We should not allow President Trump to divide people with fear

aydinSpeech to Wandsworth council by Aydin Dikerdem, February 1 2017

Councillors, the recent actions of President Trump to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries is an obscene racist act, that has taken place on the global stage. It has no real purpose other than to divide people up through fear, and to exploit and normalise Islamophobia.

To those who defend this with statements about security – frankly, who are you kidding? The so called ‘purpose’ of the Bill, to protect the United States from foreign extremists, is a farce. As many have now picked up on, the verbatim text of the act argues that ‘in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001’.

I believe we now call these lies ‘alternative facts’ – none of the 9/11 attackers were from any of the countries on the list – and furthermore, since 9/11, no one has been killed in the U.S from terrorist attacks by anyone who emigrated from those seven countries. But to be honest even these basic facts are irrelevant – because to discriminate against entire nations on the basis of a few extremists… that is the definition of bigotry.

Why am I raising this here tonight at a local authority meeting? Because acts of discrimination like this have a global impact, including on our borough. We have over 4,000 residents who directly originate from the seven countries Trump has targeted. In Queenstown, we have a large Somali community that has made Battersea its home – we must recognise how it must feel, to have ones identity labelled and demonised in this way – the humiliation, the sense of injustice, the insecurity.

We should think what it must be like to be a Somali, Iranian or Yemeni child at school, and the message it sends when the bully who is targeting you is the President of the United States of America.

We have an obligation to stand up and say ‘not in our name’ – and let our residents know that we do not stand for this kind of discrimination in Wandsworth.

We also have a much more direct place in this – Queenstown is about to become the home of the new American embassy, which residents are highly aware of. Some of these are residents that will have found sanctuary from terror and war in our borough.

From the outset, we need to make clear that our borough rejects racist and islamophobic politics outright. Wandsworth, like London in general, is made stronger by its diversity; we are multi-ethnic and multi-faith and we will not let the politics of hate divide us.

As you can probably tell, Councillors, this is an issue very close to my heart. When I hear the attacks and demonization of those fleeing violence, it hits home hard.

In 1980 there was a brutal Military coup in Turkey, where my Father is from. Hundreds of thousands were arrested, imprisoned and tortured, among them was my Grandfather. My Dad, who was in Britain at the time on a student visa, was an outspoken critique of the dictatorship – he knew what fate awaited him if he went home.

The British Government under Thatcher supported and praised the government that tortured my grandfather, as she did in Pinochet’s Chile, and Apartheid South Africa. I say to the other side of this chamber – hold your Conservative government to account when it comes to these matters of principle – history and the world will not forget it. When people come together and oppose hatred and bigotry, we can change things.

The Battersea Labour Party that I am a proud member of comes from a tradition of working class politics that was always internationalist in its outlook – the stance it took at the turn of the century on issues of empire and racism would over half a century later become the norms we value today. Let our successors not think we stayed silent on such fundamental issues of tolerance.

We call on both the Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition to jointly write a letter of protest to the US Ambassador setting out the Council’s opposition to this ban and the impact it could have on significant numbers of people living in Wandsworth. We in Wandsworth can and should, lend our voice to the chorus taking off across the country and further.

Labour councillors call on Wandsworth Council to condemn President Trump’s ban on people from Muslim-majority countries

trump-headshot

The Wandsworth Labour Group today called on Wandsworth Council to oppose President Trump’s temporary ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

In a strongly worded Motion, the Labour Group says: “this policy targets people of the Muslim faith and is an act of discrimination. We call on the Leader of the Council to write a joint letter of protest alongside the Leader of the Labour Group to the US Ambassador, setting out the Council’s opposition”.

Speaking to the Motion, newly-elected councillor for Queenstown, Aydin Dikerdem, said: “Acts of discrimination like this have a global impact, including on our borough and we have an obligation to stand up and say we do not tolerate this kind of discrimination in Wandsworth”.

According to the last census figures, (2011) there are approximately 4,320 Wandsworth residents who directly originate from one of these seven countries President Trump has targeted: 900 from Iran, 2,415 from Somalia, 500 from Iraq, up to 175 from Sudan, up to 100 from Yemen, 130 from Libya and 100 from Syria.

Aydin Dikerdem added: “Think what it must be like to be a Somali, Iranian or Yemeni child at school, and the message it sends when the bully who is targeting you is the President of the United States of America. This ban has no real purpose other than to divide people through fear, and to exploit and normalise Islamophobia and we have an obligation to stand up and say ‘not in our name’”.

Wandsworth has a large Somali population in Battersea, close to the site which will soon be home to the new American embassy, lending this issue special local importance.

UK tech giant, Apple, announced last year it too would be moving its UK headquarters to Battersea. In a message to his staff, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.”

The Labour Motion also calls on Wandsworth Council to investigate how many Wandsworth residents are affected by the ban, including those who may already have plans to travel to the US to visit family and friends or for work and to provide whatever assistance is appropriate.

 

Labour’s Motion on President Trump’s ban on people from Muslim-majority countries entering the US

Council notes the recent Executive Order from the President of the United States introducing a temporary ban on people entering the US who are citizens of or who were born in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

Council believes this policy targets people of the Muslim faith, and is an act of discrimination which has an impact globally including in our Borough.

As a Council we welcome and value all our residents, of all nationalities, and we know that diversity is a strength of our Borough, and discrimination is not tolerated.

Council therefore welcomes the statements from the UK Government and the Leader of the Opposition opposing this ban.

Council notes that according to the last census (2011) population figures there are approximately 4,320 Wandsworth residents who directly originate from one of these seven countries: 900 from Iran, 2,415 from Somalia, 500 from Iraq, up to 175 from Sudan and up to 100 from Yemen, 130 from Libya and 100 from Syria.

Council asks officers to investigate how many Wandsworth residents are actually affected by this ban in practice, including those who may already have plans to travel to the US to visit family and friends, to conduct business or to work, or those just going there on holiday, and report this information to Councillors.

Council also asks Wandsworth Council to offer whatever assistance is appropriate to residents affected, including by liaising with Wandsworth’s three MPs and sign-posting people to advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Finally, Council calls on the Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition to jointly write a letter of protest to the US Ambassador setting out the Council’s opposition to this ban and the impact it could have on significant numbers of people living in Wandsworth, the future home of the embassy, and a letter of support to the Government in their opposition to this and any future bans.

Wandsworth Council declines request for playground for homeless shelter

Wandsworth Council last week declined a request made by 70% of the borough’s largest hostel for homeless families to have a playground installed on a small area of disused land.

59 of the 80 homeless families currently housed in Nightingale Square in Tooting signed the petition asking for some play facilities for their children to be installed.

The petition read: “There are 113 children in Nightingale Square Hostel and the parents and children need an area outside for children to play in safely. We don’t have gardens and our children need somewhere to be more active and play together. We urge our Councillors and Council to renovate the disused tarmac area in the middle of the hostel into a play area.”

nightingale-square

In refusing the request the Council cited the fact that residents at the site were “temporary” and said that since a large number of children at the hostel would want to use it “it could lead to disagreements”. The Council also cited possible plans to add further temporary units on the disused tarmac earmarked by residents for the playground, to accommodate the ever growing number of homeless families in the borough. The Council estimates there are currently around 1,500 houseless families in the borough and the figure is growing.

Currently the hostel comprises 92 flats and is home to 68 children aged between zero and 5. The average stay of families in hostels in the borough is 92 weeks.

Candida Jones, a Labour member of the Housing Committee, said: “The need for some basic facilities at this site has been apparent for years.  Even when housing is defined as “temporary”, many families stay in homeless hostels for two years or more in the borough. These families are among the most vulnerable in Wandsworth and they deserve at least the same standards of housing that Council tenants enjoy. And I’m not sure what to make of the argument that we shouldn’t build a playground because lots of children might want to use it”. She added: “I’m pretty sure residents at the hostel, and in nearby houses, would prefer to have a playground on this small site rather than more modular housing shoe-horned into an already densely-populated and under-served site.”

The playground would cost around £40,000. The Council currently has £311m in reserves.

One of the residents of the square, Svetlana Delfonceva said: “All we are asking for is a reasonable basic provision. Without facilities the playground is dangerous and the children are bored and frustrated. I have no car and with a buggy it takes me 45-50 minutes to get to the playground on Wandsworth Common. I can’t afford to take a bus”.

As well as lacking any play facilities, the hostel has no washing machines.

New Job: Wandsworth Labour Campaign Manager

Wandsworth Labour is looking for an experienced and ambitious Campaign Manager to help us win control of the council in the 2018 elections.

We need you to help shape and implement our campaign plan. You will know how to:

  • Run successful large-scale campaigns
  • Organise events and motivate groups of volunteers
  • Use data to make evidence-based decisions
  • Create content for print and digital

The position is full-time and will require flexible working, including some work at the weekend and in the evening.

The salary is £32,000 – £35,000 per year, dependant on experience. This is a fixed-term contract from the time of appointment to the end of May 2018.

To apply, please send your CV and with a covering letter explaining why you are suitable for the role to wandsworthcm@yahoo.com by January 30, 2017.

Interviews will take place in early February 2017.

 

Why do we need a Campaign manager?

To develop and execute the campaign plan for the 2018 elections. To build our Labour councillors, candidates and volunteers into a highly effective campaigning team. To oversee creation of campaign materials online and in print and to lead the continual improvement of campaigning and communication across the borough.

What will be their responsibilities?

  • Work with the Regional Organiser, Labour group, councillors, MP, Assembly Member, Local Campaigns Forum (LCF) and Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) to plan and oversee a winning campaign for the 2018 elections
  • Work with key partners to develop key campaign themes and organise major campaigns around these
  • Build the capacity of individual ward teams to undertake effective campaigning, both online and on the doorstep
  • Create and edit content for ward newsletters, websites, emails and direct mails.
  • Source and maintain accurate data to enable evidence-based decision-making
  • Celebrate and spread local best practice in campaigning and communications and to provide training for members
  • Foster a ‘test and learn’ culture of innovation and continual improvement
  • Build up membership and volunteer activity in the borough in line with the Party’s aims and objectives
  • Attend meetings of the CLPs, Labour Group and the LCF as required
  • Be aware of relevant legislation and codes of practice and to ensure all activities are compliant

What sort of person will be successful?

The Campaign Manager must be able to work proactively, demonstrate innovation, communicate effectively, work collaboratively, share their expert knowledge, be results-driven & value and respect others.

2,179 Wandsworth children will be homeless this Christmas

1,492 families will be homeless this Christmas in Wandsworth, including 2,179 children, according to figures released by Wandsworth Council.

Alaina Macdonald, Labour’s Speaker on Housing, said: “It is heart-breaking that these families won’t spend Christmas somewhere they can call home. Some families will be in B&Bs – stuck altogether in one room morning, noon and night – hard at the best of times. Worse at Christmas.”

Councillor Macdonald pointed to the recent case of a single mother to an autistic son and 10-month-old baby who found herself homeless after fleeing domestic violence. Today she was offered her 5th temporary placement in 15 months; a B&B, after complaining of a rat infestation in her temporary accommodation.

In an email, the mother described her living conditions: “All three rats captured have escaped the sticky traps isolating me to one room in the property; my bedroom, with the baby. One has just been caught again which is so much bigger than the four I have seen today”.

temporary-accommodation

The bedroom of the temporary accommodation

Cllr Macdonald said: “Everyone is paying a high price for the cost of this temporary accommodation. For the families stuck there, it is taking a toll on their mental and physical health. And Wandsworth Council are paying through the roof for temporary accommodation. Only the landlords are winning here.”

According to Cllr Aydin Dikerdem, the newly-elected councillor in Queenstown ward where housing problems are especially acute; “it’s not only that Wandsworth is building too little, it is that the Council is overseeing the building of the wrong kind of housing stock. No matter how many riverside penthouses go up – the fundamental problem of a lack of housing for ordinary families in Wandsworth is still not being addressed”.

aydin-dikerdem

In a debate in Wandsworth Council on Wednesday, the Conservative councillors unanimously voted down a proposal made by the Labour Party that the Council build more affordable homes, replace every home sold under Right to Buy and raise standards in the private rented sector.

In the past 25 years 14,791 council homes in Wandsworth have been sold off and only 5,170 have been built in their place.

The average price of a semi-detached property in Wandsworth last year was £1,567,389 and the average weekly rent for a 2-bed flat was £474.

Cllr Macdonald concluded by saying; “the public does not believe that Wandsworth Council has a grip on our local housing crisis and when you see the statistics, it’s clear why.”

 

 

Housing facts

  • Over the past 6 years Wandsworth Council has paid out almost £11m to house homeless families in temporary private accommodation as their needs could not be met by the Council’s own housing stock.
  • This year alone almost £3m has been spent on providing temporary accommodation for homeless families in Wandsworth.
  • Over the last 3 months 15 families were temporarily housed in bed and breakfast accommodation for more than 6 weeks.
  • According to Wandsworth’s own strategic needs assessment, there are 15,000 ‘non decent’ homes in the private rented sector in the borough.
  • The Council’s current target for making homes in the private sector ‘decent’ is 230. There are 43,000 households in the borough in the private rented sector.

 

‘I hope kids growing up on the Doddington Estate will see a Battersea that includes them in its future’

14808938_10209924510963229_800388667_oCouncillor Aydin Dikerdem’s maiden speech to Wandsworth council, December 2016

Thank you Mayor for allowing me to make my maiden speech during this debate around housing. And I must say it is a fitting debate for someone recently elected in Queenstown.

Nowhere represents the tensions and inequalities of modern London more than Queenstown does. The ward is witnessing the struggle over what regeneration and development mean for everyday Londoners, those who can’t afford the luxury flats rising around them but who are rooted in an area they have grown up in and love.

If there is one issue on the doorstep that came up time and time again it was housing. Be it the lack of low-cost homes, soaring rents, huge housing waiting lists, or problems of damp and overcrowding – having a decent home, what was previously a social democratic given, is now a source of anxiety and uncertainty.

Of course the council will say it’s building more homes than any other, just look to Nine Elms… But let’s say it how it is: no matter how many riverside penthouses go up, the fundamental problem is not being addressed.  Continue reading “‘I hope kids growing up on the Doddington Estate will see a Battersea that includes them in its future’”

Government budget cuts plan would take £6m from Putney schools

jeremy-and-pater-at-school-gatesRoehampton councillors Jeremy Ambache (left) and Peter Carpenter

The Government is proposing a major change to the funding of schools. The changes mean that schools in Putney will lose £5,994,867, or roughly 13% of their current budgets over the next 4 years.

Jeremy Ambache, Labour’s Education spokesperson and councillor for Roehampton has attacked the Tory plans, which would mean cuts equivalent to £740 per Putney pupil.

Councillor Ambache said: “The Government plans to cut almost £6m from schools in Putney by 2020. This is equivalent to losing 162 full time teacher posts and will have serious consequences for the education of local children. I appeal to Justine Greening – the Education Secretary – to stand up for her Putney constituents and to protect schools in her constituency by opposing these cuts”.

The Putney schools likely to be worst hit include:

Ashcroft Technical Academy which stands to lose £984,927 or 14% of its current budget, equivalent to £995 per pupil or 26 full time teachers.

Heathmere Primary School in Roehampton, which stands to lose £231,656, or 15% of its current budget, equivalent to £864 per pupil or 6 full time teachers;

Brandlehow Primary School which stands to lose £205,249, or 15% of its current budget, equivalent to £693 per pupil or 5 full time teachers and;

According to the National Union of Teachers (NUT) who compiled the figures, “We estimate that 92% of schools [in the UK] could face cuts in their funding per pupil in real terms over the next four years, with no local authority – and no MP – set to gain overall, even after the redistributive impact of the Government’s ‘fair funding’ proposals have been taken into account”.

Jeremy Ambache concluded: “Schools budgets have already been cut to the bone and schools in Putney simply cannot afford to lose yet more money. We need to invest in education and our Secretary of State for Education should be showing leadership. Failure to do so will mean seriously letting down a generation of children.”

To see how by much your school’s budget will be cut, visit the schoolcuts.org.uk website