Only weeks after Wandsworth Conservative councillors accused Labour of ’scaremongering’ about police cuts, the closure of Lavender Hill police station has now been announced.
Despite reassurances from Cllr Cook, the Conservative Cabinet member responsible for community safety, at a meeting of Wandsworth Council in May, that the Metropolitan police had no plans to close the station or its counterpart in Battersea, the police have now confirmed plans for Lavender Hill station to close.
This comes on top of concerns already raised by Wandsworth Labour about cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and to parks police.
The police station is close to the epicentre of some of the worst of last summer’s rioting, and neighbours one of the busiest train stations in the country. Labour are concerned that the safety of the local community is being put at risk by the Conservative programme of cuts to the police, which has received tacit support from local Conservative councillors.
Cllr Leonie Cooper, Wandsworth Labour spokesperson for community safety, said;
“The Metropolitan Police need to come clean on which stations they are planning to sell off, and engage in a full consultation with the local community before any decisions are taken.
Labour councillors in Wandsworth are calling on the Council to permanently reinstate free swimming for children, after almost 5,000 youngsters took advantage of the free swim offer during the half term break.
Wandsworth Council agreed to temporarily reintroduce free swimming during the recent jubilee half term break, following a request from Labour’s children’s services spokesperson Cllr Sheila Boswell.
Free swimming for children was introduced under the last Labour government, but funding for the initiative was cut when the new Coalition government came to power in 2010.
Given that the Council now has new responsibilities for public health, Wandsworth’s Labour councillors are calling on the Council to invest a small sum in permanently reinstating free swimming for under 16s.
Cllr Boswell said: “The enormous popularity of my recent free swim initiative shows that there are plenty of children in the Borough who would go swimming more often were it not for the charges. Wandsworth Council needs to reconsider its decision to scrap free swimming, and invest a small sum of money in its children’s health and wellbeing.
Labour councillors are disappointed that only one Wandsworth School is to benefit from the Priority School Building Programme, announced last week by Michael Gove.
After significant delays in announcing the chosen schools, it was revealed that Chestnut Grove School, a local Academy, is the only school to be chosen in Wandsworth to receive funding under the new scheme, despite many remaining in desperate need of maintenance and repair work to their buildings.
This scheme replaces Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, which the Coalition quickly scrapped in its first few weeks, cancelling Labour’s school building plans for more than 700 schools nationally. Now, just 261 schools are to receive support under Michael Gove’s PFI-funded plans.
Cllr Sheila Boswell, Wandsworth Labour’s spokesperson for Education said; “Whilst funding for Chestnut Grove is to be welcomed, many other schools in Wandsworth are also in grave need of investment in their buildings; the kind of investment they would have received under Labour. Elliott School is in very poor repair, as are Graveney School and Battersea Park School. Both were due to be helped under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future Programme – now all are losing out under this Government.
rong>Labour councillors are joining angry residents and business owners in Wandsworth in calling for answers regarding Wandsworth Council’s poor management of refuse collection and street cleaning.
Many streets across the borough were left strewn with rubbish and uncollected refuse sacks this week, as the Council failed to inform residents of changes to their collections.
This unforeseen change occurred because the Council was forced to hand over the contract for waste collection to a new company, following the collapse of the second provider in a row.
This has led not only to a change in the day of collection, but also means the schedule for street cleaning now no longer ties in with that of waste collection – but none of this has been adequately conveyed to Wandsworth residents.
Labour strongly believes this situation has arisen due to Wandsworth Council’s poor management and financial incompetence, and that this disruption to service could have been avoided entirely.
Today Labour’s Josh Kaile has built on Labour’s growing resurgence in Wandsworth, increasing Labour’s vote by 18 points in Southfields – the second significant swing in the last year.
This builds on the strong message voters in Putney sent to Wandsworth Town Hall last summer, when Labour polled strongly in the Thamesfield by-election.
Now, Josh has gone even further, proving Labour are a real threat to the complacent Tories in Wandsworth, and that the Liberal Democrats are no longer seen as a viable alternative.
Based on these figures, Labour candidate Cllr Leonie Cooper looks set to the take the Merton and Wandsworth GLA seat in May.
Councillor Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group in Wandsworth Council said, “I am pleased to see that Labour supporters in Southfields turned out to support a great local candidate, and this shows we are a real presence in Wandsworth. There is a clear appetite for change, and Labour will be building on this in coming elections.
“Labour in Wandsworth prioritise children’s services, public safety and healthcare services, which clearly resonates with voters.”
Cuts to police funding has led to severe under-staffing amongst Wandsworth’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
The Tory-led Government’s 20 per cent cuts to policing go too far too fast and are already having a damaging impact on police forces here in Wandsworth, and across the country.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has estimated that these front-loaded cuts will lead to the loss of over 16,000 police officers over the next 4 years.
Wandsworth Labour councillors are concerned by the resultant lack of neighbourhood policing, and the effect this will have on local neighbourhood safety.
Despite the duty for Safer Neighbourhood Teams to be represented by a minimum team of 6 for an average ward – comprising of 1 Sergeant, 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs – a majority in Wandsworth fall well short of this level.
Cuts to the police have meant that wards like Tooting are represented by only 2 police officers, and no PCSOs – despite the fact Tooting presents higher crime rates when compared to other areas with comparatively better police representation.
At last night’s budget setting meeting of Wandsworth Council, Labour councillors tabled an amendment which would have ensured further budget savings, whilst still protecting valued front-line services.
The Labour group also committed to the freeze on Council Tax this year.
Keeping Council Tax frozen is part of Labour’s commitment to easing the burden on hard-working families, whose household budgets are being squeezed by Government cuts and a stagnant economy.
Labour also supports a temporary reversal of the VAT increase introduced by the Tory-led government, which is costing families an extra £450 a year. Likewise, as a key part of Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign, Labour is committed to bring the cost of travel down for Londoners.
Labour does not believe that hard-pressed families should pay the price for George Osborne’s poor economic management, which has seen unemployment rocket to the highest level since the last Tory government, and will require an extra £158bn more borrowing than planned over this parliamentary term.
However, committing to a freeze on Council Tax requires clear forward planning, which the Wandsworth Conservative administration fail to do.
We are clear that this decision will guarantee the need to find additional savings within council budgets in coming years, beyond the 28% reduction in funding already handed down by the Government over the next four years.
Yet, we do not believe this can be used as an excuse for a further ravaging of front-line services across the Borough. Already we see declining numbers of PCSOs on our streets, libraries closing, and proposals to charge children just to play. All round, services are being slashed.
Wandsworth Labour are delighted to see that the Council has taken seriously Councillor Sheila Boswell’s proposal to treat the children of Wandsworth to free swimming during the summer half term in celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee.
Since free swimming was abolished by the Tory-led government, numbers of children swimming have dropped by a third. Local contractors DC Leisure, who are responsible for Wandsworth’s swimming pools have, as a consequence, seen a corresponding fall in income from adults accompanying children, which has hit their bottom line. As such, they have already taken the decision to raise eligibility for free swimming to 8 years old.
We are pleased that DC Leisure see the benefit of Councillor Boswell’s proposal.
Councillor Sheila Boswell, whose initiative inspired this treat, said; “On the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, it was proposed to give ‘a treat’ to the poor children of Battersea in the form of a Jubilee meal. I thought it would be great to replicate this in a modern day universal gift to mark the occasion of this Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and so proposed the idea of free swimming during half term week for all Wandsworth children under 16.”
The £8,000 cost of the initiative will be met from the leftover funds from the Labour Government’s free swimming initiative which ended in July 2010.