Crossrail, welcome refugees and more local news

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Newsletter – October 2015

Crossrail 2 may come to Balham

Crossrail 2 was due to go through Tooting Broadway and this was very welcome for the area. However it seems that the geological research has shown this may not be possible, and a different route with a station at Balham is now being proposed. There will be more information at public briefings in Battersea, Tooting Broadway and Balham. We will publish this here.

The building works will be between 2020 and 2030 and result in a new underground line between Wimbledon and Tottenham Hale which will receive the congestion on the Northern Line and British Rail line. The Tooting Broadway option has hit problems due to a sand fault line underground which would mean it would take two years longer than planned, be more expensive and entail lots of digging out of the sand and removal by lorries. However if Balham is chosen this will be a lost opportunity to provide more transport links for an area which needs it more, would mean that Waitrose would become a building site for six years right in the heart of Balham Town Centre and a shaft needs to be built on Wandsworth Common.

At a recent presentation on plans for the consultation about CrossRail2, Rosena and Fleur asked many questions about what the consultation will really mean and if it is a real consultation, and asked that more people than previously planned are consulted – including all businesses in Balham as they will be very affected. We do urge everyone to get involved in the consultation and to shape these proposals.

The Balham information drop in times are both outside 3 Balham Grove, SW12 8AY on 27th November from 12 noon – 8pm and on 28th November from 11am-4pm.

Wandsworth Conservatives vote against offering welcome to 10 refugee families

Wandsworth Labour Councillors showing support for welcoming refugees in Wandsworth before the debate

Wandsworth Labour Councillors showing support for welcoming refugees in Wandsworth before the debate

Rosena and Fleur both gave speeches in favour of the Labour motion to the Council to welcome at least 10 refugee families to Wandsworth, to become a Borough of Sanctuary and to sign up to the Government scheme to relocate refugees from Syria to this country. This government scheme is being paid for from government funds and would not displace anyone from housing lists in Wandsworth, but would continue a proud tradition we have in Wandsworth of welcoming refugees at a time of particular crisis for so many families. Our Council should be showing our welcome and pushing others to do the same by making this public pledge to welcome refugees.

We are very disappointed that the Conservative Councillors removed these from the motion and that there could not be cross-party support for very modest proposals in the motion. We welcome the announcement from Conservative Councillors during the debate are planning to welcome families, but are disappointed that they could not commit to welcoming at least 10 families (only 10?!) or to joining the governments own Syrian Relocation Scheme, or to becoming a Borough of Sanctuary (which costs nothing) which shows the intent of coordinating refugee support services better.

Rosena and I have both posted our speeches for the debate on this blog, and will continue to support the refugee groups in Wandsworth who are doing a great job and feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the demands, especially for advice in accessing support.

We handed in a petition of 706 people organising online by local resident Tom Baker to request that 10 families are welcomed as well. His petition was in the local Guardian:

Road Safety Demands

Rosena and Fleur handing in the Hillbury and Elmbourne Rds safety petition

Rosena and Fleur handing in the Hillbury and Elmbourne Rds safety petition

There have been several nasty accidents on Balham High Road recently and road safety is a big concern for people who use the road. So much so that several local people have been organising petitions to ask for action to be taken. Cllr Allin-Khan have been working with different groups and handed in four road safety petitions to the Council on Wednesday evening. These were;

1. St Anselms parents asking for crossings on Balham High Road and Elmbourne Rd, longer pedestrian lights at Tooting Bec station and improved road safety on Balham High Road – 155 signatures 3 days was amazing and shows the strength of

Rosena and Fleur handing in the St Anselms school road safety petition to the Council

Rosena and Fleur handing in the St Anselms school road safety petition to the Council

feeling  

 2. Rutherford House parents concerning about cars turning into Tescos and concerns about safety on Balham High Road
  
 3. Residents of Hillbury and Elmbourne Rds with concerns about safety on their roads, asking for a crossing and for closing the Bedford Hill ends of the roads to be considered with the consideration of closing Dr Johnson Avenue.  

  4. A petition shared by people who live near to Balham High Road to ask for safety measures to be looked at for the road – especially from Tooting Park Road down to Tooting Bec Station where several accidents have happened, most involving motorbikes but most recently a cyclist.

We hope that Wandsworth Council and Transport for London will look into these urgently. Please do be in touch with us if you have road safety concerns about your road too.

Tooting Bec Lodge 

For all of us who have been so worried about the deterioration of Tooting Bec Lodge – the lovely old white Grade 2 listed building on Tooting Bec Rd with the hoardings around it – the good news is that action will soon be taken. Wandsworth Council planning applications committee agreed last night to move ahead and serve Compulsory Purchase Order on the owners. 

Cllr Fleur Anderson and Cllr Rex Osbourne deploring the crumbling state of the Lodge in September last year - nothing much has changed

Cllr Fleur Anderson and Cllr Rex Osbourne deploring the crumbling state of the Lodge in September last year – nothing much has changed

With many other local people it has been a case of constantly raising concerns with the Council and I’m really glad they will now take what is an unusual step for them. Congratulations to the many local people including the ‘Custodians of the Lodge’, Sadiq Khan MP, Cllr Allin-Khan, Cllr Rex Osborn, Cllr Antonia Dunn and others who keep up the campaign. It is one of the few historic buildings in Tooting Bec and we want to see it restored.

Police cuts 

Since May 2010, as a result of the Government cuts, London has lost 3,170 dedicated neighbourhood Police Community Safety Officers (PCSOs) – this is a cut of over 70%. In Wandsworth the number of PCSOs on our streets have been reduced from 119 in May 2010 to 24 in August 2015.

As a result of the Government’s Spending Review in 2010 the Metropolitan Police have faced cuts of almost £600m. This 20% cut to its budget has devastated the police service in the capital, despite promises from the Mayor of London and Home Secretary that the cuts would not affect police numbers.

At the upcoming Government’s Spending Review this November it is widely expected that the Metropolitan Police will face a minimum of another £800m in cuts, with reports that the budget could be cut by as much as 43%.

The ‘Safer Neighbourhood Team’ (SNT) model introduced by the Labour Government was widely welcomed by communities and saw each ward allocated a dedicated team of six officers (1 Sergeant, 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs). However there is now just one PCSO per ward, and these are under threat.  In Wandsworth PCSOs are not only an invaluable part of making our communities and neighbourhoods safe, but often recruitment of PCSOs is a first step to recruiting more BAME police officers.

In Wandsworth fear of crime is a real concern amongst residents; cutting neighbourhood policing teams and PCSOs will reduce the presence of police on our streets and only add to the fear of crime locally. The Metropolitan Police Management Board was going to consider a proposal to cut all PCSOs at its September meeting, but this has now been deferred to the December meeting and has faced a high level of criticism and concern. We hope that these cuts to our local police team will be rejected.

Tax Credit Cuts

We are very concerned about the affect that the cuts in working tax credits and child tax credits will have and if you are worried about what this drop in income will mean for your family do get in touch with us.

On 30th April 2015 David Cameron made a clear and specific promise that he would not cut child tax credits, but on 15th September 2015 the Government voted through changes to tax credits which will mean three million families nationally losing up to £1,000 per year. This action comes when child poverty nationally has increased by half a million between 2010 and 2015, and homelessness in Wandsworth has increased from 400 households in 2010 to 1,179 households this year. In Wandsworth there are 13,900 families with children relying on tax credit income top-ups to make ends meet. Of these, two thirds are working families who could now see a significant reduction in their income.

 

 

Speech Addressing The Council Regarding Welcoming Refugees

Motion to support and Welcome Refugees in Wandsworth:

Speech to the full council – October 14th 2015

Cllr Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Bedford ward

A man desperately clung on to his wife and two children as their boat capsized and they were washed away from him and onto the shores of a Turkish beach. Like driftwood.

This familiy, just like yours and mine, had hopes and dreams of a life ahead.

Sadly this is not an isolated event.

Bodies crammed into hot lorries, dangerous sea crossings and death of the most vulnerable. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated, ‘Syria has become the greatest tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history’

You will agree, this is a far cry from Wandsworth, “the brighter borough”…

So often, humanitarian crises offer no way for us to intervene and make a difference but sometimes, just sometimes, we can…

We should be proud to be leading the way here in Wandsworth, not sitting idly by, waiting to react to some grand announcement from up high.

Other councils have taken a stand for what is right while we sit here waiting… There are over 700 signiatures on the petition for Wandsworth to assist in accomodating families. This is just one example of Wandsworth residents proving they want us to take action.

All sides of the chamber in Merton council have come together to listen to their residents and have pledged to bring local voluntary and faith groups together to welcome refugees.

Kingston council, a conservative majority council has a bold leader in Cllr Davis.

Kingston Council was one of the first local authorities to make a commitment to accomodate 50 Syrian refugees. They used a Home Office resettlement scheme with rents paid through Housing Benefits (funded by the European Union).

Kingston council works hard with community leaders and local people to identify suitable properties. Cllr Davis wrote to other council leaders across the country to encourage them to do the same. Local communities can play a vital role in solving this humanitarian crisis.

Let it be clearly understood that there is a huge distinction between refugees and economic migrants. They are NOT THE SAME.

Our opposition colleagues may speak about housing our own residents as a priority and perhaps suggest we take refugees into our own homes, as one councillor suggested to a concerned constituent.

To be very clear, Wandsworth residents will not come second.

We are simply asking to accommodate at least 10 refugee families urgently if private accommodation is funded by central government and without displacing those on existing housing lists.

Help can go beyond housing families. There are a number of excellent voluntary and faith group organisations doing excellent work and offering support. This includes the Katherine Low settlement and Churches Together. We can make a plan to address any gaps in support, and create relationships with these groups to provide long-term support for refugee families.

I have spent years living and working in refugee camps in the Middle East. These people are strong, proud, honourable and hard working, even when living in diseased and putrid conditions. They are compelled to risk their lives because they have NO OTHER CHOICE.

If we believe in democracy and freedom, we cannot turn our back on those who seek the same for their families.

Let Little 3 year old Aylan’s death mean something. Let us act. We will go home tonight to warm beds, warm food and comfort. We have the ability to ensure that at least a few families can do the same.

Together lets take this small but significant step.

Lets Put political affiliation aside and do the right thing. Thank you.

 

Refugees Welcome – speech to Council

Motion to support and accommodate refugees in Wandsworth:

We can and we should do so much more.

Speech to full Council on 14 October 2015

Cllr Fleur Anderson, Bedford Ward

Wandsworth Labour Councillors showing support for welcoming refugees in Wandsworth before the debate

Wandsworth Labour Councillors showing support for welcoming refugees in Wandsworth before the debate

Almost 100 years almost to the day there was a wonderful garden party thrown by Wandsworth residents in Southfields to welcome Belgian refugees during the First World War, with lemonade refreshments and entertainment from the girls of Putney County Secondary School. Fast forward to today and as soon as there was news of great need for clothes in the refugee camp so near us in Calais, the people of Wandsworth again showed huge spontaneous generosity and wanting to support refugees.

Like many Wandsworth residents when I saw the refugees fleeing, I knew that given different circumstances that could be me and could me my family and I wanted to do something to make a difference. We have the opportunity as Councillors to do lots of things that are very practical and help many individuals – it will be something about being a Councillor that we will look back on with pride.

Today I convened a meeting of refugee groups in the Borough to consider how we can work together better, and the Council can play more of a role in doing this, and I am glad to see that the amended motion includes this – but we could do more.

This motion really doesn’t ask for much and offered every opportunity for cross-party agreement of some small steps of support for refugees in Wandsworth and leadership in London, but the amendment is hugely disappointing and says we will do the absolute bare minimum.

To take just the pledge to give a home to 10 refugee families, if funded by central government, and supported unanimously by the Churches Together in Balham and Upper Tooting as well as so many other Wandsworth residents. Its just 10 families, and was a request to all Local Authorities by Yvette Cooper when she was Home Secretary. It could be a really meaningful figure and show that we will play our part. As Yvette Copper said:

“If every city took 10 refugee families, if every London borough took 10 families, if every county council took 10 families, if Scotland, Wales and every English region played their part, then in a month we’d have nearly 10,000 more places for vulnerable refugees fleeing danger, seeking safety.”

Wandsworth residents have been really generous themselves but they there is only so much they can do. People expect a similar big-hearted Wandsworth reaction from their Council but have been disappointed. Becoming a Borough of Sanctuary could have been a really inspirational demonstration of Wandsworth long tradition of welcome and the role which the Council can play best of coordinating services – council and voluntary – to give the best support to families who have had to flee their country. The Council and should do more.

We could do so much more than just offer a home to ten families, but it’s a start.

We could do so much more to support refugee associations than be facilitators an coordinators – but it’s a start.

We could do more to inspire London and other London Boroughs to be more ambitious in welcoming refugees than just becoming a Borough of Sanctuary – but it’s a start.

Lets step up, lets make this start and lets be leaders in London in staying true to our tradition as a Borough in welcoming refugees.

To amend this motion and take out even these small steps is shameful. Please support the motion and reject the amendment.