My 30 years of experience tells me: This is no way to run children’s services


Councillor Jeremy Ambache speech to Wandsworth Council, January 27, 2016

An Ofsted report has found “weaknesses” in Wandsworth’s children’s services. At a special council meeting councillors were asked to approve £500,000 to re-shuffle top-tier managers in the department, without seeing the Ofsted report  

My qualifications to talk on this subject are: I qualified as a child care social worker back in 1971; I spent over 30 years working with vulnerable children and adults up to the early 2000s in Social Work, Managerial and Director positions; I worked in eight different Local Authorities led by politicians of all the main political parties.

The responsibilities under the Children Act for vulnerable children are particularly onerous on staff and on the Local Authority. It takes great skill and effective management from all concerned to delivering the services to children looked after or in care, to ‘children in need’ and for child protection and safeguarding. Read More…

While Wandsworth Council re-arranged the deckchairs, they failed to spot the iceberg

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Councillor Peter Carpenter speech to Wandsworth Council, January 27, 2016

An Ofsted report has found “weaknesses” in Wandsworth’s children’s services. At a special council meeting councillors were asked to approve £500,000 to re-shuffle top-tier managers in the department, without seeing the Ofsted report  

I have over 40 years experience in managing businesses. In that time I have worked in organisations which are vertically integrated, horizontally integrated, matrix managed and any number of variants.

In that time I have found that while management structures can help you or hinder you in achieving your goals, whether you achieve them depends more on whether you have the right strategy and the will to implement it. Read More…

“Looking after children in care is one of the most important things a council does”

Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of the Wandsworth Labour Group, said: “Looking after children in care is one of the most important things a council does. I’m deeply worried that Wandsworth has been found failing by Ofsted

“The Conservative leadership are trying to sweep the issue under the carpet. Councillors are still in the dark over how serious the failings were or what harm they caused to children.

“The Council now has to spend £500,000 just to get the department up to scratch. I don’t believe the people who led us into this situation are the right people to lead us out of it.”

Your choice for Crossrail 2: Balham or Tooting Broadway?

The Crossrail 2 consultation closes this Friday (Jan 8), so have your say now on the official website.
Sadiq Khan MP has been working to ensure transport bosses listen to your views on the proposed Crossrail 2 rail line, which will connect our area to Clapham Junction and central London.
The original plans for a station at Tooting Broadway were thrown into doubt after a survey showed underground conditions would make this hugely expensive. Instead they are proposing to link to the Northern Line at Balham.
Sadiq Khan MP said, “Tooting Broadway was a sensible choice, not least to improve links to St George’s Hospital. I’ve been pushing TfL to organise more, properly-promoted consultation events so that local residents can have their questions answered and have their say.”
“I will ensure that TfL properly considers your views. Whichever option is chosen will have a big impact on our area, both during the building work and beyond. So support from local residents is vital.”

Councillors protest ‘awful’ Tory decision to close Roehampton children’s centre

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Roehampton Labour councillors Jeremy Ambache, Peter Carpenter and Sue McKinney protest alongside local people

Wandsworth Council has decided to close of the Alton Activity Centre which is based within the Roehampton regeneration area. The Centre is used by hundreds of local people children from 3 to 15 and their parents. The story featured on the front page of the Wandsworth Guardian on January 28.

At the Council meeting on 9th December the Tory councillors voted to cut the staffing and funding of this Centre as part of a £1.4m spending reduction for ‘Early Years’ services.

This Centre is a child care facility provided by a Council through a contract to a child care organisation called Spurgeons. The Alton Activity Centre offers skilled and experienced child care staff who provide after school activities, weekend and holiday activities as well as working with parents.

The Alton Activity Centre caters for children who experience a wide range of learning and other difficulties. A wide range of needs are addressed: Children with low self-esteem, disabled children and those with special educational needs, children involved in domestic abuse, special help for children and their peers experiencing bullying, and those with obesity and weight problems.

Also, the Centre supports parents through a number of mutual self-help groups.

The Alton Estate is an area of high need and is in the middle of the ‘regeneration area’ which has been designated for environmental and social improvements by the Council.

The Council’s plan to stop providing these services at the end of March 2016. This decision has come as a shock to local families who had not been forewarned that this was likely to happen.

Labour Councillor Jeremy Ambache who represents the Roehampton area said:

“This is a short sighted decision and by the Council as these services are hugely valued by the local children and families.

“Highly skilled staff from Spurgeon’s offer a variety of services which meet the needs of children with considerable problems and difficulties. It takes time and costs money to build such a staff team offering effective services for children and families – and by closing down this will be lost.

“The decision has been taken hurriedly and was managed badly by the Council as it failed to involve local people including the three local Councillors.

“The Alton is an area of high need where these family services in great demand. The services provided by Spurgeons at this Centre are a vital lifeline for many local children and families living in the area.

“It is quite wrong for the Council to stop the current services that take a lot of time and resources to develop as they hope to re-establish some new services for children.  

“As part of the Regeneration programme the Council had promised to help build up a stronger community and better services on the Alton Estate. Sadly by taking this decision close the current services the Council is doing the exact opposite of what was promised!

“The Council have an ambition (which has not been worked out in any detail) to continue using this facility for children. But they do not know who will do this will be achieved! Also, they do not know how this will be funded! This decision to close this facility is quite irresponsible as it is squandering a well-used and well run provision.

“This decision by the Tories on the Council shows that they know the cost of everything but the value of nothing! This is an awful news to give at Christmas time to the children, parents and staff.”

Greyhound stadium development update

By Sadiq Khan MP and Earlsfield Labour councillor Rachael Stokes 

AFC stadium

You may be aware that Merton Councillors recently approved a planning application to allow AFC Wimbledon to move into a new stadium to be built on the site of the greyhound stadium on Plough Lane.

Many local residents have welcomed the redevelopment. It will deliver additional retail space and housing. The developers will fund an improved play space in Garratt Park and facilities for GP services. Money will also be made available to improve local bus services, roads, pavements and pedestrian crossings, plus to consult on controlled parking zones if necessary.

Equally, other local residents were concerned about congestion on match-day, increased demand for local amenities and the disruption that may be caused whilst the work is undertaken.

As your local MP and councillor, our priority was to ensure your views – both pro- and anti-development – were fully considered by Merton Council. We secured a promise from them that Wandsworth residents’ views would be given equal weight to those in Merton.

Merton Council’s decision to give the development the green light will disappoint some of you, while others will cheer it on. What matters now is how the decision is implemented.

We want to see Merton and Wandsworth Councils work together to tackle any problems that might occur during building work, or once the development is complete. As your elected representatives, we will be keeping a very close eye on progress and will fight to ensure that any disruption or negative impact on local services is quickly addressed.

To help us do this, please do raise any concerns or issues with us. It is vital that your views are heard and we will continue to ensure this happens. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Remember, we’re here to help, whatever your politics.

Wandsworth council should listen to local people and stop Formula E


Speech to Wandsworth Council by councillor Rachael Stokes, December 9 2015

From my perspective, this debate goes beyond the issue of electric cars racing around a Grade II listed park.

It goes beyond the heritage impact assessment report which concluded that “it is unacceptable to restrict use of and access to the park over a three week period” – and beyond the safety assessment which acknowledged that there was a “steep learning curve”.

It even goes beyond the question of whether it is appropriate for a council in the 21st Century to be associated with a so-called family event which uses bikini clad ‘grid girls’.

For me, this has become an issue about local democracy and people’s faith in the members elected to represent them.


At last month’s committee meeting, the question of whether to invoke the break clause was presented a decision that involved weighing up the disruption caused by the event against the financial benefits and role of the borough in promoting green technology.

On the financial benefits, well we can’t really assess this as the revenue received by the council is subject to commercial confidentiality. We have no clear commitments as to how the money will be spent and in terms of the wider impact on the local economy, the only evidence we have is anecdotal.

As for the promotion of green technology, the assertions here appear to be tenuous at best and a complete falsehood at worst. Even council officers conclude that it cannot be called a green event.

It perhaps little wonder then that residents overwhelmingly sided with the view that the costs far exceeded the benefits.


So let’s review local opposition to the event in numbers:

  • 400 residents wrote directly to the council to complain about the event
  • 550 contributed to Facebook page
  • Nearly 3000 residents signed a local petition set up by Save Battersea Park
  • A Wandsworth Guardian poll showed 86% of reader responses opposed to Formula E’s return
  • And of 1366 respondents to council’s own consultation, 62% opposed formula E return.

The committee report was succinct in its conclusion that “A clear majority of respondents do not want to see formula E as an annual event in the park.”

If this was not compelling enough, council officers estimate that 150 residents came to observe the decision made by the Community Services committee meeting last month. This was an unprecedented situation where observers had to sit in two overspill rooms, including this very chamber. All five of the excellent deputations made at the meeting by local resident associations and community groups were opposed to Formula E’s return.


There is very little doubt that the decision to allow Formula E to return is at odds with public opinion.

This leads Jan Littlewood, a member of the Battersea Park Action Group, to reach the following conclusion, “Democratically speaking, every local interest group and a clear majority in every poll and consultation has proven to be against the event returning to the park. If formula E gets voted through….we will need to start asking serious questions about the leadership structure and democratic integrity of Wandsworth Council.”


Councils consult with their residents for a reason. They receive petitions for a reason. They invite deputations for a reason. That reason is very simple: to listen and respond to what people have to say.

It is time we listened to Wandsworth residents and take action to stop the return of Formula E.



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