Mayor of London, Boris JohnsonIsn’t it odd to hear the Labour and Green Party GLA members belittling Boris Johnson’s council freeze because it will only save 11p a week on council tax? These are the same people who presumably believe that 2.5% off VAT will save the world.

What they fail to realise is that we finally have a Mayor who is serious about controlling the City Hall budget, and that’s good news that doesn’t just last until the end of next year.

In his 8 years as Mayor Ken Livingstone managed to double the precept City Hall took to run the GLA from £150 to over £300 – that’s about 11% a year. Assuming past record is a good indicator of future performance (and I reckon eight years is enough to get a handle on him) it means the difference between a Johnson and Livingstone mayoralty is that the average household will be £400 better off.

Crime mapping is something that started off in the US and is starting to be implemented in the UK, and while it is seen as a good thing by both parties I don’t think there are many places in the UK that have done it well.

The Metropolitan Police have their own mapping site – maps.met.police.uk.  But this is one that I don’t think really hits the spot.  If you look at site today you’ll see that most of London has ‘average’ crime.  If you zoom into Wandsworth you’ll see that it has average crime.  Look at the wards of Wandsworth, and yes, most of them have average crime.  You can even zoom into sub-wards (a small collection of roads that might, or might not, be similar) and discover that pretty much every sub-ward suffers average crime.

I don’t think ‘average’ helps anyone. It’s difficult to judge what it means, and given that most people think crime is much higher than it actually is you just end up thinking that average crime is actually quite high.

I think something like the map below helps a bit more (please see the health warnings underneath):

View Larger Map
The map is hosted by Google, and occasionally will not load, or will not load the flags. If it does not display correctly, try refreshing the page or following the link directly under the map.
On this map the yellow flags represent burglaries, the red flags represent street crime. You can see it in more detail on the Google website. This information is taken from the council’s crime briefing – which is distributed to Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators – for 4-11 December 2008. I think this type of mapping helps more than generic averages and areas. There are, however, a few health warnings:

  1. The briefing only contains details of burglaries and robberies. Other crimes are not included.
  2. The flags are not placed precisely (it would be irresponsible to advertise victims of burglary) but instead are spaced roughly equally on the roads they took place.
  3. This map is only for the Battersea parliamentary consitutuency – which is different to the police’s Battersea sector.
  4. While I try to ensure the data is accurate it is reliant on the information I receive, and I’m only human, so it may be mistakes have crept in. Please let me know if you think you’ve spotted one.

I’m guessing the answer is no.

What about police on the street?

Most people would answer yes to that.

Unfortunately the government feels that another tier of elected officials is the solution, and are suggesting that each area elects a crime and policing representative – around 400 of them nationwide.  In London this job would entail chairing a meeting called the ‘Crime And Disorder Reduction Partnership’, a group made up of all the relevant public bodies in the area; the police, council, probation, youth services, and so on.  Crucially, this representative wouldn’t have any specific power, they would just be the chairman of a committee.  They could not, for example, change the priorities of the police unless the police themselves agreed.

The Local Government Association reckons the bill for electing these 400 powerless politicians would be between £15 and £48 million, enough to pay for 300 or 1,000 extra police!

If you’d prefer more police sign the petition at the 10 Downing Street website.

 

What will make you feel safer?  400 more politicians or 700 more police?
What will make you feel safer? 400 more politicians or 700 more police?

The council’s website contains details of a success the Community Safety Division’s CCTV team had recently.

The team had been monitoring a vehicle used as a getaway car in a robbery.  They had already got footage of the robbery taking place, vital evidence in any future court case.  However, when they noticed a group of men taking an unusual interest in the vehicle they were able to notify the police who managed to nab four individuals for further questioning.

I freely admit I am a CCTV sceptic.  CCTV is often seen as solution to virtually any problem, when all it often does is move problems along – but this is a great example of how valuable CCTV, used intelligently, can be in the fight against crime.

You can read the full story on the council’s website here.

PCSO Steve, part of the local Safer Neighbourhood Team
PCSO Steve, part of the local Safer Neighbourhood Team

The Council and Police’s Safe and Secure Roadshow was at Asda, Battersea today, handing out crime prevention advice to shoppers and balloons to the children (who also had a chance to meet PCSO Steve).

It is, unfortunately, a good time for criminals as people often have fairly expensive, and brand new, gifts around – so it pays to make sure you aren’t giving the gift to the wrong people!

The council’s community safety team partner with local police Safer Neighbourhood Teams around the borough to put on the roadshows.  If you don’t see one there’s lots of useful advice to be found on the council’s Community Safety website.

Last night saw Wandsworth’s last full council meeting of the year.  My main part was speaking in a debate on the results of the business survey carried out earlier this year.

It showed that business confidence was declining (even though it was carried out before the news started to turn really bleak) but Wandsworth was generally feeling more confident than businesses elsewhere in London and the country.  There was also good news that the council’s business support services are generally highly regarded.

What astounded me, however, is that the Labour Party really do seem to have fallen for the spin that Gordon Brown is some sort of world leader stirring everyone through a financial crisis.  They applaud his VAT cut, but fail to notice that shops are having to have 10%, 20% and even 50% sales just to get them through Christmas!

On a day he said he’d saved the world (and while we all make slips of the tongue, they often reveal what we are really thinking) we also had the German finance minister calling Brown’s plans, “crass” and saying they would take a generation to pay off.  It seems Brown is a world leader with no followers.

In the midst of this it’s down to Wandsworth to try and make things as good as we can for businesses in the borough, while no-one should be under any illusion times will be easy for business, hopefully we will be able to avoid the worst of it.

Tonight saw the launch of Wandsworth Town Centre Partnership’s Vision and Agenda for the next three years.

Wandworth Town Centre Vision and AgendaThe document sets out the Town Centre’s vision and aspirations to build on the huge improvements Wandsworth has seen over the past ten years.  And Wandsworth has changed enormously even in that short time, thanks in no small part to the leadership the Town Centre Partnership and council have given to the area.

It’s hard to be optimistic in the current climate (and many at the launch admitted the past few months had seen a huge decline in business) but this shows that we are constantly looking at how to minimise the effects of recession and are well-placed when the country comes out the other side.

The council is currently reviewing all the borough’s conservation areas and it’s now the turn of the Shaftesbury Park Estate Conservation Area which covers a large part of Shaftesbury ward.

I should declare an interest because I live on the Shaftesbury Park Estate, and what attracted me was the unique nature of the area – which is largely due to the conservation area.

If you live on the estate it’s well worth contributing your views to how the estate should develop in the future.  There’s a public meeting scheduled for Thursday 11 December (which I unfortunately can’t attend) at 7pm in Shaftesbury Park School or you can email your comments to Justine Page (jpage@wandsworth.gov.uk).

My personal bug bear are satellite dishes on the fronts of houses (rather than above the gutters or on the chimneys where they are much less obtrusive) which seem totally out of place on the front of Victorian terraces – although again I must declare an interest because I do have dish, even if it’s largely out of sight on the roof.

There’s more on the council’s website, which has a section dedicated to the conservation areas, and is well worth a read if only for the interesting history and background to the areas.

The new Waitrose store on St John's Road

The new Waitrose store on St John's Road

It was a good day for Clapham Junction with the opening of the new Waitrose store on St John’s Road.  It seemed to be doing a roaring trade from the outset, but most importantly it was a vote of confidence in Battersea and Wandsworth at a time when other high street names are closing.

It is very hard to be positive when the economic outlook is looking bleak, to say the least, but Waitrose will provide some stability (they replaced a Woolworth’s store) and will provide around 130 local jobs.  It would be irresponsible to suggest that Wandsworth won’t be hit by the recession – but there is some evidence, like Waitrose’s confidence, that the borough is well-placed to avoid the worst effects.

Deputy Mayor Peter Dawson switches on Northcote Road's Christmas lights
Deputy Mayor Peter Dawson switches on Northcote Road's Christmas lights

On a brighter note Northcote Road celebrated Christmas with the turning on of their Christmas lights tonight with a healthy crowd braving slightly damp weather to join the Deputy Mayor in the switch-on.  The whole of Northcote Road joined in with a late night shopping event with many stores offering one day sales.  If you went along I hope you managed to snap up a few bargains!