Ravi Govindia looks back on an extraordinary 2016 and forward to challenges in 2017
In his New Year message to the people of Wandsworth, Cllr Ravi Govindia looks back at the major events affecting the borough in 2016, including the EU referendum and tech giant Apple announcing plans for a new ‘campus’ in north Battersea.
The council leader also looks ahead to 2017, highlighting key priorities like tackling air pollution, defending the borough from the threat of new Heathrow flightpaths and enhancing children’s social care services.
“2016 will go down in history as the year our nation voted to leave the EU, but Wandsworth will also be remembered as returning one of the highest ‘remain’ votes in the country (75 per cent).
As a diverse, welcoming and cohesive borough our local result makes sense. We are very lucky to have tens of thousands of European nationals living and working here; as a community we will want to reassure them about their future security and prosperity as we chart a new relationship with the European Union.
The past year also delivered major breakthroughs for the council’s regeneration efforts, including tech giant Apple announcing plans for a new ‘campus’ within Battersea Power Station. The council’s broader aim is to create a thriving new tech industry cluster in this part of the borough which will offer generations of local people a wealth of new opportunities. Watch this space.
The council’s Aspirations Programme powered ahead in 2016, with hundreds of unemployed people helped into work or offered valuable training and learning opportunities. This council-wide programme is unique to Wandsworth and ensures that regeneration and growth directly translate into improved life chances for existing communities.
Other major highlights from the past year include seeing more than three hundred affordable homes handed over to local people, securing London’s highest cycling rate increase (up 12.5 per cent), seeing Oasis Academy in Putney welcome its first students and completing a major expansion of the exceptional St Mary’s Primary School in Nine Elms.
This was also the year Wandsworth launched a unique shared staffing arrangement with neighbouring Richmond Council, which sees a combined workforce serving both boroughs. This move is on course to save £10m every year for each council, helping us shield front line services from the impact of falling Government funding.
Looking ahead, we have a great deal to look forward to in 2017. The Royal College of Art are preparing plans for a new campus close to the Thames in Battersea, The Tooting Common Heritage project will improve this wonderful green space and restore its rare natural habitats, we will begin installing a borough-wide electric vehicle charging network and Putney High Street will become a ‘green bus corridor’.
While many councils are expected to close libraries next year, Wandsworth will continue to rebuild and invest in its network, keeping every branch open and improving the great services they offer. We will also expand our litter and flytip enforcement team even further and clamp down harder on the small minority of people who disrespect our community through environmental crime.
There will also be major challenges to contend with in 2017, including the urgent need to bring down air pollution. The council will step-up its air quality programme and work hard to convince the Mayor and Government to make the bold strategic changes necessary to address this serious health issue.
Over the next 12 months the council must also cement the strong improvements we’ve made in children’s social care services and redouble efforts to establish the very highest standards.
The threat of Heathrow expansion, and new flightpaths that come with it, must be faced in 2017. Along with Greenpeace and three other councils, we are challenging this project in the courts just as we did in 2009. We have beaten the third runway before and will do all we can to beat it again.
Another major challenge facing Wandsworth is the continued impact of industrial action on Southern Railway services. The RMT and ASLEF unions have already made thousands of local people suffer appalling levels of disruption without a credible cause. This has to stop and we will do all we can to see this situation resolved. The mayor needs to clarify his position on driver only trains - after all these are the norm on DLR and London Underground.
There will also be major changes to London-wide services in the coming year and, among others proposals, we need to look carefully at the Mayor of London’s plan to remove Wandsworth’s dedicated police Commander and replace this role with a regional Commander looking after a much wider area. How can one person meaningfully provide policing leadership across 4 boroughs?
We also need to ensure plans to merge South Thames College within a much larger Further Education partnership can work well for our local community.
And finally, I want to highlight two big opportunities 2017 has to offer. In the coming months the council will appoint development partners for the Winstanley and York Road estate regeneration project in Battersea, and for the Alton estate regeneration in Roehampton. These ambitious schemes are set to increase the number of social rent and affordable homes on our estates, vastly improve housing standards and will offer every directly affected tenant and owner-occupier a brand new home to replace their old one. I believe this is a fair and people centered approach to regeneration that other boroughs can follow.
I wish everyone a very healthy, prosperous and happy 2017.”
Leader of Wandsworth Council
December 28, 2016