There is going to be another gap until I can start publishing crime maps again.

The crime briefings that are used to produce the maps are created from data given to the council’s Community Safety Division by the police.  The Community Safety Division ‘sanitises’ the data to ensure that personal information does not get into the public domain.  It is important that victims are not identified in them.

Both the council and the police take the security of the data very seriously, and while there has not been a problem with the process they’ve decided to halt until a secure communication channel can be set-up.  Work is in progress on this, and will be completed within the next week or two.

In the meantime you can have a look at the Met’s crime maps.  I think these are still far from perfect (you can read why in a previous post) and it’s highly likely all you’ll discover is that crime is ‘average’ – but they are better than nothing.

  • Q for local gov types, in 140 chars or less: what is the most important thing a cllr should know/do about community leadership & engagement? #
  • RT: In 140 chars or less: what is the most important thing a cllr should know/do about community leadership & engagement? in reply to jamescousins #
  • Tooting, Earlsfield and Furzedown crime briefing/mapping online: #
  • I’m now second on Google for ‘Dignity by Dev Alahan’! I’m tweeting ‘handsome and intelligent councillor’ in hope of a similar effect. #
  • I need to celebrate, ‘Dignity by Dev Alahan’ has got me to number one in the Google charts! #
  • It’s sad, if not that surprising, to discover the Wandsworth Borough News is no more: #
  • I’m mourning Wedgwood’s passing #
  • I’ve shaved the beard I grew over Christmas. Consequences? I feel less of a man, think I look about 12 and am covered in shaving cuts. #
  • Even derelict I think Battersea Power Station is a fantastic building. #
  • Heading out of London to do some IDeA peer work on engagement. Any words of wisdom anyone would like to offer? #
  • Sights you don’t want to see when it’s -10 and 20 minutes to the next train… all the station buildings closed! #
  • Preparing for Regeneration and Community Safety scrutiny tonight. Very timely with the closure of Balham’s M&S. #
  • My tribute to the dearly departed Wandsworth Borough News: #
  • Fascinating meeting at Town Hall, Lots of interesting discussion about the recession, its impact and what we’re doing to fight it… #
  • …just can’t help feeling angry at Labour though, they seem to put politics ahead of regenerating Roehampton. Real poverty of ambition. #
  • Congratulations to @JamesCleverly on his appointment as Mayor’s young people ambassador. #
  • It seems today, nobody can hear you tweet. #
  • Or at least, if they do hear, it’s about an hour and a half later. #
  • Is Twitter behaving itself today? #
  • Heading out to spend vouchers from Christmas before the stores go bust. #
  • Some of what we’re doing to fight the recession in Wandsworth #
  • Wow, at what point in my life did I decide delivering leaflets in brass monkeys weather was my calling? #
  • Best part of four hours engagement with brass monkeys. Now for some engagement with a couple of pints. #
  • Warm house. Comfy Sofa. Lakeside world darts on telly. What else could I possibly need? #
  • Even Eurovision has spawned an X Factor style voting show. Is nothing sacred? Eurovision should be about talent and music, not reality TV. #
  • I’m amazed Karl Rove is not only on Twitter, but actually using it and engaging @KarlRoveChannel – Alistair Campbell next? #

Northcote Road market
Northcote Road market

I have already blogged about our Northcote Road plans so was pleased that these were agreed at the Regeneration and Community Safety OSC on Wednesday night.

Peter Dawson, one of the Northcote Councillors, attended the meeting and spoke in support of the plans.  Peter has been involved right from the start – standing up for the Northcote Road traders and doggedly pushing officers and me to come up with a good scheme for the road.  He deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done over the past two years.

The action plan seeks to protect Northcote Road as one of London’s special places and will look at de-cluttering the street, expanding the market, holding special markets and events as well as providing help to businesses and lobbying TfL to improve the awful junction with Battersea Rise.  Hopefully, we can create a vibrant street that can win the fight against the spread of mobile phone and coffee shops.

Last Wednesday’s Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee was the first in the ‘new’ format in which the focus moves from each meeting to a different part of the portfolio. This time it was the turn of regeneration and, not surprisingly, the recession took up a large part of the meeting.

It is difficult to get the tone right when talking about the recession. While I don’t want to make the mistake same mistake as Gordon Brown of pretending that Britain would never have bad times I also don’t want to make the situation in Wandsworth seem worse than it is.

The simple fact is that Wandsworth is not immune and will be hurt by the recession, and while there’s good reason to believe we won’t be as hard-hit as other other areas, we need to take what measures we can to help residents and businesses.

At the meeting some specific measures were approved by the committee.

Employment Support for Young Black Men
Unemployment amongst you black men is disproportionately high, and we have appointed Talent to work with clients to overcome the most common difficulties they face in getting jobs. You can read more in the council’s press release or the report considered by the committee.

‘Best Buy’ Wandsworth
The council constantly promotes Wandsworth to businesses and potential investors – as a borough and a specific areas. I have great pride in seeing the sterling work undertaken by the Town Centre managers of Balham, Clapham Junction, Putney, Tooting and Wandsworth in developing and promoting their areas. The programme of promotion will continue to highlight the town centres as part of the ‘Best Buy’ but will also start promoting other areas in Wandsworth.

Nine Elms
The Nine Elms area represents the largest potential development area in inner London and it got a real boost with the announcement that the American Embassy will be moving there. The council will continue to promote the area to create more jobs and homes.

Roehampton suffers the borough’s highest rate of unemployment and is currently the focus of a major regeneration scheme. This is reliant on attracting a private sector partner, which will be hard in the current climate.

The Wandle Valley
The Wandle Valley covers several boroughs, and there is a scheme to create a Wandle Valley Regional Park and this will provide an opportunity to promote the business and investment opportunities along the river.

The scheme will have several elements (you can read more in the report) but the main purpose will be to sell Wandsworth as a destination for business and leisure. However hard the recession is, and however long it lasts, when people start thinking about investment again, we want Wandsworth to be top of their list.

James CleverlyJames Cleverly

Congratulations to James Cleverly on his appointment as the Mayor’s new Ambassador for Young People.

In his role as ambassador James will act as champion for young people across London and he is in a unique position to do that – he is on the London Development Agency board, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, he’s obviously on the Greater London Assembly and has the ear of Boris, who appointed him.

James is largely south-east London based, so I’ve only come across him infrequently, but each time I have met him I’ve been impressed.  He’s a hard-working, dedicated and thoughtful politician.  I have no doubt that he will bring his energy and talent to the role and be a great champion for young people across London on the GLA.

Laverstoke Gardens, one of the areas what would be improved in the council's regeneration

Laverstoke Gardens, one of the areas that would be improved in the council's regeneration

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.

National Statistics have released the latest figures of Jobseekers Allowance claimants.  In Wandsworth there has been an increase of 422 claims over the year from November 2007 to November 2008 – from 3,874 to 4,296.  Most worrying is that more than half of that increase, 251, was in just the last month, between October and November 2008.

jsa-claimaints-to-nov-08It does illustrate the speed at which the recession is having an impact, and, of course, only represents those people that have registered as unemployed and claim Jobseekers Allowance.

However, the news is not all bad, the figure represents 2.1% of the Wandsworth working age population – this compares to figures for 3% for London and 2.8% for Great Britain.

Wandsworth doesn’t have immunity from recession, but we are better placed than many to weather it.

Marks and Spencer have announced that their Balham Simply Food store will be among those to close.  This is obviously not good news, either for Balham Town Centre or the employees who will be losing their jobs.

But it’s also a reminder that recession is not just about businesses going into administration and names disappearing totally, but employers cutting costs and jobs being lost.

Marks and Spencer will remain, for the time being, elsewhere in the Borough, but in Balham there is going to be a big hole in the high street.  I just hope at tonight’s Regeneration and Community Safety OSC meeting Labour don’t have the temerity to try blame the state of the pavements rather than their government’s economic failure.

Wandsworth Borough NewsIf not a total surprise, I was saddened to hear that Wandsworth’s local paper is no more.  Even more so that it passed with no-one noticing, the issue published just before Christmas, it was announced, was the last.  It has now been merged with the Wandsworth Guardian meaning, effectively, it is no more.

As I said, it was not a surprise, we all knew that its circulation was low and I suspect that it may well have been reliant on advertising revenue from all the ads the council are legally required to publish in their local press.  But it is worth remembering it was not always like that.

When I first got involved in Wandsworth politics it was viewed with the utmost importance.  As a council candidate I was encouraged to get letters published in it so I would have some name recognition, and I remember pushing press releases and photos (taken with old fashioned film and developed at Snappy Snaps) through the door of their offices on West Hill.  But while it might seem horribly naive, it really wasn’t that long ago that local newspapers were the main, if not the only, source of local news.

The rise of the internet
The internet wasn’t always the pervasive font of all knowledge it is now.  Many people simply did not have access, those that did were forced to endure tortuously long downloads on a dial-up connection that got cut off when someone used the phone in the other room.  Even when you were connected, there just weren’t trusted sources of local news or if there were, Google didn’t exist to help you find them.

But now the Internet is everywhere, on our computers at work and at home, sitting in our pockets on our phones or waiting to be summoned, like a genie, from our low-cost netbook.  And with it comes an expectation that curiosity about news will be satisfied immediately, not when the local paper is published next Wednesday.

The regionalisation of news
Alongside came a change in the way we view ourselves.  It has always been there, to a degree, but I think we are far more Londoners now than we were.  Most people, if asked to name their local paper, would immediately answer the Evening Standard (and some might even suggest the Metro or thelondonpaper or London Lite).  After all, many people spend the daylight hours at work in the City or Westminster rather than at home in Wandsworth.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing: I have enormous pride in being a Londoner, and being a very small part of the greatest city the world will ever know.  But I don’t think that pride is incompatible with my pride in being a part of Wandsworth, or Battersea, or even a resident of the Shaftesbury Park Estate.  Each one brings with it a unique source of pride – whether it’s the joy of the Wandsworth diversity, living so close to Battersea Park or being a temporary resident in a fabulous Victorian housing project – that I just can’t get from living anywhere else.

Defending our communities
My sadness comes from the fact that a little symbol of one of those communities, Wandsworth, has now gone.  We don’t really have a local paper anymore, that you could nip to your newsagent once a week to get with some milk.  That does not mean we have lost the fight and are all part of a big homogenous London and nothing else.

The council has always defended our town centres, which provide distinct and vibrant hubs rather than giant anonymous shopping centres.  We have the amenity societies in Battersea, Putney and Wandsworth that stand up for what they believe is best about their patches.  In Battersea there is even the SW11tch campaign fighting hard against the dreadful Clapham-creep that estate agents seemed determined to impose on us good Battersea folk.

Communities will change.  That is inevitable.  Be it 100 years or 1,000 years some historian with a niche interest will look back on the communities I am passionate about with a mixture of bemusement and intellectual curiosity because the concepts and areas are as alien to him as the feudal system is to children in our schools.  But that does not mean we shouldn’t fight for the communities we love, and it does mean we should spare a moment to pay our respects to a fallen comrade:  The Wandsworth Borough News: 1885 – 2008.