twitter logoTwittering is a form of microblogging which, along with this blog, I started as a bit of an experiment.  I will freely admit that it hasn’t taken the course I expected – but there are some fascinating conversations taking place on there, especially around subjects of democratic and social engagement, so it is something I will definitely be continuing.

Wandsworth Council is now twittering, so if you are already on twitter (if you aren’t, you can get an account for free at twitter.com) you can follow the council – @wandbc.

My tweets are featured on this blog, although over Christmas I’ve spent too much time on the sofa and doing my ‘real’ job, so they have been a bit light of late.  Feel free to follow me, @jamescousins, if you want to find out what I’m up to or, like today, my thoughts on Karate Kid III!

Northcote Road marketThe council’s plans for Northcote Road will be going before the Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee early next week.  They are the end of a process that was started before the recession started to bite, but now times are getting harder the recommendations will really help traders.

The basic thrust is to help local traders by working with them to increase footfall on the road.  One of the key thrusts will be the expansion of the current market and the introduction of specialist markets on Sundays.  Additionally the road will see more special events and the council will work at providing extra promotion of the street.

One innovation will the be introduction of business ‘succession’ planning.  It has been a major concern on Northcote Road that when independent shops close they are replaced by chains – so far the new shops have tended to be sympathetic to the nature of Northcote Road and a good fit for the local demographic, but there is no guarantee this will continue and we won’t see a blight of mobile phone shops there.  The idea is that independent traders who are starting to think about retirement can work with the council and possible successors in order to retain the shop as an independent rather than selling the unit or the lease and leaving succession to the luck of the draw.

The next step is getting funding for all these schemes – which is likely to be trickier in the recession since the calls on business support will be getting louder – but together the proposals represent a strong start in keeping Northcote Road one of London’s special places.

You can read more, and see what else the committee will be considering, on the from the agenda on the council’s website.

  • More last minute shopping in Clapham Junction, why do I always let Christmas take me by surprise? #
  • At the Town Hall for the last time this year. #
  • Feeling very virtuous after an early morning run around Battersea Park. #
  • Meeting with the new chairman of the Wandsworth LGBT forum. #
  • RT New blog post: Great expectations http://tinyurl.com/6wamus (Twitter Tools was premature last time) in reply to jamescousins #
  • The gym is full of people, all launching pre-emptive strikes against roast potatoes, bread sauce and Christmas pud. #
  • It’s probably a bit sad for a man of my age, but I’ve been very excited following @noradsanta and @SantaClaus on their travels. #
  • I’ve not seen a single new bike being shakily taken round the streets all Christmas. Recession or obesity crisis? #

With the Christmas hangovers barely worn off today sees the start of Woolworths closure programme.  Wandsworth’s stores all close in the New Year, and will leave a big hole in the town centres they are leaving, and a bigger hole in the lives of the employees who are losing their jobs.

Shortly before Christmas Edward Lister, the council leader, announced the council’s programme to help the borough’s businesses and residents through the recession.  A lot of these schemes are within my portfolio, and quite a few see their first airing at the Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee early in the new year so I’ll highlight them here in the coming days.  However, it’s worth just flagging up one of the leader’s comments:

Wandsworth ‘s council tax is the lowest in the country. We are committed to keeping our bills affordable for local people. When household budgets are stretched, a low tax can make a real difference.

And this is key.  In Wandsworth the average band D council tax is £681 per year.  Nationally the average is £1,370 – this means you are nearly £700 a year better off just for living in Wandsworth.  When times are hard, that makes a lot of difference.

I made one last trip into Clapham Junction town centre today and was amazed at how busy it was.  Asda was heaving, there was a steady flow of bag-laden shoppers coming from St John’s and Northcote Roads and there was the traditional queue of people outside Doves.  Perhaps the economy isn’t all that bad.

But then I remembered a conversation I had earlier today.  It was started with the news that Whittard were on the verge of administration.  And then progressed to who was next.

The scary thing, looking back, was the sense of grim resignation.  The unspoken assumption was that there would be a next.  And there would be more to follow.

Given that our economy is so reliant on consumer confidence it is scary that there seems to be a widespread assumption that the new year is going to be bleak – because it can easily be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If the Putney map shows how little crime there is, the Tooting map shows how crime often clusters around a specific area or set of roads. As usual, health warnings follow the 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.

View Larger Map

  1. Yellow flags represent burglaries and red flags represent street crime reported between 9 and 16 December, 2008.
  2. The briefing only contains details of burglaries and robberies. Other crimes are not included.
  3. You can see more detail by following the link to the Google website.
  4. 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. The idea is to give a visual representation of the spread and range of crime in Tooting, rather than pinpointing crime locations.
  5. This map is only for the Tooting parliamentary consitutuency – which is different to the police’s Tooting sector.
  6. 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.

Since my council cabinet role doesn’t just cover Shaftesbury or Battersea I’ve prepared a similar crime map for Putney (and Tooting, which will follow later today). Below is the map, one thing I think it illustrates is how little crime there actually is – just seven burglaries and four robberies. As usual the health warnings follow the 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.

View Larger Map

  1. Yellow flags represent burglaries and red flags represent street crime reported between 9 and 16 December, 2008.
  2. The briefing only contains details of burglaries and robberies. Other crimes are not included.
  3. You can see more detail by following the link to the Google website.
  4. 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. The idea is to give a visual representation of the spread and range of crime in Putney, rather than pinpointing crime locations.
  5. This map is only for the Putney parliamentary consitutuency – which is different to the police’s Putney sector.
  6. 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.