Wandsworth Labour councillors will not support the return of Formula E to Battersea Park next summer.
Councillor Rex Osborn, Wandsworth Labour leader, said: “We feel that the Conservative council are trying to steamroller through a decision to welcome Formula E back to Battersea Park against the very strong opposition by local residents who feel this is absolutely not the right event to be hosted in this Grade II listed park.
“There is a long list of ways in which Formula E did not organise the event in the way they had promised and we don’t feel that very much would improve if it happens again.”
A council report showed that 62% of local residents opposed the event and there were very serious concerns about safety, noise and lengthy disruption to Battersea Park during three normally busy summer weeks.
The event proved far more disruptive to Battersea Park users than was anticipated, according to local groups, a large petition and the council’s own public consultation.
Wandsworth councillors will make the decision on the future of Formula E in Battersea Park at a Town Hall committee meeting on November 24.
Formula E had promised an environmentally significant event with a short set-up and take-down time. However the event was beset with problems including: lack of consultation with residents; a much longer and more disruptive and unsafe set-up time; more reduced access to the park than expected; heavy machinery to create the concrete race barriers; excessive noise from loudspeakers and helicopters.
There had been plans to increase provision of electric power points in the borough and directly support the use of electric cars, but this has not happened. Wandsworth Labour remains very supportive the development of electric vehicles and appreciates the environmental aims of Formula E. While the races proved an enjoyable event for those who attended, Battersea Park is not the right venue for a motor racing event of this scale.
Councillor Fleur Anderson, Community Services Committee Spokesperson said: “Wandsworth Council needs to take consultations with residents seriously and if they do so, they cannot continue with this event.”
“We have had a steady stream of emails from local residents opposing this event very strongly and claiming that they have not had any response from the Leader of the Council. The council has also not said how it would spend the revenue from the event, so residents cannot put up with this amount of disruption to their local park if they cannot see any benefit.”
Figures obtained by Wandsworth Labour reveal that up to 5,680 local households could lose £1,300 each in Tory cuts to their tax credits.
Wandsworth residents in Roehampton, West Hill, Tooting, Graveney and Latchmere wards are most likely to affected, with over 600 potentially losing out in Roehampton (full figures below).
George Osborne, the chancellor, plans to cut £4.4bn from tax credits. This will mean an average loss of £1,300 a year for households hit by the changes, according to the House of Commons Library. Read More…
A letting agency has been paid more than £5.5m in housing benefit after its owner set up a charity to help the homeless, the BBC reports.
Investing Solutions received those benefit payments over the past two years by finding properties for single homeless men.
The charity, Fresh Start Housing, finds clients from London homeless charities.
Both Investing Solutions and Fresh Start are based in the same building, a storage unit in south London.
Nearly half the money that Investing Solutions has received over the past two years has been paid by Wandsworth Council, which has paid the lettings agency more than £2.1m.
Operating across seven London boroughs, Investing Solutions is one of the largest recipients of housing benefit in the UK, making the venture hugely profitable.
In one property the BBC visited, Investing Solutions was claiming £2,114 per month in housing benefit for two tenants.
The owner of the house was getting £1,150 per month, giving the agency an annual gross profit of £11,568 on the one property.
Neither the charity nor the company act illegally, but a homeless group says the relationship is “a new low”.
Matt Downie, of homeless charity Crisis, said: “We’ve heard many examples of poor practice amongst letting agents as well as good practice. But this idea of having a charity tacked on to poor practice is a new low.”
Candida Jones, the Wandsworth Labour councillor whose work led to the investigation, said: “It is shocking that so much public money can be paid to house some of our most vulnerable people in filthy and dangerous conditions. In a properly regulated housing market exploitation of this kind could not have happened.
“I can’t understand why alarm bells were not ringing at Wandsworth Council. They are flat-footed when it comes to investigating local landlords.”
Rex Osborn, Wandsworth Labour leader, said: “This is a serious failing across Wandsworth’s housing and caring departments leading to huge spending errors. Who in Wandsworth’s Conservative administration will have the courage to take responsibility for this and have the decency to step down?”
Tooting MP Sadiq Khan has been named the Patchwork Foundation’s People’s Choice MP of the Year, in an annual ceremony held in the Speaker’s House in Parliament
Through the MP of the Year Awards, the Patchwork Foundation highlights and acknowledges those MPs – nominated by individuals and grassroots community organisations, and subsequently picked by an independent panel of judges – that have excelled in representing such communities.
The People’s Choice is their most prestigious award and was presented by news presenter Martyn Lewis. This is the second MP of the Year Award Sadiq has won – he was named Labour MP and Overall MP of the Year in 2013.
The Patchwork Foundation aims to promote and encourage the positive integration of deprived and minority communities into British political society.
Councillor Candida Jones’s speech Wandsworth Council about the refugee crisis, October 14, 2015
Wandsworth has offered sanctuary to refugees, quaintly referred to on the council’s website as “profitable and gentle strangers”, for centuries.
So proud are we of this tradition of welcoming those fleeing persecution that we have literally carved it in stone – one of the reliefs on the Town Hall’s exterior depicts Huguenots, given sanctuary here, busy at work at Wandsworth’s fabric mills.
Refugees to this borough have enriched the wealth and culture of Wandsworth immeasurably; many Huguenots became successful members of the community and made Wandsworth famous for its dyeing, silk weaving and hat-making businesses. More recent refugees to the borough have included the former MP of Battersea, Lord Dubbs, who arrived as part of the Kinder Transport in 1938, and our own Council Leader, whose family, along with 27,000 other refugees, fled persecution and were welcomed here.
We must not shut the door behind them.
Now is the time for Wandsworth to show that same spirit of welcome and leadership that defines us – this is the worst refugee crisis to face Europe since World War 2 and we must respond.
There are tangible steps that Wandsworth can take to make a life-changing difference to people fleeing war and I urge you all to take these.
We are asking Wandsworth to welcome and support just 10 refugee families, by which we mean fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, children, people just like you and me. To minimise the burden on the Council’s resources we urge Wandsworth to liaise with private landlords and individuals to avoid the displacement of those on current housing waiting lists.
And of course refugees, granted a five-year humanitarian protection visa, have recourse to national public funds, so Council budgets would not be compromised.
As well as providing register of local landlords and individuals who are happy to take in refugees, the Council could actively seek the support of schools, GPs, the voluntary sector, churches and other faith and community groups in offering other practical solutions.
The Council could sign up to Local Government Association’s Regional Strategic Migration Partnership. The LGA has confirmed that there will be additional funding for refugees beyond the first 12 months and that this will not be taken from the overall council allocation. The scheme is simple, the UNHCR refer cases to the Home Office to check they meet eligibility criteria and to carry out medical and security checks and the Home Office then passes the cases to a local authority who has asked to participate. What reason can there be for Wandsworth not to participate in this scheme?
Two people in my ward have already contacted me to say that they are willing to help. One, a local vicar, said “I was wondering what Wandsworth was doing around helping and taking in refugees, but have so far drawn a blank. I was only thinking that the churches would be well placed to provide the welcome and ongoing support that they would need”. These offers need coordinating; the Council is best-placed to do this.
Yesterday, Churches Together in Balham unanimously backed our call for this Council to receive at least ten refugee families, saying “As representatives of Christians in Balham, we urge you to uphold values of compassion and humanity in the face of the current global crisis by taking this very small but significant step as a response”.
I would like to end by quoting two Conservatives. Samuel Hoare, who, as home secretary in 1938, was instrumental in obtaining approval for the British rescue effort of children in Europe known as the Kindertransport, said ‘I believe that we could find homes in this country for a very large number without any harm to our own population”. He added; ‘We have a splendid opportunity of raising our own level, and rising to be worthy of our own standards in carrying out this task of relief and salvation.’
And Cllr Govindia himself, who has said; “Many local people are ready to make a personal contribution. This borough has a long and proud history of helping people who have fled persecution”
If Wandsworth does not do everything it can to help the “Profitable and gentle strangers” of today it will be doing its history and its own standards, a huge disservice. Please vote with your conscience to do more.
Wandsworth council should uphold its long tradition of supporting refuges and commit to accommodate at least 10 refugee families urgently, says Wandsworth Labour.
Councillor Fleur Anderson has put forward a motion “to welcome, support and accommodate refugees” to this Wednesday’s council meeting (full text below).
Fleur says: “’Like so many people I have been very moved by the stories of so many refugees fleeing their countries and needing to find safety. I felt it could have been me and my family and want to make sure we do what we can to help.
“We can do things like give items for Calais and money, but our Council could play an important role too. I’ve been really disappointed by the Council’s inaction and just saying they will wait to hear from central government. They could be lobbying the government to do more, giving concrete pledges to show that we will welcome refugees in Wandsworth, and supporting local groups who are working flat out to support refugees already living here.
“I hope that they will show more compassion and step up their act after our debate on Wednesday.”
Motion to welcome, support and accommodate refugees in Wandsworth
This Council notes that:
Conflicts in the Middle East have created the largest refugee crisis in generations. With many refugees now in Europe and with winter approaching there is a need for urgent action.
The United Kingdom has played a leading role as one of the world’s top international donors to the region. However the UK has only accepted 216 Syrian refugees under the Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme since its launch in January 2014, and 5,000 Syrian refugees since 2011.
Wandsworth has a long tradition of supporting refugees, including by the South London Refugee Association who have a drop-in centre in Balham mainly run by volunteers which is currently almost overwhelmed by the numbers of people and severity of needs they see.
Over 700 people have signed a petition to ask that Wandsworth welcome 10 refugee families but received no reply to requests for the Council to make a public pledge.
This Council resolves to
- Pledge to accommodate at least 10 refugee families urgently if private accommodation is funded by central government and therefore without displacing those on existing housing lists, and encourage other London Boroughs to make a similar pledge by contacting all other Boroughs.
- Become the first London ‘Borough of Sanctuary’ and facilitate coordination of refugee support with existing education, housing, immigration, employment, health, arts and other services.
- Assess support for refugees by the Council and voluntary groups, and make a plan to address any gaps in support, including the South London Refugee Association, and the Katherine Low Settlement, and increase work with these groups to provide long-term support for refugee families.
- Agree as a matter of urgency to authorise officers to accept refugees from Syria under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, which is fully funded by central government for one year and to lobby the government to increase the length of the funding.
Wandsworth Labour councillors have voted in favour of consultation for blanket 20mph restriction on all residential roads in the borough.
The council had been considering 20mph zones one neighbourhood at a time. Labour criticised this ‘piecemeal’ approach and called for all Wandsworth’s residents to be consulted. Tory councillors have now agreed to this plan.
Sadiq Khan, Tooting MP, said: “After years of calling for an end to what was a costly and timely process I am delighted to hear that the council has finally woken up and realised that local people support 20mph speed limits, and taken action.
“Borough-wide 20mph limits on all residential roads will make for safer roads, a more pleasant environment to live in and get rid of the confusion caused by the previous piecemeal process.
“This is great news for Wandsworth and a shining example of what committed community campaigning can achieve. We never gave up and finally we’ve succeeded. Thank you to everyone who has championed this cause.
“I would urge everyone to take part in the consultation once it begins and I will continue to keep the pressure on the council to introduce the limits as soon as possible.”
Leonie Cooper, Wandsworth & Merton GLA candidate, added: “I put forward a council motion in February last year to make 20mph the default speed on residential roads – but all of the Tory councillors voted against it. I’m now delighted that having blocked it in 2014, wasted money and put us at risk, Wandsworth council is finally going to do a full borough-wide consultation.”