by Councillor Fleur Anderson
I feel let down by Formula E and I do not think we should welcome it back to Battersea Park.
Last December we received long explanations of how the event would be run. We received promises and assurances of an event which would have minimal disruption for the public, be a safe event, be quiet and be right for the park.
We not only welcomed the revenue but also the opportunity to promote green technology and provide a world class event in Wandsworth.
However the event was far more disruptive than promised – as the report shows, and as we have heard from so many representative local groups such as the Friends of Battersea Park, the Battersea Society and local residents groups.
It is clear that the actual experience was extremely disruptive and even for many “traumatic”. It was not just two days with a short set up and take-down, it was a full three weeks of the park being taken over by a ring of steel and described by some as looking like Alcatraz.
The visual effect was far greater than we led to believe and council staff agree that the visual impact will remain the same if the event continues in future years. The independent Heritage Impact Assessment says “loss of normal use of and access to the Park and its facilities, in varying degrees, over a three-week period is, in our view, unacceptable”.
Safety is also a major concern and there were real concerns in the Health and Safety report about communication between teams, poor stewarding, and having a race track built alongside public access. As it turns out the event itself was safe, but the setting up was not.
Having read the report, I feel that we were extremely lucky to not have had a serious accident during the set-up, and we should not be risking the general public’s safety again – the park just isn’t the right place for this.
There were lots of other issues too:
- noise from helicopters
- disruption to the zoo and the Peace Pagoda
- having ‘grid girls’
- lack of long-term ‘green’ results for the Borough such as electric power points for car charging
I could go on. Some of these can be mitigated against as outlined in the report but not enough, but it fundamentally is not the event we were promised and making Battersea Park a race track has not worked.
The Council needs to involve the local residents in something that will impact their environment so much – but they didn’t do so and still aren’t. As we have heard, most local residents did not receive notices about the consultation and feel that this was ‘done to them’.
Similarly they experienced what it was like in June and were asked to feed into a consultation which showed overwhelmingly negative comments but we’re still here considering continuing with the race.
Rather than involving people in knowing the benefits for the borough resulting from the disruption to their lives, the finances or a explanation of benefits for Council services have been shrouded in secrecy.
The friends of Battersea Park do not feel that the money for the park is worth the impact on the park and people who use it – we should listen to them. People feel that this decision to go ahead with the race is being steamrollered through.
This is not how the council should conduct itself, and it is the role of councillors to listen to people and take feedback seriously. I have had a stream of emails, I have seen the petitions and surveys – it couldn’t be clearer that most people don’t want this.
The race has a value to the council, but three weeks’ public access to Battersea Park in June also has a value too. That is what the feedback from local residents can tell us and help us to weigh up. This must be taken seriously but is being roundly dismissed by the Conservative councillors – an attitude we have seen to so many other issues and on the value of consultation with residents in general.
We do support Formula E – but not in Battersea Park. We have a break clause and we should use it.
Rex Osborn, leader of Wandsworth Labour said: “Local Tories are being extremely disingenuous with their Crossrail 2 survey. Instead of pointing people towards the official consultation, they are using Crossrail 2 as an opportunity to harvest residents’ contact details.
“And what is worse, it could result in fewer people taking part in the real consultation, as many will think taking part in the survey is enough. TfL have made it clear that this is not an alternative to the consultation, and residents must submit their views to TfL directly. With fewer people submitting to the consultation, we could see our station moved to Balham.
“I would advise local Tories who think they are smart enough to be Members of Parliament that it is wrong to play politics with matters like Crossrail 2. The needs of the community come first.”
Wandsworth Labour councillors will not support the return of Formula E to Battersea Park next summer.
Councillor Rex Osborn, Wandsworth Labour leader, said: “We feel that the Conservative council are trying to steamroller through a decision to welcome Formula E back to Battersea Park against the very strong opposition by local residents who feel this is absolutely not the right event to be hosted in this Grade II listed park.
“There is a long list of ways in which Formula E did not organise the event in the way they had promised and we don’t feel that very much would improve if it happens again.”
A council report showed that 62% of local residents opposed the event and there were very serious concerns about safety, noise and lengthy disruption to Battersea Park during three normally busy summer weeks.
The event proved far more disruptive to Battersea Park users than was anticipated, according to local groups, a large petition and the council’s own public consultation.
Wandsworth councillors will make the decision on the future of Formula E in Battersea Park at a Town Hall committee meeting on November 24.
Formula E had promised an environmentally significant event with a short set-up and take-down time. However the event was beset with problems including: lack of consultation with residents; a much longer and more disruptive and unsafe set-up time; more reduced access to the park than expected; heavy machinery to create the concrete race barriers; excessive noise from loudspeakers and helicopters.
There had been plans to increase provision of electric power points in the borough and directly support the use of electric cars, but this has not happened. Wandsworth Labour remains very supportive the development of electric vehicles and appreciates the environmental aims of Formula E. While the races proved an enjoyable event for those who attended, Battersea Park is not the right venue for a motor racing event of this scale.
Councillor Fleur Anderson, Community Services Committee Spokesperson said: “Wandsworth Council needs to take consultations with residents seriously and if they do so, they cannot continue with this event.”
“We have had a steady stream of emails from local residents opposing this event very strongly and claiming that they have not had any response from the Leader of the Council. The council has also not said how it would spend the revenue from the event, so residents cannot put up with this amount of disruption to their local park if they cannot see any benefit.”
Figures obtained by Wandsworth Labour reveal that up to 5,680 local households could lose £1,300 each in Tory cuts to their tax credits.
Wandsworth residents in Roehampton, West Hill, Tooting, Graveney and Latchmere wards are most likely to affected, with over 600 potentially losing out in Roehampton (full figures below).
George Osborne, the chancellor, plans to cut £4.4bn from tax credits. This will mean an average loss of £1,300 a year for households hit by the changes, according to the House of Commons Library. Read More…
A letting agency has been paid more than £5.5m in housing benefit after its owner set up a charity to help the homeless, the BBC reports.
Investing Solutions received those benefit payments over the past two years by finding properties for single homeless men.
The charity, Fresh Start Housing, finds clients from London homeless charities.
Both Investing Solutions and Fresh Start are based in the same building, a storage unit in south London.
Nearly half the money that Investing Solutions has received over the past two years has been paid by Wandsworth Council, which has paid the lettings agency more than £2.1m.
Operating across seven London boroughs, Investing Solutions is one of the largest recipients of housing benefit in the UK, making the venture hugely profitable.
In one property the BBC visited, Investing Solutions was claiming £2,114 per month in housing benefit for two tenants.
The owner of the house was getting £1,150 per month, giving the agency an annual gross profit of £11,568 on the one property.
Neither the charity nor the company act illegally, but a homeless group says the relationship is “a new low”.
Matt Downie, of homeless charity Crisis, said: “We’ve heard many examples of poor practice amongst letting agents as well as good practice. But this idea of having a charity tacked on to poor practice is a new low.”
Candida Jones, the Wandsworth Labour councillor whose work led to the investigation, said: “It is shocking that so much public money can be paid to house some of our most vulnerable people in filthy and dangerous conditions. In a properly regulated housing market exploitation of this kind could not have happened.
“I can’t understand why alarm bells were not ringing at Wandsworth Council. They are flat-footed when it comes to investigating local landlords.”
Rex Osborn, Wandsworth Labour leader, said: “This is a serious failing across Wandsworth’s housing and caring departments leading to huge spending errors. Who in Wandsworth’s Conservative administration will have the courage to take responsibility for this and have the decency to step down?”
Tooting MP Sadiq Khan has been named the Patchwork Foundation’s People’s Choice MP of the Year, in an annual ceremony held in the Speaker’s House in Parliament
Through the MP of the Year Awards, the Patchwork Foundation highlights and acknowledges those MPs – nominated by individuals and grassroots community organisations, and subsequently picked by an independent panel of judges – that have excelled in representing such communities.
The People’s Choice is their most prestigious award and was presented by news presenter Martyn Lewis. This is the second MP of the Year Award Sadiq has won – he was named Labour MP and Overall MP of the Year in 2013.
The Patchwork Foundation aims to promote and encourage the positive integration of deprived and minority communities into British political society.
Councillor Candida Jones’s speech Wandsworth Council about the refugee crisis, October 14, 2015
Wandsworth has offered sanctuary to refugees, quaintly referred to on the council’s website as “profitable and gentle strangers”, for centuries.
So proud are we of this tradition of welcoming those fleeing persecution that we have literally carved it in stone – one of the reliefs on the Town Hall’s exterior depicts Huguenots, given sanctuary here, busy at work at Wandsworth’s fabric mills.
Refugees to this borough have enriched the wealth and culture of Wandsworth immeasurably; many Huguenots became successful members of the community and made Wandsworth famous for its dyeing, silk weaving and hat-making businesses. More recent refugees to the borough have included the former MP of Battersea, Lord Dubbs, who arrived as part of the Kinder Transport in 1938, and our own Council Leader, whose family, along with 27,000 other refugees, fled persecution and were welcomed here.
We must not shut the door behind them.
Now is the time for Wandsworth to show that same spirit of welcome and leadership that defines us – this is the worst refugee crisis to face Europe since World War 2 and we must respond.
There are tangible steps that Wandsworth can take to make a life-changing difference to people fleeing war and I urge you all to take these.
We are asking Wandsworth to welcome and support just 10 refugee families, by which we mean fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, children, people just like you and me. To minimise the burden on the Council’s resources we urge Wandsworth to liaise with private landlords and individuals to avoid the displacement of those on current housing waiting lists.
And of course refugees, granted a five-year humanitarian protection visa, have recourse to national public funds, so Council budgets would not be compromised.
As well as providing register of local landlords and individuals who are happy to take in refugees, the Council could actively seek the support of schools, GPs, the voluntary sector, churches and other faith and community groups in offering other practical solutions.
The Council could sign up to Local Government Association’s Regional Strategic Migration Partnership. The LGA has confirmed that there will be additional funding for refugees beyond the first 12 months and that this will not be taken from the overall council allocation. The scheme is simple, the UNHCR refer cases to the Home Office to check they meet eligibility criteria and to carry out medical and security checks and the Home Office then passes the cases to a local authority who has asked to participate. What reason can there be for Wandsworth not to participate in this scheme?
Two people in my ward have already contacted me to say that they are willing to help. One, a local vicar, said “I was wondering what Wandsworth was doing around helping and taking in refugees, but have so far drawn a blank. I was only thinking that the churches would be well placed to provide the welcome and ongoing support that they would need”. These offers need coordinating; the Council is best-placed to do this.
Yesterday, Churches Together in Balham unanimously backed our call for this Council to receive at least ten refugee families, saying “As representatives of Christians in Balham, we urge you to uphold values of compassion and humanity in the face of the current global crisis by taking this very small but significant step as a response”.
I would like to end by quoting two Conservatives. Samuel Hoare, who, as home secretary in 1938, was instrumental in obtaining approval for the British rescue effort of children in Europe known as the Kindertransport, said ‘I believe that we could find homes in this country for a very large number without any harm to our own population”. He added; ‘We have a splendid opportunity of raising our own level, and rising to be worthy of our own standards in carrying out this task of relief and salvation.’
And Cllr Govindia himself, who has said; “Many local people are ready to make a personal contribution. This borough has a long and proud history of helping people who have fled persecution”
If Wandsworth does not do everything it can to help the “Profitable and gentle strangers” of today it will be doing its history and its own standards, a huge disservice. Please vote with your conscience to do more.