£80,000 of public money spent on replacing 51 trees despite objections from 6,500 people

Wandsworth Council has admitted that the cost of felling and replacing a mature avenue of chestnut trees on Tooting Common was in excess of £80,000.

This figure included £21,377 which the Council spent on security measures, including £9,100 on the erection of a 10’ metal wall, £4,274 on the provision of private security staff and guard dogs and £8,003 on parks police.

The total £83,348 figure is almost double the £46,000 grant the Council received from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for the replacement of the trees. The purchase cost of the new trees was just £5,824 of the total.

Commenting on the figures, Fleur Anderson, Labour’s Speaker on Community Services, said: “I am shocked. The project cost almost twice what the Council received in funding, meaning that almost £40,000 of tax payers’ money has been spent replacing trees that the community wanted to keep, as witnessed by the 6,500 people who signed the petition asking the Council to rethink. The Committee which voted on the proposals to cut down the trees were told the project would be funded by a grant, not by the tax payer”. Continue reading “£80,000 of public money spent on replacing 51 trees despite objections from 6,500 people”

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Wandsworth Labour promises to end to secret deals with developers who cut affordable housing

Property developers who fail to live up to their affordable housing commitments will be forced to explain why and publicly reveal their profits under new Wandsworth Labour proposals.

Financial viability assessments will be released, without redaction, for local people to see when developers are putting their own interests ahead of the public interest.

The tough new policy comes after Wandsworth Tory council allowed the developer of Battersea Power Station to cut 250 affordable homes.

Last week, Wandsworth Tory councillors agreed to a Labour Motion demanding that developers are made more accountable to the public by making their viability reports as transparent as possible to enable the public “to see for themselves that the developers are contributing their proper share of affordable housing”.

According to Wandsworth Labour Housing Speaker, Paul White: “This is an important step forward, but  if Wandsworth Labour take the Council, we would go further by insisting that  developers who don’t build the required affordable housing would be made to publish unredacted viability studies to explain why”.

Paul White full council

The Motion was brought by Battersea Cllr Aydin Dikerdem who recently presented the Council with a petition signed by over 21,000 people objecting to the Council’s decision to allow the developers at Battersea Power Station to reduce the amount of affordable housing on the site from 15% to just 9%.

Targets laid down by the Mayor of London require developers to deliver 35% affordability on private land and 50% on public land. However viability reports are often used by developers to justify reducing that amount.

According to the Battersea Power Station developer’s viability estimates, the redevelopment could have provided a profit of approximately £1bn if 35% of the housing delivered had been affordable.  However the developers argued that this amount of affordable housing – equivalent to 1,375 homes rather than the 386 that will now be built – would have made the regeneration non-viable.

Cllr White added: “The concession made by Tory cllrs last week to make viability reports more open and transparent is an important step that should enable residents to scrutinise the rationale given by developers as to why they can’t provide real affordable housing, making it easier for residents to hold them to account and hopefully harder for Wandsworth Council to capitulate to their demands. But we would go further”.

Cllr White concluded: “Only 8% of Londoners can afford 80% of its housing. By forcing developers to no longer hide behind secret viability reports, we would be able to reverse this trend and provide more genuinely affordable homes for the people of this borough”.

Charity-worker, disability campaigner and long-term Thamesfield resident selected to contest Thamesfield by-election for Labour

Sally Warren, a Thamesfield resident of over 25 years, has been selected by Putney Labour to contest next month’s by-election following the death of Cllr Jim Madden, Wandsworth’s former Mayor and Conservative Thamesfield Cllr.

cllr Peter Carpenter, Sally Warren, Cllr Sue Mckinney, Cllr Jeremy Ambache (l to r)

from left to right: Cllr Peter Carpenter, Sally Warren, Cllr Sue McKinney, Cllr Jeremy Ambache

In her day job, Sally is a disability campaigner who manages a national agency which supports and campaigns for the equal rights of people with learning disabilities. She also co-founded a local Wandsworth-based charity; Generate Opportunities, which offers support to people with learning disabilities.

Speaking about her selection as the Labour candidate for Thamesfield , Sally said: “Thamesfield is my home. I am standing here because I hate injustice and I want Thamesfield to be a fairer, more inclusive place for all local people to live and thrive. I have worked all my professional life tackling inequality and taking this fight to the Town Hall is the obvious next step for me. Only by winning seats for Labour on Wandsworth Council can we really make life better for the residents of Wandsworth”.

The issues that Sally will be campaigning on include:

  • Making Putney High Street a place where people want to be. Where all members of the community, including our many EU citizens, can shop and gather in a way that creates a welcoming Town Centre.  Not a place where large business rules!
  • Stopping the overdevelopment of Putney. We need to increase the amount of genuinely affordable housing and restrict the number of high rise towers.
  • Local community services including Health and Social Care services to ensure local support for the elderly, the disabled and the lonely. This includes protecting our local library and green spaces.
  • Pollution reduction – especially important on Putney High Street
  • Quality education places for all – we need to oppose the estimated £7m in real-term cuts that Putney schools are facing.

Speaking about Sally’s selection, Putney Labour Cllr Sue McKinney, said: “Sally is all about building communities. As an advocate for people with disabilities, I know she is committed to representing everyone, people of all abilities, cultures, backgrounds and politics.  She has a deep belief and commitment to truly inclusive working”.

More about Sally:

  • Sally worked for 15 years as a Youth Worker for the Council, advocating on behalf of young people.
  • Sally worked as a Senior Change Manager for Wandsworth Council supporting the development and implementation of an Adult Social Care Strategy for people with learning disabilities.
  • She has served as a Trustee for: The Wandsworth Carers Centre, KeyRing and the Wandsworth Care Alliance and the Commission for the Architecture of the Built Environment (CABE) team in Wandsworth.
  • Sally also volunteers at Physical Culture a local gym established in 1928.

 

Why Wandsworth Council should oppose Government police cuts

Speech to Wandsworth Council by councillor Fleur Anderson, October 2017

Wandsworth Council must oppose Government police cuts

We need a Council that will listen to local residents and their concerns about safety and crime, that will square up to the Tory Government and will vigorously oppose any further police cuts.

I’d like to start by thanking our Wandsworth police force who are so dedicated and effective – including the police offer who broke his foot whilst chasing and making an arrest in Bedford ward this week.

Fleur Anderson

Fleur Anderson

We are united in supporting the new community safety partnership plan and its new priority area. In particular I welcome the Mayor’s commitment to have dedicated ward officers in each ward, most are whom already in place in Wandsworth.

Now we need to also unite in opposing government police cuts. Tory councillors should stop playing politics with residents’ safety, should take responsibility for the effects of Tory austerity policies and should stop blaming the London Mayor for the government’s police budget cuts. Continue reading “Why Wandsworth Council should oppose Government police cuts”

Labour reveals the true impact of Tory education cuts in Wandsworth

Schools in Wandsworth schools are facing cuts of £7.7m by 2020/21, according to figures recently released by the National Education Union (NEU).

According to Cllr Jeremy Ambache, Labour’s Speaker on education, “action by parents to oppose schools cuts have forced the government to U-turn on their proposed funding cuts, but their revised proposals would still cost schools in Wandsworth the equivalent of over 150 teachers across the borough. We can credit parent power for forcing this change but would encourage parents to keep the pressure up and the Council to stand alongside them”.

Cllr Jeremy Ambache

Cllr Ambache points to several schools in the borough that are already having to lose teachers, combine subject areas, reduce the provision of arts subjects, cut afterschool provisions and ask parents for increased contributions, in order to save money. These include a secondary school which is not replacing 10 teachers and 5 teaching assistants, a primary school which is not replacing 4 teachers and another primary school which has cut the hours it pays its teaching assistants.

Cllr Ambache said: “schools in Wandsworth are facing a double whammy; they are being forced to meet unfunded extra costs to pay for pensions, national insurance, business rates, apprenticeship levy and the national minimum wage and from next year they are facing budget cuts as part of the Government’s so called fairer-funding formula”.  He added: “of course the impact of these cuts is greater for the least well off pupils whose parents are not able to pay for their children to participate in arts and sport outside school”.

Cllr Ambache concluded: “Given that the Secretary of State for Education is herself a Wandsworth MP, this Council is ideally-placed to lobby the government to rethink their funding cut proposals for schools, as other Conservative Councils have done. We are told that conversations are taking place behind closed doors but given the enormity of the funding cuts faced by Wandsworth Schools, it is time that this Council publically put the education of our children at the top of their political agenda and stood up for teachers, parents and children in this borough by demanding a Government rethink. Tonight in Full Council I will be asking Wandsworth Council to do just that.”

The Labour Group’s Motion for this evening’s debate on opposing education cuts to the borough’s schools is here: https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s52762/Fair%20funding%20for%20schools.pdf

If you have personal experience of cuts to schools in your area of Wandsworth, please get in touch with Jeremy Ambache directly (and in confidence, if necessary). jambache@aol.com

Wandsworth’s Conservative councillors oppose proposals to protect school budgets

Last week (September 21) Conservatives members on Wandsworth Council’s Education Committee rejected proposals aimed at protecting the real term value of school budgets for the next 2 years.

Cllr Jeremy Ambache, Labour’s Education spokesperson, who proposed the measures, said “Tory councillors dismissed our suggestion that the Council write to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask them to ensure that the funding for Wandsworth schools maintains its spending value in real terms for the next two years. Given the perilous state of school budgets in the borough, this decision shows a remarkable lack of will to assist local schools struggling to make ends meet”.

He added: “Schools are facing real financial difficulties. One Secondary school in the borough has told me that they have already had to cut 10 teachers and 5 support staff to save £420,000 and that further cuts are anticipated next year.  Another head teacher at a local primary school has said that she cannot afford to replace 4 teachers who have left. The Council needs to do more to support the borough’s schools”.

Cllr Jeremy Ambache campaigning with parents

Cllr Jeremy Ambache with local parents

In recent years new financial obligations have been placed on schools without the necessary funding from Central Government to pay for them, including increases in the minimum wage, in National Insurance contributions, in pension contributions, a new apprenticeship levy and higher Business Rates.

As a result, Wandsworth schools have had to raid their cash reserves to cover these additional costs. Cash balances in local schools were down from £21m to £14m in 2016/17; and it is forecast that reserves will be down to £7m by the end of the current financial year.

According to Jeremy Ambache “Spending money from the reserves is a short term measure to stop schools having to make more drastic cuts, but these reserves won’t last forever”.

The funding squeeze is particularly acute for schools which provide support for children with special educational needs. The cost of special education provision in Wandsworth was more than a £1million over budget in 2016/7.

Jeremy Ambache concluded: “The new ‘National Funding Formulae’ for school budgets being proposed by the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, will make matters even worse. This new proposed government funding allocation will be introduced from 2018/19 and will mean even more money is taken away from schools in Wandsworth. It is time the Council stood up for its schools and used the leverage it has with central government to ease the funding crisis”.

Could you be a Wandsworth Labour councillor?

Sadiq, Rosena and Marsha all began their political journeys as local authority councillors. Many councillors want nothing more than to represent, support and lead their community. But for others, it is also the start of an exciting journey that can lead all the way to City Hall and the Houses of Parliament.

election night GE 2017

Wandsworth Labour, which covers Tooting, Battersea and Putney, is looking for people who would like to stand for election in May next year, and that could well be you.

Being a councillor is hugely rewarding. It means you can play an important role in improving your community and the lives of local people. Next May it could also mean you will be part of the team that takes Wandsworth Council from the Tories for the first time in 40 years. Imagine how much better Wandsworth could be with Labour in charge.

We welcome applicants from all walks of life and are especially keen to hear from women, black and minority ethnic members, carers, people with disabilities, LGBT members and younger members.

There is a good description of a councillor’s role in this booklet.

To apply, you need to have been a member of the Labour Party since January 16th 2016 and live in the borough of Wandsworth.

If you’re interested, please get in touch by emailing wandsworth2018@yahoo.com and we will send you an application form and tell you more about the role. The deadline for submitting an application is September 28.