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Tooting Bec and Balham

Wandsworth Tories make cuts to stay and play

There was a very disappointing outcome to the meeting on Thursday. We wanted to provide a full write-up so everyone, especially users, can understand what happened, and what happens next.

Tooting Triangle is a lovely little area of Tooting Common which contains a particularly challenging playground, an amateur boxing club, an artificial sports pitch and a “1 o’clock club” building. The 1 o’clock club is a much loved institution in these parts and has been providing various services for very young (0-6 years old) children in some shape or form for over 30 years.

The Tories have failed to properly maintain this area. The 1 o’clock club is liable to flooding because the drainage on the sports pitch doesn’t work. However, they have managed to do one thing right – the stay and play at the 1 o’clock club.

Currently, there are three stay and plays per week. Parents and carers bring their young children to play for 2 hours in sessions led by trained council staff. The parents and carers stick around and get involved in the fun. There’s paint and mud and fruits and vegetables and every parent and carer we’ve ever spoken to says it is a truly excellent service. There are even some parents who went to the stay and play as kids themselves, and now the next generation gets to enjoy it.

So it came as a shock, and a massive disappointment, when the Tories gave us 8 days’ notice that they were going to gut this service. After decades of underinvestment by the Tories in the Triangle, they have a new plan. This plan involves leasing the buildings to a private company for 25 years at a cheap rent, and in exchange the company is going to spend their own money to redevelop the Triangle. Most of this plan is very welcome – fresh investment in the boxing club and the artificial sports pitch will be great.

But this plan also has its downsides – a series of cuts to stay and play:

  1. Instead of being open to 0-5 year old children, it would only be open to 2-5 year olds.
  2. Instead of being led by qualified staff, there would be no staff.
  3. Instead of being free for all, it would be charged, with some concessions.

We, the Labour Party, were amazed. The council deserves credit for establishing the stay and play in its current form. We set out to find out why the Tories were butchering this much-loved service.

Amazingly, there was zero consultation. The parents had not been told. We local councillors had not been told. Not even the staff at the stay and play had been told!

It was clear they were trying to hide it. This lack of consultation was not an oversight, it was a deliberate attempt to keep it quiet for as long as possible so as to rush it through committee before anyone realised what was going on.

Luckily, we spotted it. We immediately mobilised and informed the parents, carers and staff. We handed out leaflets and organised a campaign. Within just two days over half the users had sent an email to the leader of the council asking him to keep the stay and play as it is.

The committee meeting happened on Thursday. We organised people to speak to the committee who defended the stay and play with articulate passion.

The Labour Party proposed a small amendment to the plan: we asked the Tories to continue providing the stay and play. We were happy to agree to the rest of the development plan, just, please, don’t ruin the stay and play.

The Tories would not agree to that.

They gave one small concession to continue “baby play”. But, during questions, it emerged that the new provider runs similar centres elsewhere in London, and in none of those centres does it offer services for 0-18 month olds. It has no experience of delivering baby play.

At this point we are pretty sure that the new provider’s version of stay and play will be nowhere near as good as the council’s current service.

So why have the Tories done this? The real reason is their own poor management of the council.

Wandsworth Tories, and in particular Councillor Guy Senior who is their cabinet member for finance, were so incompetent last year that they overspent by £22.25 million. That is not a small sum of money – that’s about half your Council Tax.

On top of the incompetence of the local Tory party, the Tory central government has cut the budgets of every council in England year after year after year. Northamptonshire Council (which is also run by Tories) has actually gone bankrupt. The Tory government has cut Wandsworth Council’s budget so much that they have to find £28 million of savings this year, another £14 million the year after, and another £10 million the year after that. A total of £48 million in three years. The reason for this? No reason. Austerity is a political choice – a cruel and unnecessary choice.

So because of Wandsworth Tories’ incompetence, and central Tory cruelty, our local stay and play has been cut and replaced by a much worse service to save money. Ultimately, it is the kids who suffer.

In terms of next steps, we will continue to campaign to save the stay and play. It’s not a done deal yet. If you want to get involved please email us at cllr.h.denfield@wandsworth.gov.uk, cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk and cllr.f.anderson@wandsworth.gov.uk.

Categories
Tooting Bec and Balham

Council meeting this Thursday – Proposals on Tooting Triangle Stay and Play

Wandsworth council are planning to close the Tooting Triangle children’s centre, a decision which will be taken at a meeting this Thursday evening of the Finance and Corporate Resources Committee.

As local councillors, they have not consulted us on this, and neither have they discussed this with parents or carers who use the centre.

The proposals state that the boxing club and football pitch are going to be run by a sports company, with the inclusion of a community cafe, but the children’s centre is being added to this plan and will lose the stay and play sessions as a result.

The council-run three stay and play sessions every week are hugely popular, and many parents and carers tell us that they are a lifesaver. The staff are fantastic and provide activities, a chance to learn and play and a place for local people from across Tooting Bec and Balham to make friends, support one another and learn about other services and activities. In short, it is a vital community asset which we cannot afford to lose.

The new cafe will not have any provision for 0-2 year olds and won’t have staff to run stay and play sessions.

As ward councillors, we have requested time at the meeting to represent you, but if you’re able to attend, or would like to have your say on this valuable service, please contact Clare at: cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk

In advance of the committee we will also share all your comments with members of the committee so that they can see how vital this provision is.

Thanks, Clare, Hector and Fleur

Categories
Tooting Bec and Balham

Road works on Byrne Road and Culverden Road

If you have been along Byrne Road or Culverden Road recently you will have noticed the road surface is in a bit of a state. Clare took these photos and got in touch with the council to find out what was going on and had this reply:

On the second day of works in Byrne Road, the removal of the road surface had revealed the Gas Main trench that holds the delivery line along the entire length of Byrne Road.

Once the surface was up and open, this trench was found to be ‘defective’ from the time it was reinstated – and is not adequate to carry the new road surface without subsiding.

This trench feature had been implemented as far back as the early 1980s in likelihood – and was not found to be present in our recent ‘road core sample tests’ prior to these works – nor is there any official record of the trench in statutory utility company plans available to us. The presence of the trench and its current condition were completely unexpected. The Gas Company must now remedy the structural condition of their infrastructure such that we may then complete reconstruction of the road surface over top of it.

The process of the required remedial works has been actioned, and once the surfacing works have been reprogrammed, residents will be updated.

This letter was delivered by the council to households in the area.

The most recent update from the council states:

Byrne Rd/Culverden Rd SW12 a temporary running surface is available pending the proper reinstatement of a gas trench which is preventing completion of carriageway resurfacing works 02/11/2018 to 09/11/2018. Engineer: J. Chana 0208 871 7279.

  

If you smell gas or see a water leak, please do not assume that someone else has phoned it in. Please do not report these to the council, instead call the following free phone numbers to report leaks directly to the companies responsible for fixing them:

Water: 0800 714 614 Gas: 0800 111 999