Wrong, harmful and costly: Wandsworth’s reckless housing cuts

(Speech from Oct 16, 2013 – starts at 12 mins in the above video)

I think housing is the biggest challenge that faces this council.

It’s an issue that affects every one of us.

Young renters moving through a series of expensive, short-term flats. Parents struggling to fund their children – from the ‘Bank of Mom & Dad’. The homeless families with their lives in ruins.

Local house prices are now 13 times local salaries. Private rents up 14pc in a year. Wandsworth is living through a housing crisis.

As councillor Thomas skilfully outlined, a series of welfare reforms are hitting our poorest residents. And this impact is about to get worse.

Housing is important.

That’s why Wandsworth’s Housing department is important.

It does some fantastic work. Tenant satisfaction levels are extraordinary, officers have created hundreds of Hidden Homes, the graffiti removal service is excellent there are hugely popular open days to encourage home ownership and affordable housing.

The £100m regeneration of our most deprived estates is possible thanks to the long-term strength of the rents account – the Housing Revenue account – which has a £1.8bn projected surplus.

And it can’t be said often enough in this debate – housing is funded by those people who live in council housing. There is a legal ring-fence around the money collected in rent – more than £100m a year.

Unlike other debates about  cuts to services, this is not about the money we receive from government and this is not about the council tax we collect from residents.

The first thing to say about these proposals for 45 job cuts is that they were pushed through to evade scrutiny. The plans were fully formed at the time of the last housing committee but were hidden from councillors. This is not fair dealing.

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Video: The day 100 volunteers campaigned in Battersea

On October 26, 100 volunteers came on to the streets of Battersea to campaign for Will Martindale, Battersea’s next Labour MP. I was number 30.

30

You can meet all 100 in this fun short video of the day (below). Will Martindale has also written an article explaining why upset Lib Dem, divided Tories and new young voters will make Battersea will be a Labour gain in the General Election of 2015.

Wandsworth’s in a housing crisis – and the council just made it worse

Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 21.54.35

I have called a public meeting in the Town Hall tomorrow night (Tuesday, 6.30pm in Room 122) to discuss the housing crisis in Wandsworth. I hope you can come.

Private rents are up 14pc in a year, the average income of a homebuyer is now more than £100,000 and there are 6,000 people waiting for council flats.

Looking to buy? This parking space in Battersea costs £70,000, this garage in Tooting costs £315,000 and this former council flat in Latchmere costs £550,000!

Homelessness is on the rise and the Bedroom Tax is hurting hundreds of local families – you can read how it has affected one mother on the Shaftesbury Estate here.

The council should be working round the clock to help people move up the housing ladder. Instead they have decided to cut 45 roles from the housing department.

These job losses are not necessary. Wandsworth’s housing finances are in excellent shape and its officers widely respected.

Housing services are not paid for from Council Tax – they are paid for by people who live in council housing. Wandsworth charges the highest council rents in the country so its housing department is very well off. These cuts aim to save money from a rents account that has a predicted £1,800m surplus!

Wandsworth has a dreadful record on homeless families left in unsuitable B&B accommodation, yet it is proposed to reduce the size of the relevant team and add to its duties. Continue reading

Meet Mrs Simpson

Mrs Simpson outside her Battersea home

Mrs Simpson outside her Battersea home

Guest post by Mrs Simpson

I am disabled.

I live in a three bedroom house on the Shaftesbury Estate with my husband and son. My house is owned by the Peabody Trust.

I had serious back trouble after having children. As time went on it got worse. It got to the stage that I could not get in and out of my bath or get up my stairs.

In the end I had to sleep in my front room and wash in a sink because I couldn’t get in the bath.

I applied to my housing trust to move but they did not have any adapted properties available. I was told to move out the borough as it was the only chance that I would probably get of finding an adapted property.

I have lived in Battersea all my life. My husband works at a nursery and I have two daughters that live close by. They are always on hand to help me. Continue reading

How Women of Wandsworth triumphed over war, family breakdown and homlessness

This poster on Falcon Road promotes the council’s Big Society Fund. It features Senia, Sandra and Hadas, three remarkable local mothers who volunteer for Women of Wandsworth (WoW Mums).

The real story behind the smiles on the poster is how they overcame war, family breakdown and homlessness to contribute so much to Battersea.

I’ve got to know Senia, Sandra and Hadas quite well in the past few years – and I’m still slightly in awe of them. Here are their extraordinary stories…

Big Society Fund poster on Falcon Road, Battersea featuring Sandra, Senia and Hadas

Big Society Fund poster on Falcon Road, Battersea featuring Sandra, Senia and Hadas

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Why these housing cuts will hurt the homeless

Guest post by councillor Mark Thomas

Wandsworth is in the grip of a growing housing crisis.

House prices up 10% in the last year and private rents by 14%

The disastrous effects of the Tories’ unjust welfare cuts, with lives turned upside down and those on low incomes pushed out of the borough.

Virtually every week now I am contacted by people – many of them in decent jobs – who are truly desperate because they have been evicted by their landlords and are unable to find anywhere else where they can afford to rent.

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Fatal shooting on Kambala Estate last night

The crime scene
Detectives are investigating the death of a man in Battersea following police being called at 19:51hrs last night, to a man suffering gunshot wounds in Coppock Close, SW11.

Officers and London Ambulance Service attended and a 19-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.

A post-mortem examination will be held in due course. Officers from Wandsworth are investigating, supported by colleagues from the Specialist Crime & Operations Command.

There has been no arrest at this early stage.

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Bonner, said: “I am keen to establish if there was anyone in the area who saw or heard anything suspicious yesterday evening. I’m appealing for anyone who has any information no matter how small to please come forward and help us with our inquiry.”

Anyone who witnessed the incident or has information that may assist police is asked to contact detectives on 020 8358 0200 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.