Battersea Park ‘Play-in’ Gets Support From Ken

Members of Battersea Labour Party were joined on Saturday by Ken Livingstone and Sadiq Khan in expressing their disgust at Wandsworth Conservative Council’s plans to charge children £2.50 to use the adventure playground in Battersea Park.

Ken said ‘Boris Johnson’s Tory friends in Wandsworth have shocked Londoners by planning to charge parents £2.50 per child to use a playground.The man behind the pay to play plan, Wandsworth Council Leader Edward Lister, has just been appointed by Boris Johnson as his Chief of Staff at City Hall which gives a clear indication of the Tory Mayor’s priorities. We need a fairer London. We need Labour values that put the majority first, not a Mayor who only represents a few.’

With support from the Women of Wandsworth (WOW Mums), Wandsworth’s Labour Councillors and actress Prunella Scales, the campaign collected over 500 signatures from concerned parents at the Play-in . With 400 collected last weekend and the 880 online signatures there is plenty of public support for the campaign.  If the Conservatives get their way, the pilot charge will be introduced in October.

You can sign the online petition against the chargeshere:

Bolingbroke Sponsors Give In On Falconbrook Admissions

ARK, the hedge-fund backed charity which is sponsoring the Bolingbroke Academy in north Battersea, has decided to include Falconbrook in the school’s catchment area. A range of objectors including Falconbrook parents, Wandsworth Save Our Schools and Wandsworth Labour Group responded to ARK’s admissions consultation, which excluded the local primary from the named feeder schools. Labour said it would find any proposals which did not include the primary ‘unacceptable’ after Wandsworth council’s own report stated that  bringing in Falconbrook would make the Academy more representative of the social and ethnic diversity of the borough.

Tory leader’s plans will hit Wandsworth’s homeless, says Labour

 Responding to Cllr Govindia’s plans for reforming housing in Wandsworth, Labour housing spokesperson, Cllr Mark Thomas said:

 “This plan threatens to condemn Wandsworth’s homeless to a revolving door of insecure, unaffordable housing.

Wandsworth undoubtedly faces a housing crisis but cutting away the safety net from beneath the feet of the growing number of residents who face the nightmare of losing their home is no way to deal with it.  Instead, the council should be putting right years of failure to provide for residents’ housing needs, by making its surplus land available to housing associations at low prices so that they can build new homes for affordable rent.

The council should also change its rules for allocating housing by giving applicants extra points for each year they have waited.  This would make it easier for local people to work their way up the queue, but would avoid the penalising those who are out of work through no fault of their own.”

Wandsworth’s Top Lib-Dem Joins Labour

Local Lib-Dem activist Jeremy Ambache has joined Labour, citing disillusion with the Tory-led coalition’s NHS policies. Speaking to the Wandsworth Guardian he said: ‘I have decided that the Lib Dems have lost their way. The party appears to have lost the commitment to more social equality; and now I think that Ed Milliband’s Labour party is the strongest supporter of a more just society.’  

Read the whole story at:


Councillor Rex Osborn has been elected as the new leader of the Wandsworth Council Labour Group, taking over from Cllr Tony Belton, who is standing down from the post after reaching the milestone of 40 years as a councillor.

Rex has represented Graveney Ward in Tooting since 2006, and takes over his new role as Leader of the Group at the same time as the Wandsworth Conservatives have elected their first new leader in almost two decades.

Commenting on his election, Councillor Osborn said: “I take over as leader of the Labour Group at a crucial time. My job as leader of the opposition is to let the public know what their Council is doing – and to show that while they may be paying a low council tax, they are about to find that they are also getting the worst value.

“Wandsworth Council is facing the most severe cuts in its history – and the majority Conservative Party has already shown that it is more than willing to leave the most vulnerable in the Borough to bear the brunt of these cutbacks. We shall take the fight to the Tories, speak out against Conservative penny-pinching and heartless plans to attack the least well off in our communities. We will continue to work with local groups and residents on what matters – such as championing the right for all children to play free of charge in Wandsworth’s playgrounds, parks and open spaces.

“At a time like this, clear and courageous opposition is more important than ever – and as the Labour Group’s new Leader, I will ensure fairness and compassion are at the forefront in challenging everything Conservative Wandsworth tries to do.

“Over the last few weeks alone, in addition to proposals to start charging children to use playgrounds, the Conservative-led Council has announced cuts to the disabled children’s short breaks scheme – at the same time as investing over £14m in a new secondary school in one of the wealthiest areas of the Borough, for which there is no current need.”

Councillor Osborn takes over the leadership of the Labour Group from Councillor Belton, who has been a councillor since May 1971 and Labour Group Leader for 28 of his 40 years on the Council, including a short spell as leader of the Council in 1978.

Rex added: “Both the Labour Group and the residents of Wandsworth owe a great debt to Tony, who has given so much to the Borough over 40 years, and whose immense knowledge and experience will continue to be of huge value to the Labour Group.”

Councillor Osborn will formally take over the role of Leader of the Opposition at Wandsworth Council’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday evening.

Pay2play – No Way

Wandsworth’s Tory Councillors are to charge £2.50 for kids to play in the Adventure Playground in Battersea Park.  Almost 12,700 children in the borough, nearly a third, live in poverty. There is also a higher than average rate of child obesity – yet the charge will hit the poorest families hardest.

Read more:

Sign the petition against the charges here:

Tories Sit On The Fence Over Bolingbroke Admissions

Wandsworth Tory Councillors, including Cllr. Strickland, Chair of Governors at Falconbrook School have voted not to recommend that the new Bolingbroke Academy includes Falconbrook Primary in its catchment area.

Information given to councillors last week showed that the school’s admissions policy would be fairer to disadvantaged children if Falconbrook was included as a feeder school. Including the school would increase the proportion of children entitled to free school meals in the new Bolingbroke school from an estimated 19% without Falconbrook to around 26% if it was included, bringing it closer to the Wandsworth average.

Labour councillors and parent Governors combined to vote against the Conservatives’ neutral stance on Falconbrook but the recommendation, allowing the school’s sponsors ARK  and Northcote parents to make the decision on admissions, squeezed through by one vote.

Cllr. Andy Gibbons

Parking Permits Up, Road Repairs Down

Labour councillors voted against the Planning and Transport revenue budget for 2010-14 as it proposes £10m of cuts between now and the next council elections, reducing the budget for services from £12m each year to £9m. The main way of ‘saving’ the £3m a year is a £1.7m stealth tax, adding £25 to the cost of residents’ parking permits.

Councillor Ben Johnson questioned council officers on the 20 per cent cut in money for ‘Footway and Carriage Maintenance’. Funds available to fill in pot holes and other damage to the roads was reduced from £3.8m to £3m next year, with programmed maintenance cut by more than 30pc. The council confirmed there will be large cuts in capital spending on road junctions and town centres for at least the next two years – so residents can expect to see serious deterioration in their roads and pavements.

In the same meeting councillor Simon Hogg criticised the council’s plan to cut loans and grants intended to help businesses in some of the most deprived parts of Wandsworth invest during the recession. The Town Centre Improvement Scheme offered interest-free loans and grants from £1,000 to £15,000 to fund 75 per cent of new investment made by businesses in parts of Latchmere, Queenstown, St Mary’s Park, West Hill, Roehampton and Furzedown. This assistance has now been cut to 33 per cent, and several parades of shops will be told they will now receive no help at all.

The committee also approved the council’s strategy to increase the number of parking spaces in the borough available to car-sharing clubs from less than 100 to more than 1,000 in this decade by allowng other firms to compete with Streetcar in Wandsworth. The council eventually plans to charge these firms more than £1,000 per parking space.

Labour and Conservative councillors once more backed the council’s objections to Thames Water’s disruptive plans for several sites in the borough as part of their ‘super-sewer’ project – in particular Barn Elms playing fields and Tideway Walk, part of the Nine Elms regeneration area.

Furzedown councillors Leonie Cooper and Mark Thomas gave a presentation and convinced the committee to reconsider a Furzedown ward 20mph zone (depending on the results of a pilot scheme in Putney) and to place a vehicle-activated speed sign at a point of their choosing in the ward.

Local Schools pay the cost of Bolingbroke ‘Free School’

Tory Councillors mounted an astonishing attack on their own Local Education Authority at this month’s Council meeting.  Amongst the words used by top Tory councillors to describe local education during a Labour-led debate about the establishment of a new ‘free’ school on the Bolingbroke Hospital site  were’ substandard’, and ‘dire’ and ‘bog-standard’. Despite Wandsworth’s Education department’s four star rating by OFSTED – placing the Borough in the top three Authorities in the country – and steadily rising results, Wandsworth schools and state education in general came under attack from Council Leader, Edward Lister and  Cllrs. Russell King and Matthew Maxwell-Scott.

Cllr. Andy Gibbons said ‘Instead of praising teachers and pupils for the progress made, supported by officers of the council, Wandsworth Tories set out to rubbish their own schools. Cllr. Lister openly stated that the establishment of the ‘free’ school was for political reasons.  At £13m, that is a high price for Wandsworth’s residents to pay for a political experiment, especially when other schools such as Elliott, Chestnut Grove, Battersea Park and Graveney are crying out for repairs and modernisation. I’m sure ARK, who are sponsoring the Academy, must be feeling very uneasy about being used to support right-wing dogma of the kind we heard in this debate.’

Cllr. James Daley said ‘The Tories criticise Wandsworth schools but they have been running them for the last 20 years. If they don’t like them they only have themselves to blame – what have they been doing?’

In a further development six Councils have won a Judicial Review of the scrapping of the previous  Labour government’s Building  Schools for the Future initiative, which would have seen £300m allocated across all Wandsworth’s  secondary schools.  Part of this would have funded an extra 165 places across the Borough.  Wandsworth Council did not take part in the review. Cllr. Andy Gibbons ‘Wandsworth Tories have let residents down badly by failing to challenge the government over this attack on our schools. ’

Inflation busting rent rise for council tenants

Over 17,000 council tenants in Wandsworth will be more than £400 a year worse off on average following a rent increase decision by Wandsworth council. Tory councillors voted to hike up rents by an average of 7.4%, having rejected a motion put forward by Labour for a lower increase.

Labour’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Mark Thomas said:

“Wandsworth tenants already pay the highest council rents in the country. This inflation busting increase will cause real hardship, and shows just how out of touch the Tories are at a time when ordinary residents are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living.”

The Tories also voted down a Labour proposal to help ease the housing crisis in the borough by earmarking additional money from the sale of housing assets for the provision of new council and housing association properties. Cllr Mark Thomas added:

“With so many residents on the council’s housing waiting list, it’s vital that we build more council and housing association homes. Given the council’s poor track record in this area, it’s disappointing the Tories are not willing to take on board practical proposals to help ensure that Wandsworth performs better in future.”