A 4.5% swing to Labour was not enough to win the GLA seat, but Leonie Cooper and her team fought a great campaign.
Lib Dem 11,904
Wandsworth has the highest council rents in the country but is a low spender on repairs – our tenants don’t get value for money.
Ken Livingstone and Leonie Cooper at Tooting Broadway
Ken Livingstone promised people in Wandsworth they will be £1,000 richer if they vote him in May.
He pledged to reverse cuts to the police and to freeze transport fares for commuters in Wandsworth.
Mr Livingstone also said he would bring back the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for youngsters in higher education.
The mayoral candidate hoping for a third term in City Hall was launching his Better Off With Ken campaign outside Tooting Broadway station yesterday, delivering his manifesto while standing on a soapbox.
Labour councillors are joining angry residents and business owners in Wandsworth in calling for answers regarding Wandsworth Council’s poor management of refuse collection and street cleaning.
Many streets across the borough were left strewn with rubbish and uncollected refuse sacks this week, as the Council failed to inform residents of changes to their collections.
This unforeseen change occurred because the Council was forced to hand over the contract for waste collection to a new company, following the collapse of the second provider in a row.
This has led not only to a change in the day of collection, but also means the schedule for street cleaning now no longer ties in with that of waste collection – but none of this has been adequately conveyed to Wandsworth residents.
Labour strongly believes this situation has arisen due to Wandsworth Council’s poor management and financial incompetence, and that this disruption to service could have been avoided entirely.
Cllr Leonie Cooper said,
“Given the Conservative administration’s poor management, it is no surprise that residents have commented on the deterioration in the service received, as corners have seemingly been cut. This approach does not save money in the long run, as now we have seen the second company in a row go into administration. This is leaving Wandsworth residents at a great disadvantage, as uncollected waste, dirty streets and dog fouling are left to build up across the borough.”
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Cuts to police funding has led to severe under-staffing amongst Wandsworth’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams. The Tory-led Government’s 20 per cent cuts to policing go too far too fast and are already having a damaging impact on police forces here in Wandsworth, and across the country. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has estimated that these front-loaded cuts will lead to the loss of over 16,000 police officers over the next 4 years.
Wandsworth Labour councillors are concerned by the resultant lack of neighbourhood policing, and the effect this will have on local neighbourhood safety. Despite the duty for Safer Neighbourhood Teams to be represented by a minimum team of 6 for an average ward – comprising of 1 Sergeant, 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs – a majority in Wandsworth fall well short of this level.
Cuts to the police have meant that wards like Tooting are represented by only 2 police officers, and no PCSOs – despite the fact Tooting presents higher crime rates when compared to other areas with comparatively better police representation. The stretch on local policing is exacerbated by the fact that many personnel are forced to serve two neighbourhoods concurrently. According to police reports, this affects as many as 10 wards.
Cllr Leonie Cooper London Assembly candidate for Merton and Wandsworth said, “As Mayor, Boris Johnson has completely failed to stand up for Londoners and police numbers have plummeted. Even worse than Tooting, Furzedown ward only has 1 officer – the Sergeant. This is a disgrace. In May, Labour will reverse the Tory Mayor’s cuts to community policing, supporting all Safer Neighbourhood Teams across London. This would reverse this worrying shortage in Wandsworth, and help keep our streets safe.”
The MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison (CON) spoke on behalf of the ‘Back Boris’ campaign, whilst local Councillor and candidate for the London Assembly, Leonie Cooper (LAB), put the case for the ‘Ken for London’ team.
Jane Ellison took the floor first and offered a personal touch, stating that both she and Boris have known each other since University. “Boris has been Boris for as long as I can remember,” she said. She went on to state that she believes that the Mayor has put the interests of his city ahead of his political party, that he has to see the sense in keeping the major banks within London: concluding with the tagline: “London needs a Mayor who believes that this city’s best days are ahead of it, not behind it”.
Councillor Cooper then spoke about Ken Livingstone’s achievements when in office, his proposals for changes in policy, and how these might benefit students and others on low income, before finishing with the challenge, “If you want to have an approach that is fair for all Londoners, you need to be voting for Ken Livingstone”.
Students cross-questioned both speakers about their candidates’ policies on transport, affordable housing, and, of course, Higher Education. There was even a debate sparked around the question of why the city needs a Mayor at all.
But the biggest surprise of the session was the dramatic change in students’ voting preferences after hearing the debate. Anonymous electronic voters used before and after the session showed that the percentage of students who would vote for Ken Livingstone jumped from 17% to 54%. Most of these ‘swing’ voters had previously been committed to voting for another candidate altogether, or didn’t know which way they would vote. The percentage of those who said they would vote for Boris Johnson would be their pick declined slightly from 38% to 31%.
At last week’s budget setting meeting of Wandsworth Council, Labour councillors tabled an amendment which would have ensured further budget savings, whilst still protecting valued front-line services.
The Labour group also committed to the freeze on Council Tax this year.Keeping Council Tax frozen is part of Labour’s commitment to easing the burden on hard-working families, whose household budgets are being squeezed by Government cuts and a stagnant economy.
Labour also supports a temporary reversal of the VAT increase introduced by the Tory-led government, which is costing families an extra £450 a year. Likewise, as a key part of Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign, Labour is committed to bring the cost of travel down for Londoners.
Labour does not believe that hard-pressed families should pay the price for George Osborne’s poor economic management, which has seen unemployment rocket to the highest level since the last Tory government, and will require an extra £158bn more borrowing than planned over this parliamentary term.
However, committing to a freeze on Council Tax requires clear forward planning, which the Wandsworth Conservative administration fail to do.
We are clear that this decision will guarantee the need to find additional savings within council budgets in coming years, beyond the 28% reduction in funding already handed down by the Government over the next four years
Yet, we do not believe this can be used as an excuse for a further ravaging of front-line services across the Borough. Already we see declining numbers of PCSOs on our streets, libraries closing, and proposals to charge children just to play. All round, services are being slashed.
This is why we have identified additional savings which can be made from the back office and administrative functions of the council, in order to prioritise three key areas of the Council’s work:
As a principle, Labour believes in protecting the front-line as a fundamental priority of any sound budget.
Labour is clear that decisions made to cut or otherwise must be part of a cogent plan, and that keeping Council Tax low should not mean that taxpayers should expect less in return.
Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group said,
“Looking to the future, it is clear that short-term cuts may not always result in an overall saving if they produce long-term costs, something the Tory administration fail to understand.
“A fundamental priority of any sound budget is the need to protect those services with which residents interact every day, and to which service reductions and cuts are felt the hardest. This is especially important where cuts have a detrimental impact on the future economic prospects of the Borough and its residents.
“It is vitally important that we ensure the future prosperity of Wandsworth by maintaining services for young people and their families, by helping create healthy and well-educated future workforce, and by creating a safe and thriving community in which to do achieve this”
Cllr Leonie Cooper, GLA Candidate for Merton and Wandsworth said,
“Like the Mayor of London, the Wandsworth Conservatives prefer to see bonuses and high pay, rather than protection for front-line services.”
Labour and Tory Councillors have approved plans to modernise and refurbish the adventure playground in Battersea Park with brand new equipment and keep play free.
The decision, taken on Wednesday, will now be subject to public consultation. If backed by residents it would mean the playground does not need to introduce an admission charge – and would remain free to use. Councillors want to spend £200,000 on providing modern new equipment for the playground, which would conform to all the latest safety standards.
This would replace the playground’s existing wooden play structures and mean that staff would no longer be needed to supervise activities. The plans would allow the playground to remain open for longer than is currently possible. It would be available for use at all times the park is open, seven days a week.
In a radio interview for Radio London Cllr. Leonie Cooper, Labour’s GLA Candidate for Wandsworth and Merton also got a promise that all Wandsworth’s playgrounds will stay free. But Labour continues to have concerns about safety and loss of jobs, so any future proposals will be scrutinised for their impact on these two vital aspects of the service. Cllr. Andy Gibbons said ‘We are pleased the adventure playground will stay free, but we believe there is a role for professional staff in ensuring children play safely.’