Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere February, 2017, Newsletter (# 93)

 

  1. You will remember that in December, the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) decided to approveculvert-road-site the 14-storey development at 3 Culvert Road, pictured right. Many local residents objected and I expressed their views in a letter I wrote to London’s Mayor Khan on 11th January asking him to call in the application (a process where he takes the decision upon himself and can over-ride the PAC decision). So far, I have had no response to the letter, which I have included in full at the end of this email. If you have not yet done so, then writing to the Mayor at mayor@london.gov.uk stating how much you agree with local objectors and with me, might just be the straw on the camel’s back!
  1. On Monday, 16th January, I went to the Passenger Transport Liaison Committee, which can, I confess, be amazingly, detailed and boring but not this time! Take note anyone who uses the railway system! Masses of changes are planned for August, 2017, and so if you are a regular train commuter and you plan to go on holiday then I advise you to go in August, because August is going to be planned chaos – and everyone knows how chaotic that could be!
  2. The biggest disruptions will be from 5th-29th August with the closure of Earlsfield station at peak hours and the total closure of Queenstown Road Rail services through Clapham Junction will be reduced by 25% from 33 trains per peak hour to 25. The plan is to have
    British Rail Class 707

    British Rail Class 707

    the new, longer British Rail 707 rolling stock on all Windsor lines and to pretty well double capacity by 2018, with much of Waterloo also being modernised in 2018. Here is one of the British Rail Class 707 trains on trial at Clapham Junction.

  3. The overall Network Rail £800 million plan is to change the rail network so that 10-carriage trains can run on all lines in and out of Waterloo by January, 2018, hence resolving some of the massive capacity problems that we have on all commuter trains. However, to do this, platforms 1-9 at Waterloo have to be extended, something which cannot be done given the geography of the platforms without major engineering work, including opening platforms 20-24 for regular use. Using those high number platforms means that the main flow of trains will be concentrated on the high number tracks and will be too heavy to allow any to stop at Queenstown Road or at Earlsfield in peak hours.
  4. This is all explained in a clip that you can see at https://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/plan-your-journey/planned-improvements/wswupgrade/?dm_i=36D9,DUFD,4HO7T7,1EDMW,1
  1. Meanwhile we also learnt that tunnelling is to start in March, ending in September, on the Northern Line extension from Kennington to Battersea Park The estimated 680,000 tons of spoil will be transported by river barge to somewhere in the estuary. It would apparently take 40,000 lorries to transport the spoil.
  2. London Underground also announced that the night-time tube service first operated in August, 2016, has already been used by 2.6 million travellers. London Underground are confident that it has stimulated the “night-time” economy but it is not yet clear exactly what the impact has been as far as “other” users are concerned (such as cleaners, caretaking staff, etc.) but there will be passenger surveys in the near future.
  1. This month’s Planning Applications Committee meeting was on 17th There were a number of applications that were of particular interest in North Battersea. The first was the plan to restore Battersea Park to its condition prior to Formula E Racing; the second about a Care Home development at York Court, 313 Battersea Park Road, on the Doddington Estate; and the third a group of applications to build council housing on the Gideon Road estate.
  1. The application to restore all areas of the Park was very detailed, but local residents, who have followed this whole process very closely, assured me that the restoration, whilst not perhaps being perfect, is acceptable.
  2. The Care Home development is fairly large by the standards of these things, providing 78 care beds and 30 assisted living suites. It also would raise the height of the building by two storeys. I voted against this development as over-large and over-dense, but it was approved.
  3. There were also three applications for the development of council housing on the Gideon Road estate in Shaftesbury. The applications were for 18, 4 and 8 homes respectively and the intention is to use them for decanting from the York Gardens estate. I, and my fellow Labour councillors, supported the applications as welcome additions to the Council’s socially rented housing stock, although we certainly had some criticism from current residents. It is hard to please everyone.
  1. On 26th January, I looked in briefly at York Gardens Library, to see the presentation given to some 50-odd interested residents of Inkster and Penge Houses about their re-furbishment. The response was very positive and certainly the plans look pretty good to me. I am told that the intention is to take on board a couple of suggestions made by residents and then to get the work started in late 2017 or early 2018, finishing about 18 months after that.
  1. I went to the Battersea Fields Residents Association on 30th January, having been specifically invited to talk about the Culvert Road development. Although not as dramatically affected by the proposed development as residents of Culvert or Battersea Park Roads, the residents were as concerned as most locals about the traffic, parking and congestion problems that may follow, unless carefully monitored.
  1. It was interesting to see last week’s Wandsworth Guardian report about Harris Academy’s improved performance – but then worrying a few days later to hear a BBC TV news report that the “improvement” was mainly a statistical consequence of excluding the worst performing pupils from the school and from the exams. This has been a concern expressed to me by a number of people, including at least a couple of you, who are ex-teachers from the school.
  2. I was not very keen on the school’s change from being a local authority school to, in effect, a private school run by the Harris Academy chain on behalf of the local authority. If the good results are “genuine” and maintained for a few years, then I will have to accept that the Academy has done a good job for the school-children of Battersea, but if this is simply a result of “failing” the lowest achieving children, then this will stand as yet another indictment against this Government’s education policies.
  1. Many of you expressed concern about my knee replacement and I am pleased to say that it is improving, but is not yet perfect. I can get around without a stick or crutches easily enough but I must say a crutch is a great way to stop the traffic – and to get a seat on the bus!

My Programme for February

  1. On 1st February, there is a full Council Meeting, when we will be discussing elements of Wandsworth’s budget. Given the scale of Government’s cuts to our rate support grant, it will not be a very comfortable occasion, to say the least.maurice-johnson
  2. The day after, 2nd February, I will be standing in again for the Labour Leader at a Let’s Talk Meeting in St. Anne’s Church, on St. Anne’s Hill.
  3. On 9th February, I will be going to an informal party with the Kambala Estate residents.
  4. At 10.30 on 10th February, I will be at Maurice Johnson’s funeral at Christchurch on Battersea Park Road. I am sure that many of you will remember Maurice, here pictured with his daughter, Laura and being invested as an Honorary Alderman by Mayor Thom. Maurice was a Latchmere councillor from 1990-2010, and a well-known personality across the Borough. You can see an obituary I wrote about Maurice at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/
  5. I have a Community Services Committee (Community Services is almost anything that is not housing or education, from parks to libraries, swimming baths to refuse collection, parks to sewers) on the 16th February and the Planning Applications Committee on the 23rd.
  6. On the 22nd, there will be a Finance and Corporate Resources Committee, when it is my guess that the Council will announce next year’s Council Tax, which I suspect will be an increase of just under 2%.

Do you know?brown-dog-1980s

Last month I asked you to pose a Battersea- related question that I cannot answer and which I will pose to everyone else, next month. To be honest that didn’t ring a bell with many of you and not one asked anything that I didn’t know. Ian, however, asked, “Our canine friend here, in his original form, caused a cataclysmic event in the past. Firstly, who is the fellow, where is he situated? Also, what was that cataclysmic event?”

I will answer that next month, but meanwhile how many of you know? Send me your answers.

Appendix 1 See the item on Culvert Road development. My letter to the Mayor read:-

“I am writing to you to ask that you call in, and reject, Wandsworth Planning Application, 2016/4188, relating to 3 Culvert Road, SW11 4ND.

“I am a councillor for the relevant Latchmere ward and also a member of the Borough’s Planning Applications Committee, which considered this proposal on 14th December. Unfortunately, I was not able to be there as I was in hospital recovering from an operation. However, I would ask you to take note of the points already made by my constituent Mr. Paul Forster, which I will not repeat but fully support, and the following comments of mine. This letter is, by the way, endorsed by my fellow ward councillors, Simon Hogg and Wendy Speck.

“First of all, I fully acknowledge the pressures on you, as Mayor, and each and every one of the London Boroughs to provide more and more housing units across the capital. I know from working with you, as fellow Wandsworth councillors, that this a very important objective of yours, indeed it is an almost over-whelming priority for both you and for London. However, this is such a small site (0.132 hectares or about 15% of a football pitch) that even at the height and density proposed the total number of units is only 39. Given that the Council’s target over the 2015-30 timescale is to add 25,860 units and that 33,538 new homes are already in the pipeline, it would seem a pity to break planning guidelines and offend local residents for such a minor addition.

“As recently as March 2016 Wandsworth produced its Site Specific Allocations Document listing many potential housing sites in the Borough. This site was not included and was not considered to be a contributor to the housing targets, because it was then part of the Battersea Technology College school site. The site is indeed so far from critical to reaching the Council’s housing targets that it has never even been included in the plans.

“The change factor has been the change in the school status from being a state school to being part of the Harris Academy chain, at which point motivations changed and squeezing as much capital value as possible out of the site became the prime motivator. Hence a site, which had perhaps only a limited value as a schoolkeeper’s house became worth a great deal more as the site for the development of high quality residential units.

“Immediate neighbours who had been living next to a small, under-used, over-grown site might have expected a future development on the scale of, say, Merryfield Court (as referenced in Mr. Forster’s letter). But instead they have found themselves faced with the prospect of a dominating 14 storey block. Unsurprisingly of 217 comments from neighbours and interested parties, 205 have objected and several petitions have been collected against the proposal. The Mayor will know, as indeed will planners, just how significant it is to get that many objections from an area dominated by social and private tenants as opposed to owner occupiers. The proposal is massively unpopular in the immediate neighbourhood.

“Secondly, the proportion of affordable housing is possibly even more important to you than the raw number of housing units. At barely 20%, with only 8 of 39 units, being affordable, this hardly scratches the surface of acceptability. Worse they are all intermediate units and not rental units, so that the expected income of aspirants to even a one-bed flat is £46,000 p.a. with the remaining units affordable to applicants with gross incomes up to the GLA limit of £90,000 p.a. This surely exposes the myth of these units being affordable for the average Londoner or Wandsworth resident.

“Thirdly, the “benefits justification” for granting this permission is totally inadequate. The largest element of the justification appears to be the provision of sports facilities to Harris Academy. This, of course, is good news for the pupils of the Academy (and goes someway to explaining the very small number of residents supporting the proposal) but in terms of capital value the development benefits a private school, even one which educates state funded pupils. The benefit does not accrue in any way to the public as a capital asset.

“So Wandsworth’s own Conservation Advisory Committee said on 14th November 2016, when considering the impact of the planned development on the Latchmere Estate and Battersea Park Conservation Areas, “there is insufficient justification for a building of this height, which will cause harm to the setting (of these two conservation areas)”. The Committee went on to say that “public benefit has been identified BUT if the building proposed is the wrong fit for the site then these public benefits should be seen as irrelevant in terms of justification”.

“Fourth, the 22 storey Castlemaine block appears to be adopted by Wandsworth planners as the benchmark for the area and hence justifying the 14 storeys proposed for 3 Culvert Road. As a local councillor, I know that the popular view in the area would very much be that Castlemaine was an aberration of the 1960’s tower block craze. It has blighted, rather than enhanced, the area and definitely should not be used as a benchmark of anything other than what modern developments should try and avoid.

“Finally, I would briefly re-iterate Mr. Forster’s primary points: –

  • Wandsworth Council policy setting the site in an area where tall buildings of five stories or higher are inappropriate
  • re the impact on the residents of 2-32 Culvert Road, of Merryfield Court and of Battersea Park Road
  • density levels between two and three times greater than the London plan, i.e. 765 hrph (habitable rooms per hectare) as opposed to 200-450.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Belton, Wandsworth Labour councillor and Planning speaker

I hope that you give my letter and Mr. Forster’s objections due consideration.

OBITUARY – MAURICE JOHNSON

WANDSWORTH COUNCILLOR AND HONORARY ALDERMAN

By Penny Corfield and Tony Belton

The death has just been announced of Councillor Maurice Johnson, aged 84. It comes as a surprise because he seemed to be one of those indestructible forces of life. During his twenty years as a Labour Councillor in Latchmere (1990-2010), he was assiduous in his attendance and passionate in his commitment to opposing injustice and discrimination. He talked with a famously rapid-fire delivery, so that sometimes it could be hard to follow all the details of his speeches. But no one could miss his serious intent.

After his retirement as a Councillor in 2010 and in tribute to his long service on Wandsworth Council, Maurice was elected an honorary Alderman. In that capacity, he continued to attend many Council ceremonial events; and to maintain contacts with his friends from across the political spectrum.

Maurice lived on Latchmere’s Kambala Estate, where he and his large family are well known. They remain a warm and close-knit group. They had experienced sadness from family bereavements, which Maurice bore with dignity. He was a very kind-hearted person, good at sympathising with others when they were facing problems. Penny Corfield remembers his words of consolation to her when she was deeply upset by her brother’s death. Maurice not only knew what to say at the time; but also, in the years that followed, always remembered to ask after her brother’s children. That detail showed his quiet caring side, which ran alongside his outer image of boisterous energy.

Tony Belton remembers canvassing with Maurice in Winstanley Road. “It was almost like a royal procession; we hardly walked a yard before another passer-by, young or old, man or woman, stopped to exchange pleasantries with Maurice. Almost anywhere I canvassed the punters knew who my fellow candidate was.

“Maurice also had a popular appeal that worked well with many an audience. I remember on one occasion in the 90’s when the Tories were making typically nasty cuts to services. I had opposed them with typical forensic brilliance, but the packed public gallery did not respond or applaud, but then Maurice pleaded desperately to the Tories better natures. He pleaded and begged; the public gallery cheered him to the rafters. It didn’t change their votes of course, but there was no doubt about who the moral victor was that day.maurice-johnson

Lastly, it should be noted that Maurice was very proud of his Guyanese background. He served in the tradition of John Archer, Battersea’s first black Mayor and pioneer of BAME participation in civic life. His dignity in public life makes him a memorable figure for his family, his constituents, all his fellow Councillors, and Battersea Labour Party. RIP.

Here Maurice, with his daughter Laura, is being invested as an Honorary Alderman, by Mayor Stuart Thom, 2015.

Councillor Tony Belton’s January, 2017, Newslettter (# 92)

  1. The most important December event culvert-road-sitefor many Latchmere and Queenstown residents was the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) decision on 14th December to approve the 14-storey development at 3 Culvert Road. I was very sorry not to be there (see my operation below) but my objections were voiced by my fellow Latchmere councillor, Simon Hogg, who went to the PAC specifically to argue the case against the development, although as a non-member of PAC he could not vote.
  2. I know that Simon, who is the Leader of the Labour councillors, wants to fight the Borough Election in May, 2018, on, amongst other things, the issue of over-development in north Battersea. It is a view that I have held for quite a few years now. Not of course that one can be against all developments everywhere and I am not. But I have seen little evidence that all the expensive, tower block developments along the Nine Elms and Battersea river-fronts have been built to the benefit of the average Londoner – rich foreigners and top-end businessmen perhaps but not too many for ordinary Joes and Joannas.
  3. If I had been there I’d like to think that the vote might have been 4:4 and in effect decided on the Tory Chair’s casting vote, but alas the application would still have been approved. Now let’s see what Mayor Sadiq Khan makes of the application. I know Sadiq well – he was on PAC with me when he was my deputy in Wandsworth in the early 2000s. Then he would have voted against the application. Now, however, I am concerned that his overall responsibility for ensuring the development of lots of homes in London means that he might not give local objections quite the weight that he would have done 12 years ago.
  4. One issue that many residents raised with me was the issue of whether the provision of new sports facilities for the Harris Academy (as offered by the developer) could seriously be considered to be a “community” benefit. Some argued that kind of provision should be made by the tax or ratepayer and not considered to be a bargaining chip in the process of planning approvals. I completely agree with the sentiments behind that view. Unfortunately, however, that is no longer the way local government works. We are discouraged more and more from paying for services (and the corollary of raising Council tax) and encouraged more and more to “trade” for them. In Orwellian speak, we bargain with developers over how much “public” benefit they are prepared to provide in return for the Council agreeing to larger and more profitable developments.
  5. In everyday language, this would be described as selling planning permissions but of course such language is not acceptable. Advocates of this approach claim instead that we are negotiating benefits, which the public might find some kind of compensation for adversely affecting their environment. The scandalous outcome, in this case, is that the actual physical benefit of a new sports hall and associated facilities will go down as an asset in Harris Academy’s books and not as a Council asset!
  6. Still it was an argument that seemed to convince one of my Labour colleagues, who to my complete surprise and astonishment voted for the application. I intend to discuss this with her further.
  7. On Monday, 5th December, I represented the Labour councillors at St. Mary Park’s Let’s Talk Meeting at St John Bosco school. I think I have said this before but the Council really needs to re-think these sessions. Designed to keep the public more involved and concerned about local developments, the reality is that they are attended by the “same” group of highly committed local residents, who are all invariably well known to the councillors. The meetings do not impact the lives of 99.9% of the population. It is an example of seeming well meant but pointless consultation.
  8. On the 7th I was due in Chelsea and Westminsterimg_2442 for a new knee, so to “celebrate” my partner took me away for the week-end (3rd-4th) to the Goodwood Hotel. Delightful it was too; the food was excellent; they have a great indoor pool (jacuzzi and sauna of course) and on the Saturday night we went to Chichester Festival Theatre to see E.M. Forster’s “A Room with a View”, starring Felicity Kendall – not brilliant I am afraid; and on the Sunday, we had a beautiful walk round Goodwood Park (see picture), brilliant.
  9. Then came the 7th. Well, I don’t want to go on about my knee replacement. It is after all an operation that plenty of other people have had. To be fair the surgeon did say
    12/12/16, Ow!

    12/12/16, Ow!

    beforehand that I would find it very painful for two weeks. He was right except that it was at least three weeks. Now four weeks later, it feels something like normal. What do you reckon on this picture of my left leg, a week into recovery? Oh, by the way, I have been told not to show this – self-indulgent one friend says – but here goes! At least it helps the memory!

  10. The trouble with pain is that it is almost indescribable, unless perhaps one uses poetry, but I am not sure that I am up to that. Indeed, pain is of such an immediate, transient nature, that it is almost impossible to remember. Do you have a clear image of your worst toothache? All I can say is that at its worst I decided to give my knee pain 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. I have never before, ever, gone above 6.

My Programme for January

  1. On 10th January, I have a meeting of Wandsworth’s Conservation Area Advisory Committee, followed on 17th by the Planning Applications Committee.
  2. On the 23rd January, I have a meeting of the Heliport Consultative Committee. Every “large” airport in the country has to have such a committee as a consultative body between the airport and the local authority and the local communities. Battersea Heliport is the only heliport in the country so large that it falls within this rule. It is though only a consultative committee and it does not have executive powers. So we can advise on the impact of chopper noise on local residents but we cant ban particularly noisy aircraft. One limited bit of good news is, however, that we have been assured that the next generation of helicopters will be 30% quieter than today’s craft.

Do you know?

Last month I asked you, who is standing on the traditional soap box addressing the crowd? And where and when?   Congratulations to those two or three people who guessed correctly that the man on the soap box was Harold Wilson, speaking at a public meeting on the way to the October, 1964, General Election. As for where, well; close observation shows the street name as Wakehurst Road, and the meeting to be on the corner of Wakehurst and Northcote Roads.   And so, for this month’s mystery question, I am going to turn to you. I have been so pre-occupied with my operation and recovering from a new knee that I haven’t got round to working out a question. So, let me turn the tables on you, my readers, and ask you to pose a Battersea related question that I cannot answer and which I will pose to everyone else, next month.

Councillor Tony Belton’s North Battersea December, 2016, Newsletter (#91)

1.      On 1st November, I went to the Battersea Society’s organised debate at York Gardens Library on Affordable Housing. The speakers were York Gardens re Affordable HousingLord Bob Kerslake of the Peabody Trust and Councillor Paul Ellis, Wandsworth’s Tory Cabinet Member. It was well attended, but frankly I was a little disappointed. Lord Kerslake told us just how awful the housing situation is for those without their own, secure roof over their heads (he added statistical detail but we all know the “truth”) and both he and Councillor Ellis talked about what Peabody and the Council were doing to resolve the “crisis”. However, as one of the audience said, their contributions are woeful, relative to the scale of the problem. Something much bigger than their worthy but small schemes is needed now!

2.      Then on 2nd November, I was off to Wembley to seeSpurs 0 Bayer Leverkusen 1 my team, Spurs, give an embarrassingly lame performance (0-1) against Germany’s Bayern Leverkusen. You may well ask – Spurs and you get elected in Battersea! My explanation is that I was a kid in Tottenham and that loyalty never dies! But I must say, I don’t really like Wembley, at least for watching soccer. It is so enormous that the players are specks of colour on a green handkerchief in the distance; it’s nothing like as atmospheric as White Hart Lane. I do so much hope that the new Lane is more like the old one than it is to Wembley.

3.      Last month, I said I was going to have tea with William Mitchell, the sculptor img_2246who did the concrete sculptures on the Winstanley estate and on Badric Court. I did so in his Marylebone flat on 4th November. He was eloquent about how he wanted to create artworks, which relate to the estate, and interestingly, where and how he did the work, which was mainly on site, using the materials thatimg_2241 the construction guys were using at the time. I think his murals do work and interestingly they are and always have been remarkably free of graffiti. The pictures show him, looking sprightly at the age of 90 and another of his sculptures, which adorns that I had forgotten also adorn Totteridge House, Yelverton Road. Oh, and his wife made a great cup of tea.

4.      On 8th November I was at the Share Community Annual Awards in the Town Hall. What an amazing organisation Share Community is! It works with and trains people with disabilities, some quite severe and others less so. But almost all their “clients” have serious problems coping with everyday activities.Share students I admire the staff’s dedication and perhaps most of all their loving patience. I know that I would probably lose my rag with some of the clients some or most of the time. I guess that it helps that the atmosphere in the “share community” is so warm and positive. Here are Wandsworth’s Mayor Richard Field, and Share Chief Executive, Annie McDowell, appreciating one of the musical numbers performed.

5.      And on 9th November, I was at the Council’s so-called Let’s Talk meeting at Bolingbroke School. These meetings were an interesting innovation in the 1990s and were designed to give Jo & Joanna Public a chance to meet and discuss with their local elected representatives. I was at the first one in 2001, in Roehampton. But now the meetings seem to have atrophied. At this one there were more councillors and officers than members of the public and all of the public who were there were “the usual suspects”, who the councillors all knew quite well. There needs to be a “re-think”!

6.      The Queenstown ward by-election did take img_2255place on 10th November and I spent much of my time driving, usually elderly or infirm people, to the polling stations. But the significant thing is that “our man”, Aydin Dikerdem, won by 574 votes, in what, for Queenstown, was a landslide. The last time a Labour candidate had a majority this big in that ward was 1974! Well done Aydin. Here is Aydin, with his agent Battersea resident Amy Merrigan.

7.      I was at the Remembrance Day Service inimg_2258 Battersea Park on Remembrance Day itself. As is usually the case, by some strange quirk of the weather gods, the day was beautiful and bright. It was a good experience and led me into a peaceful moment of contemplation, not least about the futility and waste of the once so-called Great War. Fellow Councillor Simon Hogg is to be seen in the middle left deep in conversation with the military.

8.      The fund-raising dinner in Providence House, on the Falcon Road, on 12th November was a fun event, which made over £4,000 for the club. “Providence” is by far Latchmere’s largest youth club and deserves to be suppozoo6rted. Here is a picture of the Providence House farm on Dartmoor, where many of the club members get an opportunity to stay and “muck in” around the farm.

9.      I took my grand-children to London Zoo on Sunday 13th. Here we are plus three giraffes, courtesy of a tourist, like us. I am on the left then there’s Pen, Scarlett, Melissa, Jaimie and Jez.

10.   I had an uneventful Conservation Area Advisory img_2434Committee on 14th November and 2 days later the Planning Applications Committee, which was dominated by discussion of the plan to install an artificial grass pitch in the southern part of Falcon Park. Wandsworth Council planners claimed that the new pitch would only take up 22% of the park, but that really is a case of proving anything with figures as at least another 18% of the park will become such fringe areas as to be almost unusable, resulting in about 40% of the whole, effectively being lost. I, of course, voted against this proposal but I am afraid that it went through by 5 Tory councillors’ votes to 3 Labour votes. In this illustration the pitch is olive green and the “usable” area of the park is in light green and it clearly shows the difficulty of fitting a rectangular quart into a banana shaped park.

11.   Did you notice that from November 18th the 319 Bus started a Night Service. On its route between Streatham Hill and Sloane Square station it runs right through the heart of North Battersea and also stops at Tooting Bec tube station. Running every 30 minutes it will be a boon to all night-owls.

12.   One worrying prediction about the future is the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (AST)’s assessment of what is going to happen to school staffing and budgets by 2020, which is after all only just over 3 years away. Across the country school budgets are going to be cut by an average of £401 per pupil per primary school budget and yet locally Falconbrook is taking a £752 hit, Christ Church £840, Highview £810 and Westbridge a jaw-dropping £960 cut. It really does look as though this Government is looking after schools in the leafy parts of the country and making us, in the inner cities, pay. The total cut for Battersea schools is just over a whopping £4 million a year.

My Programme for December

1.      On 1st December, I have a meeting of Wandsworth’s Labour councillors. We have them every couple of months, which I don’t think is often enough, but it is our chance to get together and discuss how we are going to tackle the long-term Tory dominance of the Borough. As someone, who has not been able to solve that one for 40 years, I am of course the expert. But with Brexit to the east and Trump to the west, I don’t think that Labour positioning itself as simply a more caring, moderate version of Toryism is going to appeal any more, even if it ever did.

2.      On Monday, 5th December, I am standing in for Simon as the Labour Rep on the St. Mary Park “Let’s Talk” session at St. John Bosco College in St. Mary Park ward. It will be interesting to see just what the new school is like.

3.      Then on Wednesday, 6th December, we will have a full Council Meeting. I would no doubt be in mental anguish if, I were there having to listen to the nonsense emanating from Tory mouths (we, Labour councillors, are of course all geniuses), but actually I’ll be in physical anguish getting used to my new metal left knee, fitted that morning. And to be truthful I rather suspect that is my December but if things go really well then…….?

4.      I will be back in the Town Hall for the culvert-road-sitePlanning Applications Committee on the 14th December. The application for the corner site of Culvert and Battersea Park Roads is likely to be the major item of discussion. If you haven’t yet recorded your views, for or against, then now is the time to do so at https://planning1.wandsworth.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/GeneralSearch.aspx and look for application 2016/4188.

Do you know?

Last month I asked you, “Who was Hilda Hewlett, commemorated by a plaque on a Battersea house and one time resident of Park Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive? Was she the first woman:

a)     Licensed pilot in the UK?

b)     To run 100 yards in 13 seconds?

c)     To star opposite Lambeth born star Charlie Chaplin?”

A couple of you got it right straight-away but not many knew. She was, of course, the first licensed female pilot in the UK. If I remember rightly it was in 1910 and she was actually only the 10th licensed UK pilot at all. She went on to start her own Battersea aircraft factory, with many of her planes playing an important part in the First World War. Later, she retired to a peaceful life in New Zealand.

And so for this month’s mystery question!

On 28th November, I received this remarkable picture from my friend Christine Eccles.harold-wilson-wakehurst-road-1964 It shows an historic event in Battersea, which certainly was unknown to me. There is a road sign to give a clue as to where it is and the clothing gives a pretty good indication of the period, but can anyone suggest anything more specific about the date and who is standing on the traditional soap box addressing the crowd?

 

Councillor Tony Belton’s North Battersea* November, 2016, Newsletter (#90)

  1. * Note: Now covering North Battersea and not just Latchmere, because of popular demand (!), but the Newsletter will continue to be largely Latchmere based.

  2. I didn’t get to the Katherine Low Settlement AGM on 5th October as I had a meeting of Planning Committee members with the Chairs of the Wandsworth Design Panel. Given comments some of you make about planning in Wandsworth, I realise that you will be astonished to hear that we have a design panel – but we do! There was a helpful exchange of views but the architects, planners and design experts on the panels clearly have a more pro-development attitude than do many residents – development is, of course, the developers’ job. The end result is, I think, that the design panel finds you (and me, perhaps) and the public, a bit too conservative in our tastes; it’s as though they want to wake up in the morning and see an exciting new “concept” building outside their front window, whereas most of us want the view to look tomorrow pretty much as it does today.

  3. The next day I went to a Reception given by the Covent Garden Market Authority. The Market is the site of one of the largest single developments in British history – I suspect as a single site it is even larger than the Power Station but maybe not. The planned amount of affordable housing included in it and, even more importantly, of “social rent” properties is lamentably low and some of us are for ever pushing for more and more of both. On this occasion, however, it was the Chair of the traders, who stole the show with a plea to safeguard the actual traders, who are of course the raison d’etre of the Market. Will his plea have any effect? I hope so, as a very high percentage of London hotel and restaurant food and nearly all the flowers that get into our shops come through the Market and its traders.

  4. Appropriately at the Council Meeting on 12th October one of the two main debates was about Nine Elms, the US Embassy, the developments and what the Tories like to call “Aspirations”. A central feature of the debate was the decision of Apple to move its UK headquarters into the Power Station.
  5. But the Tories seem to think that “aspirations” equates to expensive housing developments and the presence of a Waitrose. They don’t give the impression of caring what is happening to much of the local Battersea community or to the housing aspirations of the many lower paid staff, who will service these developments.
  6. And as for the Power Station itself! It certainly is looking a mess, but, perhaps more worryingly, given the size of the new blocks of flats around it, the only chance to see the Power Station itself, will be from the new flats, the Chelsea Embankment or from a plane flying into Heathrow! (see Aydin picture below)
  7. The other debate at the Council Meeting was about the very worrying financial chaos that surrounds St. George’s Hospital. With more than half of NHS Trusts now facing financial difficulties, it must be the case that either all administrators in the NHS have all become incompetent overnight (which is unlikely) or this Government is starving them of funds – which is more likely as I, and recently members of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, suggest.

  8. Monday 17th was an interesting day. A few weeks earlier, img_2198    I had been asked by email if I was prepared to take part in a Brains’ Trust circuit touring universities. It was all very vague as to what it was about and who it was for, but I volunteered 2 dates anyway. The 17th was the first date, but when Monday arrived I had heard nothing and expected “it” not to happen – whatever it was. But when I looked at my email that morning there was a rail ticket to Norwich for that afternoon.
  9. I got to Norwich at about 5 pm and discovered that the four of us (in the picture here) were there to be taken by taxi to speak at “The Great Debate, 2016” (#gtd2016), organised by the Afro-Caribbean students at East Anglia University. There were 50 people at the debate and my guess is that I was the only one over 30 years’ old. I was certainly the only white “Brit” there – there were a couple of Bulgarians. The debates were about “Getting a job”, Brexit and Black Lives Matter.
  10. The students were very bright, mainly Londoners; the debate was lively, and very “respectful”. It was fascinating and gave me a slightly different perspective on these issues. For example, the students seemed much more materialist in terms of their career expectations than my generation of students had been; they were almost unanimously horrified by Brexit; and they were, not surprisingly, very much more “angry” about the recent spate of US police killings of black men than the average “Brit”. I think the average Brit is not really very conscious of how close many Caribbean Brits are to many black Americans, who may well have come from the same families back in Jamaica or elsewhere.

  11. On the 19th I had the Planning Applications Committee. There was only one application of really direct interest to Latchmere and that was for 105 Meyrick Road. The application was to demolish what used to be the Duke of Wellington pub and to replace it with a 10-storey block of flats. The application was refused, much to the pleasure of both current residents and some neighbours.
  12. There were two more applications for large developments in timg_2223he Nine Elms Lane area – one of them including 25% “affordable” housing, more than the average. “Affordable” housing is, of course, a bureaucratic invention and means a property affordable to the average person on £75,000 a year – which of course is not very average!
  13. Rather more interesting perhaps was an application from Tesco to convert the Prince of Wales pub at 186 Battersea Bridge Road into a convenience store. We turned that down, against the planning officers’ recommendation, for two main reasons. First, we felt that there are completely inadequate facilities for loading and delivery from Tesco lorries at this tight corner site, and secondly, we thought that a Tesco at this corner, however popular it would be to some, would undermine local shopping in Battersea Park and Battersea Bridge Roads.

  14. On the 20th I went to the Council’s Heliport Consultative Committee. There was not a lot of general interest except that we were told the good news that the newer generation of choppers coming out in the next 10 years or so will be 30% less noisy than today’s models. Of much greater interest, however, was the announcement that the Government intends to press ahead with Heathrow’s Third Runway. Wandsworth Council is very much against this development and may, with other local authorities, take legal action to try and prevent it. One local MP, Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) has resigned and is forcing a img_2208by-election. Our MPs are against it, but actually in my many years as a Latchmere councillor I have only ever had a couple of complaints about aircraft noise. Please, let me know what you think. Why not just hit reply NOW and say “I am against the third runway” or “I think a third runway would be good for London”?

  15. I spent 22nd/23rd weekend at my brother-in-law’s at Westcliff-on-Sea. So! I hear you say, but just take a look at this sunset over the Thames in late October – almost sunbathing weather at Southend.

  16. I was invited to meet North Battersea residents’ associations on 25th October at the Kambala img_2218club-room – pictured here, with Kambala Chair, Donna Barham. There were, maybe 20 tenants and leaseholders from the Kambala, York Road, the Doddington, Surrey Lane and other estates. They wanted to tell me their complaints about cleaning on estates – or the lack of it – and the Council’s inadequate response to resident complaints. I intend to take up their problems but the question is, “Will I get any effective response from the Council?” Watch this space for further developments.

  17. Some of you have asked about the quince and img_2228my attempt to make quince jelly. I am afraid it never set! Still I have been using it as a sauce – goes well with pork.

  18. And finally, on October 31st guess what I saw on a Battersea house! And did I see it moving?

My Programme for November

  1. On 1st November, the Battersea Society has organised a debate at York Gardens Library on Affordable Housing. The speakers are Lord Bob Kerslake of the Peabody Trust and Councillor Paul Ellis, Wandsworth’s Tory Cabinet Member (that’s Wandsworth’s Cabinet and not the real Cabinet – how I dislike that pompous bit of nomenclature!) for Housing. I know Ellis, of course – he is a Wandsworth councillor, but funnily enough I also know Bob quite well as years ago we worked together at County Hall for the GLC (Greater London Council). I look forward to seeing them debating this important issue.

    Winstanley Estate

    Winstanley Estate

  2. You may remember that last month I featured William Mitchell, the sculptor who did the concrete sculptures on the Winstanley estate and on Badric Court. I said that his work will feature in the forthcoming Winstanley News. Well, I am going to visit him on 4th November – that should be fascinating.
  3. I intend to go to the Share Community Annual Awards on 8th November and on 9th November, I will be representing the Labour councillors at a public meeting being held at Bolingbroke School.
  4. The Queenstown ward by-election will take place ondsc_0318 10th November and so that will keep me busy, especially on the day. Our candidate, pictured here, is Aydin Dikerdem, a 26-year old, Battersea born and bred lad of Turkish extraction. The previous Labour councillor Sally-Ann Ephson had a majority of only 75 and so it will be a tough fight for Aydin holding off the Tory challenger, but if he wins I am sure he will add vigour and enthusiasm to the Labour group of councillors.
  5. On 12th November, I will be attending a fund raiser at Providence House, Falcon Road. Providence House is the most important youth club in Clapham Junction and the evening should be fun.
  6. But perhaps not quite as much as taking my grand-children to London Zoo on Sunday 13th.
  7. On the 14th I have the Conservation Area Advisory Committee and 2 days later the Planning Applications Committee. I suspect that the application at the corner of Culvert and Battersea Park Roads, which I featured last month and is pictured here, will not be considered. It is more likely to be in December or January. But please let me know what you think of this application – again hit “reply” and tell me what you think.
  8. On the 26th I have the so-called London Summit. It is when Mayor Sadiq Khan invites all London’s councillors to discuss his and others’ plans for the next couple of years. You may recall that Sadiq was my deputy as Labour Leader on Wandsworth Council for several years up to 2005. It will be great to hear his ideas for our city.

Do you know?

Last month I asked you, whether you knew the connection between Christ Church School, at the end of Este Road, and the nearby Shillington Old School Building? And can you name one of its early pupils?   The answers are – the local parish started Christ Church school in about 1864. But the parish couldn’t maintain the school in competition with the new state school, the London Board School of Este Road. In 1883 that school moved into the Shillington Street site, now flats, and the Batten Street site reverted to being Christ Church – and that was the connection. As for the pupil, it was the later famous John Burns.

This month let me ask you, “Who was Hilda Hewlett, commemorated by a plaque on a Battersea house and one time resident of Park Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive? Was she the first woman:

a)     Licensed pilot in the UK?

b)     To run 100 yards in 13 seconds?

c)     To star opposite Lambeth born star Charlie Chaplin?”

Read More…

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere October, 2016, Newsletter (# 89)

 

  1. Very sadly, my colleague, Councillor Sally-Ann Ephson died on 31st August (born 11th November 1966). I last saw Sally-Ann a month earlier in St. George’s Hospital; she was clearly in considerable pain. She suffered from sickle cell disease and was an important member of the Sickle Cell Society, serving on its management board.
  2. Sally-Ann was born in Hackney but soon moved to Battersea, where she lived for many years, actually on the Latchmere estate, until moving to Broadwater Road in Tooting. Three years ago she was chosen as one of the Labour candidates for Queenstown ward in the 2014 Borough Election. When she won she became the first Labour Queenstown councillor since 1990.
  3. Sally-Ann fought hard against considerable difficulties but img_0834always expressed great concern for her constituents, retained her sense of humour and supported her colleagues. Her death is a sad loss. Sally-Ann’s funeral took place on 29th September and her wake was held at York Gardens Library.
  4. Unfortunately my cousin’s funeral was held on the same day and I was unable to be there, but a friend took this picture of the magnificent hearse – not technically the greatest picture you have ever seen but not a common sight on the streets of Battersea, these days.
  5. As you may remember from my last newsletter, on 23rd20160907_175325 August I went off for a holiday to Florence and then the Croatian coast. We went by train to Florence – beautiful, had a Conference in Florence – sweltering, and then on to the Croatian coast – brilliant.
  6. I had the Planning Applications Committee on 15th. There were a couple of applications of real interest to parts of Latchmere. First there was an application for 15-27 Falcon Road, the block between Patience and Afghan Roads, for a three to five storey block consisting of shops, offices and 25 flats. 15-27-falcon-roadThere was local opposition to the height and size of the block, but the application was agreed by a majority of the Committee – I voted against.
  7. The second was for a basement in Atherton Street. It was not in itself a big application but it was for a basement conversion and raises questions about the level of planning controls that local authorities have over basements. The answer is, I am afraid not much. I presented the local residents’ objections to the application but it was passed overwhelmingly.img_2192
  8. Other interesting applications were for the re-
    Heliport

    Heliport House

    construction of The Alchemist – the pub on St. John’s Hill, opposite the Health Centre, “illegally” demolished five years ago. And, as usual, there were applications for yet further large developments in Nine Elms. There was also an application for a very modern, “alternative” design 15 storey block next to the Heliport and pictured here. It looks interesting or mad, depending upon your tastes, but one thing is for sure: I certainly don’t vote against all new development, but I think this one is totally inappropriate: the skyline and nature of Battersea is changing fast, and is under pressure to change future.

  9. On the 15th I attended the Police’s Latchmere Safer Neighbourhood Team, in the George Shearing Centre, in Este Road. After the long summer break there was not a lot to discuss, but to note the departure of our police PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) Shirley Aitken, who will be much missed by many. She is now off, I am afraid, to pastures new. Good luck to her.
  10. That week-end I visited someone, who has a quince tree in the garden. Have you ever come across a quince tree and quince fruit? I must confess that I hadn’t previously done so. I brought back 3lbs worth and tried my hand at making quince jelly. Not sure about how successful it is going to be – I am not sure that it has set properly – but it’s a first for me!
  11. On the 19th September I went to the culvert-road-siteWandsworth Conservation Advisory Committee. I have had reservations about this committee in the past. It seemed to spend all its time worrying about rather nice houses in rather nice parts of the Borough without worrying too much about places, where the majority of us actually live. However, at this meeting the Committee came out strongly and unanimously against the current proposal for a 14-storey block at Culvert Road, which is to be considered at a future (November, I suspect) Planning Applications Committee – see picture. If you have views on this application then let me know and/or post them on the Council’s website at https://planning.wandsworth.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do?appType=planning&appNumber=2016/4188 – don’t mind the apparent closure date for consultations; the Council is legally bound to note all observations right up to the moment of decision.
  12. The next day I went to the Community Services Committee. This deals with almost everything that is not housing, social services or education, that is everything you see when you walk out of the front door – pavements, street surfaces, trees, litter, parks, street lights, drains, air pollution, noise, etc., etc. Two interesting items were the decision to increase the number of parking spaces and associated chargers devoted to electric cars, and to introduce 50% charging for motor bike parking.
  13. But on this occasion, the major issue that exercised the
    Chestnut Avenue

    Chestnut Avenue

    Committee was the future of an avenue of chestnut trees on Tooting Common! OK, so I know most of you have never been there but take a look at this picture of the avenue: they are splendid, aren’t they?

  14. The trouble is that many of the trees are diseased and rotting: and the problem is, do you replace a set of mature trees in one clean sweep and have a new avenue, saplings all the same age maturing together, or replace them piecemeal? We decided to take the radical option and replace them all at one swoop!
  15. And “What about the Labour Party Conference? I hear you say, and quite rightly too. I could hardly be your local Labour representative and ignore what is happening in the Labour Party nationally. First of all, let me say that in the end I decided not to go.
  16. However, I voted for Jeremy Corbyn, but not because I think he is, or looks like being, a great leader. Unfortunately, I did not think that the alternatives in 2015, or Owen Smith this year, had done better. In my view, Corbyn is more “right” in his opposition to Tory cuts than the other candidates (proved by the speed with which the new Chancellor is ditching Osborne’s policies at the Tory Party Conference). Corbyn is also untainted with any connection to the Iraq War. I confess that at the time I supported the Iraq War but it turns out to have been the most disastrous, and most deadly, foreign policy mistake made by the UK since 1945. (In addition, I think that this year’s attempted coup against Corbyn was desperately badly bungled and has not helped him or the party).
  17. Incidentally, as a councillor, I have been given early warning of the major works taking place over the next couple of years at Waterloo station. The aim is to lengthen platforms 1-4 so that they can take the new, longer trains, but in the meantime the Channel Tunnel platforms (I suppose platforms 23-27?) will be used with much changing of points and signals and, no doubt, much chaos. Commuting isn’t likely to get easier just yet!

My Programme for October

  1. Unfortunately, following Councillor Ephson’s death, we will be having a by-election in Queenstown ward. It looks like being on 10th or 17th November so no doubt I will be spending much of my time working on that by-election.
  2. On 5th October, there is the Katherine Low Settlement’s Annual Meeting, but, as it clashes with other meetings, I am not sure that I will get there.
  3. There is a Covent Garden Market Reception at lunchtime on 6th October, when we will learn more about the next stages of redevelopment down Nine Elms Lane. And in the evening, I have a meeting of the Labour councilors.
  4. There is Wandsworth’s Council Meeting on 12th October. On the 19th I have the Planning Applications Committee and on the 20th the Heliport Consultative Committee.

Do you know?

Winstanley Estate

Winstanley Estate

 

Last month I asked you, Who was the sculptor of the concrete murals on the Winstanley estate? The answer is William Mitchell, who also sculpted an installation on nearby Badric Court. Mitchell was born in 1925 and is a sculptor, artist and designer. He trained in London and is

Shillington Old School

Shillington Old School

known for works at Clifton Cathedral and several London County Council developments: some of the works are listed. He now lives in Cumbria. Having drawn this to the attention of the Town Hall, I think Mitchell may figure in the next “Winstanley News”.

 

This month, can I ask who knows the connection between , at the end of Este Road, and the nearby Shillington Old School Building, a beacon of light – pictured here? And it isn’t simply that they are neighbours – oh and can you name one famous ex-pupil of Christ Church?

Councillor Tony Belton’s North Battersea, September, 2016, Newsletter (# 88)

1.      OK, so I know it’s still August but I am off tomorrow and won’t be back until well into September and so here is a very short September Newsletter.

2.      I wasn’t really complaining last month, just commenting, that I had received a criticism of the July newsletter, but I would like to thank you for the many very positive responses I got in reply to that criticism. In fact, as a number of you remarked on the scale of Wandsworth Council’s operations, it has given me lots of ideas for my future “Did you know” sections!

3.      So what did happen in August? Well, I started, as promised, on August 2nd by reviewing, with members of the Battersea Society, their suggested list of buildings of local historic and/or architectural significance. It was a magnificently eclectic list, ranging from stink pipes (built over Victorian sewers to allow the smell to escape – yes, there are a couple that I know of in Battersea) to Victorian post boxes, from splendid nineteenth-century houses to long sets of granite paving stones. We even decided to ask for the listing of four Winstanley murals – see “Did you know?” below.

4.     I had my Council surgery

St. Mary's RC school, Queenstown

St. Mary’s RC school, Queenstown

in Battersea Reference Library on Saturday, 6th August, and then on 10th August I visited the new St. Mary’s R. C. Primary School in Lockington Road. The site is called Battersea Exchange as a reference to the connection between Battersea Park and Queenstown Road railway stations. It is developing fast, and will contain several hundred flats, as well as the school which will open for some classes this September. It should be noted that a few years ago, the school would have been built by the Council, using taxpayer money, but this school is built as a by-product of private development. Is that a good thing? Saves us all money but possibly only at the cost of allowing bigger, more profitable developments?

Pedalos on way home

Pedalos on way home

5.     On the 7th I, and my partner, decided to go to Weymouth for a day trip from Clapham Junction. It was a great day, very sunny and warm, and a reminder of just how good it is to have CJ on our door-step and, therefore, every south coast resort within a couple of hours from home.

Wandle, Charlie Reed, Turf Project

Wandle, Charlie Reed, Turf Project

6.     On the 12th I was persuaded to go to an exhibition on the River Wandle: A constant Amid Change Exhibition. It was organised by the Turf Centre, Croydon, which is a non-profit artist-run community project. Actually if you know as much about the River Wandle and its long industrial history as I do, then you would find it disappointing, but as East Croydon is only 10 minutes from CJ it was no great hardship. (The first Council I ever served on (1971-74) started the Wandle Walk alongside the river. It seemed a bit of a joke back then but now it really is a pedestrian and bicycle highway). It was a small exhibition of the paintings by local school teacher Charlie Reed and in themselves they were nice enough. This was my favourite.

7.     I had the Planning Applications Committee on 15th. It really was a nothing event with only 7 really minor applications, but the hot news, that has a big impact on

Hope Street Sports

Hope Street Sports

Latchmere, is that the Hope Street Sports Centre has been saved for at least a couple more years. This happy reprieve is, perhaps, a completely unexpected result of the Brexit vote, because, instead of proceeding with a private development of luxury properties, just off Shuttleworth Road, the company concerned is selling its stake in the site to Wandsworth Council for council housing. The site will be used to re-house tenants and leaseholders from the Winstanley, during the regeneration.

8.     I think that Simon Hogg, Wendy Speck and I can reasonably claim some credit for this outcome as ward councillors. We have kept constant pressure on the Wandsworth administration for a full one:one replacement of social housing being redeveloped on the estate and for the Hope Street Centre to be kept until an adequate replacement is provided as part of the Winstanley regeneration. This new site frees up space for the Council both to provide social housing and keep the Centre open.

9.     Another piece of good news is that as well as starting night services on the Northern and Central lines of the underground as from 19th August, Transport for London (TFL) announced an improvement of evening and week-end services for the 344, a bus route, which many of you use. The improvement is an increase in regularity with it becoming a one in 10 minute as opposed to 12-minute service; sounds really small but it is an 18% increase!

10. On the 18th we had the by-election in Tooting ward. Labour’s candidate, Paul White, a close friend, won with a majority of 823, which represents a swing to Labour of over 8%. The turn-out of 20% was, of course, very low as it always was likely to be for an August by-election, but nevertheless it was a welcome victory.

11. On 19th August, we are going to stay with Mary Jay, Douglas Jay’s widow, in Oxfordshire. Most readers will not know either Douglas or Mary, but Douglas was Battersea’s M.P. from 1946-1973 and a member of Harold Wilson’s Cabinet, 1964-67. Douglas was a doughty politician – he campaigned against the inner London motorway box and won (the Box would have obliterated much of modern Battersea, creating a Spaghetti Junction centred on the Latchmere) and against Britain’s entry into what was then the Common Market (and lost). I wonder what he would have said about the Referendum result. I know he would have been very dismissive about the Referendum so-called “debate”.

12. And on Monday, 23rd, I am off for my three-week holiday to Florence and then the Croatian coast.

My Programme for September

1.     I am at the Planning Applications Committee on the 14th September.

2.     And the Met Police’s Special Neighbourhood Team (SNT) meeting at the George Shearing centre on the15th, although I must admit that recently I have missed the SNT rather more than I would have liked.

3.     I have the Wandsworth Conservation Area Committee on the 19th September. And on 20th, the Community Services Committee.

4.     Then on Saturday 24th September I have the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. I am not at all sure that I will be going to it, even though it can be great fun. This year though it will be much enlivened, for good or for ill, by the announcement of the result of our big Leadership Election between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith. What price a peaceful week after that?

Do you know?

Last month I asked which 150th anniversary was being celebrated this year at the Este Road Fire Station. It was in fact the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan Fire Service. And the Este Road building was said to be a “cut-price” miniature of the Victoria Embankment’s London Fire Brigade Headquarters. Do you see the resemblance?

Winstanley Estate

Winstanley Estate

I said in paragraph 3 above that we asked for the listing of four murals on the Winstanley estate. Here is one of them in Thomas Baines Road. Had you ever really stopped and looked at it? And can you tell me anything about them, such as the name of the sculptor?

Why throw money at the Town Halls to resolve the financial crisis?

In my last blog I suggested that the Government should use local authorities to kick start the economy. There are many advantages to using local authorities rather than very large infrastructure schemes like HS2, Hinckley Point nuclear power station, Trident replacement or even the Olympic Games.

Many of these very large capital projects are politically contentious and sometimes very slow to have an impact. Most get bogged down in expensive public enquiries and a proportion probably won’t come off. What is more much of the early expenditure is spent on highly paid staff, such as lawyers, architects and designers and not construction and support staff. An equivalent £1billion spread amongst Britain’s 500 plus local authorities would, on the other hand, have an almost immediate impact.

£10 or £20 million given to my local authority, Wandsworth, could be used to buy every school pupil a laptop or to implement 10 or 20 small, local environmental improvements. I think we would have little problem in spending most of it within a couple of years, with an immediate small but significant local economic impact. Such a nation-wide scheme might, of course, include some silly, vanity projects and some failures but nothing as disastrous and costly as failed and useless mega-projects. What is more such a scheme could easily be targeted to, say, the local authorities in the poorest parts of the country, with the highest unemployment rates or the worst health statistics.

I see William Keegan in the Observer (7th August 2016) agrees with me about using local authorities to kick start the economy, though I must confess I am more one of his disciples than the other way round!

A similar suggestion comes from one of today’s great iconoclasts, Simon Jenkins. He suggests that the simplest solution would be to throw money directly at people. His suggestion reminds me of Alistair Darling’s scrappage scheme, which gave people £2,000 to car owners to scrap their old car and buy a new one. But Jenkins’ idea is more open-ended, in that people could spend on clothing, food or, and here’s the rub, foreign holidays – I have nothing against foreign countries, of course, but, if one is trying to kick start the UK economy then giving it all to Benidorm seems rather pointless.

The problem with Jenkins’ idea is, it seems to me, that it is not targeted to those most in need and there would, I think, be considerable difficulty in targeting, say, the lower paid or the unemployed. It is an interesting idea and gets round Jenkins’ perennial scepticism about bureaucracy. But the time of local democracy has come (again). Think of Joseph Chamberlain in Birmingham in the 1880s or John Burns in Battersea in the 1900s, think of Attlee and McMillan boosting council house building in the 1940s and 1950s.

Boosting the local economy means boosting local democracy and society. Forget quantitative easing, which goes to the banks; forget big vanity projects, over-budget, over-time; think local – NOW.

Austerity in the Town Halls; Recession out there for working people

Today the Bank of England took crisis action by lowering interest rates to 0.25% and throwing money at the business heights of the economy. Will it work? Cutting rates to 0.5% seven years ago didn’t. Nothing, Osborne did, really changed the equation.

What would work immediately, however, would be to take the heat off public expenditure. What do I mean?

Well right now Wandsworth and Richmond-upon-Thames are cutting service levels and reducing the number of jobs right here in south west London under pressure from this Government’s cuts in local government grants; 400 jobs to be precise. And all because the Tory party has an ideological commitment to reducing the size of the state – whatever that means.

The same thing, and worse, is happening in every local authority across the country. Similar cuts are happening in many more public sector organisations.

Meanwhile what do the councillors do? Well, all of us were under great pressure to vote for the jobs cuts. The majority (Tory) party councillors voted for the cuts because they cannot face opposing “their” government and the minority (Labour) councillors are not in a position to defy the government and are “scared” of being accused of voting for an increased Council Tax.

I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Ted Heath Government (1970-74), the Thatcher Government (about 1982-86) and the first Tony Blair Government (1997-2002) faced similar economic crises. What did they do? They threw money at local government with orders to spend, spend, spend in an attempt to kick-start the economy.

The public sector turned out to be far more effective than throwing money at the banks; that was tried in 2009 and it didn’t work.

Just when will Teresa May take the same kind of actions and just how silly will the cuts of 2010-16 look when that happens?

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere August, 2016, Newsletter (# 87)

  1. I received one criticism of my last newsletter, which said that I spent too much time talking about planning applications and the elections of the last couple of months. My critic also said that I failed to cover some Council matters. I think a quick defence is due. Firstly I have always said that this blog is a diary, my diary, of being a councillor. I have never claimed to cover everything and nor could I. Perhaps not everyone realises that Wandsworth Council’s turnover is only just less than £1 billion, yes billion and not just a million a year; that its rental income alone amounts to more than £110 million; that the property assets of the Council (remember many thousands of council flats and houses, swimming pools, offices, etc.) are worth £2billions; and that, if the Council were measured in the same way as private companies, it would be about 160 in the Footsie 250.
  2. Secondly, if an elected councillor didn’t mention elections in the two months when we had a Mayoral election, the Referendum and a Parliamentary by-election in the Borough, perhaps some would make criticisms – the other way. So to my critic, I note your comments and will try to take the spirit of them on board but I don’t totally agree!
  3. I wrote last month of the flooding that affected Sendall Court and its neighbours Shaw and Clark Lawrence Courts. The floods messed up the lifts in the three blocks but Sendall Court’s lifts were out of action for the best part of a week and, what is worse, the staircase, which has no natural light, was in total darkness. So, I asked a Council Question (like Prime Minister’s Question Time but not quite!) at the Council Meeting on 20th July and at last got an answer on 28th July.
  4. It was a bureaucratic answer, like one expects from insurance companies,    https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44848/Council%20Questions%20and%20Answers%2020th%20July%202016%20final.pdf, Question 31, page 33/60), and not at all what the residents deserve. I will be putting the case throughout the summer. I will be arguing that those living on the 5th to 10th floor young or old, fit or not so fit, should get at least a £50 goodwill cut from their rent or service charges.
  5. While I am writing about very, specific local issues, I would like to announce that I won an argument for a tenant living in one of the very rare private flats in the area bounded by the railway, Falcon, Plough and York Roads, and who has zero access to parking facilities – neither a residents’ nor a tenants’ nor a leaseholders’ parking permit. The Council have agreed that he should be able to buy a council parking permit to use in one of the very much under-used council carparks, such as the ones in Grant Road. There are a few other people similarly living with this problem, for example in St. Luke’s Court, Falcon Road or the flats at 105 Meyrick Road. I would be pleased to hear from any of you if you think you need the same facility.
  6. Meanwhile on the 1st July, my niece and her husband took me and t’other half to the Hammersmith Apollo to see Bill Bailey, the comedian. It was a very amusing and very cleverly crafted show and he is clearly brilliant at very shaggy dog stories. One I remember was about taking his extended family into the forested depths of Finland, about dog sleds and getting snowed in, about grandmas falling off sleds, and all in order to see the Northern Lights. It had all the elements of a good shaggy dog, with endless details before the punchline, which effectively was that it was total cloud cover that night in June in the depths of the Finnish forests. Instead, the best place to see the Northern Lights that night was Dagenham!
  7. On Monday, 4th July, I took High View School’s Council on a visit to meet the Mayor of Wandsworth and to see the Council Chamber. The Mayor, with some of the staff and me, gave a “lesson” about what your council does. I think the picture of the School Council standing round and behind the Mayor’s chair shows that they enjoyed the visit.
  8. On the 5th I had the Community Services Committee, where amongst the items for discussion were the extension/rejection of CPZ (controlled parking zones or meters) schemes in the Eltringham/Petergate and Holgate/Maysoule areas. There was agreement to introduce Saturday restrictions in Eltringham and Petergate but to refuse the petition for a CPZ in Holgate/Maysoule. The reasons are given in two Committee papers, which can be seen at https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44394/16-269%20Eltringham%20Road%20CPZ%202nd%20review.pdf and https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44398/16-270%20Holgate-outcome%20consultation-June2016%20v2.pdf. However, I think there may be scope to resolve the problems some Holgate residents have in much the same way as I referred to in Paragraph 5 above. So if you are interested then please contact me.
  9. On the 9th July, I went, as I do most years, to the Triangle (Poyntz, Knowles, Shellwood roads) Street party. It was as enjoyable as ever with the Mayor and the Fire Brigade putting in guest appearances. But I am afraid that there were fewer people there than usual. Maybe this was because it was a cool, July evening, of which there have been rather too many this summer!
  10. I was lobbied during the month by residents wanting to know what might happen in Falcon Park. There is, as many will know, a plan for a new artificial pitch, but I was asked whether there was any chance of the artificial football pitch at the neighbouring Sacred Heart school site being expanded. I made enquiries at the Town Hall and got the kind of bureaucratic, negative response that I expected. It is too long to repeat here but, if you are interested, you can access both question and answer at https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s44848/Council%20Questions%20and%20Answers%2020th%20July%202016%20final.pdf, Question 39, page 40/60.
  11. I went to the Battersea Society’s annual summer party at St. Mary’s Church on the riverside on 14th July and that too did not seem as well attended as usual. I wonder why? Could it be that this cool summer has dampened much enthusiasm.
  12. I was in Battersea Park on Saturday, 16th, and went to The Bandstand Party. I guess that a number of Latchmere residents might have been there – I certainly met a few old friends. It was, of course, centred on the old Victorian bandstand and featured jazz and country/folk music. The Park was looking great and lots of people were out there playing cricket, softball, rounders, soccer and other sports from all over the world. It’s always fun being in the Park on a nice day and, if the Bandstand Party becomes an annual event, then I recommend it.
  13. On the 18th I dropped in on Colette Morris, the Head of Christ Church Primary school, to learn about the school’s gardening expertise and their award for open air learning. Christ Church is the only urban school in the country to have this award. The school also has the benefit of being right next to Falcon Park, where they have a daily mile run for all. No obesity at Christ Church!
  14. The Council Meeting on 20th July was totally focused on the Referendum Result and the reaction to it of the Council and of councillors. We unanimously agreed a motion pledging to do our best to maintain the best possible community relations here in Wandsworth and to show solidarity with all current immigrant populations resident locally. It was generally a civilised and reasonable debate, but it still strikes me as odd that Tory councillors blamed the result, and hence the resignation of PM, Cameron, on Labour for not getting the “Remain” vote out. This despite the fact that of 19 Labour councillors probably 17 voted Remain and only 2 perhaps voted Brexit, whereas of the 41 Tory councillors at least a dozen were proud of their Brexit vote – a vote that in its Labour:Tory split seemed to be reflected across the country.
  15. On the 21st July I had the Planning Applications Committee (PAC), about which my critic will be delighted to hear I have nothing to say – there was nothing on the agenda, which would have much interested the neighbours let alone any casual reader!
  16. On Saturday, 23rd I rather sadly went to my first Hindu funeral. This, the public funeral, was on the tenth day after the death; the preferred dress for both men and women was white, although I noticed many of the younger men were wearing smart black suits; the standard food, a must I was told in Gujerat, was a comparatively mild, vegetarian curry. The private funeral, for relatives only, took place two days later on the twelfth and marks the release of the soul from the body, and the thirteenth day marks samskara (reincarnation). As I understood it, it is not fit and proper to mourn after that, since by now the soul will be re-incarnated in another form. So rest in peace, Mayuri (Mary) Kotecha, my neighbourhood friend.
  17. Returning from the funeral, I dropped into the York Gardens Active party and the consultations in the Library about the estate regeneration. I must say that I was very disappointed about the consultation. It seemed far too vague to encourage almost any popular response. I left with a certain feeling of dis-satisfaction, which ironically was shared by the potential developers. The Council has to improve on that. My good humour was, however, restored by meeting this charming cool cat on the way out!
  18. Finally, have you seen the story about the £65,000 funding for improvements to Latchmere Recreation Ground. I must confess that I know nothing much about this but it is announced in a July 31st press release from Wandsworth Guardian and includes the following online address http://enablelc.org/parkssurvey. residents are encouraged to give their views in the very first week of August – and I recommend those of you, local to the Rec, to do so.

My Programme for August

1.     I am helping to review Battersea Society’s suggested list of buildings of local historic and/or architectural significance on Tuesday, 2nd August.

2.     I have my Council surgery in Battersea Reference Library from 10 am on Saturday, 6th August. Do come and see me if you have any particular concern.

3.     I am at the Planning Applications Committee on the 15th.

4.     And have yet another by-election in Tooting ward on 18th.

5.     And then on 22nd, I am off for a three-week holiday to Florence and then on to the Croatian coast.

Do you know?

Last month I asked which anniversary of Christ Church School was being celebrated at the recent Falcon Festival. It was, of course, as a few of you replied, the school’s 150th anniversary.

At the same Festival we also celebrated a 150th anniversary at the Este Road Fire Station, but it was not the 150th anniversary of that building so what was it that happened in 1866? And secondly the fire station is said to be a “cut-price” miniature of another fire station elsewhere. Do you know which?