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”

Labour’s borough-wide 20mph limit to begin roll-out this week

A campaign to introduce a 20mph speed limit across Wandsworth will become a reality this week as the roll-out begins across the borough.

Last year, Wandsworth Council finally agreed to consult residents on a proposal – originally put forward by Labour councillors – to introduce a 20mph limit on all residential roads in the borough and 59% of residents supported it.

According to Fleur Anderson, Labour’s speaker on Community services: “This campaign took many years and it wouldn’t have been successful without the support of groups like Living Streets and people across the borough who signed petitions asking for this. Slowing down the borough’s traffic will reduce air pollution and potentially save lives. I’m delighted to finally see the 20mph limit not just in streets here and there but across Wandsworth”.

The roll out of the new borough-wide 20mph limit will begin this week in Bedford, Furzedown, Graveney, and parts of Nightingale and Tooting wards. The last part of the borough to get its new limit will be Roehampton in Putney in May. Continue reading “Labour’s borough-wide 20mph limit to begin roll-out this week”

Wandsworth Labour stands up for fair funding for local schools

Wandsworth Labour has stepped up its campaign against cuts to education which will see almost £16m taken from schools in the borough.

Labour councillors, volunteers and the MP for Tooting, Rosena Allin-Khan, are visiting school gates across the borough, listening to the concerns of local parents.

They are also be inviting parents to sign an online petition to Education Secretary, Justine Greening, MP for Putney.

simon and balloons school gate

Leader of Wandsworth Labour, Cllr Simon Hogg

Schools in Wandsworth are set to lose £15,612,273 by 2020, as a result of the Government’s so-called “Fairer Funding Formula” and other budget pressures, according to figures released by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). The cuts are equivalent to the loss of 419 teachers or a cut of £603 per pupil in Wandsworth.

According to Tooting MP, Rosena Allin-Khan: “These planned cuts come at the same time that costs are rising in our local schools. Headteachers are reporting that they are increasingly faced with difficult choices such as whether they can afford to have classrooms cleaned, or to retain support staff who are essential to school communities”.

She added: “Without adequate funding, the Government will be failing our schools and failing our children as they miss out on the excellent education they all deserve”.

Some of the Wandsworth Schools likely to worst hit include:

Hillbrook School, is set to lose £358,039 by 2020, equivalent to £690 per pupil or 8 teachers.

Belleville School, is set to lose £548,995 by 2010, equivalent to £664 per pupil or 14 teachers.

Ashcroft Technical Academy is set to lose £868,189, equivalent to £834 per pupil or 21 teachers.

Chestnut Grove, is set to lose £739,147, equivalent to £927 per pupil or 25 teachers.

Graveney School is set to lose £1011,110, equivalent to £791 per pupil or 23 teachers.

You can sign the petition here.

For more information visit the website: www.schoolscuts.org.uk to find all the projected budget cuts for all local schools.

How to oppose the cuts to local schools

Schools in Wandsworth are set to lose £15,612,273 by 2020, as a result of the Government’s so-called ‘Fairer Funding Formula’ and other budget pressures.

The figures, released by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), are equivalent to the loss of 419 teachers borough-wide or a cut of £603 per pupil in Wandsworth. Read details in the Wandsworth Guardian.

Three things you can do today

ONE Email the Secretary of State for Education, who is also the Putney MP: greeningj@parliament.uk, ministers@education.gsi.gov.uk
On twitter: @justinegreening using the hashtag #investdontcut

TWO Have your say in the Government’s consultation on the cuts, which ends on March 22, here. The government’s survey is very technical so you may want just answer question 14 on page 7. The key points to make, in your own words, are:
(a) all schools should get proper funding to provide a good education for our children.
(b) no school should lose out as a results of the new National Funding Formula.
Then go to page 11 to submit your response.

THREE Write to the heads of your local school urging them to also oppose the cuts.

It is vital that our schools are properly funded. The government’s planned reductions in funding will mean larger class sizes in Wandsworth for all schools which will inevitably erode the quality of our children’s education.

We can’t afford not to invest in education – it makes no economic sense to go backwards and lose the gains we’ve made in London’s education in recent decades.

All schools in Wandsworth will lose funding. Some examples:

  • Chestnut Grove, which will lose £739,147, equivalent to £927 per pupil or 25 teachers.
  • Graveney School which will lose £1011,110, equivalent to £791 per pupil or 23 teachers.

For more information visit the website: www.schoolscuts.org.uk to find all the projected budget cuts for all local schools.

You can read the Motion opposing the cuts that was proposed by Wandsworth Labour here.

Wandsworth schools to lose almost £16m as a result of cuts to education

Schools in Wandsworth are set to lose £15,612,273 by 2020, as a result of the Government’s so-called “Fairer Funding Formula” and other budget pressures, according to figures released by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). The cuts are equivalent to the loss of 419 teachers or a cut of £603 per pupil in Wandsworth.

According to Labour’s Speaker on Education, Cllr Jeremy Ambache: “The proper funding of schools is a vital issue to get right as it affects the quality of teaching and the long-term future of our children. The government’s planned reductions in funding will mean larger class sizes here in Wandsworth for all schools which will inevitably erode the quality of our children’s education”.

He added: “The country can’t afford not to invest in education – it makes no economic sense to go backwards in the name of austerity and lose the gains made in London’s education over the past decades”.

The Government is currently consulting on the proposals and parents can have their say here. Cllr Ambache added: “we urge all parents and teachers to respond to the consultation by the deadline of March 22 and have their voices heard”.

The Wandsworth Schools likely to be worst hit include:

Belleville School, which will lose £548,995 by 2020, equivalent to £664 per pupil or 14 teachers.

Hillbrook School, which will lose £358,039 by 2020, equivalent to £690 per pupil or 8 teachers.

Ashcroft Technical Academy which will lose £868,189, equivalent to £834 per pupil or 21 teachers.

Chestnut Grove, which will lose £739,147, equivalent to £927 per pupil or 25 teachers.

Graveney School which will lose £1011,110, equivalent to £791 per pupil or 23 teachers.

Last night (March 8) Wandsworth Labour raised the issue of cuts to schools’ budgets in a debate at Wandsworth Council. The Motion put forward by Wandsworth Labour asked the Council Leader to protect the funding for Wandsworth Schools by lobbying the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, who is also the MP for Putney.

Jeremy Ambache said: “Wandsworth Council and local residents are in a strong position to lobby the Secretary of State for Education, as she is a Wandsworth MP. Putney schools alone are likely to lose £6m as a result of the proposed cuts”.

You can read the Motion proposed by Wandsworth Labour here.

For more information visit the website: www.schoolscuts.org.uk to find all the projected budget cuts for all local schools.