A busy year: My first anniversary as Wandsworth Labour leader

Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg with deputy leaders Fleur Anderson and Candida JonesThat went quickly! A year ago today I was elected leader of Wandsworth Labour.

It’s been an extraordinary year in politics. Lots of joy mixed with some real sadness.

In terms of election victories, we’re probably in Wandsworth Labour’s most successful period ever:

Local boy Sadiq Khan is London Mayor, Leonie Cooper joined the London Assembly, Rosena Allin-Khan was elected as Tooting’s MP, and ace campaigners Paul White and Aydın Emre Dikerdem became councillors.

There’s a huge amount of hard work behind these victories. Wandsworth Labour is a team of 19 brilliant councillors backed by more than 5,000 Labour members in Battersea, Putney and Tooting.

We’re in our best position for 25 years and we aim to win the council in 2018.

Wandsworth Labour listens to local people. We try to be positive and practical. I’m proud of our powerful education funding campaign, which took us to school gates across the borough.

For our vigorous work on Brexit, Candida Jones listened to the stories of EU citizens in Wandsworth. Former Battersea MP Alf Dubs came to the Town Hall to support our call for the council to accept Syrian refugee families.

Simon Wady joined our team as full-time Campaign Manager in March. We’re lucky to have him.

The low points of the last year in terms of Tory policy include:

• More than 1,000 homeless local families live in Wandsworth temporary accommodation

• 400 jobs cut as Wandsworth merges its staff with Richmond council

• More than £10 million set aside to clear up the fall-out from a Wandsworth council child protection scandal uncovered by an Ofsted inspection

The lowest points were personal. Rex Osborn stood down as leader last May due to ill health and has spent much of the past year recuperating. We look forward to seeing Rex in full effect in the Town Hall soon.

Worse was to come: Councillor Sally-Ann Ephson passed away last summer after a long illness. She was just 49.

Hundreds of people attended Sally-Ann’s funeral in Tooting. Sadiq Khan led the tributes: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”

Councillor Wendy Speck, who’s been a great Wandsworth Deputy Mayor this year, also gave a lovely tribute on Wandsworth Radio.

Wandsworth Labour was fully engaged during the EU referendum – where 75% of local people voted to ‘Remain’.

Volunteers are now working round the clock on a General Election.

We’re listening to local people every day in Battersea, in Putney and in Tooting – where we aim to re-elect our excellent local champion Rosena. It’s the third time in three years we’ve hit the streets to elect a Labour MP in Tooting!

The good news is that we like elections. Campaigning brings people together and Wandsworth is one of the most fun and exciting places in Britain to do Labour politics. Hundreds of volunteers help out each week. There’s a really positive team spirit.

A huge thank you from me to each councillor and every of our volunteers for making Wandsworth Labour what it is.

Do please get in touch if you want to join us!

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Dear Mr Mayor, please stop this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road

culvert-roadOn December 14, 2016, Wandsworth council approved the building of a 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road. I attended the Planning Applications Committee and spoke against the scheme (you can read what I said here).

Now my Latchmere ward colleague councillor Tony Belton has written to the Mayor of London to ask him to over-rule Wandsworth and reject this unsuitable building.

Dear Mr. Mayor,
 
I am writing to you to ask that you call in, and reject, Wandsworth Planning Application, 2016/4188, relating to 3 Culvert Road, SW11 4ND.
 
I am a councillor for the relevant Latchmere ward and also a member of the Borough’s Planning Applications Committee, which considered this proposal on 14th December. Unfortunately I was not able to be there as I was in hospital recovering from an operation.

However, I would ask you to take note of the points already made by my constituent Mr. Paul Forster, which I will not repeat but fully support, and the following comments of mine. This letter is, by the way, endorsed by my fellow ward councillors, Simon Hogg and Wendy Speck.
 
First of all I fully acknowledge the pressures on you, as Mayor, and each and every one of the London Boroughs to provide more and more housing units across the capital. I know from working with you, as fellow Wandsworth councillors, that this a very important objective of yours, indeed it is an almost over-whelming priority for both you and for London.

However, this is such a small site (0.132 hectares or about 15% of a football pitch) that even at the height and density proposed the total number of units is only 39. Given that the Council’s target over the 2015-30 timescale is to add 25,860 units and that 33,538 new homes are already in the pipeline, it would seem a pity to break planning guidelines and offend local residents for such a minor addition.
 
As recently as March 2016 Wandsworth produced its Site Specific Allocations Document listing many potential housing sites in the Borough. This site was not included and was not considered to be a contributor to the housing targets, because it was then part of the Battersea Technology College school site. The site is indeed so far from critical to reaching the Council’s housing targets that it has never even been included in the plans.

Continue reading

2016: My political year in 16 photos

1. Labour councillors Rex Osborn, James Daley and Wendy Speck prepare for a meeting of Wandsworth Council. (January)

rex

2. At Tooting Broadway, supporting striking junior doctors from St George’s Hospital (February)

Simon Hogg supports striking junior doctors from St George's Hospital at Tooting Broadway

3. Reading the shock Ofsted report into Wandsworth children’s services that reveals the council repeatedly failed foster children, children leaving care and teenagers at risk of child sexual exploitation (February)

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4. A real mate: tribute to Thomas Griffin, seen in Postman’s Park in the City of London (April)

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5. My fellow Latchmere ward councillor Wendy Speck is elected Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth – she’s done a brilliant job! (May)

maywendymayor

6. Elected as Wandsworth Labour leader with Fleur Anderson and Candida Jones as deputy leaders. (May)

Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg with deputy leaders Fleur Anderson and Candida Jones

7. It’s not often you get to canvass with your heroes: Listening to local people in Tooting with the awesome Alf Dubs. The former Battersea MP, now Baron Dubs, this year persuaded the government to welcome hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees to the UK. (May)

Simon Hogg and Alf Dubs

8. Glastonbury’s more political than usual: the UK votes to leave the European Union and much of the shadow cabinet resigns. (June)

juneglastonbury2

9. Rosena Allin-Khan becomes Tooting’s new MP in June, her election day overshadowed by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. Rosena’s pictured with ace campaigner Paul White, who was elected a Tooting ward councillor in August

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10. Hundreds of local people attend the Get Active Battersea Festival on the Winstanley Estate. A chance for local people to see regeneration plans to demolish 700 homes on the estate and replace them with 2,000 new ones – and to play with a firefighter’s hose. (July)

julywseregen

11. Our friend and colleague, councillor Sally-Ann Ephson died this summer after a long illness. Tributes were led by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who said: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. She served her constituents with dignity and grace. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”

augustsallyann

12. Back of the net! Wandsworth council agrees to keep Battersea Sports Centre open following a community campaign led by local Labour councillors. (September)

augustbscsaved

13. Aydin Dikerdem (right) campaigns in the Queenstown ward by-election. He won with a 10% swing to Labour in a ward the Tories have held for decades. (November)

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14. Representing the Labour Party at the Act of Remembrance in Battersea Park. (November)

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15. Viewing a Surrey Lane Estate flat with a homeless local family. This one-bed flat was the council’s first and final offer of help (December)

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16. Merry Christmas! Wandsworth Labour councillors’ Christmas meal at The Ship in Battersea (December)

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2015: My political year in 15 photos

“I’ve not found one local person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road”

culvert-road

The proposed development at Culvert Road

Comments to Wandsworth Plannning Applications Committee, December 14, 2016

This is the most one-sided major planning issue I’ve seen in my ward.

I’ve spoken to local people over many months. I’ve not found one person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road.

The council has logged more than 200 objections received, including two petitions. I should say that I wasn’t involved in either petition or any of the comments – this is entirely grass-roots opposition.

The main objections to the development are clear:

  • It’s too tall
  • It blocks people’s light, and their views
  • The architecture is not in keeping with the low-rise Victorian character of Battersea Park Road
  • Loss of privacy – a building of this height would overlook surrounding properties
  • The application does not comply with the London Plan or with council policy on tall buildings

All of which is true.

The council report captures some of the more colourful language used by residents: “outrageously high, out of proportion, intrusive, overbearing, unattractive, a monstrosity, a skyscraper.”

I note there were three letters of support.

I’ve sympathy with the resident who says Harris Academy “is doing a wonderful job in turning the school around to being one of best in the Borough”. It’s an excellent school that has improved greatly. The gym would be a big benefit.

I’d like to focus on two more points of view and will then sum up.

First, Jane Ellison, the Battersea MP says: “The application does not comply with the London Plan and that Council policy (DMS4 of the 2016 Development Management Document) suggests the site is in an area where tall buildings (ie five stories or higher) are inappropriate.”

Second, the Battersea Society objects to this application. “Specifically: the design, height, bulk and massing of the proposal respond poorly to the surrounding context including nearby listed buildings, and to the two adjacent conservation areas – the Latchmere Estate and Battersea Park Conservation Areas.”

From my perspective this is an important point. Latchmere only has one conservation area – the Latchmere Estate. It’s lovely and it is literally a re-writing of history to say this area is incoherent or lacks character.

I’ll conclude with some points about the impact this building will have.

A new 14-story tower on Battersea Park Road is just too much. It will be a beacon of anxiety – residents will ask: what’s stopping the council approving a tower block next to their two-storey Victorian street properties in Latchmere, Queenstown or St Mary’s Park or Shaftesbury?

People need to know they have some control over the way their neighbourhood looks and feels. Our urban environment must be under democratic control.

We can’t continue with such a massive gap between what people want for their neighbourhoods and the over-development being pushed upon them.

We do need to deliver more homes.

There’s an important political point here: tower blocks such as 3 Culvert Road call into disrepute the council’s whole home building programme. Resistance to any new developments will harden if people believe the council is happy to allow 14-storey tower blocks in their neighbourhood.

There is a place for towers, in certain agreed areas. Where they can be clustered – or as part of larger schemes that are balanced between low-rise and high-rise.

This is something else. This is not a template to solve our housing crisis. This is just a developer trying too hard to make a profit out of tight corner plot. I urge you to reject this application and the damaging precedent it will set.

UPDATE: The application was approved by the committee by 5 votes to 2

How Wandsworth turns outsiders into leaders

Councillor Wendy Speck, Wandsworth's new Deputy Mayor

Councillor Wendy Speck, Wandsworth’s new Deputy Mayor

Speech from Mayor Making ceremony, Wandsworth Town Hall, May 18, 2016.

Listen to a recording of the speech

Ladies and gentlemen, councillors – thank you for the chance to speak. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Simon Hogg, the new leader of the Wandsworth Labour Group.

Tonight’s event is all about selecting and welcoming a new Mayor as well as saying thank you to our outgoing Mayor for the work they’ve done over the last 12 months.

I’ve been to many Mayor Makings over the past few years and when deciding what to say to you tonight, I was advised that I can either use my speech to strike a sincere note, or as an opportunity to really roast the outgoing mayor.

I’ve not made up my mind which it’s going to be yet, so bear with me…

I’d like to start by saying a few words about the role of the Mayor – and it’s significance, particularly in Wandsworth.

Democratic leadership is for all the people. The Mayor – the ‘first citizen of Wandsworth’ – is a powerful symbol of that.

I want to reflect briefly on some of the people this community had in the past trusted with the job of acting on their behalf. Some of our local heroes.

A group of outsiders who helped to create the world we live in today.

A century ago Wandsworth gave Britain:

  • John Archer, a local photographer, who became London’s first black mayor in 1913.
  • John Burns, the 16th son of a washerwoman rose from Battersea’s slums to become an MP and Britain’s first working class cabinet member.
  • Sharpurji Saklatvala, Britain’s first Asian Communist MP in the 1920s.
  • Charlotte Despard, an fiery aristocratic Irish nationalist suffragette

A group of people like this had never been in power anywhere in the world before. They were outsiders, who our community had welcomed, absorbed – and in the end chose to elevate and celebrate.

This month, we’re celebrating a modern day story of similar significance – as local boy Sadiq Khan has been elected to be Mayor of London. Sadiq, who grew up on the Henry Prince estate in Earlsfield, started his political career serving 12 years as a Wandsworth councillor, followed by 11 years as Tooting’s MP.

His father, I understand, was a bus driver.

His victory is important. There are children growing up on council estates – in Wandsworth and across Britain – who may feel like outsiders, because of where they come from.

A child being called names because they look different and their parents don’t have as much money as some other families at school. But now that child will know the Mayor of London has been in their shoes. And that in Wandsworth there’s no ceiling for achievement for anyone.

Like the pioneering men and women I mentioned earlier, Sadiq’s service will set and break down barriers. In particular fighting that prejudice which says a man holds violent or extremist views just because of the religion he follows.

And it’s in this unifying role that our Mayor is at their most powerful. Wandsworth’s Mayor is central to the Borough’s cohesion. They organise and attend events that bring people together from all backgrounds and faiths. They also swear in hundreds of new British Citizens each year in the council chamber.

And so on to the outgoing Mayor, cllr Nardelli.

I’ve asked many colleagues what they made of your year in office.

Disappointingly, there was very little dirt.

Few people are aware that the Mayor of Wandsworth has a fully stocked bar at their disposal. I’m told that one of our previous mayors started every pre-council meeting with a triple gin.

But as a teetotaller, our mayor did not oblige us with any stories about getting carried away with the free bar.

Our whip – who has most to do with the mayor in her capacity as chair of our Council meetings – said she’d been one of the fairest he’d worked with. She put down her politics and went out of her way to treat all three political parties on the Council with an even hand.

So this may turn out to be the most generous roast in history!

I can say one colleague nominated cllr Nardelli for the award for “most original outfit with Mayoral chain” for the boots, Union Jack pullover and jaunty sailor hat worn with Mayoral chain at the Boat race party.

Her choice of charities was praised as bold and worthwhile: rehabilitation of addicted prisoners and Dyslexia.

She was able to acknowledge the success of colleagues from opposition – she said how pleased she was for Leonie Cooper after she was elected to the London Assembly and said how hard Leonie had worked.

The Roehampton cllrs are grateful she visited the Alton Activity Centre five separate times. This among hundreds of community engagements.

Cllr Nardelli had some difficult personal times during her mayoralty but she continued in her duties and that grit and dignity was appreciated by councillors on all sides. Councillors also mentioned the sterling work of cllr McDonnell the Deputy Mayor in taking on a wide range of engagements with grace and good humour.

Perhaps the strongest testament was from councillors who said the Mayor did the council proud in Ypres, where councillors visited to remember those of this borough who gave their lives in the service of their country.

As the Mayor said in her Civic Service reflections: “Ypres where we left so many souls in such frightful conditions, those who gave their lives that we can live free today.  I read the citation at Ypres at the Last Post… a most moving experience while looking at the names of 52,000 men whose bodies were never found.  I feel and think……. how proud some of those Wandsworth men would be if they were able to see the borough today.”

I think that’s an important point – the work we do today builds on the efforts of so many who’ve come before us. Building the good life here in Wandsworth is a shared project and a long-term project. We should care for each other, while we still can.

We should preserve our traditions, and ways of life. Wandsworth and its Mayoralty have a proud history and I’d like to thank cllr Nardelli for working so hard and staying the course. For being another link in the chain of Wandsworth Mayors stretching back into the past and hopefully far into the future.

 

One final note. – I can’t contain my excitement that Wendy Speck is to be the deputy Mayor for the year ahead.

I love Wendy. She’s served with me in Latchmere ward for the last six years and is a fantastic woman. Councillor Field, if you start to see science fiction DVDs appearing in the Mayor’s parlour – that’s Wendy. Watch out for Ewoks…

No one works harder than Wendy Speck. She’s an absolute dynamo and will be a great addition to the team next year.

So thank you to cllr Nadelli for your service this year, and best wishes to cllr Field and cllr Speck for what lies ahead. Wandsworth has a habit of making history and leading the way – and I know it will be no different over the next 12 months.

Doddington Estate 1971: “They’re building flats where the houses used to be”

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I came across this amazing documentary about the Doddington Estate from 1971 in the BFI archives: “They’re building flats where the houses used to be”.

It features interviews with the first families to move into the Doddington Estate. Perhaps you recognise some faces?

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-where-the-houses-used-to-be-1971/

The British Film Institute (BFI) says: “Refreshingly, the commentary comes entirely from the mouths of the residents themselves: young mothers, working fathers, elderly women, teenagers and children, who discuss their experiences, particularly the issue of loneliness and isolation.

“The film was made in 1971 when the estate was still being developed. Just one year later, the tenants’ association complained that Doddington was rapidly deteriorating. As one young female resident puts it: “I don’t think I’d give these places 20 or 30 years before they become slums. I think I’d give it two or three years, the way they’re going at the moment.”

Where the houses used to be is a sad film. Shows how Battersea’s tight-knit working class communities found it hard to switch to tower block life. Continue reading

Worth an Oscar: Wandsworth on film

To celebrate the Oscars tonight, here’s a quick run-down of films shot in Wandsworth’s Town Hall, parks and estates

Golden Globe winner Chiwetel Ejiofor shot Dirty Pretty Things (2002) in Wandsworth Town Hall

pretty

That wrong ‘un Lucas from Spooks blew up Wandsworth Town Hall in 2010 (was doubling as an embassy in Senegal). Proof:

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Common People, a film shot entirely on Tooting Common, had successful cinema release last year

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Brilliant short film: history of Winstanley Estate told through movies, interviews & photos

Winstanley

To mark Battersea Labour Party’s centenary, volunteers – including Timothy West & Prunella Scales – made this film:

Other films shot in Wandsworth include Love Actually, 101 Dalmations, Snatch & V for Vendetta. Full list from Wandsworth council here.