My speech on why Wandsworth needs to stand up for its residents and oppose cuts to policing

There’s nothing in this paper on community safety that we disagree on.

The Council’s plans basically mirror the proposals put forward by the Mayor of London in his recent consultation on public access to the Met police services – which may I say the Council promoted very poorly – but don’t get me started on the Council’s woeful track record on consultation!

Given there is consensus on both sides on the need for more community police officers, more neighbourhood involvement and a more targeted  approach – all of which are Mayoral proposals, attempts by the Tories on this Council to rubbish the mayor publically, while supporting his proposals on paper, for purely party-political motives, do you no credit at all.

Let’s be very clear about what is happening to policing and why.

The MET has been asked to find savings of £1bn over an 11 year period, leaving it in the terrible position of having to sell off assets.

The police station in Lavender Hill will have to close.

Make no mistake. Central government cuts are to blame.

The Mayor is trying to mitigate the impact of these cuts by modernising the way policing is done. The underused not-for-purpose Lavender Hill police station will be replaced by a modern 24-hour police station. We hope this will be close to the existing one – the devil is always in the detail. Public access to the police will be improved through the introduction of modern technology like ipads and iphones and through new local crime desks where people can more easily report their concerns.

Crucially, by taking these steps, the number of police employed by the MET will remain stable and community policing will be strengthened.

We have the Mayor to thank.

So what is this Council doing? Instead of standing up to central government, publically opposing the £1bn reduction in the MET’s budget or offering innovative solutions as the Mayor has, this Council is running a campaign to rubbish the Mayor.

When Tooting police station closed under Boris Johnson, this Council stayed silent. When Lavender Hill station is earmarked for closure under a Labour Mayor, Tory cllrs turn out in their droves to hold up placards.

It does this, not to serve its residents, but to try and extract some misguided political gain ahead of elections that it fears it will lose. And because, frankly, it has nothing else to offer its residents.

This behaviour is part of a pattern which does not serve the people of this borough.

Time was this Council had the confidence to oppose government plans its residents didn’t support – like the expansion of Heathrow. Back then, the Council’s opposition filled the pages of Brightside.

But now, all residents can expect is a total capitulation to the Government’s austerity measures, even when they don’t serve the people they have been elected to represent. And ill-judged party politicking to try and score cheap points against a Mayor who is working in the interests of those who elected him against a backdrop of truly astonishing public cuts.

Take Grenfell. This Council refuses to publically lobby Central Government for the money it needs to install sprinkler systems after that appalling fire.

Instead this Council stays quiet, opting to spend its own taxpayers money to plug the funding gap from central government rather than rock the boat.

Whose side is this Council on?

Take cuts to local schools budgets which will cost Wandsworth’s Schools £7.7 million by 2020. This Council is ideally—placed to publically lobby the Education Secretary – herself a Wandsworth MP.

Imagine the impact it would have on central government if the Secretary of State’s own Tory Council stood up for its residents and opposed these cuts.

That really would make Brightside worth reading!

Instead the cabinet member will tell us that she’s having a quiet word in private, and that “schools have to think creatively”. Like it’s their fault they haven’t got the money they need to teach our children.

This Council has become a sorry excuse for an administration – nothing more than a government lackey, serving the Government’s agenda and not its residents.

It blames everyone except those who are to blame for cuts in policing and education. It should put the placards down, pick up the ‘phone to central government and stand up for Wandsworth.


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