of these allegations are true. Whatever it was that Cllr. Morritt did up to 2010, accusations first surfaced in public in July 2012. Since then the Wandsworth Conservative Leader has prevaricated and delayed taking any action. No doubt the Conservatives fear this affair exposes their indecision and their lack of financial good sense but there are serious questions unanswered. Has Cllr. Morritt broken any law? Who knew what Cllr. Morritt had done? And when did they know it? Cllr. Morritt should go - but Wandsworth Conservatives should come clean.
Guest post, by Mrs Simpson.I am disabled.I live in a three bedroom house on the Shaftesbury Estate with my husband and son. My house is owned by the Peabody Trust.
I had serious back trouble after having children. As time went on it got worse. It got to the stage that I could not get in and out of my bath or get up my stairs.
In the end I had to sleep in my front room and wash in a sink because I couldn’t get in the bath.
I have lived in Battersea all my life. My husband works at a nursery and I have two daughters that live close by. They are always on hand to help me.
I was on my housing trust list for seven years trying to get an adapted property but they didn’t have any two bed. I was given a three bed adapted house which I moved to in December 2009.
In April 2013 the bedroom tax was brought in. We get a bit of housing benefit because of my husband’s low wage. Our housing benefit was cut from £65 a week to £48 a week and we have to find the short fall which works out at £82 a month.
I am on every home swapper site going to find a two bed property – including the council’s and through Facebook. I have been on to my housing trust and been put on their bidding system where you have to bid for available properties.
But there are no two bed adapted places on there. Like I keep saying they never had any adapted properties back in 2009. They still haven’t got any now.
All that is going to happen is we will end up getting in to rent arrears then if a place came up we wouldn’t be allowed to move. We will end up in court.
I have a degenerative condition which impairs my mobility. The bedroom tax is cruel.
Click here to sign the petition to end the bedroom tax:
Since rumours emerged that supermarket giant Tesco was looking to take over the Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting Bec, the local community has come together to work with the pub to take action.
After raising local residents’ concerns directly with the Chief Executive of Tesco, I received assurances that Tesco will not be taking over the Tooting Bec pub, which is a huge achievement.
But the campaign doesn’t stop here.
The next task is to make sure no other retailer is allowed to turn The Wheatsheaf into a supermarket or shop. It simply does not make sense to close this much-loved and extremely popular local pub, to allow another supermarket to open. Supermarket giants shouldn’t be allowed to take over successful and well-loved businesses, simply by throwing more money at them.
Wandsworth Council can stop another supermarket taking over by using planning legislation now to ensure that only elected councillors can decide on any change to the use of the building.
Sign Sadiq’s letter here: http://www.sadiqkhan.org.uk/letter_save_the_wheatsheaf?splash=1
Since rumours emerged that supermarket giant Tesco is looking to take over the Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting Bec, local MP Sadiq Khan has taken action to stop the pub being forced to close down.
Sadiq is working with the company that runs the Wheatsheaf pub and local residents to stop another multinational supermarket taking over a much loved local pub. He has taken the fight right to the top; of Tescos, the Government and the Council.
The Wheatsheaf has been a Tooting landmark for over a century and since the Gregarious group took over in 2010, it has become one of the busiest pubs in Tooting, and one of the most friendly. It is now at the heart of the community in Tooting Bec, and is much loved by local residents and families, who have been up in arms since they heard the rumours that their favourite local faces a supermarket takeover.