Last night’s Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee was something of a blast from the past, since the Labour Party spent a lot of time presenting a paper prepared by Stuart King. Stuart was a councillor in Wandsworth from 1998 until 2006 when he lost his seat. He was also the Labour group leader and served on a lot of the same committees as me before his defeat.
Stuart’s latest hobby has been representing the Labour party in Putney, and as part of this he has, as is his right, been campaigning against our plans to create employment, quality housing and businesses and a pleasant environment in Roehampton.
The Labour group brought one of his misleading surveys to the committee last night. Despite admitting that the council had conducted extensive consultation in the area and that King’s report could be said to be biased they suggested the council should spend more money to ask people, for the fourth time, what they thought.
In fact, I think it represents a total failure of the Labour group to provide community leadership. It’s the fourth different position they have taken in four meetings. First of all they supported regeneration. Then they weren’t sure. Then they opposed it. Now they want to ask people what they should think.
What leaves me most disappointed is Tony Belton’s stance, since it seems his group is now, rather than serving the Wandsworth community, just dancing to Stuart King’s tune.
Roehampton has the borough’s highest unemployment rate. It has higher than average crime. It has a disproportionately high take up of non-work related benefits like incapacity and lone parent benefits. It is badly served by public transport, so people face difficult journeys to work or learn. Hence the scheme, designed to create employment in a refreshed centre at Danebury Avenue and Roehampton Lane.
It is one of the few times I have really been saddened by Wandsworth politics. The political groups will always have different solutions to problems, but this is one time when Labour have shown a poverty of ambition and, in doing so, seek to remove the hope of Roehampton and Alton Estate residents.