We all make mistakes. It is human nature. But I cannot help but wonder what Battersea’s MP is up to when he posts his explanation for his Heathrow vote on his website.*

Apparently he voted FOR the third runway because he was trying to vote AGAINST it.  Got that?  The reason he made that mistake?  Well, it was all the Tories fault.  In his own words:

 I was expecting two votes and instead of voting for an Opposition motion on the first vote I was going to vote against a Government motion for a third runway on the second vote. But the Opposition decided not to call the second vote.

So that’s all right then.  He’s only been in Parliament since 1997, and it’s not as if the issue was getting major news coverage or anything – so it’s all perfectly understandable.

Yes, we all make mistakes, and, to be honest, I am sure that plenty of votes in the Commons are cast the wrong way. But when it’s on one of the biggest issues facing his constituency (and he doesn’t live too far from me, so  know he suffers from Heathrow noise too) you would rather hope your representative in Parliament would do his job and take the time to check especially when he’s defending a wafer thin majority.

Either way you look at it, he’s either not representing his constituents, or he’s not up to his job.  He needs to go.


* UPDATE Martin Linton’s website seems to have lost the page explaining his vote.  Fortunately ConservativeHome had a copy which I’ve pasted below.  It is an interesting read, but I just cannot understand how someone with over 10 years experience of Parliament, and who has worked so hard to fight the 3rd runway which (after the recession, surely the biggest issue facing his constituents) can get this utterly wrong.

This is a mix-up for which I am entirely responsible. I was expecting two votes and instead of voting for an Opposition motion on the first vote I was going to vote against a Government motion for a third runway on the second vote. But the Opposition decided not to call the second vote.

I now wish I had taken my opportunity of voting against the runway on the first vote and I feel not a little embarrassed at the confusion this has caused, but I can only say that I remain against a third runway and I shall not miss an opportunity to vote against if one comes up.

I lobbied the Aviation Minister and the Transport Minister and went with a group of London MPs to see the Prime Minister twice to try to persuade them against any increase in flights into Heathrow and we were successful in persuading them to drop the idea of all-day flights. This would have meant an increase in flights over Battersea and an end to the system of runway alternation, which gives people under each flightpath a break of eight hours each day without aircraft landing overhead.

I think there is still a chance of persuading the Government to drop the third runway and I shall certainly keep trying. It is not due to be started until 2015 and it has to go through a long planning inquiry first, and then it has to meet noise and pollution targets that are so high that some people think they may never be met.

The first vote was on a Conservative motion to ask the Government to ‘think again’ and the second vote would have been on a Government amendment supporting the third runway, which I would have opposed.  Only the first was put to the vote and was defeated by 19 votes.

While it the announcement that the UK is formally in a recession was expected, the size of the fall of GDP took many by surprise.  Three quarters have now passed since the UK economy grew, Q2 2008 saw the economy remain flat, to be followed by 0.6% and 1.5% contractions in Q3 and Q4.

And the effects have been felt in Wandsworth.  Jobseekers Allowance claims rose steeply in December 2008.JSA-claims-dec-2007-dec-2008Over the course of the year, from December 2007 to December 2008, Jobseekers Allowance claims rose by 937 (3,718 to 4,655).  The increase between November and December 2008 was 359 (4,296 – 4655).  However, Wandsworth can still claim some good news as it is still in a better position than London and the rest of the Britain; in Wandsworth 2.3% of residents claim JSA, compared to a rate of 3.2% and 3% for London and Britain respectively.

st-georges-effort-streetIf you visit St George’s Hospital via the pedestrian entrance on Effort Street, SW17, you’ll have noticed that it’s been given a substantial facelift. What you probably didn’t realise is that it was done in conjunction with the council’s Community Safety Division.

I popped down there this morning, along with Steve Jiggins, who helped design the scheme, to have a look and chat with some of the St George’s staff involved.  The first thing anyone would notice is that the approach to the hospital is so much nicer, it’s a real visual improvement.  But Steve Jiggins work was not just a matter of making it look nicer.

The previous entrance had been a blank brick wall, with a couple of door-ways and, on the St George’s side large trees.  Aside from the fact that a blank wall is never that attractive, it meant that there was very limited visibility between the hospital and the street.  You would move from one side to the other without knowing what was there.  This was particularly dangerous if you were entering St George’s because it was straight onto an internal road, but it created a real fear of crime.

Add to this the lack of step-free access on this pedestrian route and it really didn’t create the welcome to the hospital St George’s are hoping to create with their new main entrance.

And this is where Steve Jiggins came in.  He helped design an entrance that was not only more pleasant, but a lot safer.  The use of railings means that you can see what is on the other side; so can the hospital’s CCTV.  It has included step-free access and there gateways no longer lead straight onto the hospital’s internal road.  Most importantly, by opening up the views and visibility it feels more welcoming and safer, thus reducing the fear of crime.

When people think of Community Safety they often think of the police and little else.  In fact the Community Safety Division do huge amounts of work, just like this, with private individuals and businesses, across the borough to make Wandsworth safer, and more pleasant, for everyone.

You can find out more about their at the Wandsworth Community Safety website.

  • Why are M&S leaving Balham? http://bit.ly/MSwtd #
  • I’m returning to Facebook to join @mysociety in their campaign to stop MPs’ keeping their expenses secret. Join at http://bit.ly/Z3Zp #
  • It feels a bit like when I realised Father Christmas wasn’t real… The Stig has been outed http://tinyurl.com/8h2hp3 (via @Timforchange) #
  • I’ve just been told my Stig link was wrong. Sorry, it should be http://bit.ly/ABCOc Ken Clarke isn’t the Stig, and wasn’t Black Stig either #
  • My productive day has been brought to an end by the discovery my email server is down and has been queuing emails all weekend. #
  • About to begin a long long meeting at the town hall. Why did Sky move 24 from Sundays? Mondays are so bad for me and TV. #
  • Another day of solid achievement beckons. #
  • Today’s a good day to follow @usembassylondon (future Wandsworth residents) if you don’t already, they’re flagging up some interesting reads #
  • My house is very quiet today – too quiet – can anyone recommend some good internet listening for some background noise while I work? #
  • My old iMac G5 is crawling, will it be snappier after the inauguration, or are my expectations of the President-elect a little too high? #
  • Right, time to put on the inauguration coverage. Does anyone think the BBC’s coverage with have enough cliche to justify a drinking game? #
  • Right… Stopping work and watching a Sky+ed ’24’. But will Pres. Obama ever have to face Die Hards 2-4 in a single day? #
  • On my way to meet the scrutiny chairman to discuss the next meeting. Focusing on crime next time, particularly the strategic assessment. #
  • First coffee of the day, freshly ground and brewed. I refuse to accept anyone in the world (Obama included) will have a better coffee today. #
  • RT @StuartYoung: Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter (and Must Be Stopped) http://tinyurl.com/8gnnb7 #
  • No offence intended with that last Tweet, btw – I’m in no position to knock, I can only claim incompetence across a range of activities. #
  • I wonder, do any of the Gladiators tweet? The nice ones I mean, not Tornado. #
  • At the launch of Wandsworth’s 10 year vision. Difficult to imagine what the next. 10 years will bring when you think back to 1999. #
  • Right, logging out of Twitter, closing mail.app and turning off the phone to wrestle with a bout of solid achievement. #
  • Spent morning wrestling with solid achievement. I won, two falls & one submission. Now back being distracted by Twitter like everyone else. #
  • I’m bored rigid by my work-out regime at the gym, does anyone know of some good online resources to help me develop a new routine? #
  • Retrieving a few bits and pieces from my old Palm Treo. I thought this was good, then came the iPhone – how did I use it for so many years? #
  • I bet Obama doesn’t do his own canvassing. #
  • Alcohol. The fuel of democracy. #
  • I’m fighting depressing weather and official recession by whistling while I work. #
  • Meeting with my community safety team to chat about some of our projects for the next year. Got some exciting stuff on the horizon. #
  • Anyone know what this guy was doing between 1997-2007? (sorry for the politics) http://twitpic.com/167gf #
  • I’m resisting the urge to respond to a @liz_azyan tweet – and instead concentrating on my own work. #
  • Just been on facebook and found myself wondering why I bothered, it seems to have become a chore. Will Twitter ever be like that? #
  • A freezing cold Saturday morning. Obviously ideal canvassing time. So why does everyone look so tired and grumpy? #
  • Having watched the football inertia is carrying me through Police Academy 2. Could I be less productive? Yes. Yes I can. I’ll tweet about it #
  • Another win for the Mariners, 3-0. Take that Rotherham. #
  • Facebook as a crimefighting tool? (via @WandsworthNews) http://tinyurl.com/b64rqe #

Something of a retread post, but if you haven’t already there are still a few days left to register a vote for one of your local parks and help it win funding from the Mayor who is investing £6 million into popular London parks.

Forty-seven parks across London have been shortlisted and the ten with the most votes will receive some of the funding for improvements.

Two of the shortlisted parks are in Wandsworth, so please considering voting for one of them. It can be done by text or online.

The two parks are:

King George’s Park (Wandsworth)
You can vote for King George’s by:
texting PARKS SW18 3HS to 62967
using the voting form on Help a London Park.

Latchmere Recreation Ground (Battersea)
You can vote for Latchmere by:
texting PARKS SW11 5AD to 62967
using the voting form on Help a London Park.

Texts will cost 10p, in addition to any charge you pay to your network and voting ends on 30 January. You can find out more details from Wandsworth council’s parks vote page or the GLA’s Help a London Park.

brown-i-didnt-see-crisis-comingWe’re officially in recession, with a second quarter of ‘negative growth’, although we’ve gone three quarters without any growth.  Unemployment is rising, so is crime, and house values are falling almost as quickly as high street names.  So why is it, as a Conservative, I sorry for Gordon Brown?

It is an odd feeling.  But I’ve had it for a long time.  I think it’s because he’s actually not very good at his job, I’m sure he’s well-meaning and has the best intentions, but sadly he’s just not up to delivering on them.

I was first aware of it shortly after he became Prime Minister.  He’d desperately wanted the job for so long, and when he finally got it, it turns out he’s not very good at it.  It’s like being a child at Christmas, desperately wanting some toy, then, finally getting it and discovering that it isn’t actually anything like you imagined it.

What has really compounded my pity is the discovery that he wasn’t any good at his last job either.  He’s basically spent the past 12 years turning up for work and hoping no-one spots that he’s bluffing, promising “an end to boom and bust” and sustained growth.  Of course, now he blames the international banking system, as if it’s something new rather than something he failed to regulate or monitor properly.  Or maybe he managed 10 years as Chancellor ignorant of the fact there was a banking system.

And bizarrely, all of us have known for a long time it was coming.  I remember having conversations in pubs at least 3 or 4 years ago, speculating on whether it was worth selling the house and banking the equity for when the crash came, and most people I know can recall similar thoughts or conversations from before the recession.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, but when the man in the pub can feel it coming, it really speaks to the incompetence of a man not spotting it despite having an entire Treasury of civil servants and economists.

But although I feel sorry for the guy, I feel sorrier for the ordinary people who are losing their jobs and homes on his watch and it’s time for me to move past my sentimentality.  We all love the plucky amateur who refuses to recognise his lack of talent – shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent trade on it – but when he’s managed to rise so far above his level of competence that he’s running the country, and running it into the ground, he doesn’t deserve pity – he deserves the boot.

Readers with a particular interest in crime and community safety matters in Wandsworth, or indeed London, might be interested in taking a look at Neighbourhoodlink.

The new service from Metropolitan Police promises:

news and information about policing activity or initiatives, crime prevention advice as well as major incidents affecting your area

Given that it is a new service it’s a bit early to assess its usefulness, but for the sake of 30 seconds to sign up to something that could provide useful information when it’s needed, it’s probably worth signing up (you do not need to complete the questions about ethnic minority, gender or sexuality – which are, quite frankly, irrelevant to the service).

The whole episode of MPs’ expenses has been an interesting one, many will concentrate on the government’s reaction, which has been a typical Brownite dither, bottle it, try and blame the Tories.  What I think is more interesting, though, was the initial attitude.  Having passed the Freedom of Information Act, the government then decided it shouldn’t apply to MPs.

Initially I wasn’t a great fan of the Freedom of Information Act.  The great majority of applications that come through the council fall into five categories:

  1. Someone appealing against a parking ticket, asking for all the information they can get in the hope of supporting their appeal.
  2. Headhunters and recruitment consultants, looking for organisation charts, names and contact details to help them find and place candidates for jobs.
  3. Political researchers of all parties, who are compiling information for a current campaign or cause (and probably making the same request to every council)
  4. Journalists, hoping to find something embarrassing for a headline (again, probably making the same request to many councils)
  5. People genuinely seeking information, but not realising that looking around the council’s website or using Google would have found the information already published.

There are very few requests from members of the public for information they couldn’t get any other way.  This is because Wandsworth has always operated as openly as possibly, with the principle always being that unless there is a compelling reason information should be placed straight into the public domain.  The number of confidential papers seen by councillors is very small, and limited to those containing sensitive commercial or personal information.

On that basis we could probably have a great case for saying that Freedom of Information legislation should be changed, after all, why should the council tax payer be helping recruitment consultants who are already being paid by their clients.  Maybe we should be able to decide what is a ‘legitimate’ request, or decide the format in which we will provide the information so we can cut down on these requests.

But that would go totally against the the spirit of freedom of information.  Given that power, what would there be to stop us, or any public authority, picking and choosing the requests we answer, or the information we release.  It is a very very dangerous path when, as happened here, the government decides it doesn’t like the rules and that the best course of action isn’t compliance, but using Parliament to change the law.

The simple fact is that while the Freedom of Information Act is a pain a lot of the time, it does change behaviour.  Public bodies are more open to begin with knowing that private individuals have the power to see information even if they try and hide it.  It makes for an empowered public and better government; we let the state remove that right at our peril.

Everyone who joined the campaign, and especially MySociety who organised it, deserve congratulations in standing up against the government and Harriet Harman’s ridiculous proposals.

My expenses
It is only fair I reveal my expenses.  It’s fairly simple.  I haven’t claimed any – my total for the year is £0.00.

A councillor doesn’t get an allowance for a second home, nor does it buy any furniture, clean my windows or do my gardening and I’m expected to fund my own travel around the borough.

The nearest I get to expenses is being part of the council’s ‘Computers for Members’ scheme which provides IT related equipment to councillors to help them do their job.  I have a printer (I bought my own computer) and broadband access under the scheme and pay the council £12.35 a month for it.  Given that you can get broadband for free from a lot of places, and how cheap printers are, it’s probably not a great deal.

Edward Lister, the Council Lister, is launching ‘Our Wadsworth’, the council and the Local Strategic Partnership’s vision for the next 10 years.
Thinking about how the borough has changed in the past 10 years it’s exciting to think about how it can change in the next 10 years. And this vision not only sets out our vision but also targets the council and its partners will be aiming to meet to make Wandsworth safer, greener and healthier over the next 10 years.

Posted via email from jamescousins’s posterous

Clapham Junction  Clapham Junction

One Clapham Junction development I am allowed to talk about are the council’s plans to improve the area around the road junction.

Anyone who knows the area will know the junction of Lavender Hill, St John’s Hill, St John’s Road and Falcon Road is something of a mess. Visually, it’s full of clutter, and it just doesn’t work that well as a junction for traffic or pedestrians.

Tonight’s Planning and Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee will, hopefully, be passing a report to make a start on improvements.

A decluttered Clapham Junction?
A decluttered Clapham Junction?

The overall scheme, which has been in development since 2007, it too expensive for the council to undertake alone, but elements of it can be done. The suggestion is to look at the ‘traffic management’ since, by improving the way vehicles move through the junction it will improve the quality for all users, including pedestrians – and most importantly improve safety.

Drivers will get a better junction to traverse, and some may be able to avoid it altogether, with a right turn now being allowed onto Falcon Lane (past Asda). Pedestrians will benefit from wider pavements and better crossings. And everyone will benefit from a visual improvement, with a much cleaner and more attractive gateway to one of our busiest town centres.