I gave this speech on Housing and the Government’s benefit cuts during a debate in Wandsworth Council’s December meeting. A video of the whole session is below, my speech leads the debate and begins at 35 seconds in. The text of the speech is below.
Here is what your local councillors, Tony Belton, Wendy Speck and I, have achieved in 2012 with the help of volunteers and local residents:
1 Helped to save York Gardens Library, again
Local Labour councillors are proud to have led the community campaign that saved York Gardens Library last year. But to keep the library open we now need to:
- Raise £70,000 in room hire each year – please book a room if you have a birthday party or special occasion
- Make sure local children use the computers, the free homework club and GCSE Success tutoring
I was very impressed on recent visits to the library to see dozens of children from the local estates benefit from the free Maths and English tutoring supplied by GCSE Success. One local mother I invited to the House of Commons had a chance to explain how these volunteer tutors had given her daughter the chance to following her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Visit www.saveyorkgardens.com for more information.
Unfortunately, this year we failed to stop York Gardens Adventure Playground being demolished, having previously stopped Wandsworth charging children £2.50 to use adventure playgrounds.
IN 2013 WE WILL work with parents and the council to ensure a top-class new playground for York Gardens is in place for the spring.
2 Worked hard on the £60m estate regeneration for Winstanley and York Road
The Kinghan report into last summer’s riots concluded that the Winstanley Estate is in the worst 1 per cent of places in the country to grow up as a child. We are pleased that Wandsworth has agreed to make a huge investment to regenerate the York Road and Winstanley Estates. We stood for election in 2010 on a promise to improve our estates and we will stand again in 2014 on the same promise. Labour will ensure residents’ interests are put first in the regeneration, meaning:
- Full consultation with the community
- Construction jobs for local people
- All social housing to be replaced, with residents guaranteed a chance to return
- Estates should be given mix of housing types and tenures
- No overall loss of play space or parks
IN 2013 WE WILL continue this work and link it to the £1m Big Lottery Funding that will help renew our community as well as the buildings we live in.
3 Supported Battersea’s community gardens
Labour councillors have supported the growth of community gardens all over Battersea this year: from securing £5,000 in funding for the Doddington Estate Roof Garden, to helping in the Falcon Estate garden and working to set up a Kambala Estate community garden. More information at Facebook.com/doddingtongarden.
IN 2013 WE WILL dig deep to help the brand new Kambala garden come into bloom. Contact green-fingered councillor Wendy Speck (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved.
4 Led the fight to save our local police stations
Earlier this year, Battersea Labour Party used a freedom of information request to uncover the disturbing fact that Lavender Hill Police station has “in principle approval for disposal in 2012/13″. Not only did Tory councillors refuse to join the campaign to save the police station, they accused us of ‘scaremongering’ (see video above).
By December, the Evening Standard reported that almost half of London’s police stations were to close to the public. Wandsworth’s top policeman recently predicted: “The front counters at Battersea, Tooting and Putney High Street [police stations] would close”.
Tony, Wendy and I know what a crucial role Lavender Hill Police station played in finally ending the riots at Clapham Junction last year and we will do everything we can to keep it open.
IN 2013 WE WILL ask every Wandsworth councillor to choose between supporting the police station cuts and supporting community campaigns to save our police stations.
5 Backed local businesses and job-seekers
2012 was a very tough year to run a business in Battersea – and unemployment continued to rise. We stood up for local businesses that were flooded and facing high business rates and worked to help stallholders set up in markets and employ local youths.
We strongly supported Wandsworth’s new jobs brokerage scheme that will match local candidates to the job opportunities coming up in Nine Elms. We also backed the W.O.W Enterprise Club which helps lone parents set up their own businesses.Local businessman Neset Sabir (left): “Councillor Simon Hogg helped me when my basement flooded and when my mopeds were stolen. I trust him.” IN 2013 WE WILL continue to boost local entrepreneurs and help job seekers get the skills they need
6 Action on parking: Made bailiffs return a car to Clark Lawrence Court that had been wrongly towed away…
…secured the release of a clamped vehicle by challenging the council’s contractor and supported a council crack-down on Blue Badge fraud that has caught 441 cheats.
IN 2013 WE WILL support a freeze in the cost of a residents’ parking permit, as we did in 2012
7 Action on housing: Got the council to repair entryphones at Pennethorne House and Culvert Road, the pavement at Ashley Crescent, the map at McDermott Close…
…a leak in Holcroft House, a broken door in Dungeness House, negotiated a payment extension for Inkster House residents who faced a 200 per cent increase in service charges. We also pushed the council to agree empty homes should from now on pay fair Council Tax and spoke out on the housing crisis facing young people facing high rents and mortgage deposits.
IN 2013 WE WILL help constituents made homeless by the housing benefit cap and prepare for the effects of the next round of housing benefit cuts.
8 Celebrated the Overground arriving at Clapham Junction
Thanks to tireless work by former Battersea MP Martin Linton, local people can now take the Overground Line from the new Platform 2 at Clapham Junction to Clapham High St (8 mins), Peckham (15 mins), Surrey Quays (24 mins), Whitechapel (33 mins).
The wonderful new line that opened in December links up to Canada Water (for Jubilee line services to Canary Wharf and Stratford), Clapham High Street (for Northern Line services to the City and the West End), Highbury & Islington (for Victoria Line and National Rail services) and Shoreditch High Street (for the City).
IN 2013 WE WILL continue to lobby for improvements to Clapham Junction, surely the worst-designed major station in Britain.
9 Opposed over-development
Too often Wandsworth council puts the interests of property developers over the interests of residents. Another legacy of Martin Linton’s time as Battersea MP was stopping the construction of 42-storey towers at Clapham Junction and the Ram Brewery site.
This year Tony, Wendy and I met architects, planners and members of the public to:
- Discuss the public benefit of developments on the Prince’s Head pub site on Falcon Road, the Peabody Estate and the Travis Perkins site on Battersea Park Road.
- Ensure the council respects its own policies: only 1,422 of the first 9,141 homes approved in Nine Elms were affordable (and full-price two-bed flats will cost £1.5m!).
- Stop developers behaving antisocially during construction: we were recently appalled by reports that concrete was being laid at 3am on the Battersea Reach site, with the council’s full knowledge! This Christmas morning I was woken at 7am by construction work from another site.
And a few of the other issues we tackled in 2012…
…Arson attacks in Fairchild Close… Planned extension for Falcon Road Mosque… Council cutting lollipop ladies… Big Local Lottery funding… Bed Bugs in Penge House… New windows for Sporle Court… Gun crime in York Gardens, Falcon Road and Pennethorne Square… Need for more CCTV on Maysoule Road… Lack of teenagers’ facilities on Battersea Fields Estate… Discussion with former Health Secretary Andy Burnham about the future shape of the NHS… Public appeal for PlayStation equipment at the STORM youth club…
The women had not seen each other for 8 years, but there was an immediate connection when they saw met at the House of Commons. Senia Dedic, a mother from the Falcon Estate, greeted Margaret Hodge MP like an old friend and pulled out a large photograph.
As I know from canvassing with Margaret Hodge during the 2010 General election, she often asks after your family. Back then, she had discussions with thousands of residents to defeat a challenge in Barking from BNP leader Nick Griffin. Asking after Senia’s family, Margaret soon uncovered a special story. Continue reading
Guest post by the GMB union
A delegation of GMB members has called on the General Purposes Committee of Wandsworth Council this evening not to go ahead with the proposal to end the daily delivery of hot meals on wheels service for elderly, disabled and frail residents from 1st April 2013.
If the proposals go ahead residents will have to make their own arrangements to get a daily hot meal.
The GMB delegation, of council staff in meals on wheels, will tell councillors that of the people who will no longer get a hot meal delivered 3 are blind and can’t open door or a meal, 2 are partially sighted, 24 are mentally ill and not aware of time or days, 4 are mentally disabled, 5 have Alzheimer’s, 13 suffer from dementia , 2 are profoundly deaf, 8 have mental health problem undefined, 17 are physically disabled and need assistance to open meal, 11 who are wheelchair bound unable to open door 4 have a drink related disability and 1 has a drink and drugs related disability.
Members of the public are once again being offered free bags of grit next week as part of a council initiative to combat snow and ice this winter.
With colder weather on the horizon, the council is offering residents up to 50 kilos of grit free of charge to help them cope with frozen footpaths this winter, this council press release explains.
The aim is to encourage people in the community to help others in their neighbourhoods – especially the elderly and disabled, or those with young children who might otherwise find it hazardous to venture outdoors in a cold snap.
Last year the council gave away more than 15 tonnes of grit to local residents, community groups and neighbourhood watch co-ordinators to help keep pavements clear.
Something special is happening at York Gardens Library. Each Saturday from 10am more than a dozen teenagers from the local estates receive free one-on-one tuition to help with their GCSE Maths and English.
This support is provided by volunteers – and it makes a real difference. “The free tutoring came at just the right time and helped me pass the subjects I was struggling in,” says local teenager Una. Her mother was delighted that Una could go on to a good college after tutoring improved her Maths grade to a C.
This fantastic scheme is just what we hoped for when a community campaign saved York Gardens Library from closure last year.
Last week there was more good news: Lloyds Banking Group’s Community Fund awarded £5,000 to the Library, following a public vote.
Unfortunately, just a few yards away from the library the scene is grim. What was the local Adventure Playground is now a muddy pile of wooden poles.
At last week’s Wandsworth Council meeting Tory councillor Jonathan Cook accused the Labour Party of scaremongering by spreading “deeply, deeply irresponsible” rumours that Lavender Hill Police Station was under threat.
The below video shows cllr Cook’s accusations and Labour Leader Rex Osborn’s response: the official document that proves Lavender Hill has already, in principle, been lined up for sale in the next year.