Help yourself: Grit bins have been placed in various locations around Wandsworth

Just like last year the council has place a number of grit bins around the borough, and I’ve updated the Google map I did of the locations.

Only two or three have moved (I didn’t keep a precise count of changes) so if you had a bin last year the chances are good it is back. And I added a further dozen or so locations to the map.

View Grit bin locations in a larger map

Two health-warnings.

  1. Wandsworth will still be gritting. Many (I think deliberately in some cases) think this means the council won’t grit pavements. The council will still be gritting as normal, however, this allows residents to look after themselves and their neighbours should they choose – it’s an extra, not a replacement.
  2. Any errors in the map are mine. I took the information from the council’s winter service plan (PDF). While in some cases I’ve been able to use my own local knowledge to make sure it’s accurate, I don’t know the whole borough well enough to do that. However, the grit bins are big yellow things, so this map should guide you close enough to see them.

[You can download the data I used to make this map (location, longitude and latitude) from my data page.

NW is so successful in Wandsworth, we've used up the budget for putting signs up!

It’s received precious little coverage but we are coming towards the end of Neighbourhood Watch week. Most of the coverage there has been seems to have centred on the “tweeting not twitching” soundbite (probably more because of the reference to Twitter than Neighbourhood Watch), indeed, if you are listening to the radio this afternoon you might catch me doing a little spot on it.

I’m in a council limbo at the moment, between jobs (de facto, but not de jure until the council meeting formalises it next month) but it was pleasing to still, technically, be around for conference in Battersea Park the Wandsworth Community Safety Trust funded part of Neighbourhood Watch week, not least because it was the venue Baroness Browning, minister for crime reduction and anti-social behaviour, chose to formally launch the Our Watch website.

Neighbourhood Watch has never been a sexy topic. Perhaps it never will be. But I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve done in Wandsworth, where the council have been responsible for its management (it’s usually a police responsibility) since 1994.

I’m proud with good reason. Wandsworth has a disproportionate share of London’s Watches, of the 8,000 in London, 470 are in Wandsworth – and I’ve no doubt that plays a role in keeping Wandsworth inner London’s safest borough.

We are well ahead of the game on developing Neighbourhood Watch, recognising long ago that it’s about far more than curtain twitching and developing training schemes for members so in the event of disaster or terrorist attack they know what to do to help themselves, their neighbours and keep pressure off the emergency services.

And all this is recognised outside, so when London Fire Brigade were looking for a pilot area for a scheme in which volunteers are available to offer help and support to the victims of fire they chose Wandsworth purely because it had such a well-established base of Neighbourhood Watches that already went beyond the curtain-twitching stereotype.

If you want to find out more you might be interested in the council’s Neighbourhood Watch pages.

It’s my turn to host the regular councillor’s surgery tomorrow (Saturday, 22 January). If you want to come along to discuss a council related matter I’ll be in Battersea Library from 10 until 11am. No appointment is necessary.

Of course, it might (and probably will) be more convenient to contact me in a different way. If it is, then my contact page lists all the ways you can reach me.

Help yourself: Grit bins have been placed in various locations around Wandsworth

It’s that time of year when the weather dominates council life. We have been out gritting for days (since Saturday morning to be precise) both priority road routes and pavements.

By far the hardest job is gritting pavements, mainly because these have to be done manually. The council concentrates on priority areas for pavement gritting, for example outside schools, stations and clinics and, because they have to return to these areas often do not get around to many residential streets. To help residents 20 grit bins have been located in various places around the borough (the council don’t seem to have mapped them, so I have).

View Grit bin locations in a larger map

The council’s website is hosting a cold weather update page that has the latest updates.

The location data for this is now on my data page.

Local democracy returned to its Wandsworth home last night with the full council taking place for the first time in over a year in the council chamber.

The chamber had been out of action after the roof partially collapsed. It was then out of action even longer when it was discovered that asbestos seemed to be a key component of pretty much everything in there. But now it’s open for weddings and the occasional council meeting.

Sadly the change of venue didn’t really change the meeting that much. While there were plenty of maiden speeches from councillors first elected earlier this year (and some impressive maiden speeches too, I think it’s generally a good intake) the general tone was none too promising and there was a clear theme of deficit denial from the Labour side.

I suppose politically I should be pleased. While the Labour party are in denial about the political realities that most people have face up to it means they aren’t being an effective opposition. But that, in turn, is bad for democracy.

For me last night combined with a session I’d attending earlier in the day run by Local Goverment Leadership about the impact of the deficit, which is huge. The upward trend of public spending over the last few years of the Labour government is shocking and cannot be explained away by Keynesian theory, only by irresponsible government.

The graph (taken from the Treasury website) starkly illustrates how borrowing got out of control in the last few years of the Labour government. For whatever reason government started borrowing dramatically to cover the shortfall between tax they were raising and what they were spending.

This is repeated again and again, I know, but there is no escaping the fact that action is desperately needed to address the deficit. Denying the deficit will not, sadly, make it go away.

Last night gave us the first taste of what the new council is going to be like with our first full (if not ordinary) council meeting since the election.

While the meeting was a ‘special’ council there was still enough there to give a flavour of the next four years. The agenda was fairly light, approval of the new committee structure and executive (I’m now the inelegantly and tautologically titled cabinet member for health, community safety and partnerships) and a bit of a discussion on the reduced fee for Big Lunch street parties. But that was still enough for a couple of maiden speeches and questions from the new members.

And impressive they were, even on the Labour side! It was clear that Labour are no longer reliant on Tony Belton (for whom I have a great deal of respect) but now have several able and talented councillors to support him. And the contributions from our side also showed that we’ve become stronger as a group and the new intake are going to be a superb addition to the council and the borough.

Of course, just being able to speak at a council meeting doesn’t make someone a good councillor. But chatting with colleagues (new and old) after the meeting confirmed my opinions from the meeting.

The public sector is now into one of the most challenging times it has ever faced, but to match it I think we’ve got the most talented set of councillors I’ve known in my time in Wandsworth.

A slightly modified version of the London Council's control map

When I wrote that I thought Wandsworth Labour must have been disappointed with their result I didn’t realise quite how disappointed until I looked at how their colleagues across London performed. Much as it pains me to say it, it was a good night for Labour in London.

After the 2006 elections 14 London councils were Conservative controlled, 8 controlled by Labour. Following last Thursday’s election the figures are now 11 and 17. A fairly drastic reversal of fortunes.

Looking at our immediate neighbours the story is fairly mixed. In Lambeth Labour solidified their grip on the borough at the expense of both the Conservatives and Lib Dems. Merton council remains in no overall control, but finely balanced – Labour now hold exactly half the seats, the same position the Conservatives had been in from 2006. Over to the west Richmond has become Conservative controlled, taking 12 seats from the Lib Dems in a two way fight.

Elsewhere Labour took control of Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Southwark and Waltham Forest. And in some of those the shifts were fairly dramatic, making double digit gains – which brings home Wandsworth Labour’s lack of progress.

It seems fairly clear that the increased turnout of a national election can have a dramatic effect on the a local election poll.

What gets me, though, is the irony that the party who have created a financial disaster nationally have been asked to fix it in so many places locally.

I’m delighted and flattered to have been re-elected as one of the councillors for Shaftesbury. And pleased to have been elected with excellent ward colleagues, Jonathan Cook and Guy Senior. I’m really looking forward to the next four years.

It has been a real joy to represent an area I love dearly for the past twelve years, and an honour to have been given another four.

With only four days of the election campaign behind us (although in reality it’s been much much longer) yesterday saw the first formal step with the close of nominations for the council elections.

Efficient as ever I received confirmation of my nomination from Wandsworth today, the full list of nominated candidates will be published on Monday. You will notice (for convenience as much as anything) my wife acted as my proposer! I think it’s as much because she likes having the house to herself most evenings while I’m stuck at the Town Hall.

I was also alerted to another dodgy Lib Dem bar graph by a comment in response to my post. This time it was for Graveney ward, the only ward that can be considered a three way fight (the gaps between the parties are less than 200 votes) I couldn’t find a digital copy of the leaflet, but managed to find a very similar looking one that appears to be the same proportions. Using the Lib Dem vote as the benchmark you can’t help but notice that they understate the size of both the Labour and Lib Dem votes.

An Islington Lib Dem activist contacted me after my first post to point out that since they don’t have any labelling on the Y axis it’s all fine. I’m not sure if they were being serious or not.

Wandsworth produces a weekly bulletin of roadworks in the borough which gets circulated and distributed to various people. Each week I look at it, mainly to see if there’s anything major happening in my ward. But it never occurred to me to think much about the senior engineer who produced it.

I found out a bit more a few weeks ago when he added a short postscript to the email he sends out, announcing that after 30 years of service in Wandsworth he was retiring. Which set me thinking about all the other council officers with lengthy periods of service.

I’ve known and know several who measure their time with the borough in decades rather than months or years, many of the very senior having joined the council after school or university and then worked their way up the ranks.

It was an interesting coincidence, then, to notice that council has been looking at how we recognise them and produced a report for a council committee tonight on how many staff fall into that category.

To give the bald figures:

  • The council directly employs 3,796 staff.
  • Of those 212 (5.6%) have more than 30 years service.
  • 67 have worked here for more than 35 years.
  • 12 have been here for more than 40 years.

I can’t think of anywhere I have worked that could come anywhere close to that level of commitment and service from employees. I think it says a lot about the council that people stay so long, especially since it’s now so common for people to routinely switch employers.

But most of all I think it says a lot about the staff who have stayed in service to the council and the borough for all that time. They deserve all the recognition and thanks they get.