|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
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?
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.
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
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?
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?
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?
- I am going to start with the last day of the month, 31st March, 2016 – a disaster! I have been well and truly hacked. I was rung by a Microsoft support technician, except that it turned out that he wasn’t. Indeed he was a modern highwayman, a crook. After he had conned me and stripped my computer of all locally held data, including photographs and software, and got into my bank and transferred $5,000 (I can’t at present find the GBP sign on my keyboard!), to a Mr. Cardusi, I was able to get free from him. Fortunately the Bank refused to transfer the money and I have access to the internet
- So I am able to type this newsletter using Mailchimp, with its limited word processing capabilities. I also have all the email addresses that I used in Mailchimp, namely Latchmere constituents, but I have lost many of the rest. How much of the rest of this newsletter I will be able to finish, you will know when I get there. But I think I have lost photographs I intended to put in and maybe have been so hit by this emergency that I miss stories and forget events. But one thing I do say to you is be more rigorous about backing up all your data and filing copies of your software than I have been.
- I will spend much of the next week trying to recover the accounts of two voluntary bodies, of which I am Treasurer; constituent casework, maybe 4,000 photographs, etc., etc. I look forward to a miserable week and I do hate criminal hackers! And now onto the rest of the newsletter – though if any of you are experts on pc recovery then I look forward to hearing from you!
- There was a Council Meeting on 9th The March Council Meeting was traditionally an important debate about the Budget and next year’s Council Tax. But it has rather lost its point since successive governments, of both persuasions, have so limited Council’s capacity to raise, or in effect cut, Council Tax that although we go through the debate and we try and find grounds to vote against each other, in practice there is very little to debate.
- So the main debate was about the Ofsted Report condemning Wandsworth’s performance relating to “children looked after”. The Labour councillors, me included, called AGAIN for the resignations of those local politicians responsible for the “inadequate” services provided for these vulnerable children. Of course the Tory members took no notice.
- The March Planning Applications Committee PAC meeting was on 23rd and had one application of real interest to Latchmere residents and that was for the redevelopment of the Shell Garage in York Road – the one on York Road, right opposite Doris Emmerton House. It involved the demolition of all the existing buildings and the erection of essentially a nine storey building and basement to provide 78 private rented apartments, and a replacement filling station, with a shop. York Road, admittedly not the most glamorous of roads, looks like being transformed beyond recognition.
- By the way, here is just a reminder of what used to stand on the site – the Savoy cinema – I mentioned it in my February, 2014, newsletter. The massive auditorium, built in 1938, sat over 2,000 people and was damaged by a V2 in January, 1945, and was finally demolished in 1960.
- Talking of planning applications, the latest news on that front is that a developer has acquired the site of the old schoolkeeper’s house at Harris Academy, formerly Battersea Park School, and is in talks with the planners about putting a 13/14 storey block on the site at the corner of Culvert Road and Battersea Park Road. This might look something like this, with Castlemaine House on the right.
- A few days earlier, 19thMarch, Wandsworth Labour Parties had a fish ‘n chips fund raising supper at York Gardens Library. There is not really much reason to mention it except that it was to mark International Earth Day, which I dare say you have never heard of. I hadn’t and when you look it up on Google there are conflicting accounts of when it actually is with some saying 22 April and others 21 March. In any event it has been “invented” to salute the earth and all of those environmentalists making efforts to save it! So we ate by candlelight and MP, Hilary Benn, gave his first ever candlelit speech. A bit odd really but very pleasant.
- Where were you during Hurricane Katie? I went down to the Duchess in Nine Elms Lane not long after Easter Monday and saw the “blown-out” gable end for myself. This is the best picture I got of it! You can see by the amount of masonry on the road what a mess it would have made of any person or thing (car) below on the road!
- Of course, we all know just how perverse the British weather can be so it was fun to take this picture from my house at sunset, two days later!
- On Saturday, 26th March, a number of people staged a “Welcome to Refugees” event at Battersea Arts Centre. Here is Aaron Barbour, in the sweater and jeans, of the Katherine Low Settlement welcoming some of the recent arrivals, largely from war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia.
My Programme for April
- First of all, I have to sort out my computing mess. Do I go for Apple? How much of my data can I recreate or recover? Be more thorough about back-ups. Put as much into the sky as possible. Don’t make my mistake!
- On Wednesday, 6th, I will be attending my first Corporate Parenting Panel. I must say I am very dubious about this. I just do not see how the Government can really believe that councillors can take on the almost entirely theoretical role of corporate parents. Just try suggesting that they should legislate for MPs having such a role. MPs would run a mile – in my view – especially the opposition MPS who would be said to have the responsibility but no power to set the agenda or policies.
- I am going to a friend’s new house in Hastings over the 9th/10th week-end for my birthday – just which one I will keep to myself for now!
- The Battersea Society has tasked itself to make a record of all the buildings, terraces, views, memorials, etc. that it believes are of note in Battersea in an attempt to get them all, or as many as possible, listed and protected by the Council. And I and another Battersea Society member are going to spend all day Sunday 24th driving round Battersea listing and photographing them! That should be fun – I am looking forward to that.
- I have the Education and Children’s Services Committee on 12th April, when we will yet again be discussing introduced after the Ofsted Report! But that won’t be all as there will be another committee on 19th and a full Council Meeting on 27th, just devoted to this one matter.
- On the 21st there is the Planning Applications Committee, which will be deciding amongst other things – ring and check the list!
- And all the time the Mayoral Election, Khan vs. Goldsmith, and the Referendum campaigns are going on in a background full of Tories fighting like ferrets in a bag and Labour unable, or is it unwilling, to get its act together. What a turbulent political world.
Did you know? Last month I asked for the connection between the famous playwright, George Bernard Shaw, and Latchmere. Quite a few of you got this right but unfortunately one of my PC losses was my inbox so I don’t know who – It would be really nice if you could resend your answer. The answer was that when John Archer unveiled the statue to the “Little Brown Dog” in Latchmere recreation ground, Shaw was there and was one of the speakers.
And for this month: There was a horse trough, there were actually quite a few, in York Road, but one in particular had the charming legend engraved in it – Be Merciful to your Animals. It has a new home 30 or so miles away – any idea where?
I was just trawling through some old blogs and I came across two, of which I am pretty proud. Just scroll down the right side of this screen to July 14, 2014 and October 7, 2014 and take a look.
The first is titled School Governance and Governors, and it bemoans the demise of local councillor representation on school governing bodies and the rise of the technocrat. I didn’t know it but it presaged last week’s announcement of the “end” of parent governors. After all parents don’t know anything about running schools, their expertise being merely to have kids and local councillors equally don’t know much about running schools – all they know about it is the local community and the need to plan for school provision and school places. Obviously just the kind of people that Cameron/Osborne would want to kick out of school administration: parents and local representatives! The Tory version is, of course, to have technocrats and the private sector under the pseudo-guise of educational charitable institutions.
The second was titled The Tory Party faces a disaster called Europe. The one thing I got wrong in that blog was the date of the crisis, which I had down for 2017. I didn’t know that Cameron was going to plump for June 23, 2016 as the Referendum Day. I predicted Tory division and disaster and potentially its demise for a generation. I hope that I am right. It is beginning to look that way!
And my punt for 2016? Against all the punditry and all the apparent trends, the economic problems and climate change issues demand a collective solution. So my prediction is that 2016 sees the start of the rejuvenation of social democracy.
The Tory Party is seriously on the back foot. The Brexit wing needs no help from us, though it might get plenty from traditional Labour voters, but the Cameron “mainstream” desperately needs Labour help for this crazy referendum campaign.
Here we are the largest party in the country, by a country mile, and we are being shafted by a Government, which assumes that Labour will do the right thing. We are always doing the “right thing”; we are always taking the “one nation”, “all in this together” approach whilst the Tories stuff the pockets of the rich and the rentier class.
I can’t be the only Labour activist who seriously wonders whether the future of this country isn’t more dependent upon defeating the Tories, possibly for a generation, than it is on staying in the, let’s face it, struggling EU. Its pretty much an “on balance” decision for me and many other party sympathisers.
Now what would swing it for me would be a few concessions from Cameron. Take your pick from attacking “welfare”, abolishing Bedroom Tax, scrapping the Trade Union Bill, opening real discussions about boundary redistribution, stopping “right to buy” housing association properties, ending so-called schools reforms and NHS restructuring, ending the continual and vicious attack on immigration and immigrants.
Jeremy: this is a wonderful opportunity to get the Tories talking some sensible politics. You have a great opportunity to earn their respect, grudging though of course it will of necessity be, and to win the support of the country. Your best bet for winning support in the PLP is by winning respect from the Tories and you will never have a better opportunity than when Cameron is down, with his face in the sand.