2,005 into 10 won’t go – Wandsworth Council unprepared for impact of Government’s Bedroom Tax

By Sadiq Khan MP

Freedom of Information requests made by the Labour Party to Wandsworth Council have revealed that 2,005 families across the Borough will be hit by the Bedroom Tax which came into force on 1st April. Yet there are only ten 2 or 1 bedroom properties available if the families wanted to downsize. sadiq

The Bedroom Tax means that tenants in social housing will have their Housing Benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they have one spare bedroom, and 25 per cent if they have two or more spare bedrooms.

But this new information proves that there are not enough smaller properties for affected families to move to, even if they are willing to do so.
It is estimated that the Bedroom Tax will cost an estimated 30,000 people across the South West of England £780 per annum.

Last month National Housing Federation figures revealed that 855 people would be affected in Tooting alone.

Sadiq Khan MP said, “These shocking figures show that 95% of people hit by the Bedroom Tax in Wandsworth will have nowhere to move to. Instead people, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our community, will have to pay the unfair tax or be forced to move into the expensive private rented sector or in the worst cases, become homeless.

“It would be one thing if the Council or government provided enough properties for these families to consider moving into but they haven’t. 2005 does not go into 10! These families will have no choice to pay the penalty and have their Housing Benefit deducted by way of a Bedroom Tax.

“This is happening in the same week that the Government is choosing to give millionaires a huge tax cut. This is absolutely disgraceful.

“I will continue to support the people affected by this unfair tax and demand the Government drop it now.”

Wandsworth Labour: ‘We’d Bring In Lower Council Tax This Year’

By Cllr. Rex Osborn, Leader of  Wandsworth Labour Group

The council tax is a regressive tax which penalises the private rent-payer, the council rent-payer, the elderly and the less well off. This time of recession is not the time to increase it and Labour has a way of saving an extra £5m to which the Conservatives are opposed. Rex
With many households across Wandsworth still feeling the squeeze, the Labour Group believes the Council should be doing everything it can to help residents this year – not putting up Council tax at a time when residents can least afford it.
Furthermore, we’re alarmed at its decision to gamble with £500,000 of taxpayers’ money, by betting that some clever accounting will ensure it qualifies for the Government’s council tax freeze grant. If it doesn’t pay off, residents will be left with higher council tax as well as another £500,000 hole in the Council’s budget.
The Labour Group supports the exploration of a rationalisation of Council departments – but we’re concerned that these proposals are not thought through and that the Tory Leader, Cllr. Govindia,  has committed the Council to an unrealistic time-frame.
By announcing these half-baked plans without understanding all the repercussions, the Leader has left hundreds of Council employees fearing for their jobs, and concerned about the uncertainty which now lies ahead.
We would urge the Tories to slow the process down, and understand all the options before committing to any radical overhaul of the Council.”

Great Tory housing shame: Third of ex-council homes now owned by rich landlords

By http://www.mirror.co.uk/authors/nick-sommerlad/

The son of a former Tory Housing Minister and Mrs Thatcher aide during the peak years of right-to-buy owns at least 40 ex-council properties

House building graphic-1743450
Click to enlarge

The multi-millionaire son of a Tory minister who presided over the controversial “right-to -buy” scheme is a buy-to-let landlord owning scores of former council flats.

A Daily Mirror investigation found a third of ex-council homes sold in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher were now owned by private landlords.

In one London borough almost half of ex-council properties are now sub-let to tenants.

Read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/right-to-buy-housing-shame-third-ex-council-1743338

 

 

 

 

Why It Adds Up To Pay The London Living Wage

By Cllr. Peter Carpenter

The London Living Wage is an independently set level of pay designed to reflect the substantially higher costs of living in London than in the country as a whole. Currently it stands at £8.55 per hour compared with £6.19 per hour for the national minimum wage. Peter Carpenter

Labour believes that there are substantial benefits to be derived for both the Council and the economy as a whole from the incorporation of the London Living Wage into its pay policy.

From an economic viewpoint one of the best ways of reducing in-work benefits is to increase in working wages. For every additional pound in wages a low paid worker receives, the state receives:

• 12p in Employer’s National Insurance
• 12p in Employee’s National Insurance
• 20p in Standard Rate Income Tax
• 20p in VAT as low paid employees will of necessity spend most of their income – that’s 64p

And if the worker receives in-work benefits, such as housing benefit – as most of them do – the state will benefit from a withdrawal rate of some 65p in the pound. That’s a total of £1.29 for every extra pound earned. Or to put it another way, for every extra billion that is paid to the low paid, the deficit is reduced by some £1.3 billion.

There are those who say that they support the London Living Wage, but that at a time of austerity we cannot afford to introduce it. Quite the reverse is true. At a time of austerity we need to get growth into the economy. Growth is driven by consumption, and if we increase the wages of the low paid, they will spend it.

Increasing the wages of the low paid also provides an incentive for business to drive up productivity, and productivity growth leads to growth in the economy as a whole.

Turning specifically to Wandsworth Council, our lowest paid employee is currently paid just over £15,000 per annum, only slightly below the London Living Wage. So the costs of implementing the London Living Wage are relatively modest – something over £100,000. This could be accommodated within the current 1% provision for salary increases in 2013/14, by skewing increases towards the lowest paid.

For the Council’s contracted-out services, the costs are more substantial, estimated at over £6 million per year.

However, most of our contracts are multi-year, so our proposal is to include the payment of the London Living Wage as one of the non-financial factors in future Most Economically Attractive contract evaluations as contracts come up for renewal. This approach means that any costs of introducing the London Living wage will be spread over a number of years.

For those contracts where hourly payments are currently substantially below the London Living Wage, it would also be possible to phase in the London Living Wage over several years, to mitigate any cost impact.

We estimate that the combination of these two approaches will result in contracts that at re-tender are no more expensive than current contracts.

The London Living Wage is increasingly being adopted by both public and private sector organisations across London. I do not think that the Mayor of London has adopted the London Living Wage because he is a revolutionary socialist, nor, I suspect, is the Big Four accountancy firm KPMG.

The reason they have adopted it, is because it makes economic sense for them. KPMG has said specifically that the costs of introducing the London Living Wage to its contracted out services, like messengers, security and cleaning, have been offset by the benefits of lower absenteeism, and lower staff turnover, resulting in lower training costs.

Wandsworth Council should introduce the London Living Wage.

  • It will help reduce the deficit and grow the economy.
  • It will lift some of our most poorly paid workers out of poverty.
  • It will demonstrate that the Council is a socially responsible employer – and it need not cost the Council a penny in new money.

Five things we did in Tooting Graveney Ward in 2012…

Graveney Councillors Rex, Billi and Andy, Sadiq Khan MP and local supporters

Trident Centre, Bickersteth Road

After objections by local residents, concerns about the future of the businesses in The Trident Centre and the suitability of the site, the sponsors decided to withdraw from establishing a ‘free’ school.

New Primary School, Franciscan Road

We encouraged the establishment of a new primary school, linked to Graveney School, in the old school building on Franciscan Road. This is planned to open in September 2013.

Planning application  for the Professional Centre, Franciscan Road

We supported residents’ objections to the over-development of the playground area of what will become the new primary school on Franciscan Road. Developers plan to build a four storey building for elderly residents.

Crossing at St. Boniface Church, Mitcham Road

After a long campaign by the congregation of St. Boniface church, backed by ourselves and Sadiq Khan MP, the Council agreed to site a new pedestrian crossing by the Church. This was a great credit to the Late Fr. Bonvini, who was instrumental in the success of the petition.

Tooting Town Centre

We supported a plan by local police to curb street drinking by establishing a street drinking exclusion zone and helping people with alcohol problems through an outreach scheme. We are keen to see further development of the town centre and the market.

…… as well as attending street parties, school fetes, working with churches and community groups in Graveney and being your local voice in the Town Hall. And, of course, helping Graveney residents with individual concerns.

Cllr. Rex Osborn is a founder member of Tooting  History Group and conducts local historical walks. He is a Vice Chair of the Local Safer Neighbourhood panel.

Cllr. Billi Randall is Chair of Governors at Franciscan school. She is an active member of the Tooting Town Centre Partnership.

Cllr. Andy Gibbons is involved in organising local music events around Tooting and has close links with the Tamil Welfare Association of Wandsworth.

Let us know your priorities for 2013:  office@tootinglabour.org.uk or leave a comment below.

TORIES TELL SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN TO TAKE THE BUS

The Wandsworth Tories are proposing a new transport scheme which seeks to ‘encourage independence’ for children with special educational needs (SEN). 

The Tory Council’s main proposal is to, as standard, reimburse parents for travel costs – such as by public transport or by their own car – rather than having the council provide that transport as before by specially adapted bus or taxi.

Children will now have to undergo more rigorous, annual tests to be deemed as still eligible for specialist SEN transport from the Council.

Wandsworth Labour councillors are concerned that the costs of these proposals could outweigh any benefits.

Whilst appreciating the need to use budgets efficiently, Wandsworth Labour shares parents’ concerns that these changes will be forced upon children for whom they are simply not appropriate.

The added burden could also cause massive upheaval for many families. During the consultation, working parents were concerned that they simply would not be able to manage to transport all their children to different locations.

Some parents fear these changes could have an adverse impact on their child’s school attendance, or even their own employment.

Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of Wandsworth Labour group, is challenging the rationale for these proposals:

“Not only will these changes cause real difficulties for many families, it is also not clear that a broad range of options have been considered.

“Transport arrangements for children with Special Educational Needs do need to be updated and improved, but parents are seriously concerned by the proposals the Tories are currently advocating.

“I don’t feel the impact of these changes has truly been considered. This is why I’m arguing for a full Equality Impact Assessment to be undertaken. Under this kind of scrutiny I think it would become clear that costs to the children and their families outweigh the benefits of this policy as it stands.”

How Wandsworth Tories Failed Elliott School

Wandsworth Labour’s Rex Osborn accuses the Tory Council of neglecting Elliott School and attacks the Tory-led government for cutting Labour’s Building Schools for the Future funding.

New Planning Application for RACS Building

Artist’s impression of the new building

Consultation on the future of  the former RACS building  in Tooting begins this week.  You can view plans at 88 Cowick Rd Mon – Fri 9am – 4pm; or go to the  exhibition 4th & 11 Aug at 220 Upper Tooting Road. The plans are essentially the same as the previous proposals.

The proposal retains and restores the RACS building facade, and  includes four new shops, a hotel (83 rooms), community space, student housing (75 rooms),  62 car parking spaces and 60 cycle parking spaces.

Full details and a consultation response  form are available here:

http://www.pendleton-assoc.com/Public%20consultation.html

Tooting Street Drink Ban Starts This Week

From Alex Rucki Wandsworth Guardian

An order which bans street drinking in specific parts of the borough has launched this week. 

The Tooting designated public place order gives police officers the power to instruct people to stop drinking in designated public places, as well as confiscate their alcohol.Anyone who refuses could face an on-the-spot fine or even legal action.

Tooting High Street, Upper Tooting Road and Streatham Cemetery are affected by the plans, which will remain in place for 12 months from July 30. Over the past week outreach workers have been out in Tooting offering support to street drinkers and encouraging them to go to health clinics.

They are then given a basic check and directed towards further help, with many of the drinkers often found to be homeless. There have already been 15 people contacted and three of these have gone on to have further sessions.

Graveney ward councillor, Councillor Billi Randall, said: “For many years Labour’s Councillors have been concerned that the town centre has been blighted by some very intransigent street drinkers and this should see the problem really tackled.

“There is an enforcement element to the DPPO, but the intention is to be able to directly tackle people’s problems as well as to stop the anti-social behaviour associated with street-drinking.”

Read more here:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9845589.Street_drinking_order_launches_today/?ref=mr

Street drinkers targeted under new plan

Tooting’s Labour Councillors are supporting a plan to deal with problem street drinkers in Tooting and Graveney. The council and police are proposing to make outside public places in parts of the two wards, including Tooting High Street, alcohol free zones.

The scheme, which starts next Monday, comes in response to increasing reports from members of the public about a hardcore group of street drinkers, who are the source of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour such as fighting, intimidation and urinating in public.

It would give constables and police community support officers the power to instruct people to stop drinking in designated public places – and if necessary confiscate their alcohol. Anyone refusing could face an on-the spot fine or prosecution in the magistrates court.

The zone, which will remain in place for 12 months, would cover Tooting High Street, Upper Tooting Road and extend south west to include Lambeth Cemetery, north west to include Streatham Cemetery and south east to include Rectory Lane (the proposed area can be seen in the map above).

Wandsworth Council believes the alcohol free zone would help businesses in the area, as owners and employees have reported that they have suffered a loss of trade due to customers being put off by street drinkers outside shops.

The council, NHS Wandsworth and local police safer neighbourhood team have attempted to curb the problems caused by street drinkers by trying to help enrol them in alcohol treatment programmes.

Later this month and for a period of several weeks, outreach workers from local drug and alcohol services – working closely with the police – will encourage people in street drinking groups to attend specially established drop in surgeries so that their overall health can be assessed and they can receive the help they need to control their drinking.

Meanwhile, police have, where appropriate, referred street drinkers with housing issues to London Street Rescue, which has resulted in them either being housed or given temporary shelter.

An alcohol free zone is essentially a Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) – contained in The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 and designed to tackle nuisance and annoyance caused by the consumption of alcohol in public places.