An, as yet, unfilled audience for the Open Forum
An, as yet, unfilled audience for the Open Forum

Last night’s Open Forum organised by the Balham and Tooting Community Association was an interesting and, I think, useful event.  It was fairly well attending (I’m hopeless at judging numbers, but I’m guessing at least 50 or 60 people) and there were some good questions and useful points made.

Perhaps unsurprisingly a lot of the discussion was about young people and crime, but even then the main thrust did not seem to be about a lack of facilities.  You will commonly hear the complaint that ‘there aren’t enough youth clubs’ when actually there’s one just around the corner and the problem is that it isn’t being used by the perceived problem youths.  Instead, the complaint was about the type and quality of provision.  One comment made a few times was that kids have XBoxes, Wiis and PS3s at home; putting them in youth clubs isn’t that constructive!

A valid point, but I know that council officers would contend that without them, people just don’t attend youth clubs and they serve the purpose of ‘bait’ which gets young people into the youth club so they can try and engage them more creatively and constructively.

A second point was the cleanliness of Tooting.  Again, however, it seemed incredibly constructive and was directed more towards how everyone can work together to improve Tooting.  Indeed, when one person tried to blame the council they got very little support and I seemed to be speaking to nodding heads when I explained that Tooting currently gets more cleaning than any other town centre and at some point we have to look at how rubbish is getting on the streets and who is putting it there.

I was shocked to learn recently that over 100 businesses in Tooting did not have Trade Waste Agreements.  Legally a business should have an agreement with a refuse collection company to collect the waste they produce.  When council officers visited businesses in Tooting to explain the introduction of time-banded collections (refuse collections now take place at specific times, and refuse should not be left out for lengthy periods before) they discovered a huge number of businesses had simply not bothered making arrangements.

Effectively these 100 businesses were fly-tipping Tooting on a regular basis.  While I accept Wandsworth Council has a duty to clean our streets, I also believe that our residents and businesses have a duty not to litter them.  Having said all that when I left (at around 10pm) I took a quick stroll around Tooting as I’m rarely in the area that late at night, and was impressed at how clean it was.  The new time-banded collections have obviously made a real difference.

A number of other issues were raised, including the development plans for Springfield, open spaces in town centres, parking, traffic management and use of the markets.  I know I will have missed some.  The session lasted over two hours and I’m sure could have lasted another two without running out of steam or value.

I asked the organisers to let me have a copy of any notes they captured from the evening so I can arrange fuller responses and consideration by the relevant council departments.  I’ll report back on that here if appropriate.