It was great to have confirmation that the audit commission have, once again, given Wandsworth’s services a top rating of 4* as an authority – the seventh successive year our services have been given the highest rating.

It gets even better that we’re still assessed as ‘improving strongly’ and that we’ve got top marks for ‘use of resources’ (essentially, we’re good value for money).

But when you add to all that our position as the UK’s lowest council tax it proves that we’re not idly boasting when we say we’re number one for service and value.

You can read more in the press release on the council’s website.

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I’m working out of London for a couple of days, and although I’d posted I wouldn’t be blogging, I couldn’t resist a rant about hotels.

I’m not sure what it is, but it has always seemed that hotels make judgements about me.

The first is that I want a single bed to sleep in, and one spare. In a way it’s been helpful. I could spend the time before meeting colleagues for dinner last night carefully mulling over my choice of bed. And tonight I might sleep in a different bed, just to mix things up.

But that’s probably just one step shy of a rock and roll style room trashing though, so I might reconsider.

The second is that I obviously want to pay well over the odds for communication with the outside world. At the moment I can pay 55p a minute to make a local call, 75p a minute to call home and £17 a day for internet access.

£17 a day?! That’s more than most people pay in a month, if they don’t get free broadband. But I’m wise to their games, so I’m just using my phone to tap out a long rant.

The third and final annoyance is their total and utter conviction that I’m determined to bankrupt them through my compulsive theft of hangers.

I have never stolen anything, let alone a hanger, in my life – the worst I have ever done was, aged 7, receiving some Dennis the Menace stickers that I think may have been stolen. They adorned my lunch-box and gave me daily bouts of guilt that forced me to give up packed lunches at school.

But somehow hoteliers have me down as some sort of clothes storage kleptomaniac, as if I’d steal the wardrobe if it weren’t fitted, and console myself with petty hanger theft. You can get 3 for a £1 on St John’s Road so why would I pay £70 a night to steal £2.67 worth of hangers?

I know I’m not alone in this. I Tweeted last night and received a fabulous response from @agentoffortune expressing his relief that he was not the only one seen by hotels as “a bourgeois yet gullible net freak with a penchant for celibacy and hanger theft”.

But I’m determined to be positive, so I shall finish by mentioning somewhere that I think got it right.

Towards the end of 2006 I stayed in a fabulous hotel in Folkestone when there for a friend’s wedding. It was set-up by a couple of guys who simply felt they could do better. And they did. Internet was free, you just connected to their wifi network (they’d lend you a cable if you needed). They didn’t have mini-bars, but there was beer and wine in the lounge, as well as home-made cake and you were invited to help yourself. And every wardrobe had proper hangers.

And bizarrely, I didn’t steal a single hanger, and didn’t abuse the free booze although I probably did have too much cake. Basically, their guests were treated as responsible adults and, unsurprisingly, behaved as responsible adults. It was a fantastic hotel, and if you ever need to stay in Folkestone (or want to see how a hotel can be well run) I would recommend the Hotel Relish.

I wish I could disclose I’d been paid for that, but sadly I feel compelled to praise them, two years later, simply because it was the last place that didn’t assume I was a petty thief.

And this is going to prolong my rant because it fits in with something I’ve been increasingly thinking recently; that we are all human. Nothing very profound in that, you might say, but it seems that a lot of problems in this world are caused by people who either expect something different of others, or try and portray a different image of themselves.

I’m frustrated because a hotel chain’s assumption I’m a potential hanger thief has left me having to deal with fiddly hangers.

Is Sir Fred Goodwin a greedy banker because of his personality, or because we’ve created a society in which bankers are expected to be like that?

And is Gordon Brown floundering because he’s useless, or because we have created a system where politicians have to appear all-knowing and infalliable and he can’t keep that appearance up?

It seems the public expect politicians to be muppets, and politicians portray themselves as super-human – when it would be much better and healthier for everyone if we recognised that (Kermit and Clark Kent aside) that we are human beings and sit somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

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I had the privilege of presenting the first six ‘Good Neighbour’ awards at a short breakfast ceremony this morning.
The scheme is part of the council’s ‘Tooting Together’ programme of work to improve Tooting Town Centre. Businesses are independently judged not only on meeting their statutory requirements (like safety and cleanliness) but also, and importantly, in their customer service and their understanding of the role they can play in improving their local community.
It was great to see a fantastic turnout this morning and give the first winners their certificates. One of the reasons I’m particularly pleased is because it is a recognition that we all have a role to play in improving our neighbourhoods and promoting that sense of community. To my mind, promoting those communities is one of the most important things a council can do.
The first six good neighbour businesses are (in no particular order): Aradhana, Sajna Hair and Beauty, Minar Jewellers, Pooja Sweets and Savouries, Russell’s DIY and Spice Village.

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Theatre Street in the snow

It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that we’ve had some heavy snow in London. While it is always bizarre that London grinds to a halt when there’s a bit of bad weather, one thing it does seem to have done is put a smile on a lot of people’s faces – perhaps because everyone has happy childhood memories of snow.

But remembering not everyone enjoys the cold weather, so if you have an elderly neighbour or some relatives who can’t get around as well as they used to, give them a knock on the door or a call to see if there’s anything they need or you can do.

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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.

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