Outrage as Wandsworth Council cuts 250 affordable homes from Battersea Power Station development

Wandsworth Council last night voted for a planning application that will see 250 affordable housing units cut from the Battersea Power Station development.

Under these new plans, the £9 billion project will deliver just 9% affordable homes.

Many of the remaining affordable homes will now be moved out of the Power Station site itself to a former industrial estate half a mile away.

Tory councillors at the Planning Commiittee vote to cut affordable housing

Wandsworth Tory councillors vote in favour of reducing the number of affordable homes at the Battersea Power Station site

In the House of Commons, newly elected Battersea MP Marsha de Cordova asked for the government to intervene, she said: “We have seen across London developers reducing their commitment to provide affordable homes. Developers are using viability assessments to act as a loophole to reduce the number of affordable homes being provided. For us to tackle the housing crisis in London we need to make sure developers are held to account”.

Simon Hogg, Wandsworth Labour leader, said: “It’s a truly sickening decision. Thousands of local people need affordable housing – including the 1,500 homeless families in the borough. This decision means the amount of affordable housing on this £9 billion scheme has been reduced to just 9%. That’s terrible.”

He added: “The system is clearly broken. The interests of large property developers are being put ahead of the public interest. That will change if we take control of the Council next year.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/21/battersea-power-station-affordable-homes-almost-halved-by-developer

http://www.homesandproperty.co.uk/property-news/homes-at-battersea-power-station-blow-for-first-time-buyers-as-affordable-housing-target-at-luxury-a111481.html

Foodbank use in Wandsworth increasing at three times the national rate

Annual foodbank figures show that the number of people using foodbanks in Wandsworth rose by 16% last year – nearly three times higher than the increase recorded nationally.

The figures, released by the Wandsworth Foodbank in their Hunger and Poverty in Wandsworth Report 2016-17, showed that last year 4712 people in Wandsworth relied on foodbanks. A third of them (1732) were children.

According to Marsha de Cordova, the newly elected MP for Battersea: “Wandsworth – one of the UK’s richest boroughs – is seeing shocking increases in foodbank use compared to the rest of the country. This year foodbank use in the borough increased by three times the national rate of increase and last year foodbank use in the borough rose by 25% compared to a 4% increase across London as a whole. Clearly the safety net for Wandsworth’s most vulnerable residents is broken”.

foodbank report launch

Cllr Peter Carpenter, Cllr Candida Jones, Cllr Tony Belton, MP for Battersea Marsha de Cordova, Cllr Fleur Anderson

Foodbanks appeared for the first time in Wandsworth in 2013 since which time food bank use in the borough has increased each year.

This year, according to the Wandsworth Foodbank “more people were referred because of low income than ever before – accounting for 28% of all crisis referrals”. The report also shows that an increasing number of households were referred to the foodbank on five or more occasions suggesting that “more people are struggling in food poverty for longer”.

According to the Wandsworth Foodbank, the principal causes of food poverty in Wandsworth last year were delays to benefit payments (39%), low income (28%), debt, illness, mental health issues, domestic violence and homelessness. The report also showed that food poverty leads to increased mental health problems and poorer physical health.

Commenting on the figures, Marsha de Cordova said: “What we are increasingly seeing is that those in work are not earning enough to meet essential living costs and feed their families. I find it striking and shocking that every ward in Wandsworth has seen referrals, even wards like Northcote which are among the most affluent in London. Not only are our most vulnerable people facing food crisis, but so too are those in work”.

In light of the 4th yearly increase in foodbank use in Wandsworth, the Wandsworth Foodbank is urging the government to improve the benefits system to “fix the gaps that cause hunger” and reconsider its policy on paying benefits in arrears. It is also calling on Wandsworth Council to “reconsider its policies” to ensure vulnerable residents have access to hardship payments when emergency financial help is needed.

In February this year, the majority Conservative Group at Wandsworth Council voted to remove the hardship payments for some Wandsworth residents struggling with housing costs. You can read about it here.

Speaking at the launch of the annual report, its author, Sarah Chapman, said: “the time we see guests cry the most is when there are parents who don’t know how they’ll feed their children”. According to agencies who issue food vouchers 87% of parents had skipped meals so their children could eat.

The report is available at https://wandsworth.foodbank.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/149/2017/05/Hunger-and-Poverty-in-Wandsworth-report-2017.pdf

Labour councillor helps secure protection for Battersea pub

Flanagan’s Pub in North Battersea, which was under threat of redevelopment, was this week granted partial protection after a successful campaign by local councillor, Aydin Dikerdem, and residents.

Councillor Dikerdem, who was elected to represent Queenstown ward last November, made protecting this traditional Irish pub – popular with local Chelsea pensioners – a key pledge in his election campaign.

Flanagan's

cllr Dikerdem (far left) with residents, customers and Chelsea pensioners

This week the pub was designated an as “Asset of Community Value” (ACV) by Wandsworth Council. This means that if the current owners wish to sell the building they must first give the local community the chance to buy it.

Speaking about the pub’s new ACV status, Aydin Dikerdem said; “This is a great result; in my first meeting at the Town Hall after being elected I gave in a petition asking for Flanagan’s to be protected, and spoke about how important it is we look after community spaces like this pub. Now its community value has been formally recognized we will have a better chance at stopping it from being squeezed out by developers”.

He added: “however the ACV status only provides partial protection. I am disappointed that the Council hasn’t gone further and awarded Flanagan’s the full Article 4 Protection status as it has to other pubs – including the derelict pub next door. Only by awarding an Article 4 would the pub be fully protected against the risk of redevelopment”.

Flanagan’s is the last traditional pub in the area with a large and loyal base. It has three darts teams, an OAP Christmas dinner service, live music every week, and many more other community activities.

Commenting on the pub’s ACV status, Jonathan Kinsella, Secretary of the Save Flanagan’s Campaign, said: ‘Brilliant news and recognition of what Flanagan’s brings to the area’.

Cllr Dikerdem concluded: “This status protects the pub in the short term but it wouldn’t stop the pub from being redeveloped in the longer term. The campaign to protect it fully will carry on”.

How you can help Labour to win in Tooting

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Hundreds of volunteers across Tooting are busy knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, making cups of tea and stuffing envelopes. Would you like to join the team?

Our campaign is being run from Trident Business Centre, 89 Bickersteth Road SW17 9SH, open 10am-late everyday. The best way to contact the team is by calling 0208 355 3435 or emailing election@drrosena.co.uk

Join us listening to local people on the doorstep. Meeting places are:

Every Monday: 11am Tooting Bec  |  6:30pm Earlsfield Stn
Every Tuesday: 11am Tooting Broadway  |  6:30pm Balham Stn
Every Wednesday: 11am Earlsfield Stn  |  6:30pm Tooting Bec
Every Thursday: 11am Balham  |  6:30pm Tooting Broadway
Every Friday: 11am Trident Business Centre
Every Saturday: 11am Trident Business Centre  |  2pm Tooting Broadway
Every Sunday: 11am Tooting Bec  |  2pm Earlsfield Stn

We’re also holding a huge campaign session on Saturday 6 May where we will be joined by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. For details, please contact the office.

If you can’t join us campaigning, there are other ways you can help this week:

  1. Call voters from the office or at home
  2. Help with data entry in the office

Wandsworth Labour calls for halt on plans to chop down Chestnut Avenue in light of new report

Wandsworth Labour has called on Wandsworth Council to halt its current plans to fell almost all of the 80-odd trees on Tooting Common’s Chestnut Avenue after a new independent report cast serious doubts on the Council’s claims that the trees cannot be saved due to disease and age.

According to the independent report by tree consultant and specialist in heritage tree assessments, Jeremy Barrell, the bulk of the trees which Wandsworth Council claim are terminally ill are in fact “recovering” and have “the potential to live for at least several decades, and many for much longer”.

Indeed, the report states that the avenue’s mature trees, some of which are 140 years old: “are at the peak of their potential to deliver multiple benefits [such as ecological enhancement, pollution filtering, carbon sequestration, UV light reduction, visual enhancement, and positive contributions to human health and wellbeing] because they are big, experienced by many people daily and have the potential to be retained into the long term”.

stop the chop meeting with Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, cllr Candida Jones and #stopthechop supportersDr Rosena Allin-Khan, MP for Tooting, cllr Candida Jones and #stopthechop supporters

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting said: “it’s clear now that the Council’s wish to cut down this beautiful avenue was motivated by money. Because a grant to fell and replace the avenue was available from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Council thought it could save a quick buck rather than use Council funds to properly maintain and preserve the existing, well-loved, avenue. The Council has been economical with the truth about the health of these trees and should not be prioritising saving money over maintaining its parks and open spaces”.

When the future of the trees was voted on in committee last year, Labour’s speaker on Community Services, Fleur Anderson, secured an assurance that any healthy trees would be saved.

At the time, the Council advised that only eight trees were in good enough condition to survive. However the new report shows that this was a serious under-estimation.

Fleur Anderson said: “No-one wants to see our much-loved and beautiful chestnut trees being cut down if they don’t need to be. It is very good news that there is new evidence that the trees are recovering from the disease which the council said was killing them. The council now needs to halt its current plans, take stock of this new report and provide a new, genuinely unbiased, independent report on the future of the trees that the Committee and residents can have faith in”.

She added:  “I have been in regular contact with the Council on this issue over many months and council officers have assured me and my colleagues that should any tree represent a danger, it would be immediately felled – an approach which we of course support. It shouldn’t, however, be used as an excuse for the wholesale removal of a well-loved local landmark”.

Almost 5,000 residents have signed a petition asking the Council not to fell the healthy trees and regular protests and events have been organised by the #StoptheChop campaign.

The petition is here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-trees-on-chestnut-avenue

Jeremy Barrell concluded: “My assessment of the trees is that none are dangerous, none are dead, and most have the potential to be retained with limited intervention for decades. Wandsworth Council are justifying the removals on the basis of responses from a public consultation and the advice of experts. From what I can see the public consultation approach is obviously flawed and none of the expert reports advocate felling and replacement as the best or only option”.

chestnut avenue spring all treesimage provided by the #Stopthechop campaign

Wandsworth’s Brexit stories: Listening to the voices of local EU citizens

In the week that the Government triggered Article 50, Wandsworth Labour listens to some of the 25,000 EU citizens who live in our borough.

Giovanni MontillaroGiovanni Mortillaro is one of the 4,500 Italian citizens living in Wandsworth and has been here for 33 years. He has a son and runs a small business importing Italian food which he sells at his delicatessen in Tooting.

“I don’t feel welcome anymore. I’ve built my life here, my business, my family, my home. I’ve paid taxes here all my life and I run a small business which employs staff. I came here believing it was a free country which offered opportunities to those willing to work hard, but that’s not turned out to be the case”.

“We’ve contributed to the health and wealth of this country and now Teresa May is treating us like pieces of meat to be exchanged”.

“I have built a community here in Tooting but now I don’t know where I stand. For me, Brexit is like the end of an era. I am now seriously considering going back to Sicily, which is so sad for me as I have made so many friends here over the years”.

 

Marzena ForrestalMarzena Forrestal, has lived here for 24 years. She is one of the 3,900 people of Polish origin who live in Wandsworth. She is a Mum to 3, step Mum to 2, a hairdresser and pilates teacher.

“My main worry is about people who came here to escape poverty or because they were ambitious – people who came here because they wanted to work, run businesses, employ people and establish their lives here. They deserve to be able to stay here. For them to have to worry about their future is shameful.

“I worry what will happen to the people I employ, most of whom are of Eastern European origin. They work extremely hard. Some have families with young children. Some don’t have somewhere to go back to. I have Polish friends whose children were born here who are scared to death.

“I also worry that I may now need to go through a formal and expensive process for my Mum to be able to visit from Poland.

“I worry my children won’t be able to travel so easily to Europe, settle there, live and work there, with the ease that previous generations have. My daughter wants to move to Poland to do an MA in Polish history. I don’t know how easy that will be from outside the EU.

“I have achieved something here. I’ve employed people, I’ve created something, I volunteer – I help out in a local care home. Brexit makes me cry. This affects our children and their futures”.

 

Leone family, Noah, Frederika and Mila and MayaFrederika Leone has lived here for 20 years. She is one of the 2,200 German citizens in Wandsworth. Frederika met her husband, Christian, who is Italian and manages a restaurant, in London. They married at the Town Hall in Wandsworth and have 3 children, who were all born here. The children have dual Italian/German nationality.

“I feel betrayed because we didn’t sneak in through the back door – it was open to us just as the doors were open for UK citizens wanting to settle in other EU countries. We were all equal. Now, after Brexit, I don’t know what my status is anymore. Will I still be equal if I stay here?

“Our children don’t have UK citizenship – they were born here and raised here but only 1 of them is old enough to qualify for UK citizenship.

“We are left in a position where we will probably have to apply for a resident’s permit, which costs around £65 each, then for UK citizenship, which costs about £1,500 each and then we should be able to apply for the children.  Then there’s the cost of getting UK passports. In the end, Brexit will cost our family many thousands of pounds.

“I am worried about my right to remain, my status, and the rights of my children. Before, I felt like a European living in a European country, now I feel like a German living in England.

“In London I always felt like I could be who I wanted to be but now I feel wary of speaking my own language to the kids. I don’t want people to turn round and tell me to go home. That’s not the London I used to know”.

 

Eamonn Richardson

Eamonn Richardson, is one of the 6,000 Irish people living in Wandsworth. He has been in the UK for 31 years and is retired

“The peace in Ireland isn’t perfect but it’s an awful lot better that what we had in the past. We don’t want to go back 30 years.

“I worry about what it will mean for the Irish border. I crossed that border just last year and you can see no difference between the two countries except that miles become kilometres and the letterboxes go from red to green. The peace isn’t perfect but it’s an awful lot better that what we had in the past. We don’t want to go back 30 years. By restoring a border, any border, you’re risking this.

“The people in favour of a united Ireland will be watching what happens in Scotland very closely.

“Bits of London’s financial importance will inevitably be nibbled off and relocated to Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris, Luxembourg. People will think twice about coming here if they think they will be more welcome elsewhere and jobs will definitely go in the city.

“I get cross when I see the hard work done by the people of the EU, in caring jobs, for instance. They gave up a lot to come here only to now be faced with uncertainty.”

 

Nathalie PouvreauNathalie Pouvreau is one of the 3,200 French citizens living in Wandsworth. She has lived in the UK  for 28 years, has a son and teaches French at a primary school.

“As a French citizen I could not vote in the EU referendum and now I am concerned about losing my right to vote in local elections.  I am also worried about what access I will have to medical care after Brexit.

“I have paid tax here and paid into my pension for 28 years and yet I don’t know what will happen to us; will my pension be OK, will I be allowed to remain permanently? ”

 

Permilla Willson-RosellPernilla Willson-Rosell is a Swedish self-employed project manager who works in the city. Her clients include investment banks and asset managers. She has lived in the UK for 28 years, has two sons and lives with her British husband.

“I have started applying for permanent residency but because I am self-employed, I have to provide reams and reams of paperwork – so much so that I have engaged a lawyer to handle the application at a cost of over £3.5k – the admin is a minefield.

“If everyone who’s lived here as long as I have ends up getting an automatic right to remain once we leave, or if no one does, I will have wasted my money, but we just don’t know. It’s the uncertainty that’s the worry”.

“It will be the poorer people who suffer more when goods get more expensive and inflation goes up, which it will as the pound falls. That tends to result in people spending less, business will suffer and tax revenues will fall as a result. If people think the cuts are bad now…wait until Brexit happens”.

“I am less worried about myself than I am for the British people. I have the option of going back to Sweden and my kids have dual nationality so they will carry on being able to access all the benefits the EU offers them. But for British people Brexit is a step backwards”

“All the little costs will add up for everyone – who will cover the cost of issuing new passports, new number plates, roaming charges?”

“I’ve always considered myself a Tory supporter. It is ironic that at the point of finally applying for British citizenship, the likelihood is very slim that I will be willing to vote for them”.

 

Hundreds of local families and businesses have told Wandsworth Labour volunteers that they are concerned about Brexit and what it will mean for them.

Wandsworth Labour will stand up for local people who feel the negative impact of Brexit. Some residents are worried that they will have to leave the area they call home.

It is unacceptable that people who have made their lives here in Wandsworth and contribute to our community now fear for their long-term future.

Simon Hogg, Wandsworth Labour leader, is writing to the Government to ask for a guarantee that EU citizens already settled in our borough are allowed to stay.

Wandsworth’s a great place to live thanks to its diversity and the contribution made by all our residents.

You can add your name to our campaign here: www.battersealabour.com/brexit

If you have a Brexit story to tell, please write it in the comments, or add it to our Facebook page.

The lesson is simple: our schools face a funding crisis

GibbonsCouncillor Andy Gibbons speech to Wandsworth Council, March 2017

In 2015 David Cameron said: “With a Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into the school will not be cut. In Treasury speak, flat cash per pupil.’ So no money to cover the increased costs schools face – but it sounds good – no cuts.

“And as the number of pupils in our schools is going up, that means the amount of money going into our schools will do so too.” Again – sounds goods, but actually it means the amount of money per-pupil remains flat lining while costs rise.

Like everything Cameron ever said and did it was a quick fix, with no regard to the consequences.

Now I’m sure the Tory Councillors opposite will want to play with the figures like Cameron did. They would be advised not to. Funding the future of our nation’s children is too important to play politics with. So what is the truth?

The Government’s own National Audit Office says in its 2016 report ‘The Financial Sustainability of Schools’:

‘The Department of Education’s approach to managing the risks to schools’ financial sustainability cannot be judged to be effective or providing value for money.

The Department for Education estimates that mainstream schools will have to find savings of £3.0 billion (8.0%) by 2019-20 to counteract cumulative cost pressures, such as pay rises and higher employer contributions to national insurance and the teachers’ pension scheme.

The Department’s overall schools budget is protected in real terms but does not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation.

The sample of schools we spoke to told us that they planned to cut staff costs in a range of ways, including replacing more experienced teachers with younger recruits and relying more on unqualified staff.’ Continue reading “The lesson is simple: our schools face a funding crisis”