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

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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.

Labour shows leadership on funeral poverty

The boroughs of Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth have taken action to tackle funeral poverty by scrapping all cremation fees charged for children.

The boroughs also recently agreed to offer cremations at a reduced cost for those suffering from funeral poverty, following proposals put forward by Labour councillor, Candida Jones.

Simon Hogg, Leader of Wandsworth Labour, said: “It’s right that these fees have been removed. It’s terrible to think of a parent having to bury their child. They shouldn’t face the added anxiety of how to pay for the funeral.

“The average cost of a funeral in Wandsworth is now more than £3,000. This can be hard to bear for some families. It’s positive that this proposal will help them.”

From January next year all cremation fees charged by the 3 London Councils will be scrapped for children.

funeral povery

The new scheme builds on earlier efforts from Wandsworth Labour to bring in reduced crematorium fees. This year, for the first time, early-morning cremations have been available at a reduced cost of £267, rather than the full £555 previously charged.

Funeral poverty is on the rise. Last year, the amount owed by people who could not afford to pay for their funerals in the UK was £147m, rising this year to an estimated £160m. Of those unable to pay for their funerals, an average of £1,318 was owed in 2016, rising to £1,601 last year.

According to Simon Hogg “Councils get less and less money from the government to provide services. Some councils have had to increase charges to help make ends meet. I’m pleased that Labour has been able to steer Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton in a different, more compassionate direction.”

Public anger over plans to close Chestnut Avenue through Tooting Common for up to 6 months

Residents living close to Tooting Common have responded angrily to Wandsworth Council’s proposal to close Chestnut Avenue, which runs across Tooting Common, to all users for up to six months.

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While the avenue is closed, the Council intends to fell an avenue of Chestnut trees which line it and replace them with saplings. The project is to be paid for using a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Chestnut Avenue is a well-loved landmark used by commuting cyclists, families, visitors to the tennis courts, the playground, the local cafe and participants in the weekly Park Run event and an annual pumpkin parade.

Speaking about the Council’s decision to close Chestnut Avenue, Fleur Anderson, the local councillor and Labour’s Speaker on Community Services, said; “I strongly object to the very extended closure of the Avenue, and so will local residents. This long closure is very heavy handed. The Council, which originally said the work would take no more than 6 weeks, has not explained what will happen to the on-going users of the Avenue, including commuting cyclists and families who use it daily”.

Opposition to the felling of the trees has been vocal with over 5,000 people signing a petition to oppose the council’s plans. Continue reading “Public anger over plans to close Chestnut Avenue through Tooting Common for up to 6 months”

Why Battersea Power Station has become a symbol of inequality

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Speech to Wandsworth Council by Aydin Dikerdem, July 2017

The first time I spoke in this council chamber after being elected, I raised the issue of affordability in Nine Elms.

I had spoken to hundreds of residents in Queenstown who felt like the developments rising up all around, were not for them – and that they would soon be priced out of the area they love.

I called on the council to take seriously its obligations in making sure the developments taking place in Battersea were benefiting everyone – rather than just creating investment properties for the wealthy.

In fact my exact words were these,

‘Let us be clear, when it comes to housing we must be getting the best deal possible from developers’

Seven months later I am confronted by a decision that frankly astounds me.

This council, that is supposed to represent and defend the interests of the residents of Wandsworth, has allowed 250 affordable homes to be all but scrapped from the Battersea Power Station Redevelopment, a project that was already outrageously unaffordable. We are now down from a pathetic 15% affordable to an even lower 9%.

The excuses given this evening are outrageous – are you seriously telling us you want to talk about hard choices when this housing was just 1 to 2 per cent of the overall costs of a what is a multi-billion pound project? When the estimated profits are in the hundreds of millions?

Let us be clear to the public, this talk of ‘viability’ has nothing to do with whether the project can go ahead or not, but is about how much profit the developers will make. The council’s decision to side with the developers shows you’re not only unfit to fight on behalf of our residents, but completely out of touch.

Continue reading “Why Battersea Power Station has become a symbol of inequality”

Wandsworth’s housing crisis: unaffordable housing, rogue landlords & homelessness

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Speech to Wandsworth Council by Peter Carpenter, July 2017

London faces a Housing Crisis. When I joined Wandsworth Council in 2010 there were 350 homeless households. This year there are expected to be 1,800, five times as many.

Affordable housing, by which I mean housing affordable to a family on median income, not some spurious figure invented by the Editor of the Evening Standard, is almost unavailable in Wandsworth outside the social rented sector.

Wandsworth Council is failing to achieve its planning target of 35% affordable homes in new developments, most recently accepting a loss of 250 affordable homes in the Battersea Power Station development on the basis of deeply flawed financial calculations. Continue reading “Wandsworth’s housing crisis: unaffordable housing, rogue landlords & homelessness”