Author Archives: Hector Denfield

Wandsworth Tories make cuts to stay and play

There was a very disappointing outcome to the meeting on Thursday. We wanted to provide a full write-up so everyone, especially users, can understand what happened, and what happens next.

Tooting Triangle is a lovely little area of Tooting Common which contains a particularly challenging playground, an amateur boxing club, an artificial sports pitch and a “1 o’clock club” building. The 1 o’clock club is a much loved institution in these parts and has been providing various services for very young (0-6 years old) children in some shape or form for over 30 years.

The Tories have failed to properly maintain this area. The 1 o’clock club is liable to flooding because the drainage on the sports pitch doesn’t work. However, they have managed to do one thing right – the stay and play at the 1 o’clock club.

Currently, there are three stay and plays per week. Parents and carers bring their young children to play for 2 hours in sessions led by trained council staff. The parents and carers stick around and get involved in the fun. There’s paint and mud and fruits and vegetables and every parent and carer we’ve ever spoken to says it is a truly excellent service. There are even some parents who went to the stay and play as kids themselves, and now the next generation gets to enjoy it.

So it came as a shock, and a massive disappointment, when the Tories gave us 8 days’ notice that they were going to gut this service. After decades of underinvestment by the Tories in the Triangle, they have a new plan. This plan involves leasing the buildings to a private company for 25 years at a cheap rent, and in exchange the company is going to spend their own money to redevelop the Triangle. Most of this plan is very welcome – fresh investment in the boxing club and the artificial sports pitch will be great.

But this plan also has its downsides – a series of cuts to stay and play:

  1. Instead of being open to 0-5 year old children, it would only be open to 2-5 year olds.
  2. Instead of being led by qualified staff, there would be no staff.
  3. Instead of being free for all, it would be charged, with some concessions.

We, the Labour Party, were amazed. The council deserves credit for establishing the stay and play in its current form. We set out to find out why the Tories were butchering this much-loved service.

Amazingly, there was zero consultation. The parents had not been told. We local councillors had not been told. Not even the staff at the stay and play had been told!

It was clear they were trying to hide it. This lack of consultation was not an oversight, it was a deliberate attempt to keep it quiet for as long as possible so as to rush it through committee before anyone realised what was going on.

Luckily, we spotted it. We immediately mobilised and informed the parents, carers and staff. We handed out leaflets and organised a campaign. Within just two days over half the users had sent an email to the leader of the council asking him to keep the stay and play as it is.

The committee meeting happened on Thursday. We organised people to speak to the committee who defended the stay and play with articulate passion.

The Labour Party proposed a small amendment to the plan: we asked the Tories to continue providing the stay and play. We were happy to agree to the rest of the development plan, just, please, don’t ruin the stay and play.

The Tories would not agree to that.

They gave one small concession to continue “baby play”. But, during questions, it emerged that the new provider runs similar centres elsewhere in London, and in none of those centres does it offer services for 0-18 month olds. It has no experience of delivering baby play.

At this point we are pretty sure that the new provider’s version of stay and play will be nowhere near as good as the council’s current service.

So why have the Tories done this? The real reason is their own poor management of the council.

Wandsworth Tories, and in particular Councillor Guy Senior who is their cabinet member for finance, were so incompetent last year that they overspent by £22.25 million. That is not a small sum of money – that’s about half your Council Tax.

On top of the incompetence of the local Tory party, the Tory central government has cut the budgets of every council in England year after year after year. Northamptonshire Council (which is also run by Tories) has actually gone bankrupt. The Tory government has cut Wandsworth Council’s budget so much that they have to find £28 million of savings this year, another £14 million the year after, and another £10 million the year after that. A total of £48 million in three years. The reason for this? No reason. Austerity is a political choice – a cruel and unnecessary choice.

So because of Wandsworth Tories’ incompetence, and central Tory cruelty, our local stay and play has been cut and replaced by a much worse service to save money. Ultimately, it is the kids who suffer.

In terms of next steps, we will continue to campaign to save the stay and play. It’s not a done deal yet. If you want to get involved please email us at cllr.h.denfield@wandsworth.gov.uk, cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk and cllr.f.anderson@wandsworth.gov.uk.

Road works on Byrne Road and Culverden Road

If you have been along Byrne Road or Culverden Road recently you will have noticed the road surface is in a bit of a state. Clare took these photos and got in touch with the council to find out what was going on and had this reply:

On the second day of works in Byrne Road, the removal of the road surface had revealed the Gas Main trench that holds the delivery line along the entire length of Byrne Road.

Once the surface was up and open, this trench was found to be ‘defective’ from the time it was reinstated – and is not adequate to carry the new road surface without subsiding.

This trench feature had been implemented as far back as the early 1980s in likelihood – and was not found to be present in our recent ‘road core sample tests’ prior to these works – nor is there any official record of the trench in statutory utility company plans available to us. The presence of the trench and its current condition were completely unexpected. The Gas Company must now remedy the structural condition of their infrastructure such that we may then complete reconstruction of the road surface over top of it.

The process of the required remedial works has been actioned, and once the surfacing works have been reprogrammed, residents will be updated.

This letter was delivered by the council to households in the area.

The most recent update from the council states:

Byrne Rd/Culverden Rd SW12 a temporary running surface is available pending the proper reinstatement of a gas trench which is preventing completion of carriageway resurfacing works 02/11/2018 to 09/11/2018. Engineer: J. Chana 0208 871 7279.

  

If you smell gas or see a water leak, please do not assume that someone else has phoned it in. Please do not report these to the council, instead call the following free phone numbers to report leaks directly to the companies responsible for fixing them:

Water: 0800 714 614 Gas: 0800 111 999

Hector’s maiden speech

This speech was given at the full council meeting on 17 October 2018:

Mx Mayor, I call for this meeting to be adjourned for 30 seconds to reflect on the way Brexit is being tackled.

It was a pleasure and an honour to be elected by the people of Bedford ward in May, and I am exceptionally grateful for this opportunity to represent them. It is also an honour to follow in the footsteps of Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, and the incredible work she is doing to draw international attention to the Rohingya genocide.

When campaigning, Brexit was a subject that came up on the doorstep a lot, and so I propose this motion to reflect on the current approach to Brexit.

The referendum of 2016 was a momentous event. The last two years have been eventful, to say the least. We have an exit day: 29 March 2019. But before that, I think we should have a say on the final deal, and I personally believe that a People’s Vote is the best way to do this.

Why do I support this campaign? Simply because we all have new information. In the 2 years, 3 months and 24 days since the referendum we have been inundated with new information. It gushes out of news outlets like a burst dam, faster than even the former foreign secretary can think of enough cricket metaphors.

Everyone in the UK should be given an honorary degree in Brexit studies. It is overwhelming how much more we now know.

And it’s not just the quantity of the information, it’s the quality too. We’re not dealing with hypotheticals any more. The issues that have arisen during the negotiations are the real issues, the decisions made by businesses are real decisions, and the movement in the economy is real movement.

In light of all this new, high quality information, it is not just reasonable, but positively sensible to re-evaluate our collective decision. Re-evaluation does not necessarily mean reaching a different conclusion. It simply means looking at the choices again in the context of new evidence.

And we have new choices too! In 2016 it was just remain or leave, shortly we will know exactly what sort of deal or deals are on offer. Unfortunately, the referendum gave us no clue about how we all feel about the different ways of leaving. If leaving the EU is confirmed then everyone, leavers and remainers, deserve the right to express their preference for the type of exit we make.

A People’s Vote would not be disrespectful of the referendum. On the contrary, the referendum has been respected every day since it happened. We triggered Article 50, we had a general election, David Davis was even going to produce 58 impact reports, and even though he never got round to it, it’s the thought that counts.

Time and again we hear people say that the politicians just aren’t listening. A People’s Vote would be the very definition of listening. 20 councils including the GLA have already passed motions supporting a People’s Vote. Just this morning a Lib Dem, a Labour and a Tory walked into a bar, and asked for more time to hold a People’s Vote.

The campaign already has over 700,000 supporters, and a million followers on social media. Mighty oaks grow from tiny acorns. This campaign is already a young tree. The more of us who lend our voice, the more chance it has to grow into reality.

Ultimately, for democracy to work, people need information to work with. We have more information, better information, real information to work with now. A People’s Vote is the right thing to do and the democratic thing to do.

I am proud to serve as a councillor for Bedford ward, where our diverse community reflects the best of modern London. I’ll work hard to protect local jobs and businesses, and to protect the rights of our EU friends and neighbours.

Bike hangars in Wandsworth

map of bike hangars in Wandsworth and Lambeth

click the image to enlarge it

Some people have asked about installing bike hangars in their street which is a great idea and one we support a lot. I think everyone can agree that cycling is a generally positive activity and in a city like London where too many cars lead to poor air quality and clogged roads, cycling should be encouraged.

When we looked into this issue it came as quite a shock how poor Wandsworth Tories have been on this issue and how little is done by the Tories to support cycling in Wandsworth.

We made the image above as a quick and easy comparison. In Wandsworth we only got our first bike hangar in 2017, and as of today we have a grand total of just 4. Compare this to Lambeth which has over 220, and Waltham Forest with 225!

In addition to being a good for the environment and the fitness and wellbeing of people in Wandsworth, bike hangars could also make excellent economic sense for the council. A bike hangar takes up roughly the same amount of space as a car parking bay. Renting a space in the bike hangar costs £72 a year, and a hangar can fit 6 bikes, so in total a hangar generates the council £432 a year. In contrast, a resident’s car parking permit costs only £166. The bike hanger produces 160% more profit using the same amount of space!

At the moment all the £72 rental fee goes to a third party company in exchange for admin, maintenance and cleaning of the hangars, so the hangars do not make any money for Wandsworth Council. We have spoken with them and they are looking at a self-management option. Alternatively, instead of seeking a profit, Wandsworth could follow in the footsteps of Waltham Forest who only charge £20 a year to rent a space and Lambeth who charge £42.

So if you would like a bike hangar on your street, please go to https://cyclehoop.force.com/RentalsCommunity/resultsmap?postalCode= and click the “suggest a location” link at the bottom of the page. We will continue to push the council to install more hangars in areas where they make sense, rather than having to wait for residents to request them. After all, if you build it, they will come!

Upcoming consultation on traffic calming for Dr Johnson Avenue

You may remember a proposal by Wandsworth Council in early 2016 to do the following:

  1. close Dr Johnson Avenue to traffic; and
  2. ban vehicles from turning right from Tooting Bec Road into Elmbourne Road.

The response rate was high for a council consultation – over 3,200 people submitted their thoughts. In the end, 70% of respondents rejected the idea. The council’s write up of that process is here: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/13315/dr_johnson_avenue_will_remain_open

In the very near future, Wandsworth Council will be running a new consultation with two new proposals for traffic calming on Dr Johnson Avenue:

Option 1 – installing, in the midpoint of Dr Johnson Avenue, a raised table flush with the pavement and green verge. This is designed to reduce the speed of vehicles and serve as a crossing point for pedestrians. This will include access to the south-west footpath via some steps and an Equality Act 2010-compliant facility for disabled access.

At either end of Dr Johnson Avenue the road layout would be redesigned and two more raised tables would be installed, provided Transport for London agree to this.

Option 2 – similar to option 1, but with two additional raised tables, taking the total to five overall.

There are additional nuances such as the type of materials used and the length of the raised tables. A “raised table” looks like this one outside Tooting Bec tube station at the entrance to Stapleton Road:

Or this example in Walthamstow:

The consultation is not yet open but we will keep you posted when it does.