Chestnut Avenue

Tootin common photo

We love Tooting common and indeed all the green spaces this borough has to offer. We have been dismayed to hear about plans to cut down a beautiful avenue of trees, not least since the views of residents have not been sought. The Council assured us that local people would be involved in the decision, however, it appears as though this consultation did not take place.

We have until Thursday this week to voice our opinion so please do follow the link below to sign the petition and do share it amongst other local residents.

http://sadiqkhan.nationbuilder.com/consult_our_community_before_cutting_down_our_trees

Thank you!

A Hospital Christmas

While most people were at home eating turkey, chapatis or both (!), a core of individuals were working as the most amazing team. I am compelled to write this post as I feel so proud to be part of this team and feel so strongly that our NHS services MUST be protected.

Working in frontline emergency services is also sometimes known as working on the “thin green line”. This is the line that can separate life and death.

I am one of the doctors who work on the thin green line at St Georges Hospital Emergency Department in Tooting and I am posting this to remind everyone how lucky we are to have this service in our midst and to highlight how hard the staff work to ensure our community stay safe and well.

Doctors, nurses, admin staff, porters, radiographers, domestic staff all work shifts spanning twenty-four hours, seven days a week. There are no holidays in the Emergency Department, no Christmas, no Boxing Day, just work and service provision. Staff come home to missed family moments, cold turkey cuts and fatigue. They do this with a sense of pride that they have served the patients and their families that day.

I was recently asked to do a video diary for a TV channel and it highlighted an average day for me and so many others like me. Having to stop and record my day gave me a chance to take stock. We leave the house in the dark before our babies have even woken, we work sometimes in excess of 10-12 hours without a break as it is too busy, we tell people their loved ones have died, we see extreme pain and suffering and then we return home in the dark to miss our children going to bed. We manage to stay positive despite all this and appreciate the fact that to do this work in the NHS is an honour and a privilege.

The system is stretched, in desperate need of more funding. We know the waits can be long, we really do try as hard as we can.

The next time a friend, colleague or loved one working at St Georges cannot attend a family gathering, social meeting or otherwise, spare a thought as to why that is and maybe give them a great big hug when you see them..they probably need it!

 

Crossrail 2 public consultations

crossrail pic

You may have seen the Crossrail 2 roadshow vans out and about. Local residents have had their chance to ask questions and express their views. No doubt, Fleur and I were out to hear what people had to say. Tooting Broadway or Balham?.. That is the question.

Regardless of where is ultimately chosen, this stands to affect most local residents.

Where would you like it to be? For further information and to have your say, follow the link below;

Consultation

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.

 

Food festival and other news

Food Festival

After a gap of two years we are excited to let you know that the Balham Food Festival is returning!

When; Sunday 27th September, 11am-6pm

Where;
Located in the recently transformed Hildreth Street and Bedford Hill Place.

There will be over 25 stalls featuring a diverse range of delicious, freshly cooked dishes from local restaurants, bars and cafés, plus gourmet cheeses, charcuterie, cakes and treats, this will be accompanied by jazz and other musical treats.
Come and enjoy the fun! There will be cooking demonstrations, music, dancing and a Kids Zone.

20mph success!

20 is plenty!
20 is plenty!

We’ve had a 20mph speed limit in our ward for nearly a year now, and have been campaigning for this to be across the Borough. Currently the numbers of cars and accidents is rising but the 20mph roads are just dotted about the Borough which is confusing for drivers and leaves roads less safe than with a slower speed limit. Residents were expected to petition people on their own road and achieve high amounts of signatures to ask the Council to make it 20mph.

After a long time and refusal by the Council to consider a Borough-wide limit, we saw success this week. In a U-turn and cross-party decision at the Community Services Committee, there will now be consultation on a fast track move to 20mph on all residential roads. It’ll take a few more months but could lead to a really positive change for making our roads safer as it can be better enforced and will change drivers’ behaviour.

Residents Association for Rydevale Estate and Cornford Grove

We asked the local Council to support starting a new residents association for this area (just off Bedford Hill). Local residents said they would be interested and the first meeting was held in early September and we hope it will build into an active group to take up concerns of the residents and have ideas for improvements which can be made in their area.

Road Safety

Local people are really concerned about road safety on Balham High Road and in August there was yet another accident involving a car and motorbike – this time outside Tescos. We’re working with parents at Rutherford House who are concerned about the entrance, and with St Anselms parents who have started a petition about safety on the High Road, longer lights for pedestrians at Tooting Bec and asking for a crossing at Elmbourne Road, and residents of Hillbury and Elmbourne Rd who also are signing a petition for traffic calming measures for their roads.

Tooting Bec Cafe

Tooting Common Cafe - new lease signed
Tooting Common Cafe – new lease signed

A new lease has been signed from now until 2030 and although there are lots of rumours, we don’t yet know who the lease holder is. Whoever it is they must now renovate the cafe and include a new male and female toilet, open to the public and with baby-changing facilities.

 

 

 

 

Refugees Crisis – what can we do?

We share the concern of many residents that we should be welcoming to refugees and do what we can to support refugees already living here and arriving. The Council have said that they are ready and willing to respond to request from the Government. However we think Wandsworth could be pledging to house families and pushing other Councils to be more ambitious and welcoming through their leadership – rather than just ‘waiting and seeing’.

If you would like to support initiatives working with refugees, with fellow Councillors we have compiled a list of different ways you can help here: https://labourinwandsworth.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/refugee-crisis-what-can-we-do-in-wandsworth/

There is also a local petition asking the Council to pledge to house 10 refugee families:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/refugees-welcome-in-wandsworth-3

Surgeries

We really enjoy every opportunity to meet the public and help. Please do not forget that we are available to meet face to face every third Saturday of the month at Balham library between 10-11am.

Balham Town Centre

Exciting things are afoot in Balham town centre! Sitting on the Balham town centre board, I have been able to hear about all the great work that has been done thus far, as well as find out about the opening/ completion of some wonderful communal spaces due in the early summer.

There is a great town centre feeling in Balham and Valentines day last month was a huge success with a “feel good” factor off the scale as wonderful red balloons lined the streets.Balham

Here is a picture of a sight inspection of the area outside Sainsbury on Bedford Hill. Hopefully this space will see some live music, food festivals and many other community activities.

Watch this space……

 

International Women’s Day

Thursday 5th March saw a very exciting event held in Tooting, hosted by Sadiq Khan. The aim was to gather lots of local women of all ages and celebrate International Women’s Day. There were members of the local community, faith groups and sixth form students. What a lovely, friendly and interesting mix of ladies.

It was a fantastic turnout and after a few short speeches, where some of us councillors shared our stories, it was over to the group discussions. We covered topics such as how to improve political engagement and we celebrated how far we have come in hundred years.

With many new voters in our community, some of the younger attendees felt that eighteen year olds may not vote as they cannot identify with the politicians they see in the media. We discussed the importance of improving the number of women role models in politics and all agreed that without using our votes, we cannot see more women in power.

International Women's Day event attendees.
International Women’s Day event attendees.

It was a throughly inspirational morning and topped off perfectly with a lovely cup of tea!

 

Would you want more of a say on how council budget is spent in the ward?

Fleur and I are often out and about listening to people’s concerns and something we regularly ask ourselves is, what do local residents really want and need in order to feel they are heard?

One debate that has arisen recently in the town hall is the idea that perhaps allocating a pot of funding to each ward specifically, with local people having more of a say, would actually encourage people to feel empowered and more engaged?

A small pot of money could be beneficial at a ward level for councillors to identify initiatives or groups that would struggle to make applications and would benefit from even a modest amount of money. Examples could include carers groups, looking for a little bit of money to rent a venue for meetings, or some new equipment for a children’s centre.

This has been done with varying degrees of success in other Boroughs. Is this something you would want? If you have an opinion, do let us know by replying to this blog post or sending us a tweet.

Wandsworth’s Secret Army of Carers

Stay Well At Home Service, Evesham, BritainIn my role on the Health and Adult Care Committee, I have been learning all about Wandsworth’s secret army of carers, who work tirelessly around the clock to care for friends and family. Until now, I never realised the full impact of the health inequalities facing carers in Wandsworth and all over the UK.

Studies show a staggering 61% of carers suffer with depression, unable to maintain a life of their own, while on duty around the clock. Due to the demands and pressure of their role, they experience poor physical health including injury and clinical illness as a result of being so run down.

The Wandsworth Carers Strategy has highlighted that 21% of Carers, providing in excess of 50 hours of care per week believe themselves to be in poor health. This is significant when compared to 8% of non-Carers.

A UK-wide survey has Carers connecting with carersshown that 1 in 5 of emergency admissions to hospital could have been prevented in cases where a person was receiving care from a family member. Furthermore, the source of this prevention has been found to be increased support for carers.

Undoubtedly this use of emergency provision has a financial impact and places strain on NHS services that are already stretched beyond capacity, with significant knock on effects.

  • 1 in 8 people in the UK, equating to a total of 6.5 million, are unpaid carers. The cost to the British Economy is an astounding £1.3bn in lost taxes and benefits.
  • An estimated 2.3 million people have given up work to care for a loved one as services were not flexible enough to accomodate them working and taking on a caring role.
  • For those whom have tried desperately to maintain a job in order to fund their family, one third have been forced to give up work or reduce hours because the right services and support was not available for them.
  • Last year, 44% of carers have cut back on heating and 45% have cut back on food. They simply could not afford it.

In Tooting Bec and Balham, let us support them in any way we can. If you have a neighbour or a friend that is a carer, pop in for a chat, say hello and remember that the conversation we have with them that day, may be the only one they have.

CC images courtesy of British Red Cross and Social Innovation Camp on Flickr