Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea March, 2018, Newsletter (# 105)

  1. February was a short and quiet month, which will probably be best remembered for the brutal way it ended: with the coldest winter snap we’ve suffered in years. Still, it had the occasional compensations, such as my walk on Wandsworth Common near Bolingbroke Academy on the 28th.
  2. Back to the beginning, on 7th February we had the Council Meeting but, as I have said before, this does not have the civic significance that it had when I first became a councillor. Indeed, the only discussion of any interest was the technical background to the March decision on Council Tax, which essentially signalled that there are not going to be any really unpleasant surprises when the Council Tax bills come out later this month. If you are interested in my views on local taxation then go to
  3. February 8th was the centenary of the reform which gave the vote to almost all British women over the age of 30. Wandsworth Labour produced an electronic leaflet to commemorate the occasion, starring women “we knew” personally, who won the right to vote and were directly involved. One was Nellie Florence Belton, my nan who is on the left, with baby Nen, my aunt, and grandfather, Ernest. The script tells of how Nellie gloried in taking a lift to the polling station in a white, open-top Rolls Royce, driven by the Tory MP. But, thanks to the secret ballot, she did not have to tell him that she had voted Labour.
  4. On Friday, 9th February, I had the pleasure of going to a small theatre in Barnes to see a farce, called Liberty Hall, which was written by an old Battersea friend of mine, Robin Miller. Robin is an actor, who has now turned to writing plays. This was her second, the first being a murder mystery called Murder on Cue. Appropriately for a farce, the plot was truly farcical but the characters were all credible and their reasons for coming on stage and leaving it were nearly always coherent. The script was funny and everyone ended up with the partner they deserved. I haven’t seen Murder on Cue but, on the basis of this play, I do hope Robin will write more plays and, perhaps, get them produced “up Town”.
  5. Two days later my partner and I went to the Clapham Picture House to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It is billed as a “black comedy”, but it is so searingly black, so piercingly bitter and so tough that it is difficult for me to think of it as a comedy in any sense at all. I thought it was brilliant but there is another view – see my blog. Go and see the film and let me know your views. It is coolly directed by an Englishman, Martin McDonagh, and brilliantly acted particularly by the lead, Frances McDormand.
  6. On Sunday 11th, we went off to the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition of Cézanne portraits. Picasso said of Paul Cézanne that he “was like the father of us all” and of course his most famous landscapes of Provence and the south east of France are major works in the Impressionist portfolio, but I must say his portraits did not grab me. I thought that this self-portrait was an exception to my rule that his portraits revealed very little about character. But it is never a waste of time going to the National Portrait Gallery because it has a restaurant with one of the best views of London, even if the food is not cheap. The Tudor room, next to the restaurant, is also a delight, especially with its paintings on wood of Tudor high society from Elizabeth l down – many by unknown painters.
  7. On the following Tuesday, I had another meeting of Wandsworth’s Labour Shadow Cabinet. We discussed how the election campaign is going and where and when to apply our resources. We assumed that the Tories will, in the build up to May 3rd, spend more money than we can afford, but that we will have far more canvassers. Then we had a presentation from our advisors before moving on to further discussions about the manifesto. I guess some will think that writing a manifesto is a simple, ten-minute job – not at all.
  8. The first use of a Manifesto in British political history is Sir Robert Peel’s 1834 Tamworth Manifesto. With the Tory Party, in a very poor position, Peel decided it was essential to make a statement about the party’s purpose and objectives. Ironically, he did not win the subsequent election, but he did set a standard, which every political party has felt it necessary to follow. The Manifesto is not just “a piece of paper”, but a statement of a party’s aims and objectives, against which the party can (and should) be judged – at least until the next election and the next manifesto. It is, therefore, far more important than the fact that very few of the public actually read manifestos. It is a work still in progress.
  9. On 20th February, the Grants Committee made various grant awards to voluntary organisations across the Borough. I am not a member of this committee and don’t know the detail but, between us, my colleagues, Simon Hogg, Wendy Speck and I, have nominated and supported the second highest number of successful grant applications in the Borough. The range of plans and suggestions are amazing. This round included grants to aid the teaching and learning of IT skills at the Mercy Foundation, Falcon Road; a food waste project, the brainchild of Providence House youth club and the Venue in Park Court; and, most excitingly, the teaching of circus skills!
  10. The February meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 22nd and, unlike last month, it was a fairly low-key affair, with no application of anything other than very local significance. However, it was announced, at the same time, that Peabody Housing Association have gone into partnership with Battersea Power Station to provide 386 socially rented homes in Nine Elms. This is nowhere near the number of “affordable” houses that should be delivered on site but it is good news that such a reputable Association as Peabody has been selected to deliver the ones that do come.
  11. Twice during the month, I had meetings about the developments in the so-called Winstanley Regeneration project, the second being with the Design Review Panel on 23rd February. This was strictly about the project from a design and architectural point of view and I was simply an observer as the “independent” review panel quizzed the architects/designers. It was instructive to hear experts talking about designing and delivering a major new development. The other meeting was more generally about the shape and form of the plans as they develop and I am becoming a little concerned about it. There appears to be a kind of “mission creep” going on, with the towers on York Road getting higher and higher and the density in other parts of the estate rising but without sufficient social gain. After the May 3rd election, this project may need a thorough review.
  12. I was back to the Vaudeville theatre on the evening of 23rd to see Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. It was typical Wilde, a brilliantly funny comedy about the English upper class; but, if you stop and think about his plays, he is also very much a feminist. His men are usually hopelessly feckless, rather silly, not exactly evil but more than a little irresponsible. His women know the score and understand the inevitable ironies and tragedies of life. I now realise that Wilde’s plays are rather more serious than I had thought.
  13. On 25th February I led a history walk from the Latchmere pub, round the Latchmere estate to Battersea Square and along the riverfront to Battersea Park. It was for my partner’s group of Japanese students in an Anglo-Japanese exchange visit. Here is a frozen group of students on the steps of St. Mary’s and, what I consider to be, a simply beautiful and brilliant picture of the church in the setting sun, from the Square
  14. On the 27th, I went to a memorial service for Mary Turner (1938-2017). She was born in Tipperary, Ireland; came to Britain as a young woman; worked her way up from being a “dinner lady” to being President of the GMB and, in 2004, appointed Chair of the Labour Party. I had had only a very brief acquaintanceship with Mary at the Party Conference, but her warmth and enthusiasm, which is obvious from this picture, was utterly charming.
  15. But let’s be honest, it was also a great opportunity to go to St. Paul’s and take in the grandeur of the surroundings, not as a tourist but as a participant in a service.
  16. Finally, on the 28th I was crazy enough to go to Wembley to see my team, Spurs, beat Rochdale 6:1. Of itself that is hardly worth a mention but for two things: first the game was played in a snow-storm (and that was why it was crazy) and secondly it involved the highly contentious use of the VAR (video assisted referee) system. For what it’s worth my own view is that VAR is here to stay, that it has to get better and faster than it was on Wednesday, but, also that soccer will lose something as a result: VAR depends upon review and re-consideration, when soccer is about pace and non-stop action. Rugby is well suited to VAR, but soccer, I am afraid, is not. I was obviously pleased with the result and look forward to further victories in 2018!




My Programme for March

  1. The Conservation Area Advisory Committee meets on 6th March. The applications being considered are not of wide significance but it is interesting to note that they include three Victorian pubs, all under threat. They are the Prince of Wales in Battersea Bridge Road, the Queen Arms in St. Philip Street and the Bedford, on Bedford Hill.
  2. On 7th March there is the Council Tax setting Council Meeting. It will also be the last Council meeting before the May 3rd Borough Election and hence there is bound to be much boisterous and largely juvenile party sledging – but it won’t do any harm and “boyz will be boyz” as they say.On the 8th there will be a Wandsworth Business Forum at the Grand in Clapham Junction.
  3. On the 9th there will be Gordon Passmore’s funeral at St. Ann’s Church, St. Ann’s Hill. Gordon was a Tory councillor, largely for Putney ward from 1964-1971 and for Northcote ward from 1974-2006. Unlike many Tory councillors, he was not a hard-line Thatcherite but from an older more community-based tradition. I will be going.
  4. On 15th Harris Academy, previously Battersea Park School, are holding a “First Give” award for students, where they are competing to win a prize for the best presentations in support of favourite charities. The school has asked me to be one of the panel of judges – sounds fun.
  5. On that evening there is also the police’s Special Neighbourhood Team. I have missed this panel recently, because of clashing commitments, and so must make a big effort to be there.
  6. The Planning Applications Committee will meet on the 22nd.


Do you know?

Last month, I used this picture and asked:

  1. Where? When? How?
  2. How many things can you name that are still there and what are they?
  3. And can you name what is there now?

Many of you replied – correctly. It was after all fairly easy but the answers are:-

  1. St. Mary’s Church is at the bottom and Battersea Church Road runs from the bottom to about 2 o’clock. I am not sure of the date but judging by the kind of traffic that one can see I would guess it was taken between 1945-1960 from a helicopter.
  2. Well, the church obviously but also the houseboats on the river. And, of course, the roads. It is also possible that a couple of the old houses on Battersea Church Road might be there above Bolingbroke Walk.
  3. And now there is the Montevetro building, the Morgan’s Walk development and in the bottom right the Somerset estate.

And this month’s question:

Britain’s greatest engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859), who built the Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, most of the Great Western railway and the first iron ship, has a little-known connection with Battersea. As it happens, the connection might just have appeared right at the top of this picture. Does anyone know what the connection might be?


The UK’s system of funding for local government* is in a mess – and getting rapidly messier. Let me explain why. Take the current budget forecasts for Wandsworth Council. They have become byzantine. One line in the forecast for the financial year 2018-19 2018 shows that the Council has been allocated a £12.9 million grant known as the New Homes Bonus Funding (NHBF). Extraordinarily, ten years ago no one would have known what this acronym meant. Yet now it is closely matched by an estimated income of £11.9 million from the equally bizarrely named Improved Better Care Fund (IBCF). Each of those separate sources of income is almost as large as the traditional Revenue Support Grant; and from next year onwards, they are forecast to be larger.

The New Homes Bonus Funding was intended to incentivise local authorities to build homes. In Wandsworth it has been so successful that the Council has the second highest level of NHBF grant in the UK, after Tower Hamlet’s massive £20.7M. By contrast, Wandsworth’s linked* Borough of Richmond receives £2.2M from this fund; and Wandsworth’s neighbours Merton and Lambeth £2.4M and £9.7M respectively, approximately a tenth and less than half of Wandsworth’s.

Is there any real rhyme or reason about this state of affairs, other than it being a reflection of the amount of available building land? And does anyone think that the current explosion of development in either Wandsworth or Tower Hamlets is sustainable in the longer term?

If the new system has incentivised anything, it has incentivised local authorities to give planning permissions for larger, higher and more dense developments. Developments that are notorious not as homes but as ghost towers, safety deposit boxes for funds often of dubious origins and designed to gain speculative profits for their usually foreign owners. Developments, moreover, that are unpopular with most of the local residents who live nearby; and which are not doing anything to resolve London’s urgent need for low-cost accommodation.

Meanwhile, the Tory Government continues to reduce the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) each year, as indeed it said it would. Its ultimate aim is to end central government financial support for local government. However, the policy has already run into predictable problems. For example, financially-strapped Councils are struggling to carry out their statutory duties with disastrous consequences for the provision of social care. To compensate, the government has had to introduce and now increase grants from a new Improved Better Care Fund (IBCF).

This is, of course, a misnomer since the fund provides neither an improved nor a better service than the care system as it had already operated under the Revenue Support Grant. It is, however, specific, tied funding from central government, targeting one specific service. That outcome is precisely what local government had repeatedly said that it did not want, because it implies much more, and more specific, centralised control. Ear-marked funding means that there is no scope for sensible local adjustments to changing patterns of need – and no scope for local decision making. That’s a sorry state of affairs that – in theory – the Tory government says that it too does not want.

As part of setting local Councils ‘free’, the Tories now offer Councils control of the local Business Rates, the property tax paid on all commercial and industrial businesses within a Council’s boundaries. Yet the funds raised from such a source are wildly unequal across Britain. It therefore leaves Council income disastrously at the mercy of the rise and fall of business activity, which is almost totally defined by geography and geology, i.e. how near to London, or to North Sea oilfields, or to major commercial hubs each particular authority happens to be.

So the Tory government has introduced a Business Rates ‘top up’ scheme. In Wandsworth’s case, in 2018/19 the top-up of £35.650M is very slightly more than Business Rates themselves at £35.594M. So, what does this manoeuvre mean? It is actually a rate equalisation grant, designed to balance what would have been the massive inequalities of a few Councils in the midst of property booms having money to spend, whilst most Councils elsewhere are desperately short of funds – in practice Councils are no more “free” of central allocation than they ever were.

At the same time as all these muddling interventions from central government, the real local tax, the Council Tax, becomes less and less significant. Both major parties are absolutely aware that, at less than 10% of the budget, its impact on Council finances today is minimal. Both parties also know that the legal scope for raising Council Tax is very close to zero. In Wandsworth, that state of play won’t stop the majority Tory party from running scare stories about Labour’s alleged profligacy and the risk of Council Tax rises. However, such accusations will be shadow boxing, while Councils everywhere lose money, lose any semblance of local autonomy, and carry the can for failing services, which are actually failing for lack of either proper or reliable funding.

The irony is, of course, that the historic system of Domestic Rates, levied on housing property values, which was the traditional way of raising money for local government, was beautifully designed to tackle a modern-day curse – under-occupation. That is, to raise reasonable (not outrageous) sums of money from people in very large properties who otherwise pay hardly anything in local rates. When under-occupation is detected in the state sector, it is brutally both controlled and penalised by forcing council tenants to pay the notorious Bedroom Tax. Introduced by the Tories in 2013, it was described as removing the ‘Spare Room Subsidy’ (i.e. ending the so-called subsidy from the state to tenants who had under-used rooms).

Yet, in the private sector, under-occupation is neither controlled nor penalised. The result is not just that half of the British population live in spacious luxury and vote for penalising the poor but also that Britons live in the country with the lowest taxes on private housing in the world, outside of mini-statelets like Monaco. Exactly, of course, the reason why in 1989-90 Thatcher abolished Domestic Rates in favour of the failed Community Charge (Poll Tax).

Remember that? Since then successive governments have struggled to find a reliable and fair basis for funding local government. This current Tory administration is lurching from expedient to expedient. The system is becoming ever more byzantine – and under-funded.

So, whilst the British people want and expect first-world standards and services, they have been simultaneously encouraged to expect third-world levels of taxation. The result is that Britain gets aircraft carriers without any aircraft; a health service once admired across the world but now financially on its knees; an education system collapsing under the weight of failing and corrupt out-sourced academies; a probation service run by unaccountable, monopolistic out-sourced companies who cannot even deliver basic security; a costly railway system heartily loathed by its customers; and a political system which holds out promises of services which it cannot deliver.

It’s a genuine tragedy that, amidst these massive challenges, local democracy is being threatened as never before. Local government finances, and therefore essentially local government itself, have been nationalised to within an inch of their life. But the resultant byzantine system simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for local Councils or for the central government – or for the voters.

Council finances need proper reform. The system needs to return to something like domestic rates – which need regular revaluing, to take account of changing property values – and a modest degree of rate equalisation between wealthy and poor regions. It’s not rocket science. It’s the lifeblood of local democracy.

∗  This the Text of a speech that was prepared for delivery at Wandsworth Borough Council Meeting on 7 February 2018 but not delivered.

∗  The administrative systems of Wandsworth and Richmond Borough Councils have been merged since 1 April 2017.

Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea February, 2018, Newsletter (# 104)

        1. On Twelfth Night, I went to an enjoyable dinner with members of the Battersea Society. The Society organises a myriad of local and London based events and campaigns about local amenity issues, such as planning and the state of our parks and public spaces. If you are interested in joining but don’t know how then do, please, let me know.

        2. On 12th January, we went to see The Darkest Hour, the film about the decisive month of May, 1940, when Churchill became Prime Minister. The film was shot in such a way that it emphasised how dark and claustrophobic the world must have appeared in Whitehall’s underground war room. I thought it was brilliant – personally I preferred it to Dunkirk, which I thought a bit sanitised. But there was a dud scene with Churchill, the PM, on the Tube between the Embankment and Westminster. It was excruciating. Intended, I suppose, to demonstrate how Churchill instinctively understood the British public rather better than did the other stuffed shirts in the Cabinet; it was like no tube journey you or I have ever experienced. Quiet enough for an in-depth debate, between 10-15 people, with frankly a token West Indian in a 1940 crowd.

        3. On Monday, 15th January, I met a newly appointed Council officer, selected by and paid for by the Home Office but working for Wandsworth and Richmond Councils. His job is to assist the Council and the Home Office to counter extremism in Wandsworth and Richmond. This is a Government initiative, but to be honest, I think the Government has perceived a problem and decided it had to act but doesn’t know what to do. Sure, we have known some civil disturbances; we have some crime issues; in the 80s there were a couple of IRA cells in Battersea (Do you remember the discovery of two IRA bomb factories near Clapham Common?), but if we have violent extremists, they haven’t exactly advertised themselves. Tough job, but hopefully not one that’s needed here.

        4. Wandsworth Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, of which I am a member by virtue of being the planning lead, met on 19th January. I don’t normally indulge in internal party business in this newsletter but, three months before May’s Borough Election, this was rather different. We were discussing our plans for changes in Council policies and, by implication, our manifesto for May. It is NOT yet ready for publication but it will be no surprise to anyone that housing provision will be high on the list.

        5. On the 22nd, I went to a book launch in an historic building in the City. This time it was the Skinners’ Hall, a stone’s throw from St. Paul’s and Cannon Street station. From the outside, Skinners’ Hall looks nothing special, but inside you discover a Grade 1 listed building, dating from the thirteenth century, although the whole building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and the current one was built 1667-1683. Amazingly enough, like the cathedral, it was almost untouched by World War 2 bombing. I don’t suppose there are many real skinners (of animals largely for leather) left in the Worshipful Company, one of the richest and oldest in the city, but it demonstrates the historical importance of the trade! The book was Essays on Medieval London by Professor Caroline Barron, a family friend.

        6. The next morning it was back to the important, Rubbish bins Kambala Estate 180123even if mundane, business of joining with Council officers and some residents for a tour of the Kambala, Falcon and Wayford Road estates. On the whole, we thought they were in good nick but as always on the Kambala Estate, there were problems with rubbish! This picture is of conditions behind Haven Lodge. I trust that it got cleared soon after our visit – but it is a perennial problem.

        7. The January meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 25th and it was packed with major applications, four of them in Battersea. First, the half-completed Peabody Estate development: Peabody had to stop the development, as planned, because it was becoming financially unviable. So, they came back asking for 52 more flats, half for sale on the open market and half for social renting. They suggested adding a couple of storeys here and a couple there. The Committee did not really have much choice but to agree: and we did. I suspect the change will hardly be noticed as the additional storeys are lower down St. John’s Hill than the blocks already completedI voted against two very large developments, which were, however, approved by the committeFirst, 13 blocks between 8 and 15 storeys with 517 residential units are planned for the Smugglers’ Way, B&Q site. 35% of these are described as affordable. There are things to be said in favour of the development. However, in my view it is just too big, with too many high blocks at too high a density. Secondly, a large 82-unit block rising to 14 storeys was approved on York Road, on the Chopper/@Battersea pub site. Again, I voted against on much the same grounds.Swandon Way East              Swandon Way westWhat do you think of these developments either side of Swandon Way?

        8. The fourth major Battersea development was an application to expand the Royal College of Art campus on Battersea Bridge Road. This had many objections from the immediate neighbourhood of Parkgate Road and, frankly, I can see why. This large university building looks as if it will dominate the area, but the Committee thought that the major benefit of having the University in North Battersea outweighed the disadvantages. On this occasion, I agreed.

        9. There was also an interesting application for 86 residential units with one, six storey block at Jaggard Way, which is behind Wandsworth Common station, just yards outside Battersea. The planners’ recommendation was to refuse it, which we did unanimously. However, I must confess that I had the ungenerous thought that the Committee was keen to vote against a quite small development in rich, posh Wandsworth Common when substantially larger, less pleasing developments in North Battersea were being approved.

        10. On 29th January, I had a fun meeting at the youth club, Providence House, in Falcon Road, where we made plans to bring Devon’s Shallowford Farm to Battersea, or more particularly some sheep, calves, pigs and a tractor from the Farm for four days in early June. The farm, which is twinned with Providence House, is visited by many youth club members and is an invaluable rural experience for hundreds of Battersea kids. Keep a look out for it!

        11. The next day I had discussions with planners at the Town Hall about a planning application for developments near both Time House and Sendall Court. At the moment this application seems unlikely to be considered in Committee before April. I am sure that it will be contentious and I am rather concerned that the Council is trying to get too large a development through on the coat-tails of the so-called Winstanley regeneration.

        12. Finally, Wandsworth’s Design Awards Panel met on 31st January. The panel of architects, amenity societies and two councillors, including me, had before it all the North Battersea “icon” buildings like the Lombard Road Tower and the Nine Elms Lane development. But actually, none of those got near to winning, the victor being the under-stated, cleanly designed Chadwick Hall students’ accommodation at Roehampton University.

My Programme for February

  1. On 7th February there is a special Council Meeting. There is actually nothing special about it as it happens every year and is largely a technical operation agreeing the record of expenditure during the year and the approximate shape of the budget the year 2018-19. There will however be ratification of a 1% rent increase for council tenants and decisions on next year’s budget leading to the Council Tax decision on March 7th. I think I can guarantee that in Election year there will not be any really unpleasant surprises!
  2. On 13th February, I have a meeting of the Central Housing Panel, a quarterly consultation meeting with council tenants in Latchmere and other parts of the Borough.
  3. There is the Community Services Committee on the 20th followed by the Planning Applications Committee on 22nd February.
  4. On 27th February, I am off to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a celebration of the life of Mary Turner, of whom more next month.

Do you know?

Last month I didn’t set a question and this month’s is ridiculously easy but I just couldn’t resist the picture – thanks to the Battersea Memories website as the source. And as for the questions then:-

  1. Where? When? How?
  2. How many things can you name that are still there and what are they?
  3. And can you name what is there now?

Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea January, 2018, Newsletter (# 103)

        1. On 1st December, I went to Theatre 503 to see The Dark Room, an Australian play by Angela Betzien. First a word about Theatre 503, it is based above the Latchmere pub. It is, as they say, intimate or, rather more plainly, very small, which puts you in really close contact with the action and the actors. It invariably hosts “experimental” theatre and as it’s above the pub, it gives one a great chance, after the show, to have a drink and chat with the cast and discuss the play, which I did with Alasdair Craig, one of the four actors.

        2. As for the show: The Dark Room was about one of Australia’s darkest subjects, the relationship between the indigenous population and the overwhelmingly white, European population of today. What starts off as a “scene” between a white, female social worker and a young aboriginal woman develops, with a confrontation between two white policemen over the death in police custody of an aboriginal boy. To complicate matters the social worker also has a dysfunctional relationship with one of the policemen. Interestingly directed and well-acted, the play poses difficult questions. If my experience is anything to go by Theatre 503 is always worth a visit.

        3. I had my Council Surgery on the morning of 2nd December, but it was not a very busy event. I only had one constituent visit. Looking through the log, it is very rare that more than two constituents turn up. I know that MPs always have far busier surgeries, which is understandable, but frequently misplaced as MP’s cases are often about essentially Council issues, such as housing. But actually, nowadays not many constituents come in person as most casework usually comes through email or the telephone.

        4. Talking of cases, one reader commented last month that my newsletters were all about social events and that he rather doubted that I did anything real or useful. For the record, I dealt with 81 separate housing cases in 2017, which was 6% of the cases dealt with by 59 councillors (N.B. honesty compels me to admit that one independent councillor dealt with just under 40% of the whole! He really is exceptional.) The system for monitoring queries other than housing is not so simple but these figures suggest to me that I dealt with above 200 cases in 2017.

        5. As for what these cases are all about then the housing ones are largely about rehousing, over-crowding, homelessness and repairs and maintenance. Unfortunately, actually succeeding in getting someone re-housed is a pretty rare triumph. Non-housing matters are most frequently about environmental issues such as planning disputes, pot-holes, fly-tipping and road sweeping, oh, and, of course, noisy neighbours!

        6. I also don’t make much of many other necessary activities, most notably Labour Party matters, which whilst not of great public interest are an essential part of being a councillor. Nor do I write about the boring stuff of reading agendas, preparing for meetings, writing letters, etc. But they all take time.

        7. On the 3rd, Battersea Labour Party ran its own jazz night, starring Rosena Allin-Khan, Tooting MP, on vocals and Martin Linton, ex-Battersea MP, on horn, with Battersea’s own Junction Jazz band. Rosena is a star in her own right and it’s stunning that, as an MP, a doctor and a mother, she manages also to perform as she does.

        8. I had the Passenger Transport Liaison Group on 4th December, which was principally concerned with the continuing engineering works on the mainline into Waterloo. Nothing really new was noted then but, talking of transport, I later had notice of roadworks on Battersea Park Road just to the west of the Latchmere pub on 8th-9th January. My advice is to avoid that stretch of the road if at all possible – for example, turning left from Latchmere Road into Battersea Park Road will not be allowed – even for cyclists.

        9. On 6th December we had the last full Council Meeting of the year. There was one set piece debate with half a dozen contributions from both sides. These debates don’t get any press coverage nowadays, but I really enjoyed making an off-the-cuff speech. If you are really, really interested then you can see and hear it at the following address, whenever the Council loads the video, which is not yet!

        10. And on the 7th December, I appeared at the Licensing Committee arguing for tighter licensing controls on the Anchor pub, Hope Street.

          The Anchor

          This was a difficult matter in that neither I, nor the residents I was representing, wanted to close the Anchor – far from it. After all, it is one of the very few public facilities in that part of Battersea. However, pub use should not be allowed to disturb the peace of close neighbours beyond reasonable hours and I was persuaded that the nuisance caused by the Hope justified some restriction. The Committee agreed with me and the neighbours; but unfortunately, early indications (as of 4th January) are that the nuisance continues. Early days! But the festive season is hardly over and we shall see.

        11. The December meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 14th. Many of the applications were “technical”, such as, for example, changes in obscure building conditions. But there were some interesting exceptions. One was the application for the new Battersea Power Tube station, which is being built right now, opposite the Duchess pub. In reality, of course, there was not much for us to decide. Clearly refusing permission was not an option, nor was changing fundamentals about layout but we could have expressed a view about the “finishing”; a bit like choosing the colour of the wallpaper. My view was that given the amount of time and effort put into the design of a really, modern, attractive station by good designers, it was absurd for us to disagree with their recommendations – we shall see whether the station is as good as I thought it looked!

        12. There was also notice of an application in Lambeth, which will affect nearly everyone, who travels up and down to town, and that was for the re-design of the Vauxhall bus terminus. Lambeth Council wants to change, as in get rid of, the massive Vauxhall one-way road system and were asking for our observations! I am not being totally flippant in saying, “Good luck to them on that one”, but I can’t imagine it will happen any time soon.

        13. And there was one other interesting set of 24 applications for advertising hoardings all over the Borough. The hoardings will replace telephone kiosks and will include information bulletins and mobile phone charging points as well as the illuminated ads. They will, however, need careful monitoring. The addition of brightly-lit billboards along many main roads in Wandsworth could confuse drivers, cause distractions, increase street clutter (contrary to recent trends in trying to simplify street scenes) and add further garish lighting just when the Council (wearing its environmental hat) is installing new street lights to reduce the amount of light needlessly beamed into the night skies. We must not worsen street design for the sake of advertising revenue – but rather improve street safety, efficiency and environmental friendliness for all.

        14. The rest of my December was full of Seasonal events, such as an Xmas lunch with the other Labour councillors and Xmas drinks with the Battersea Society; a couple of resident association Xmas drinks and three visits to the theatre. Two of these were to see plays by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, A Woman of No Importance and Misalliance respectively. They were both very funny and clever and, appropriately for these days, very “feminista.”

        15. But the third theatre visit was the one that has made my friends very envious as it was a visit to the Victoria Palace Theatre to see the American blockbuster Hamilton. How I got the tickets is a long story but they are like gold-dust! I didn’t have high expectations. I didn’t really think that an American rap musical, played by a multi-ethnic cast, about an Independence war essentially between two groups of Brits (and a few French and German settlers) could work. I was wrong. The cast were great, the rap worked really well, the staging was great. The history wasn’t perfect; but nothing is perfect though Hamilton almost was.

        16. I spent both Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve quietly and very happily at home (from where I took this pic on the 25th!) and went to see the grandchildren on Boxing Day. PS do you like the lunar illusion over the sunset as seen from the bedroom?

        17. Finally, you might remember that last month I commented on the wretched condition of the old Vestry School, on Battersea Rise. Well, I am now delighted to note that there is scaffolding round the building and positive steps are being taken by the church authorities to safeguard the building and carry our essential repairs and maintenance before a final decision is taken on what use is to be made of this slice of Battersea’s heritage.


My Programme for January

  1. On 4th January I have a meeting of Wandsworth’s Design Panel. This is an advisory body relating to architectural design and the physical appearance of the Borough.
  2. This is followed by the Conservation Area Advisory Group on the 9th.
  3. And on 25th January, the Planning Applications Committee, followed by the Heliport Consultation Group on 30th January – a quiet month

Do you know?


In November, I asked “Who or what were Fawcett, Coppock, Hicks, McDermott and Wolftencroft – apart from being Battersea street names? Last month I gave the answer as regards John Bridgeford Coppock, so this month let’s try Fawcett Close.

Most people I know assume that Fawcett Close is named after Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929), who gave her name to the Fawcett Society, an organisation, which campaigned for women’s suffrage. However, I think it more likely that the Close is actually named after her daughter, Philippa Garrett Fawcett (1868 – 1948).


Philippa went to school in Clapham High School (now Thomas’s School in Broomwood Road). She was a brilliant mathematician and achieved the best Cambridge maths degree in 1890, at a time when women were not actually awarded degrees. She was subsequently unable to get an academic job, simply because she was a woman, but in 1905 she was appointed principal assistant to the Director of Education of the then newly-formed London County Council – surprisingly, at the same salary as a man would have received. She developed the south London teacher training colleges of Furzedown and Avery Hill. It is because she was a Battersea school-girl and died only 20 odd years before the Kambala Estate was built that makes me think that the Close was named after her and not her mother.

Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea December, 2017, Newsletter (# 102)

        1. On 1st November, my partner Penny hosted a book launch in the Speaker’s House, Westminster. The book, edited by Mary Clayton, is entitled A Portrait of Influence: Life and Letters of Arthur Onslow, the Great Speaker. Onslow was an eighteenth-century Speaker of the House of Commons, who set the standard for the role, which is why the book was launched in this very private part of the Palace of Westminster. The current Speaker, John Bercow, welcomed about 70 of us to his home – both graciously and humorously. Something tells me that he rather enjoys the being Speaker! Penny has written a brief review of the evening at

        2. The following day, I went to the CAW (Citizens Advice Bureau/Wandsworth) Annual General Meeting at Battersea Library. (Why the CAB has decided to re-brand itself as CAW when everyone in the country knows the CAB – beats me). It was a sombre occasion, because the Council has decided to cut its funding by 10%. What is more the cut is happening just as the Government’s disastrous Universal Credit Scheme         is due to be rolled out in Wandsworth. Given experience across the country, this could make it a hard Xmas for too many Battersea residents. The Tory Northcote ward councillor, Peter Dawson, and I had a slight altercation over the Tory role in imposing this kind of cut on our services. He does a nasty job pretty well!

        3. Off to Battersea Park for the Fireworks on November 4th – good show as always.

        4. On the 6th, I went to the Wandsworth Conservation Advisory Committee. This is a quiet committee devoted to maintaining the best of Wandsworth’s heritage – few political hassles, not many arguments, some might say rather dull. On this occasion we discussed the old Vestry School seen here on Battersea Rise. Some of you will not even have noticed this small building, which is now 151 years old (built in 1866), but it is sorely in need of restoration.

        5. It is part of Battersea history. Before state schools were created by the 1870 Education Act, most education was provided through the church, and Vestry schools like this one were commonplace. I was responsible for getting it listed about 20 years ago but neither St. Mark’s Church nor the diocese have done much to restore it. Now, I am pleased to say, the Council is talking about putting a Repairs Notice on the building. I realise that some churches with small congregations do not have much money for “nice” spending on old buildings but St. Mark’s must be one of the richest churches in suburban London – the Diocesan Board really should do something about its heritage!

        6. The next day, on 7th November I went to City Hall to take part in WOW (Women of Wandsworth)’s Annual General Meeting in City Hall. It was really an excuse for a party and a first trip for most to the heart of London’s Government. The host was WOW boss, Senia Dedic. Here she is, with GLA member, and Council colleague of mine, Leonie Cooper, on the right, presenting prizes.

        7. On the 9th we had the Thamesfield by-election. It was a brilliantly sunny day but fearsomely cold. I spent 7 hours of it standing and occasionally sitting outside two of the polling stations. Not the most fun-way of fighting an election but worse from my point of view, I am afraid, was the result. With the Tories winning the seat relatively comfortably.

        8. The very next day, I went on a visit – to the new Battersea Park underground station being built opposite the Duchess pub on Nine Elms Lane and right next to the Dogs’ Home. Many of you will have seen the hole in the ground either from the railway or the top deck of the 44 bus, but nothing quite prepares one for the scale of the whole thing when you are there. This picture shows the platform area with, in the distance, the tunnel disappearing towards Vauxhall; the orange shows high vis wearing workers. Being there that morning appealed to my little boy syndrome of wanting to get out the Meccano set and building a grand, iconic building – or in this case digging a massive tunnel in the heart of the city – fun!

        9. On 11th November, I went to the second Providence House Fund Raising Dinner – at Providence House, Falcon Road. Every time I go there, which is probably not as often as I ought, I am struck by what a great job Robert Musgrave and his team do encouraging, educating and entertaining the young people of Battersea. We should be proud of and grateful to them.

        10. On the 12th I went to the Remembrance Day service at St. Mary’s. As ever it was a moving occasion. Unusual features of the service were the rather complex hymns that we tried to sing. They were traditional English nineteenth-century hymns alright, but not the usual ones. Fortunately, we had St. Mary’s excellent choir leading us through the service, but sadly St. Mary’s very own Director of Music is, very shortly, off to do his stuff in the States.

        11. The Council’s Civic Awards presentation was on the 14th November. I am pleased to say that on this occasion Senia Dedic, see paragraph 5 above, was presented with one of the awards. Senia has missed out on this award several times in the past. It is only right that she has now had the recognition for her work with WOW, building relationships across Battersea between black and white, young and old, female and male.

        12. The Community Services Committee on 15th November featured a couple of items of general interest (and quite a few very boring ones too). Interesting ones were Battersea’s Jubilee Bridge and the rapid spread of charging points for electric cars. The Jubilee Bridge is planned to run alongside Cremorne Bridge, which is the rail bridge used by the Overground service between Clapham Junction and Imperial Wharf. It would be for cyclists and pedestrians only and would put a considerable number of Battersea residents within easy walking distance of Imperial Wharf station. The newly designed and completed skyscraper in Lombard Road was designed the south bank bridge structure in mind and there is also a considerable amount of money earmarked for the bridge. However, there is still a significant funding gap (£millions) and no immediate timetable for construction – so this plan is as yet a gleam in the eye.

        13. Meanwhile, the assumed rise of the electric car will call for massive changes to our roads – we will need millions of roadside charging points. The change in the next 30 years will be like that in the first half of the last century. In 1900, London had well over 50,000 horses on the roads – imagine shifting all that manure: and if you can’t imagine it, then take a look at Sixty years later horses were a sight in London and there were over a million cars.

        14. I know some of you are very sceptical about the benefits that this new change will bring but just imagine quieter, cleaner streets, fewer asthma sufferers and fewer deaths through air poisoning. There will be problems and one I can think of is the problem with having wires trailing all over the roads. I have been assured by the Town Hall that this will not be a problem. But you will not have been re-assured by this picture of tangled wiring on page 6 in a recent Guardian. I have demanded further reports from the officers on this issue, which I see as big problem with electric cars.

        15. On the 16th November, I went with 20 members of the Battersea Labour Party to see Labour of Love at the Noel Coward Theatre. It is a comedy, by James Graham, of life in the political world, during the period 1990-2017. It is definitely NOT just for Labour Party people but it is very political and enlivened for us, up in the gallery, by a comic and dismissive description of “Lah-di-Dah” Battersea. See my review at

        16. On 17th November I went with the grandchildren to see my brother-in-law in Southend-on-Sea. It was a beautiful cold, clear winter’s day. We went out on to the Pier, which I first knew many years ago when my parents would pack me off to spend summer holidays with my aunt and uncle, who lived there. I had a lovely day – I think the two kids did too!

        17. The November meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 22nd. In many ways it was fairly uneventful. One application was, however, a 10% variation to the very large development, about to go up across York Road from Hope Street. This will include 299 residential units, the College of Dance, some shopping and entertainment facilities. This plan confirms the massive changes taking place on and around the Lombard Road/York Road junction – more expensive private apartments and not many so-called affordable but still expensive flats.

        18. Marsha de Cordova, Battersea’s MP, and I hosted a Reception for new Battersea Labour Party members in the House of Commons on 23rd. It was attended by about 50 party members and a fun evening was had by all.

        19. I went to the Battersea Police Ball, along with 2,000 others, in Battersea Park on the 25th. It was great fun with plenty of food, fun and fancy dresses. However, for my taste, there was not enough dancing – though I am not sure these days that I would trust my metallic knee for a long bout of dancing.

        20. You may recall that last month I took Falconbrook School Year 6 pupils on a history walk around the Falcon Road area. Well following that, on Tuesday, 28th November, I was interviewed by Byron, Link and Freya, three of the students, as part of a film on the area being made by the pupils. The film is part of a written, narrated and photographed story of the Winstanley and York Road estates, which it is hoped will be launched in a world premier at Battersea Arts Centre in March, 2018.

        21. Finally, on 29th November, I attended a Guardian “Live Events” at the Emmanuel Centre, SW1, entitled “Can Brexit be stopped? The session was chaired by the Guardian’s political editor Anushka Asthana and the panel members were Gina Miller, who initiated the court case against the government over whether or not Parliament should have a final vote over Brexit, Alastair Campbell, formerly Blair adviser and vocal remainer, ex-Labour MP Gisela Stuart and John Mann MP, both Labour Brexiters; pictured here (Mann had not yet arrived). Although I am very much a remainer, I thought that Mann was very impressive and Stuart frankly rather weak. It was difficult not to have a lot of respect for Miller but Campbell, love or loathe him, was clearly in a different class as a communicator.

        22. One slightly sobering event during the month was a phone call from the Met about my stolen bike, which you may remember I lost in September. Despite several photographs of one of the “villains”, with whom I was struggling and despite the police constable’s certainty that he knew who the young rascal actually was, the Crown Prosecution Service have decided not to take the case to court.

My Programme for December

  1. On 1st December, I went to Theatre 503, above the Latchmere pub. I went with a dozen friends to see Australia’s “best new play”, The Dark Room – see next month.
  2. On Sunday 3rd December, Battersea Labour Party was entertained by Junction Jazz.
  3. On the Monday, 4th December, I went to the Passenger Transport Liaison Group.
  4. On the 6th I have a meeting with a constituent to discuss her plans for enlivening and improving the Falcon Road/Battersea High Street link between Clapham Junction and Battersea Square.
  5. And, in the evening, we have the last full Council Meeting of 2017.
  6. On the morning of 7th December, I am going on a tour of Christchurch school, whilst in the evening I could go to the Kambala Residents Association or the Police Special Neighbourhood Team at the George Shearing Centre but will in fact go to the Licensing Committee to ask it, on behalf of residents, to modify the opening hours of the Anchor pub, Hope Street.
  7. On Saturday, 9th December there is a party given by the Battersea Fields Tenants.
  8. And on 14th December, the Planning Applications Committee, and then on to Christmas and the New Year and on May 3rd the Borough election

Do you know?

Last month I asked “Who or what were Fawcett, Coppock, Hicks, McDermott and Wolftencroft (which are names of roads on the Kambala Estate)? Can you answer just one or all five?

I am starting with Coppock Close and the answer is John Bridgeford Coppock, who was born in 1910, and died in 1981. He was a Lecturer and research chemist, who taught at Battersea Polytechnic from 1935-41. Perhaps he is an unlikely inspiration for the naming but not only is there an education connection with Fawcett (of whom more next month), but his death is just about the same year as the Kambala Estate was completed. The most detailed description of John Coppock that I can find comes from the American Journal of Public Health. I am no expert but this speaks wonders for the international regard for this little known Battersea-based scientist. See:

Labour of Love

A Play by James Graham @ Noël Coward Theatre, 16th November, 2017

If NEC, LGC, GMC, AMM, LCF, EC, and a score of other acronyms are second nature to you then this is a “must see” play about life in the Labour Party. I went with 20 other addicts from Battersea and Tooting and got a powerful shot of nostalgia, regret and sentimentality. James Graham, who specialises in political drama, is clearly equally captivated by the intimate dynamics of personal pyscho-drama.

The action covers the rise and fall of Blairism in the Labour Party in the period from the fall of Thatcher in 1990 to the “triumph” of Corbynism in June, 2017. Martin Freeman, as David Lyons, is the spirit of Tony Blair and Tamsin Greig, as Jean Whittaker, represents the heart and soul of the party.

Their failures and triumphs are first plotted backwards from the failure/triumph (as in Dunkirk) of the June, 2017, General Election. It opens with Lyons awaiting his inevitable defeat in a Midland heartland seat, which along with defeats in Stoke and Mansfield, represented the nadir of the early morning of 9th June. Here there is a good laugh for Battersea locals, I suspect Tories as well as Labour, as Lyons humorously contrasts his fate with Labour in Battersea and Leamington.

From here, the action takes us back, step by step, from election to election; from the disaster of 2010 to the triumphs of 2005, 2001 and 1997 to the hubris of 1992. The action, as the play goes into reverse concentrates, on the triumph of Blairite modernism from bringing in new technology to the constituency office to the replacement of the coalmines with call centres.

There are plenty of good jokes on the way and not a little personal drama. Lyons’ wife Elizabeth, just too-too Cherie-like, shows appropriate metropolitan disdain for both his constituency office and the local party activists. Whilst the CLP (see what I mean! For the uninitiated I mean Constituency Labour Party) organiser/agent, Whittaker, is dismissive and disparaging of both the new MP’s and his wife’s metropolitan ways and affectations.

At the interlude, it was clear that the second act was going to change into forward gear and replay the history but why and to what purpose? By the end of the play, I was only left to admire how Graham had created and used this temporal structure to show the different sides of personal dramas, political imperatives and technical gismos.

As the curtain fell, I was left to ponder the vagaries of political certainties; of how yesterday’s truths become today’s old lies and presumably how today’s certainties are as likely to be just as vulnerable to the ravages of time. Time had been just as harsh, as it happened, on new technologies as on new labour, with the fax machine and the tele-text as redundant as any New Labour nostrum. But the play also demonstrated how time and the intense pressures of political lives can be just as damaging for many personal relationships.

The question remained: how were the personal dramas, Lyons and his wife and more particularly Whittaker and her two husbands, going to be played out? As it turns out, of course, the denouement could be divined within the action, both in reverse gear and in forward gear. Along with another message, deeply embedded in the play and that was a successful Labour Party needs both the “winners” and the “dreamers”.

James Graham has given us another clever and witty play for political nuts of all persuasions, not just those of a left-wing bent.

Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea November, 2017, Newsletter (# 101)

  1. On 9th October, I was due to be on the platform at Shaftesbury ward’s version of the Council’s Let’s Talk meeting, but, unfortunately, I got substituted. This was a pity, because it turned out to be a bit of a bunfight between outraged voters and Tory councillors, Cook and Senior. Neither are known for pulling their punches or retreating from a fracas and with, an angry audience, the evening must have had its highs and lows. One thing is for certain the evening embarrassed ex-Tory now Independent Councillor Jim (James) Cousins. Jim, a senior member of the Wandsworth Tory Cabinet for many years, now writes an interesting blog at, which includes coverage of that evening. Many of us are waiting with bated breath to see if he is going to challenge the Tories at next May’s Council elections, meanwhile his blog makes a well-informed commentary on some aspects of Wandsworth Tories.

  2. The 11th October, Council Meeting, was as unexciting as I predicted it would be. Nowadays, we councillors don’t even get answers to the questions we ask in Council (a bit like Prime Minister’s Question Time but without the answers! Can you imagine PMQs without the answers!). This is important for me, and on this occasion for some of you, as this month I asked about an issue bothering many residents of the Latchmere Estate and what’s more I promised them an answer. BUT I am afraid I don’t yet have an answer and can only apologise to those of you still worried about this neighbourhood issue – hopefully I will have one soon.

  3. I have been concerned about some of theIMG_1328 back-land developments that have recently been given planning permission. One particular development that has concerned me is one in Cabul Road, which I visited on the 13th October. First, it strikes me as being very close to the rear of the houses in Rowena Crescent (from which this photograph was taken) and secondly because the developers have chosen to use their own building regulations inspector rather than the Council’s. The freedom to do this was granted by David Cameron’s Government in one of the crazier anti-regulation moves made in recent times. It leaves the poor neighbours with no recourse to an independent arbiter. I await developments with interest.

  4. On the 14th October, I and maybe 150 Sally Warren @ Thamesfieldothers attended the launch of Sally Warren’s bid to win the Thamesfield by-election on November 9. Sally makes a very impressive candidate, very local, friendly, extremely articulate and committed. Labour won Thamesfield way back in 1971 so clearly winning next month, for the first time since then, has to be a long shot. But the Tories are currently in such disarray, that anything is possible.

  5. On the 15th, I attended an “awayday” think session on how we, Labour candidates, are going to tackle next May’s election. We held it on a glorious autumn day, in the bucolic surroundings of Manresa College – part of the Roehampton University campus. The mood was buoyant but we must avoid complacency. I have been on the verge of two other Borough elections we were “certain to win” only weeks before the event – on one occasion General Galtieri launched the Falklands War and overnight turned Mrs. Thatcher’s fortunes from being the most unpopular PM in modern history into Saviour of the Nation!

  6. The October meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 18th. There was one application, which I know is a cause of concern to residents of the Battersea Fields Estate and that was the extended permission, for three years, to Harris Academy to use their playground for a car boot sale. It is now 18 years since the school first got temporary permission and during that time there have been plenty of objections, as well as a lot of support for the “market”. It is often tricky when developments are given “temporary” permission as too often they then seem to go on for ever.

  7. On the 20th I went to County Hall to see Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. I don’t mean the modern City Hall, near London Bridge, but the old County Hall standing on the Thames alongside the Eye and boldly facing Parliament. The play, staged in the old debating chamber, was splendidly done and I recommend it to everyone – though it is not a cheap evening – it was almost worth it just for being in the chamber. You can see my review of the play on my blog site at

  8. On the 23rd I went to see Iannucci’s Death of Stalin, a film which I was looking forward very much to seeing. What a great subject! A film about a man, who my working-class London family (and many others) revered, in war-time, as Uncle Joe, much more, to their minds, the saviour of embattled Britain than the Johnny Come-Lately Yanks. Yet Stalin later turned out to be a tyrant and an ogre. The film had also had rave reviews and plaudits from many friends – but I found it vaguely disappointing. Somehow treating the death of this giant historical figure, both responsible for millions of innocent deaths and saviour of the Soviet Union, as the centre of a farce was massively inappropriate. Did one care whatever happened to the ghastly Beria, or the cowardly Malenkov or the scheming Khrushchev or any of the other villains of the piece? Well, I didn’t. It is billed as a “dark comedy”, but I guess I found the subject a little too dark to be very comical.

  9. On the 30th I had a meeting with planners and designers about the so-called Winstanley Re-generation scheme. The scheme is, at last, beginning to get under-way. It is aimed at maintaining the number, but vastly improving the quality (and looks), of social housing available in Battersea, but it is also providing private sector housing for sale and rent – very much in line with the London Plan and the city’s population growth. However, one thing I wish to put on record, is that the largest tower blocks, which, dominate the models and drawings, have NOTHING to do with Winstanley regeneration. They are instead related either to the Council’s plans for major developments in York Road or to the plans for Crossrail 2. Crossrail 2 and the potential new interchange at Clapham Junction does not yet have any funding or Government approval, and even if does get approved it will not happen until at least 2030. And all the developments in York Road are already happening now regardless of Winstanley regeneration.

  10. Late in the month, I made a point of going to look at Tooting Common’sChestnut Avenue

    grand “Chestnut Avenue”, which you may remember I highlighted last month when it was due to come under the council chop. On the left IMG_1336you can see the mature chestnuts, before the axeman came, and on the right the new lime saplings. From maturity to fragile immaturity almost overnight! Whether you think it an environmental disaster or good husbandry, it certainly makes the point that landscape design and planning is a multi-generational project and not something to be resolved in one electoral cycle.

  11. On the 31st October, I took Year 6 pupils of Falconbrook School Falconbrook History Walkon a 75-minute tour of the Winstanley area. Obviously most of them live on the estate and know it very much better than I do – but they don’t know it in an adult or geographer’s way. I hope that they found following the course of the Falcon Brook, the naming history of the estate and William Mitchell’s concrete sculptures interesting. I certainly enjoyed it and, if keeping 30 odd 11 year-olds’ attention for 75 minutes is a measure, then it went well.

My Programme for November

  1. On 1st November, my partner Penny is hosting a book launch in the Speaker’s House, Westminster. The book is about Arthur Onslow, the Great eighteenth-century Speaker of the House of Commons so Penny and the author wrote to Speaker Bercow to ask for use of “his” House to launch the book. The House, in the corner of the Palace of Westminster, next to the Big Ben tower and facing over the river, should make an impressive venue.
  2. The next day, I am going to CAW (Citizens Advice Wandsworth) Annual General Meeting at Battersea Library.
  3. On the 6th I have a meeting of Wandsworth Conservation Advisory Committee.
  4. I hope to go to WOW (Women of Wandsworth)’s Annual General Meeting in City Hall on 8th November.
  5. On the 9th we have the exciting and surprisingly tight Thamesfield by-election.
  6. The Second Providence House Fund Raising Dinner is on the 11th November and the Council’s Civic Awards dinner is on the 14th. And, of course, on the 12th there will be Remembrance Day services across the Borough.
  7. I have the Community Services Committee on 15th November and the Planning Applications Committee on 22nd.
  8. On Saturday, 18th November, there is something called the London Councils Summit held in the City of London’s Guildhall. All councillors from across London are invited to attend and the Summit is usually addressed by the Mayor and a Government Minister. It should be an interesting day.
  9. Marsha de Cordova, Battersea’s MP, and I are hosting a Reception for new members of the Battersea Labour Party in the House of Commons on 23rd.
  10. The Battersea Police Ball, the Borough’s largest and brassiest charity big bash, takes place in Battersea Park on the 25th.

Do you know?

Last month: not many of you appeared to be very interested in why this boat moored at Vicarage Crescent is called Ringvaart III. IMG_1283According to Wikipedia, Ringvaart is a 38 mile circular canal, built 1839-1845, as part of Holland’s land drainage system. It is also a commercial, industrial and recreational canal, part of the very extensive Dutch commercial waterway. This houseboat, being extensively renovated by Joel and Rosie, must have started its life hauling freight around Holland until some enterprising sailor decided to take this river/canal boat across the North Sea and into the Thames.

As for my question this month: it relates to the Kambala Estate, the red-brick, 2 and 3 storey estate on the west-side of Falcon Road. The street names on the estate are Fawcett Close, Coppock Close, Hicks Close, McDermott Close, Wolftencroft Close (note 2 ‘f’s and no s), as well as Ingrave, Wye, York, Mantua and Kambala. Forget the last 5, Who or what were Fawcett, Coppock, Hicks, McDermott and Wolftencroft? Can you answer just one or all five?


Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie

I went to County Hall to see Lucy Bailey’s Witness for the Prosecution. The play’s action largely takes place in an Old Bailey court-room with a couple of scenes in the defence counsel’s chambers. Designer, William Dudley, might not have done much to stage the play in County Hall’s Council Chamber, but whatever he did do he did brilliantly, because it proved to be ideally and dramatically suited to be transformed into a magnificent Old Bailey court-room. The Chamber was built for political debate, with majority and minority parties benches, a Mayoral dais and press gallery splendidly reflecting the prosecution and defence, judge and clerks of the court and jury seats required for staging a court-room drama. The single-purpose, somewhat claustrophobic, controlled environment of a political chamber also has its obvious parallels with the court-room.

For those unaware of the plot, the play has a very clever, typically Agatha Christie, twist. However, the twists and turns of the plot do demand a remarkable performance from Leonard Vole, the defendant, played by Jack McMullen. He needs to be thrillingly and seductively attractive to women of all ages and at the same time to be naïve and of Machiavellian cunning; unfortunately, McMullen’s acting did not quite have the range to make his character totally credible. Actually, of course, the problems really are the demands of the script. Agatha Christie’s work is to be enjoyed for the clever twists and turns of the plot and not necessarily for the credibility of the demands she places on her characters.

In any event, the central character, defence counsel, Sir Wilfred Roberts QC, is beautifully played by David Yelland and it is his character, which is the central lynchpin of the plot. Indeed, Sir Wilfred is the tragic hero of the piece; well intentioned, polished and sophisticated, elegant and fearsomely clever in a nice aristocratic manner he is made a buffoon and a loser by a scoundrel. The powerful last scene lost nothing by being so well known to many of the audience.

The setting and the dramatic conclusion, the moral dilemmas posed by the story and Yelland’s acting made for a very enjoyable theatrical performance in an interestingly new environment.

Go early and spend 20 minutes walking around the outside of the Chamber, reading the marbled engraved names of the leaders of the London County Council (LCC), the Greater London Council (GLC) and the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) – most of them now sadly merely names in the records of the past, but some still talked of today – most notably Ken Livingstone, but there is also Chris Chataway (pacemaker along with Chris Brasher for Roger Bannister’s Four Minute Mile but also briefly a Tory Leader of the ILEA) and Sir Ashley Bramall. Less well known but with a very small connection to me, one can also find Norman Prichard, later Sir Norman – as well as being Chairman of the LCC he was also a Labour councillor for Latchmere ward – my ward, then of Battersea and now of Wandsworth.

Witness for the Prosecution runs at County Hall until January and I heartily recommend it although I may have been slightly swayed in that I worked in County Hall for 23 years and it was, therefore, a bit of a sentimental journey. I look forward to seeing many more dramas, especially courtroom ones, staged there in future.

Just a word of warning! If you go in the cheaper seats (but not exactly cheap), in what used to be the public gallery, both view and accessibility need to be checked in advance!

Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea October, 2017, Newsletter (# 100)

  1. I spent the first week of September in a small village on the Croatian coast. For the fourth year we stayed in the same very basic, very simple pension – nothing to do except try all the local fish in one of the 3 brilliant local restaurants – and swim across this bay – great!

  2. Meanwhile, back in Battersea Latchmere Labour Party members re-selected Simon Hogg and myself as two of the three candidates for May’s Council elections. Strange to note that, with all the scare stories about how Corbyn’s Labour Party was going to “de-select” sitting MPs and councillors, this is the only time since 1971 when I have been re-selected without an interview!
  3. What about Wendy Speck, our third councillor? I hear you say. Wendy has decided to move on to other things and so members chose a new candidate, one Kate Stock. Here are the three of us in York Gardens, me on the left and Simon on the right. I will say more of Wendy, who has been a great partner for Simon and myself – probably in May next year, when she steps down.

  4. We were in York Gardens on 11th September at the Council’s Let’s Talk meeting. Some of you will have received flyers for this event from the Council, but, despite a very wide circulation, only about 40 members of the public turned up. It is clearly a “good thing” that the Council should “consult” with the public but the way we do it in Wandsworth doesn’t really work. The only lively point was when one of the public, probably reading this right now, weighed into my failure to solve everything wrong with his block of flats. PS However, since that meeting I have heard that one person, who came along and talked of potholes, actually got one fixed! The meeting at least made one difference!

  5. On 13th September, I looked into the Royal College of Arts exhibition of plans for its proposed development on the Howie Street, Parkgate and Battersea Bridge Roads site. One comment I found particularly interesting was how North Battersea is becoming the centre of the UK art world. Not only is there the Royal College of Arts, but the Royal College of Dance, currently in Battersea Square, is also being “re-developed” in York Road.

  6. On Sunday, 17th, I went with Marsha de Cordova, MP, to the Battersea Chapel service run by Pastor Leroy Burke. You may remember that Leroy organised a very impressive public meeting about knife crime. Pastor Burke’s intention is to keep the public interest focused on the horror of knife crime until we have got rid of it.
  7. The picture shows a sculpture done by Philip Dorman, a Providence House volunteer. It is called The Wall of Pain and has 185 model coffins, representing the young victims of knife crime in London, 2005-15. The three stand-alone coffins in the front represent the three young men killed in Battersea earlier this year.

  8. The following day I had a meeting with Marsha in the House of Commons, along with her office manager Tracy Smith-Robinson. We discussed a range of matters, such as where her Battersea office will be – her intention is that it should be in the heart of Clapham Junction – and her programme for Labour’s Conference in Brighton.

  9. On the 19th September, I had the Community Services Committee, when the Tory councillors decided to go ahead with their plan to demolish and reconstruct the Northcote Road Library. The Labour councillors opposed the proposal, not least because the 17 planned housing units in the new development are NOT expected to be either so-called “affordable” or socially rented.

  10. Within a week of that decision, Wandsworth Council cut down Tooting Common’s grand Chestnut Avenue. This fiercely unpopular action (you may have seen coverage of the destruction

    Chestnut Avenue

    on TV or radio) followed from a Community Services Committee’s decision a couple of months ago. But with both this and the controversial decision on Northcote Library being taken, within 6 months of the next Council Election, it leads one to wonder whether the local Tories have a death wish.

  11. On 20th September, I had the Planning Applications Committee, which for the second month running had no decisions to take of any significance, except to the applicants themselves and their neighbours.

  12. On Saturday, 23rd September, I went with Marsha de Cordova to Brighton for the Labour Conference. Marsha MC’d a reception for the London Labour Party, with guest speakers including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson. On the following day, she and I hosted a dinner for Wandsworth Party friends in one of Brighton’s popular Italian restaurants.

  13. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling too well and came back from Brighton on Monday morning, but the Conference was clearly a great success and left most of us in good heart. There are obviously serious problems facing Labour, with, for example, our stance on the European Union being to say the least – woolly. But, if our position is woolly, the Government’s confusion and divisions are simply untenable.

  14. You may remember that last month my bike was stolen in Este Road. Well on the 29th I was rung by the police. They told me that they had caught all three “villains” and that it was now up to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether to press the case to court. The police officer told me a little about the three youths, most of which I can’t repeat in public, but the salient point was that it looks very possible that this is the start of a downhill path, which may well result in three wasted young lives, unless society takes immediate remedial action. We really do need a better and stronger Probation Service and not just the shattered remains of a privatised system.
  15. I could get really angry at this point but then something wonderful happened. A Battersea resident, Joel is his name, gave me his bike – see below!

  16. I went to an afternoon charity Coffee Party on behalf of McMillan nurses at Battersea Fields Residents Association clubroom on 29th of the month – not sure how much was raised but younger members of the community had a rousing game of table soccer. I kind of remember when the participants would claim to be Bobby Charlton or George Best – nowadays the screams were all for Messi and Ronaldo!

  17. Finally, on Saturday 30th September, there was the funeral of Tory Cllr Jim Maddan. Jim was elected Mayor of the Borough as recently as May. Some of you will have met him but he was best known in Putney, where for many years he was not only a councillor but also the street bobby. Popular across communities and politics, his funeral in St. Mary’s Church Putney was a big occasion.

My Programme for October

  1. On 9h October, I will be on the platform at Shaftesbury ward’s version of the Council’s Let’s Talk meeting – but as a stand-in for Labour Leader, Simon Hogg, who has to be elsewhere.
  2. On 11th October, we have a Council Meeting. Nowadays these are as rare as hens’ teeth – the old model of local government desperately needs a re-think. Currently, it is just not operating other than as a once every four-year plebiscite on who should run the place – this party or that one.
  3. In the week of the 16th I have two interesting viewings: first on 16th itself when I am going to get better acquainted with the design, work and looks of Battersea Park’s new tube station rapidly taking shape alongside the Dogs’ Home; and then two days later I am visiting the Tideway Thames Tunnel works. This major infrastructure development, perhaps only second to Crossrail, promises to solve some of London’s sewage problems, taking tons of sludge away from the Thames.
  4. The October meeting of the Planning Application Committee is on the 18th.

Opinion Piece

This is NOT an original observation but my caseload as a councillor more and more reveals just how bad the housing crisis in London is. Housing problems have always topped the list of issues brought to me as a Latchmere councillor, but this year there has been a significant increase in both the number and seriousness of the issues people are facing. The most desperate cases are frequently very young families coming from broken relationships, and usually with no job and no income and very little in the way of personal belongings. The shortage of cheap, rented accommodation – council housing – is desperate but meanwhile we continue to see luxury flats, often built as an investment and not an answer to a housing shortage, springing up in North Battersea.

This Council development of 6 council flats in Rowditch Lane is one very small exception to the trend. This block is intended for re-housing folks displaced by the Winstanley Estate regeneration. It’s a small step in the right direction but we need a new building programme numbered in hundreds, not in tens,

Do you know?

I mentioned Joel above. He had read my last newsletter, about the bike theft, and so he emailed me to say that he had a spare bike that he kept on his houseboat (pictured here), moored near Vicarage Crescent – and I was welcome to have it. I went and picked it up the other day and had a nice chat with him and Rosie, who is joint owner of the boat. They tell an interesting story about buying the boat (as cheap as you can imagine) and buying a mooring (more expensive than I could have imagined) and doing up the boat themselves – well pretty much – including taking it downstream to Greenwich for large-scale welding repair jobs. The boat has the interesting, original, name of Ringvaart III.

So, my question is “What does that tell us about the boat’s history and where does the boat come from?” A new fixture on the Battersea scene with, no doubt, its own interesting story.


Councillor Tony Belton’s North Battersea September, 2017, Newsletter (# 99)

  1. This newsletter is going to be short, well, comparatively – August was a quiet month! In passing, have you noticed the number (# 99) in the heading?  It indicates that this is the 99th edition of my monthly newsletter. In other words, I have been producing this for 8 years and 3 months, well actually 2 months, because in August, 2011, I produced 2 editions so as to cover the Clapham Junction riots. I am now wondering if and how to celebrate the 100th edition, next month!

  2. One of the first things I did, after I got back from Scotland, was to have lunch at the Fish in A Tie restaurant in Falcon Road with fellow councillor, Simon Hogg. I went by bike and padlocked my bike against street railings in full sight of where I sat. So, imagine my anger, and amazement, when I saw three youths about 16/17 years’ old fiddling about with the padlock. I charged out, as best as my new metal knee would allow, and tackled the three of them. They rode off, after a short scuffle, but unfortunately on my bike and two of their own, assuming that they weren’t stolen too, leaving me holding one of theirs – and a broken padlock!

  3. The Special Neighbourhood Team, or most of it (pictured here with captured bike), arrived after a call from Simon. One of them came in and took a statement from me – at the dinner table. They said that one of the villains was arrested in Dagnall Street, but I have heard nothing since. I lost my bike and the police have “acquired” a bike as material evidence. What a nuisance! More to the point, what a tragedy! Three young villains, well on the way to wasting their lives on petty crime and under-achievement. It would have been good to have caught them properly and talked to them long and seriously, before they graduate onto more serious crime.

  4. On August 13th I went to a Labour Party fund raising garden party in Putney. Leonie Cooper (pictured here), our Greater London Assembly member, was the main attraction at this enjoyable summer occasion. She spoke about life at City Hall, the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and the housing crisis in London.

  5. On the 16th Seth Gowley, an Oxford geography student, writing a PhD thesis on urban regeneration, visited me to ask about my views on the Winstanley Estate regeneration. He had interviewed some of the residents and other local “experts” and had visited a few other examples of major regeneration projects in London and other big cities. Gratifyingly, he commented that he thought that we have done quite well here on the Winstanley, compared to other places in the country. He based this view on the largely positive reactions that he had had from residents.

  6. You may be surprised to hear that I am a member of the Licensing Committee – I have never previously mentioned it. It met on August 22nd to decide whether a Putney restaurant should be allowed or not to use some outside space for drinking and smoking for an extra 30 minutes. What a bore – a summer evening spent on such a minor matter!
  7. This was part of Tony Blair’s 1997-2002 reforms of local government and, to my mind, this was one of the more useless of those reforms. Prior to 1997, licensing at this level was decided by local magistrates. Having been a magistrate, I know that this kind of decision would be taken in 10 minutes, or maybe 30, in a busy day full of other largely administrative matters. Blair argued that he was returning powers to local government.
  8. This, however, was no such thing. Local government was being handed power over the trivial but was totally constrained on the major licencing policy issues, such as deciding on the total number of drinking establishments, pubs or bars, that would be acceptable in, say, Clapham Junction. Government thinking was, and is, that decision should be left “to the market”. Then, of course, one is left with the old neo-liberal lie “that one cannot defy the market”.

  9. The following evening, I had the Planning Applications Committee, which on this occasion had no decision to take of any significance, except to the applicant him/herself, and their neighbours.

  10. On 26th I went to the Ingrave People’s Project Street Party, Hicks Close. The party was organised by Donna Barham, who some of you will know is a Hicks Close resident. Donna has been doing sterling work, maintaining community spirit in the Kambala Estate, organising summer day trips to the coast and winter trips to the Christmas market in Oxford. Donna was thinking of standing to be a councillor at next May’s Council election. It would have been great to have had her on Wandsworth Council as a colleague, but she decided her community work was, and is, more important to her. Here is Donna, second left, along, with two Spidermen, Princess Elsa, from Walt Disney’s Frozen, and a Kambala resident.

  11. On the political front, I was pleased to read Keir Starmer’s 26th August statement on the Labour Party’s position on Brexit negotiations. It has been agreed by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Leadership and hence is of national importance. It has been clear to me that the previous ambivalent stance could not stand for long. Given the Government’s hopeless stance on Brexit, our two-party political system demanded that Labour, as the official Opposition, made its position clear.

  12. Changing the focus, have you seen the new electric car charging points installed in Grant Road opposite the station entrance. There are others promised across the Borough, Cabul Road for example. Soon we will all have to get used to having cars wired up across the pavement. That is bound to raise issues that have not yet been considered. But in the next 10 years we will see the end of new combustion engine cars and a massive increase in electric cars.

  13. Finally, I should congratulate all those students, who did so well in this year’s exams, with special mention of students at Latchmere’s Harris Academy and Thames Christian College.

My Programme for September

  1. On 11th September, my colleagues, Simon Hogg and Wendy Speck, and I will be on the platform at York Gardens Library at the Council’s Let’s Talk meeting. This is an opportunity for Latchmere residents to question us, and a team of council officers, about anything from potholes, to progress on the Winstanley Estate regeneration, from safety on our roads to social care for the elderly.
  2. On 13th September, I hope to go the Royal College of Arts (RCA), to see the plans for the new RCA building in York Road.
  3. On the 19th September, I have the Community Services Committee. I don’t know yet what will be on the agenda, but one possibility is a proposal to demolish and reconstruct the Northcote Road Library.
  4. The September meeting of the Planning Application Committee is on the 20th
  5. The Labour Party Conference runs from 23rd to 27th September and I am booked in to Brighton for the duration. I have been often enough before but this one promises to be something a bit special. I am sure that there will be masses of discussion about the future of the UK in, or out, of the EU.

Opinion Piece

The Tory Party is currently putting up a good imitation of total implosion. In July, 2014, I wrote a blog, where I suggested that the Tory party was in danger of a major split – right now that blog looks prescient. Read it at:-
Tell me what you think. Is this just a blip or something more serious for the Tory Party? And if the Tory Party does implode, then what will be the impact on Labour? I don’t think that such a collapse will be simply an unmitigated benefit for Labour, except in the short-term.

Do you know?

Last month I asked whether anyone knew where is the larger identical twin to this the Barbara Hepworth statue, pictured here by the lake in Battersea Park.

A number of you got the right answer, which is the United Nations Building in New York City. It was commissioned from Hepworth as a memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld, following his death in an air crash in Africa in 1961. Hammarskjöld (pronounced Hammershelt) was General Secretary of the UN and his death was the subject of much speculation – was the plane shot down by Western agents or African warlords? Was it really an accident or was it an assassination? Were the killers, agents of western imperialism, or tribal warriors? A modern mystery.