At this week’s full council meeting, both Clare and Hector gave their maiden speeches. See below for the full text of Clare’s speech and a photo of her in action during the debate:
Thank you for allowing for me to make my maiden speech this evening.
I’ll begin, as is customary with a few words about Bedford ward, a ward name which confuses many, but which comprises parts of Tooting Bec and Balham. I would like to extend my thanks to residents of Bedford ward for voting for me in May, it is my great honour to represent the ward. I would also like to note my thanks to Cllr Fleur Anderson and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP. Since Rosena’s election to Bedford ward in 2014, she has gone on to become the Labour MP for Tooting. With such great work in the ward, they set the bar high for me for the next four years. I am also delighted to be joined at this election by my fellow new councillor, Hector Denfield meaning that for the first time since 1990, Bedford ward is represented by 3 Labour councillors.
In Bedford ward we are lucky to have the Common which sits at the heart of our community, a special place enjoyed by residents of all ages and backgrounds. The café in the middle of Tooting Common on a Saturday morning is representative of many of these residents, whether they have completed parkrun, are walking their dog, or just enjoying a cup of tea. We are equally lucky to have Tooting Bec lido at the edges of the Common, the largest outdoor lido in the UK.
Locally, we have several excellent primary schools: Ravenstone, Rutherford, and St Anselm’s, who provide a high-standard of education for local children. However, many parents have shared with me their concerns about the funding of schools, and what this might mean for the future of their children’s’ education. My fear is that the great start these children are provided with in early life currently, may deteriorate in future as a result of funding cuts which are punishing the youngest members in our society.
Focusing on the subject of tonight’s motion, it is the early standard of care in a child’s life, which concerns me the most. My work in the education sector has shown me that it is those early years in a child’s life which are formative in their later development. In a borough such as Wandsworth, you would imagine that shouldn’t be a problem, however, the pinnacle of how Wandsworth operates as a borough is seen acutely through the lens of its children’s services. Councillors opposite often celebrate Wandsworth for being sound in its financial management, but to prevent its children’s services from sliding backwards to an inadequate rating, have dipped into the council’s reserves to the tune of £37 million. Even the best spin doctor could not portray that as sound financial management.
In my short time on the council and the Education and Children’s Services committee, I’m yet to see real conviction in the political leaders of this council. There is instead a refusal to set long-term targets which commit to closing the department’s funding deficit as soon as possible and putting an end to rewards for failure.
I want more than anyone for those services to be rated good or higher. I hope this is the case at the next full re-inspection, however doing so will only be achieved through robust forward planning, and not through the piecemeal approach we see from the political leaders of this council where accountability for these decisions ultimately rests.
I conclude by noting that as a councillor, I will be a representative for all residents. Bedford ward is a great place to live and during my time here I want to make it even better. I want to help empower residents to have their voices heard and ensure that all children growing up in my ward are given the best possible start in life.