Ben Johnson steps down as Tooting councillor: “great honour and an absolute pleasure”

imageOn Thursday, with great regret, I stepped down as a councillor for Tooting Ward.

Serving the local community, and Tooting Labour Party, for these past six years has been a great honour and an absolute pleasure.

Our part of London is one of the most welcoming, diverse, and dynamic places to live in the country, and a place I continue to be proud to call my home.

However, in my professional life, I have accepted a new role as an advisor to our new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Roles in public service such as this come with political restrictions, including a bar from holding elected office, and therefore in order to take on this new job I have had to resign from the Council.

I’m very sad to be leaving my role as a local councillor behind. Over the past six years, I’ve worked hard, alongside my fellow Labour councillors, to support local residents, businesses and voluntary organisations, and to protect them from the worst impacts of the enormous cuts being made to our local services.

I’ve enjoyed worked with local campaigns and charities to help make Tooting an even better place to live and work, and have always done my best to help those I have met who have had problems relating to housing, finance or the local area that needed solving.

I’m equally excited to be going to work for the Mayor of London. In my new role, advising him on business and digital matters, I hope to make a real difference for the people of Tooting and for all Londoners.

London faces a time of great economic uncertainty, and for the sake of our businesses, jobs and family finances it is vital that we work hard to keep London’s economy prosperous, fair and open.
There will soon be a local byelection to elect a replacement for me, who I’m sure will do a great job.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to the people of Tooting for electing me, first in 2010 and then again in 2014. Despite no longer being a councillor, I’ll always do my best by Tooting and its fantastic residents.

Large turn-out expected at post-Brexit Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees meeting

imageWandsworth Welcomes Refugees, a voluntary group set up in Wandsworth with the aim of encouraging the borough to welcome more refugees, will be holding its first large-scale public meeting this Thursday (June 30).

The meeting takes place to coincide with National Refugee Week.

Currently, the Council houses around 55 individuals defined as “destitute”, a little over half of whom are asylum seekers.

Carmel Dann, a local resident whose son recently played in a football tournament in the Calais jungle, said “I feel there’s more that Wandsworth could do to help refugees and asylum seekers. I am attending this meeting because I want to be part of the discussion to encourage Wandsworth to provide more support for them”. She added “I am fearful that given the referendum result, it will become harder to welcome refugees in Wandsworth”.

Fleur Anderson, Labour councillor in Bedford ward, said: “The Labour Group in Wandsworth is a firm supporter of the Wandsworth Welcomes Refugee network. In a post-Brexit Wandsworth it’s more important than ever to be a welcoming community. If the number of emails I have received is anything to go by I think the meeting will be extremely well-attended”.

Lord Alf Dubs, who will be speaking at the meeting, said: “The UK has a long and proud tradition of welcoming refugees, myself included. I congratulate Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees on its work to date and look forward to cooperating closely with them. Never has there been a greater need for this group, to help and support refugees coming here, but also to argue against the alarming increase in racism and xenophobia”.

Alf Dubs, the former MP for Battersea and Chair of the Refugee Council, successfully tabled an amendment to the refugee bill to welcome unaccompanied refugee children to the UK.

The meeting will be chaired by John O’Farrell, well-known local author and comedy scriptwriter.

Councillor Fleur Anderson said: “the meeting will give us the opportunity of hearing from refugees and from members who’ve recently visited Calais. The Labour Group tabled a motion for debate on welcoming more refugees in the borough, which was sadly defeated, but there are still things that residents can do to encourage Wandsworth to support refugees and we hope the Council will reconsider their position. Other boroughs are doing more.”

The meeting takes place this Thursday June 30th at 7.30pm at the East Hill Baptist Church, SW18 2HD

‘We are all proud of Wandsworth’s diversity and cohesion’

Wandsworth’s Labour councillors endorse this statement from independent councillors Malcolm Grimston and James Cousins:

“As councillors we are all proud of Wandsworth’s diversity and cohesion. We are confident Wandsworth will remain a great place to live for everyone.

“However, we are aware that there have been examples across the country of people interpreting the vote to leave the European Union as an excuse for racism and other divisive behaviour, not just aimed at our good friends from the European Union.

“We want to stress that we fully support the comments of Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and our three local MPs, Jane Ellison, Justine Greening and Rosena Allin-Khan: to everyone who has chosen to make Wandsworth their home wherever they may hail from we reiterate you remain warmly welcome in the Brighter Borough.

“Wandsworth is all the stronger for its diversity and the different contributions made by all our residents and we as councillors will do everything we can to make sure that you continue to enjoy the inclusive and peaceful life which characterises our borough.”

Foodbank use in Wandsworth up 25%

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Will Martindale (left) and Simon Hogg (right) with volunteers Sarah Chapman and Dan Frith at Wandsworth Foodbank in St Mark’s Church, Battersea

Shocking figures released last week show that the number of people using foodbanks in Wandsworth rose by 25% last year. Across London as a whole, the increase was 4%.

The figures, released by the Trussell Trust in their Food Poverty Report 2015-16, showed that last year 4078 people in Wandsworth relied on foodbanks. A quarter of them were children.

Commenting on the figures, Labour councillor for Furzedown, Candida Jones, said: “What possible excuse could there be for a 25% increase in food poverty in one of the richest boroughs in one of the richest cities in the world? If 25% more people are relying on charity for food this year then there is a serious problem with the support systems in this borough. The systems that are supposed to protect our most vulnerable people are not working”.

The Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks in Wandsworth describes them as “an increasingly essential part of the safety net.. standing between people in crisis and destitution”.

Compared with the figures for 2013-14 there has been a 76% increase in food bank use in Wandsworth.  Read More…

‘All parents should have access to free early-years childcare’

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Joint submission from Labour councillors Rachael Stokes, Fleur Anderson & Rosena Allin-Khan.
This submission is in response to Wandsworth council’s consultation and its proposal to de-designate the Garratt Park and Triangle Children’s Centres. We respond in our capacity as local councillors for both Earlsfield and Bedford wards, in which the two children’s centres whose services are under threat are located. 
 
The principle that guides our response is that all parents, no matter which ward they live in, should have access to free early-years childcare. The evidence is very clear: early-years childcare and education boosts our children’s future educational performance, reduces reliance on social care services, helps to tackling childhood obesity, and of course, promotes community cohesion. 
 
We recognise the need for Wandsworth Council to make efficiency savings, including in the provision of early-years childcare across the Borough. We note, however, that Wandsworth has been forced to make these savings as a result of savage cuts to local budgets by this Conservative Government, including the largest real terms cut in the education budget since the 1970s. 
 
We believe that cuts to early years childcare services – especially before all other alternative options have been explored – are a false economy. By making it more difficult for our children to get the best start in life, these cuts run the risk of increasing expenditure further down the line on social services and health. 
 
However, we recognise the need to make immediate savings. Therefore, we support the proposals made in paper 15-437, which by streamlining the management structures of Garratt Park Centre would make significant savings, whilst retaining key services such as stay and play

Read More…

U-Turn on Formula E in Battersea Park ‘testimony to people power’

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Wandsworth Labour councillors are delighted that this year’s race in the historic Battersea Park will be the last, after Formula E agreed to withdraw the event in the face of strong public opposition.

Simon Hogg, Wandsworth Labour Leader and long-term opponent of the race, said: “The Council was wrong to steamroller through this event against very strong local opposition. The withdrawal of this event from a Grade II listed park is testimony to what can be achieved by people power and I applaud those who campaigned against it”.

The announcement that this year’s race will be the last in Battersea Park came the day before  legal action against Wandsworth Council by Battersea resident, James Jackson, was due to be heard in the High Court. Read More…

Statement from councillor Rex Osborn

Rex Osborn

Councillor Rex Osborn has told the Wandsworth Labour Councillors that he will not be standing for re-election as Leader of the Labour Group on Wandsworth Council.

Cllr Osborn said: “I am proud to have led Wandsworth’s Opposition for five years. They are a dedicated and talented team of Labour Councillors and they have more than doubled in number since I first joined them.

“It is time now for me to concentrate on some new projects that I have been putting aside for some while. I shall continue my wholehearted support for Labour and its Wandsworth leadership as an active backbench councillor.”

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