Wandsworth faces a growing homelessness crisis. Last year 613 homeless households were in council temporary accommodation, that had risen to 791 at the start of this year and is predicted to reach 916 by the end of the year.
Local rents went up an average of 14 per cent last year. With pay freezes and housing benefit cuts, many local families can’t keep up.
All it takes is an illness or relationship break-up for families to get trapped in a downward spiral of debt. For too many local people this ends with homelessness.
The main cause of the crisis is eviction by private landlords. This led to 13pc of homeless cases in 2010 but had risen to 53pc by last year.
The homelessness crisis hits families hardest. In 2010, only five homelessness families qualified for four-bed homes, last year it was 68 families. This week’s Wandsworth Guardian has a report on local homeless families who will be moved outside the borough.
More and more homeless families have to be housed in temporary accommodation, in particular dingy Bed & Breakfasts.
I’ve seen how homelessness affects children in Putney, Battersea and Tooting. School runs that take two hours. Fights within families sharing one cramped room. The symptoms of depression. Continue reading
TAILOR BECOMES ENGLISH MAYOR
Battersea Selects Walter Kines
Knight of Needle,
to Preside Over Affairs
KING HIS CUSTOMER
New Magistrate Has Made Clothes for Chamberlain as Well as for Edward
LONDON, Dec. 16. 1905 — Since Battersea elected John Burns, the washerwoman’s son and labor leader, to Parliament, triumphant democracy has done much to break down conventional barriers to political advancement in that once rather fashionable district, but its latest achievement eclipses all others.
It has chosen a working tailor, Walter Rines, as its Mayor and chief citizen for 1906. Mayor Rines claims to be the first knight of the needle who has ever attained to such high civic dignity In the municipal history of Great Britain, and his fellow craftsmen throughout the country; are proud of the distinction which his election confers upon them. Continue reading
Wandsworth Town Hall, 3.30am: Latchmere Ward’s result is announced
Tony Belton, Wendy Speck and I have been re-elected to represent Latchmere ward for another 4 years.
May 22 was a good night for Labour in Wandsworth. We held every seat won in 2010 – and added councillors in Roehampton, Bedford, Queenstown & Earlsfield.
Five years ago only 4 wards in Wandsworth had Labour councillors – today it is 8.
The results give the Tories 41 councillors and Labour 19.
I’m grateful to the residents who took the time to speak to me over the past few months. Thanks also to all the volunteers who contributed towards the campaign.
Simon Hogg hands out balloons at Chesterton School during the election campaign
The most remarkable thing about this year’s Wandsworth Council budget was that – despite the spending reductions – £18m was actually put into reserves.
Here’s the scam: Wandsworth council sells off property to subsidise the day-to-day running costs of the council.
Property prices are sky-high, so Wandsworth sells land, banks the capital receipt and recycles it into revenue spending in following years.
This strategy is possible due to the booming local housing market. In 2012/3 Wandsworth’s housing assets were worth £3.22bn. Then local average prices rose 17.6pc – so the council’s assets increased in value by more than £600m last year.
The land that the council sells off is most often in deprived areas such as Latchmere ward, which I represent. Last time I asked for the figures, the council made £11.6m from sell-offs in Latchmere and invested only £2.1m in the ward (capital income & expenditure over a three-year period).
Wandsworth’s interest in the property market has led it into unhealthy relationships with large property developers. The Putney Society, Wandsworth Society and Clapham Junction Action Group recently lay out in forensic detail how Wandsworth has Wandsworth has “circumvented both its own and national policies” when dealing with high-profile planning applications.
Even as its property wealth grows, the council is shrinking.
The Tory leadership continues to reduce the range of services the council offers. They recently decided to cut council meetings from six a year to four. They refuse to build new homes despite a projected £1.8bn surplus on the Housing Revenue Account.
As the assets pile up and services for residents are scaled back, the council’s core mission becomes clear.
At heart, Wandsworth council is a property empire with a sideline in local government.
Charles is a 90-year-old veteran of the 14th Army in Burma in WWII. It was a privilege to meet him today on the Battersea Fields Estate.
He was keen to talk about the role of the ‘forgotten’ 14th Army in Burma where he served 70 years ago.
Battersea boy Charles says he was “bloody lucky” when he was shot in the arm in World War Two.
Listen to him explain how he had friends less fortunate:
Charles told me he’s the soldier leaping from the boat on the front cover of “Forgotten Voices of Burma”
In the recording below he tells me he didn’t know the photographer was there and very nearly shot him!
It was extraordinary to meet Charles and hear his vivid memories of the things he went through when he was 19 & 20 years old. I will remember him.
I was excited to find this 1938 ‘Britain from Above‘ photograph – the first time I’ve seen the houses that Winstanley Estate replaced.
This is how the same Winstanley area looks today – not one building remains from 1938.
Wandsworth council recently announced a regeneration plan that will demolish much of the estate over the next decade – including 700 homes built in the 1960s and 1970s.
When the above aerial photograph was taken in 1938, the Winstanley area was already earmarked for slum clearance. Then wartime bombing shattered thousands of Battersea homes. Continue reading
Latchmere Labour councillor Wendy Speck
Guest post by councillor Wendy Speck
Regeneration to me is about building homes and a good, safe community people are proud to live in.
It is not that long since the riots in Clapham Junction, when the whole community was unsettled and we, as local councillors have worked hard in Latchmere and in the local community to see how we can make things better for our local residents.
We have worked to keep our local library and community hall open (which meant being active on the local Friends of York Gardens Library Committee) and the planning group for the Big Local Lottery funding, which covers some of the area, taking part in meetings and activities of many local groups and so on, so they were encouraged to see their area prosper.