The Government’s response to Coronavirus has failed local people

Wandsworth Council’s Adult Care and Health Committee met on Tuesday, June 16 to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Wandsworth and how the council’s staff have responded to and managed the response to the crisis.

The borough’s adults teams, NHS and care home staff as well as volunteers have all done their best during a difficult time, however their jobs have been made all the more difficult because the response to the crisis was dictated from the Government.

As a result, the ability of council staff to respond was slowed down and made more complicated, all at a time when local residents were in most need of these vital services. The Government has failed to keep its citizens safe.

During tonight’s committee we heard how failings such as Government guidance changing on a daily basis, a lack of testing for those returning to care homes, insufficient quantities of PPE for front-line care workers, a lack of clear and simple testing and tracing and local expert knowledge of Wandsworth’s adult population and care needs being passed because of the Government’s centralised effort all hampered Wandsworth’s efforts to respond effectively to the crisis.

Labour Councillor Annamarie Critchard urged the Cabinet Member to join her in writing to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to express these concerns, to highlight issues faced in Wandsworth and to offer suggestions on the approach for the expected second wave of COVID-19.

Commenting on the meeting this evening Councillor Annamarie Critchard, Wandsworth Labour’s Adult Care and Health lead, said: “We can see that the Government’s response to the pandemic has failed local people and some have paid the ultimate price for this failure- their lives” adding “Wandsworth residents cannot be failed again.”

Wandsworth Council should think again about encouraging local schools to open

This week, as headteachers and parents across Wandsworth are taking the decision as to whether it is safe enough for pupils return to school, we’re asking that Wandsworth Council think again about encouraging its schools to open.

Wandsworth Labour has been listening to parents and to teachers. We support the return to school and nursery as soon as we are sure it is safe for staff and students, but only when the five conditions set out by the government’s chief scientific advisor have been met.

Given that several members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have expressed their worries about schools opening up too early and that the independent SAGE group modelling shows the risk halves if we wait until later in the month for the return to school, we remain unconvinced that this is the correct course of action.

Of particular concern is how educational settings can enforce and maintain the 2 metre distancing rule as well as concern for older and BAME staff members, who we know are more at risk. Some Headteachers have also shared with us they will not be able to enforce social distancing amongst Reception and Year 1 children and some don’t have classrooms big enough to fit 15 pupils two metres apart.

We know that a return to school would help those less advantaged and vulnerable children who are away from the caring eyes of professionals currently, but these children were always entitled to go to school during the lockdown period, but largely did not do so. Therefore, we remain unconvinced that the government’s current proposals solve that problem and ask the council to reconsider asking schools to return this week.

Since lockdown measures were implemented Wandsworth Labour councillors in Tooting, Battersea and Putney have been working hard to improve children’s lives by:

  • Highlighting to Wandsworth Council to the problems of children without laptops. So far we have collected and delivered around 100 ourselves
  • Working with local organisations to create Learn & Play kits for Battersea children in need
  • Urging Wandsworth Council to provide PPE in schools
  • Asking that Wandsworth Council and private schools open up green spaces to help aid social distancing
  • Proposing that free school meal vouchers be available in the holidays
  • Continuing with our 5-year campaign for school streets across the borough of Wandsworth.

We are delighted to see the Council taking our ideas on board and will continue to press for these and other improvements to be kept up.

We want to hear from local residents on what you feel is and isn’t working currently, and any concerns you may have as lockdown measures ease across Wandsworth. Please feel free to contact Wandsworth Labour’s Education and Children’s Services Lead, Judi Gasser at: cllr.j.gasser@wandsworth.gov.uk

How to create safer streets during the Coronavirus crisis

Falcon Road

Wandsworth Labour believes the Council should respond to the current Coronavirus crisis by making our streets safer for walking and cycling.

Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg said: “The Coronavirus crisis has changed the way we live and work. We need to start making common sense changes in our neighbourhoods so local people can live their lives in a safe and healthy way.”

Graveney ward councillor Andy Gibbons says: “When the Government is urging us to obey social distancing rules, it is the Council’s duty to make it possible for us to do so on our pavements and streets.”

Earlsfield ward councillor Jo Rigby added that “when schools re-open, we need to provide safer streets and car-free access to our schools. There are many first time cyclists in Wandsworth who need reassurance that our roads are safe for them.”

Wandsworth Labour councillors have listened to local people and identified schemes for action.

This includes ‘pop-up’ cycle facilities, improved access to green space, reduced speed limits, improved traffic flow, better pedestrian routes and installing better cycle parking.

Special measures should be taken near the major railway stations and outside popular shops. For instance:

Battersea: Make the Falcon Road railway underpass (pictured above) safe for pedestrians and cyclists

Putney: Install a dedicated cycle lane on Roehampton Lane

Tooting: Make Mitcham Road safe for shoppers and pedestrians by widening the pavement

This is a national crisis and we’re all in this together

Councillor Simon Hogg, leader of Wandsworth Labour, remarks to Wandsworth Council’s Finance Commitee, Thursday May 7, 2020

Hundreds of people in Wandsworth have now died from Coronavrius and our deepest sympathies are obviously with their friends and families.

Alongside this dreadful illness, we now have a very serious economic collapse.

So many families will be grieving, so many jobs and businesses will be lost.

Locally, I’ve been impressed with the council’s response. Right at the centre of the response – caring for the vulnerable, delivering food, co-ordinating volunteers and providing outpatient services.

I’d like to pay tribute to the council’s officers. Their skill, compassion and professionalism has been extraordinary. Thank you. I hope you know that when we clap on Thursday evenings, we’re clapping for you.

This is a national crisis and we’re all in this together. The Labour Party has worked constructively to help manage this crisis and protect people. While being supportive, it is also our duty to challenge in areas where we think the authorities didn’t get it quite right.

I think Wandsworth’s three local MPs have done a great job. Supporting local people and challenging the national government when it has fallen short.

  • Marsha de Cordova in Battersea has highlighted the impact of Coronavirus on ethnic minority communities.
  • Dr Rosena Allin-Khan in Tooting has spoken from her front-line experience working in St George’s hospital about the slow response on testing and on the supply of PPE.
  • Fleur Anderson in Putney has campaigned for those who have fallen through the cracks in the govt’s support programmes, such as the self-employed.

We should of course pay tribute also to the local volunteers. Picking up shopping and medicine, delivering jigsaws, just having a chat. It’s been lovely. It’s a question for all of us how we can keep this fantastic neighbourly spirit alive.

Wandsworth has spent well beyond existing budgets to protect and support our most vulnerable residents in this crisis.

Two important things follow from that. First, Government must keep its promise to reimburse councils. It would be shameful if they didn’t.

Second, we as councillors must scrutinise carefully how the money has been spent – and we welcome the chance to do that at tonight’s committee.

Everyone’s story is different. We know this lockdown is not affecting people equally. In fact, it has made existing inequalities worse.

It will be a huge challenge but we must recover and rebuild a Wandsworth fairer, stronger and more sustainable.

I hope a we can agree this will be a place where we better value our key workers. Where we don’t have homeless people sleeping on our streets. Where every child has an equal opportunity to learn.

Impact of Coronavirus on Wandsworth BAME residents

We are all living at a very difficult time. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new disease which is life-threatening and there are, as yet, no cures or vaccines.

What is clear is that it affects different groups of people differently and some are at greater risk of dying than others. While the virus doesn’t discriminate who it infects, society has, and does, discriminate and this is having a huge impact on mortality.

BAME (black and minority ethnic) people are at higher than average risk of dying from Coronavirus in the UK.

We know that good health is strongly related to socio-economic factors. People who work in poorly-paid jobs, and live in over-crowded conditions are more likely to become ill. British BAME people are – in general – poorer than average and therefore suffer most with poor health. This reduces their ability to recover from illness.

Coronavirus has shone a harsh spotlight on this inequality.

At the same time, our local health and care services rely on staff from BAME backgrounds, who comprise a large percentage of workers in this area. The people who care for us when we are ill are more likely to be put at risk of catching Coronavirus and therefore more likely to become ill themselves and – in some very sad cases – die.

We are indebted to all the workers who are looking after our friends and families.

We welcome the Government’s promised review into why BAME people have been so badly affected by Coronavirus.  We welcome the Labour Party review which is to be headed by Doreen Lawrence, and look forward to the findings of both reviews.

More must be done now though in order to get ahead of this virus to save as many lives as possible. We support the Mayor of London in calling for accurate data on the demographics of those that are affected by this virus and for it to be routinely collected and published.

Only with accurate, transparent, real-time data can we get ahead of this virus in order to ensure that any further waves of this virus do not impact BAME communities in the same way.

We believe that the best way we can show our gratitude, when this pandemic is under control, is for the Government to acknowledge the link between poverty, race and ill-health; and to commit to do all in its power to ensure all citizens have fair and equal life chances; and that no British citizen has to worry that their socio-economic status means they will die before their time.

Labour boycotts search for new council Wandsworth Chief Executive over ‘stitch up’

Wandsworth Labour will not support the job search for Wandsworth’s new £250,000 chief executive, accusing the Conservative majority of an “unfair and disrespectful” stitch up.

Simon Hogg, Wandsworth Labour leader said: “The chief executive is the most important job in the council. Sadly, Wandsworth Conservatives are trying to stitch up the selection of our new council boss.

“Labour is being offered only one place out of eight on the panel to select the new chief executive.

“Wandsworth Labour won the popular vote at the last election and we have nearly half the councillors. There’s every chance we’ll take control of the council in two years at the next election. So we need a chief executive both Labour and Conservative can have confidence in.

“It’s unfair and disrespectful to shut Labour councillors out of the process in this way and we won’t be taking part unless we’re treated as equal partners.

“It’s a shame, but the reality is now that this process will simply be looking for an interim chief executive to serve for a year or 18 months. Top candidates won’t apply unless the appointment has the backing of both major parties.

“Councillor Govindia, the Conservative leader, has stopped listening to local people and lost the confidence of councillors. The only people we’ve seen him sit down and listen to are property developers and lobbyists.

“He should reach out and agree to work together on the big challenges that face the council.”

Tell us your environmental priorities & help solve the climate emergency

 

Wandsworth’s Labour councillors (pictured above) were proud to support a motion to declare a Climate Emergency in Wandsworth – the motion was passed unanimously in July.

All councillors committed to make the council carbon neutral by 2030 – and to oppose the expansion of Heathrow airport.

We are now asking you for input to go into the council’s action plan which will be published in November. This is crucial as its here through each committee that we really make change happen and hold the council to account.

Please complete this short online survey to let us know your environmental priorities (downloadable Word document version here). The deadline is 11th October.

If you would like to get in touch with our Labour Environment Speaker Paula Walker to discuss further, please email cllr.p.walker@wandsworth.gov.uk

Wandsworth Labour submits new ward plan to boundary review

Map
Wandsworth Labour’s proposal for new ward boundaries for the borough

Wandsworth is a great place to live. Its strong, diverse communities represent the best of modern London.

Wandsworth’s council wards were last changed in 2002. The Labour Party in Wandsworth welcomes the Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s review of Wandsworth’s wards and notes its recommendation that there should be a reduction from 60 councillors to 58 for future elections.

Our submission sets out the thinking of the Wandsworth Labour Group of councillors and how our proposed new wards meets the criteria set out in law. Download the Wandsworth Labour submission to the boundary review.

Boundaries matter: in the 2018 elections Labour won more votes than any other party – but the Conservatives got a seven-seat majority on the council.

Our boundary proposals are based on fairness and common sense.

To ensure fairness, each new ward is within 5% of the target size so that every voter has the same representation. The wards are based on the public’s common sense view of the community they live in. Places that go with the grain of everyday experience, such as Balham, Tooting Broadway, Southfields, Battersea Park and Nine Elms.

To set ward boundaries, we’ve used existing landmarks such as railway lines, main roads, our green open spaces and the river Wandle. Every effort has been made to respect conservation areas, residents’ associations and parishes where possible.

Three-councillor wards are the default, to reflect the strong preference of local people and current councillors to have a team of three people representing each ward. Two-councillor wards are used where there is a clear case they give better representation.

We’ve used our knowledge from working in the community in every part of the borough to inform our proposals. Thank you to the many local people who have already shaped this plan.

We’re publishing this document publicly to encourage debate and engagement.

You can have your say now on the Boundary Commission website, deadline is August 5: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/16790

‘We must reduce carbon emissions and poverty at the same time’

Councillor Fleur Anderson Climate Emergency Speech, Wandsworth council, 17th July 2019

I fully support declaring a climate emergency, I welcome the petition and thank everyone who signed it, and thank and everyone who is here today to support this declaration and the action that must follow. Because this is the challenge – from now on we need to all agree that there can be no more ‘business as usual’.

The International Panel on Climate Change has told us that have just 11 years to make a radical shift in our carbon use. Quite simply we must stop taking fossil fuels out of the ground and burning them off.

Climate change and rising temperatures are a global emergency. For millions of people, it’s a stark and desperate choice: starvation or migration.

When I worked for Water Aid visited communities in Bangladesh where it’s beyond an emergency. Rising sea levels have made all of their agriculture land and their water saline. They cannot grow food and have very little drinking water, and whole coastal communities are trapped in poverty.

And it affects us in Wandsworth too – an increasing globally unequal world will be less safe, and the air pollution that comes with carbon emissions is damaging our health.

Declaring this emergency has some important red lines:

1. We must reduce carbon emissions and poverty at the same time

Our climate action must not be a luxury that residents can’t afford. Ways in which we can make life easier for families with already over-stretched budgets as well as reducing our carbon footprint should be the priority.

2. The Heathrow expansion will undermine all of our efforts and we must win the battle to stop it.

Heathrow’s 3rd runway will increase CO2 emissions from air travel from 37 to 43 million tonnes per annum. By comparison, according to the strategy paper Wandsworth’s carbon footprint (excluding schools and transport) is 26,576 tonnes.

260,000 extra flights – deliberately routed over our green spaces. Parking for 46,000 extra cars. It’s going to be a massive political battle to stop and Wandsworth must be leading the way

3. We have to be far more ambitious about cycling – with a revolution in two keys areas – storage and safety. We need cycle parking on every street, safe joined-up routes across the borough. The strategy has a very welcome aim, that: ‘Wandsworth will be an easy place to use, own and store a bicycle’. Although Wandsworth’s own cycling strategy has a more ambitious vision: A borough where people increasingly choose to cycle and where cycling is championed as a great way to travel.

4. Smart and bold timetabling to reach the two keys dates of net zero carbon by 2030 and zero carbon by 2050 is key. The last 20% of carbon reduction will be the hardest and plan for this from the start. Friends of the Earth have called this front-loading. It means no complacency or time to waste and many things happening in parallel not one project after the other.

5. Involving local people – the section on governance in the strategy is welcome. The involvement of the public needs to be formalised and the role of the Wandsworth Environment Forum isn’t mentioned but should be vital. We need regular public meetings at times in the decision making cycle when they can influence, and we need to build in ways to be open to great ideas and more public scrutiny that we’re used to.

6. We should have Environmental Impact Assessments for all new policies and programmes – alongside Equality Impact Assessments – would enable joined-up strategy and analyse all programme according to their carbon use and how much this is being reduced.

7. We must only use off-setting as a last resort. Where we can’t reduce our carbon we will off-set, but we should never start using this as the go-to answer to our carbon problems. Fossil fuel needs to stay in the ground and not be used.

It’s very important to be supporting this declaration and call to radical action together. But this is the easy part. What we do now and whether it’s enough and fast enough is down to us – lets put aside ‘business as usual’ and embrace radical action for making Wandsworth a better place for everyone right now, for the sake of communities around the world and for the sake of generations to come.

12,000 people signed the climate change petition – now it’s time for action

Letter from councillor Simon Hogg, Wandsworth Labour leader, to the 12,000 residents who signed this climate change petition 

 

Thank you very much for joining more than 12,000 local people who signed the climate change petition.

It’s fantastic that so many people have got involved in this campaign. It has been particularly inspiring to see so many children passionate about this crucial issue. All real change comes from the grass roots.

We need urgent action on climate change. We can’t carry on down the path we are on without causing irreparable damage to the planet.

Wandsworth Labour believes the environment is the bedrock of our economy, our security and our wellbeing. It is not something separate from us – it is the food we eat and the place we live.

Only through collective action based on justice and solidarity can dangerous climate change be stopped.

We welcome the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which describes with high confidence the enormous harm that a 2 degree average rise global temperature will cause, compared to a 1.5 degree rise.

The IPCC report also confirms that with immediate and ambitious action from government and local authorities between now and 2030 it may still be possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

We believe Wandsworth Council must play its part. The council will need to work with partners across the borough to become carbon neutral and end our contribution to Britain’s carbon footprint. Citizens, businesses, schools and charities all have a part to play.

Crucially, politicians need to work together on this challenge. An issue of this scale needs long-term commitment.

Labour and Conservative councillors will come together to debate climate change at our next council meeting in July. This is a long-term issue that will require real change and significant new thinking. I’m hopeful the council will agree a comprehensive long-term plan this year.

In Wandsworth, Labour and Conservatives co-operate on several climate change initiatives at present. We have been united in our strong opposition to a third runway at Heathrow – and are working together on plans to decarbonise the council’s pension investments.

Nationally, the Labour Party proposes a green industrial revolution to make our cities liveable, our natural spaces rich and alive – and our own lives satisfying and secure.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged that 60 per cent of the UK’s energy will come from low-carbon or renewable sources by 2030. Last year we committed to a target of net zero emissions before 2050. We will ban fracking and insulate four million homes.

Labour believes there is an environment and climate emergency.

In London, Sadiq Khan has taken tough action on air quality and set out ambitious plans to make London the greenest global city. His plans will make our city a greener, cleaner and healthier place by targeting London’s toxic air, increasing its green cover and making London a zero-carbon city by 2050.

Strong environmental policy is a matter of justice – and ensuring that communities can breathe clean air, drink clean water, afford a good diet and enjoy our green spaces.

Labour’s policies will tackle climate change, improve our environment, and build a sustainable economy.

I’d like to thank you again for signing the petition. I hope you can make it to the Town Hall for the climate change debate on July 17.

Best wishes

Simon Hogg
Leader, Wandsworth Labour