Tooting Bec and Balham

Trees and other issues – are the wheels falling off the Wandsworth Council wagon?

Wandsworth council: are the wheels are falling off the wagon?

Wandsworth Council has been Conservative for 40 years and is inevitably is running out of steam. The big cut in affordable housing on the Battersea Power Station development has rightly received a lot of attention, and showed how little the council are prepared to fight for local residents over developers’ profits. Recently there have  been other signs of the wheels falling off the wagon:

Chestnut Avenue Trees – how not to listen to local residents

Cutting down the Chestnut Avenue trees. We’ve just received the costings and they show that we were misled. In the proposal it clearly stated that the costs would be ‘funded from the successful bid for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’ Community Services Committee 16-353). Previously annual costs of maintaining the avenue were between £1,000 – £3,000, although more would have been needed to address increased disease in some of the trees. The full costs of the replanting were £83,348, of which £55,561 is from the Heritage Lottery Fund. (see the end of this blog for the full inventory).

It didn’t save them money (in fact it cost much more than the original £46k that we were informed was the Heritage Lottery Grant for this), and it clearly went against the views of most local people who told them they loved the Avenue. They cut it down anyway. Instead of saving the healthy trees and only dealing with those that were diseased, they cut the whole lot down. I can’t understand why they didn’t stop and listen to local people – maybe they think that they know better than local people, and that they can’t ever change their minds as this would be a loss of face.

Responses to other questions I asked are that four out of the five mature trees next to the playground did have root rot and were dangerous, and that no problems were found with 7 of the trees. The rest needed different degrees of attention. Many people have asked if some of the wood could be used for furniture on the common or given another use on the Common, and I’ve asked about this been told that three pieces of wood have been kept for community use.

The Northcote Library plan – a good idea ruined

Having a brand new library should be welcomed by local people in Northcote. But the way the Council has gone about it alienated and angered a lot of local people. A community hall will be knocked down to make way for the new building, and a much loved nursery evicted. It has been serving the community and paying rent to the council for over 20 years. The council should have worked with the nursery to incorporate its needs into the new plans, and find it temporary premises during the build. Many local people have felt ignored and said in the consultation that they didn’t want this plan for new library. There have been some modifications to proposals in response to feedback from neighbours – so why didn’t they go further and support the community hall users too?

At the last minute they realised that they should have done this and the local Tory councillors hastily sent a letter around in the week before the Committee. This said that that another premises had been found in a local church. However this wasn’t the case, but it did give false reassurance and influence Committee members to agree with the plan.

During the Committee I proposed amendments on behalf of the Labour team and local residents. A commitment to supporting the nursery and other users of the community hall, and meeting moving costs was agreed. A proposal to make these houses social housing – desperately needed and very possible in a rare development that the Council is doing itself – was rejected. Any mention of this proposal was conveniently left out of the whitewashed minutes of the meeting.

We don’t talk any more?

The Bedford Ward ‘Lets Talk’ happens every two years and is an opportunity for residents to speak with the Leader of the Council, local councillors and council officers. Our local Bedford Ward meeting was due early in this year but has been postponed – are they afraid to hear from local people?

At a recent Shaftesbury ‘Lets Talk’ meeting, Conservative councillors end up shouting at local residents who dared to question council actions. It was quickly dubbed ‘Lets Shout’ by local commentators, and the attitude of  of the Conservative council are being exposed.

Police cuts

We are faced by ever increasing police cuts across London, which will result in the loss of local police stations in Wandsworth. I challenged the Conservative councillors to stop blaming the Mayor of London and instead square up to the government and tell them that enough is enough, people’s safety is at risk and we can’t have any more cuts. A staggering £600 million has already been cut and a further £400m is being cut from the Met’s budget by the Home Office. The Borough Commander said at a recent consultation meeting that this is the most change he has seen in his 29 year career in the Met. Would the Conservative councillors agree to lobby the government over our safety in the way that they have lobbied the government over issues like the Heathrow runway? You can imagine the answer – a unanimous no.

School budgets slashed

Conservative councillors are very dismissive about the on-going and ever deeper school cuts. National outrage at Justine Greening’s proposed cuts before the General Election did lead to a back-down, but Wandsworth’s state schools face difficult decisions about staffing and school facilities because budgets are reduced. We have wonderful teaching staff and excellent schools in Wandsworth and yet the Conservative councillors are putting their heads in the sand and singing a ‘our schools will be fine’ mantra when faced with any attempt to tell them what damage the Government is doing. The Education secretary is a Wandsworth MP, and they should be speaking out and saving our education system instead of standing by.

See more on this here: Labour Reveals the true impact of Tory educations cuts in Wandsworth

Those Chestnut Avenue figures and answers to other questions on behalf of local residents:

Fencing (Entertee)                                   £9,100

Tree felling/chipping (City Suburban  £16,969/Ben Nicholson £22,150)£39,119      

Purchase of 64 trees (Barcham Nurseries)                                       £5,82

Planting x 64 lime trees with cages(Green Garden Co)   £7,070                               

12 months’ maintenance of 64 trees(Green Garden Co)    £2,048                            

Move x3 trees  (Tree Spade)                     £1,500

Private security (Carlisle Support Svces)      £4,274

Parks and Events Police                                   £8,000

Clearing up (Idverde)                                   £2,000

Road Traffic order                                            £1,622

Diversion signs                                                    £380  

Information boards,consultation leaflet and delivery                   £2,408

Total                                                              £83,348

NB1 We anticipate the HLF funding covering items 2-6 above, i.e. £55,561.

NB2 The engagement of additional security resources was a result of concerns re disruption and following consultation with the Metropolitan Police.

Responses to other questions about Chestnut Avenue:

Which are the four avenues mentioned in the Heritage Lottery Fund report specifically, and what are the maintenance plans for each of these avenues? Please could the Council also provide details of its maintenance programme for the 4 Chestnut trees at the Clairview Road end of West Drive?

The four avenues referred to in the heritage tree survey are Horse Chestnut Avenue, Dr Johnson Avenue, Garrad’s Road Avenue, and the no longer extant Tooting Bec Road Avenue. The historic avenues of Dr Johnson Ave and Garrad’s Road are oak avenues and maintenance proposals are infill planting and some relative minor maintenance pruning. It is to be noted that the Garrad’s Road Avenue is not the line of trees which border the edge of Garrad’s Road itself. See below for maintenance of other Horse Chestnuts.

  Has an analysis of the other horse chestnuts on Tooting Common been carried out, and what is the state of them? When will action be taken to make other poor trees safe, and what action will this be. Local residents do not want to see more trees being cut down if they can be saved – for example by pollarding.

As I said in my earlier response (below) the horse chestnut trees elsewhere on the common (circa 300) are regularly reviewed along with all other trees (which do not form part of a recognised “wood”) on the common, and indeed throughout the borough. However, as they generally are not standing in avenues, they will be managed and maintained individually as is necessary and or appropriate. In accordance with borough-wide maintenance practices, remedial work will comprise minor or major pruning, or removal, as is appropriate to the individual tree’s condition and location.

  What is the condition of the trees on Horse Chestnut Avenue on Wandsworth Common?

I am not sure what is being referred to as “Horse Chestnut Avenue” on Wandsworth Common. If it is the line of Horse Chestnut bordering the Fitzhugh Estate, it has a number of trees which have required substantial pruning and more are likely to require such work in the future. As above, any trees that are considered a risk will receive appropriate action according to the professionally-assessed level of risk.


Tooting Bec and Balham

Wandsworth Council must oppose Government police cuts

Fleur’s speech to the full Council meeting on 11th October 2017

Council speech photo october 2017Wandsworth Council must oppose Government police cuts

We need a Council that will listen to local residents and their concerns about safety and crime, that will square up to the Tory Government and will vigorously oppose any further police cuts.

I’d like to start by thanking our Wandsworth police force and community safety officers who are so dedicated and effective – including the police officer who broke his foot whilst chasing and making an arrest in Bedford ward this week. We are united in supporting the Community Safety Partnership Plan and its new priority areas. In particular I welcome the Mayor’s commitment to have Dedicated Ward Officers in each ward, most are whom already in place in Wandsworth.

Now we need to also unite in opposing government police cuts. Tory councillors should stop playing politics with residents’ safety, should take responsibility for the effects of Tory austerity policies and should stop blaming the London Mayor for the government’s police budget cuts.

Funding crisis in the police service

We are facing a funding crisis in our police services caused by sustained real-terms cuts by the Government. The Met has already had to deliver £600m in savings between 2012 and 2016. And now, a further £400m is required in the next four years. In the Wandsworth public consultation meeting, the Borough Commander called these the biggest changes he has seen in his 29 year career in the Met.

Its not just the police but community safety too. Crime increases have been seen across England and Wales as a result of this failing Tory government, including as a result of cuts to so many other services that help prevent crime. In Wandsworth last year there were 40 staff in the Youth Offending team and this year there are 36 staff members. We need the resources to be able to deliver the community safety plan not just in the Met but also in community crime prevention services.

Its not just community police but other units too: cuts to Counter Terror funding 

Counter Terror funding is being cut and this should be opposed. The non-political, expert Chief Constable Sara Thornton, Chair of The National Police Chiefs’ Council, set out last month that Counter Terror funding for policing is being cut by more than 7 per cent over the next three years. The Prime Minister, as a former Home Secretary, should be ashamed. This is a particular issue for London where terrorist threat levels are high and responding to events costly. We know that for every £1 of Counter Terrorism spend in response to an incident, around £2 is spent on necessary additional non-Counter Terrorism activity, which puts more strain on community police budgets.

The London Mayor is doing all he can to raise money for the police

This funding crisis means that Londoners’ safety is increasingly at risk. The Mayor has been lobbying the Government to take action ever since he was elected. Wandsworth Council should be lobbying the Government too. The Mayor increased council tax by the maximum allowed to fund the police, so that he could do everything in his power to provide more resources to the Met. All of the money possible through this mechanism was given to the police.

However this is simply nowhere near enough to fill the funding gap caused by the government.

In contrast, the previous Tory Mayor chose not to increase the council tax precept for 2016. This left a gap in the Greater London Authority income available for the Met. Despite Boris Johnson’s decision, Sadiq Khan has now made an additional £24m available. He is doing all he can – it’s the government’s cuts that the council must oppose.

Changes to police stations in Wandsworth

The Mayor has committed to ensuring that each borough will maintain a 24 hour police front counter. The Borough Commander is right to keep response times and keep the numbers of bobbies on the streets. The plans include more modernised approaches and more public engagement in different ways. This is being done by saving money on costly buildings and senior management – he has had to make invidious choices.

But enough is enough.

Three actions are urgent:

1. We now need to know where the Lavender Hill police station will be moved to and where the new community hubs will be, and then we need consultation on these plans. We need more consultation, less cuts

2. We also need assurance that the 101 phoneline responses will be vastly improved, as these are used by far more people to contact the police than police stations.

3. But above all we need a Council that will listen to local residents and their concerns about safety and crime, that will square up to the Tory Government and will vigorously oppose any further cuts.

(Wandsworth Conservative councillors didn’t agree and voted against taking any action to lobby the government on police cuts).