Earlier this week I met with local small business owners to hear the issues affecting them.
From the insufficient support available to businesses that are non-direct ratepayers, to a lack of flexibility from landlords regarding rental payments, it is clear that the challenges Tooting small business owners are experiencing are considerable. Their resilience in the face of adversity is a credit to our community.
The concerns shared will inform my actions to ensure that small businesses remain the beating heart of Tooting. Please check back here for updates, and keep an eye on my Facebook and Twitter pages for announcements of further events.
In light of the upcoming Fire Safety Bill, I would to thank every resident who has written to me with their concerns on this and for continuing to keep me updated on the cladding issues affecting their property. I recognise what an exceptionally difficult time this is and appreciate how much anxiety the cladding proposals are causing to many leaseholders.
On more than fifteen occasions, Ministers promised that leaseholders would not be landed with the costs of remedial works. Yet, people are still being put at risk, trapped in flammable buildings for a third lockdown, with leaseholders placed in an impossible position and promises broken. It is evident that the Government’s handling of the cladding crisis has lacked any sense of grip or urgency.
For this reason, the Labour Party have tabled an Opposition Day Debate on cladding for Monday, which will subsequently bring forward a vote that will call for leaseholders to be protected from the costs of remediating their blocks with dangerous cladding.
The party will also be tabling a number of amendments to the Fire Safety Bill that will aim to protect leaseholders from unfair costs through the power of the law. I am aware that many residents have been in touch to request that I support the McPartland and Smith amendment, which provides welcome clarity on the specific costs that would be prevented from being passed on to leaseholders. Labour has sought to go further on this.
As currently drafted, the McPartland and Smith amendment would not have covered blocks like Grenfell - where flammable cladding has been added at some stage following the building of the block. It only applies to defects in the original design of buildings. The Labour Party’s amendment would ensure that the cost of fire safety problems from refurbishment jobs, like the cladding on Grenfell Tower, cannot be passed on to leaseholders. Labour’s amendments also include new clauses so that the Bill protects leaseholders from the day it comes into law, instead of an unknown date in the future.
I would like to thank my colleagues in the Labour Party, Sarah Jones MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Thangam Debbonaire MP and Mike Amesbury MP for their hard work and commitment to addressing this large injustice on a national scale.
If any residents have any further queries on this issue, please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss this further. In the meantime, I hope this post assures you of the steps myself and the Labour Party are taking to protect tenants and leaseholders during this cladding crisis.
I recently raised residents' concerns about damage to our beloved Tooting Common with Mr Neil Blackley, Head of Parks at Enable Leisure and Culture and have since received a response on this important issue
I am told comprehensive is in plan to return the Common to its pre-pandemic state, while keeping as much as possible open for public use. Initial works will target the worst affected areas, and will see the soil replenished and grass seeds planted. While these works are scheduled to commence in the spring, it will be a number of years before this much-loved part of Tooting is restored.
Wandsworth Council is currently consulting local residents on its ‘Local Plan’ document on developments for the borough across the next 15 years. This plan identifies Tooting as a potential area for regeneration, where proposals include new sustainable transport, improvements to public realm, and contributions to the health and wellbeing of residents.
3. 56 Tooting High Street on the west corner of the Garratt Lane and Tooting High Street junction: The Council are considering using this site for a development of sustainable architecture and urban design, as well as considering the planting of street trees on Garratt Lane.
Further information on these proposals can be found here.
Whilst I hold no authority over Wandsworth Council, it is important to me that residents, businesses and organisations have their say on these proposals. If you would like to submit comments on the ‘Pre-Publication’ Draft Local Plan, you must do so before 11.59pm on Monday 1 March 2021 using the following link: https://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/local-plan/draft-local-plan-pre-publication/
A number of local residents have raised their concerns about people rough sleeping during this exceptionally cold spell, and of course amidst the pandemic.
Like many, I believe the Government’s delay in housing rough sleepers during this third lockdown was completely irresponsible and lacked basic human compassion. In London alone, the Office for National Statistics estimates that 1 in 30 people have coronavirus, and we know that sleeping rough - without adequate shelter or access to basic hygiene facilities - leaves people more exposed to the virus.
Today, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced that councils will collectively receive an additional £10 million in funding to house those currently sleeping rough, as well as an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions. Whilst I welcome this much-needed funding, this money will not help get everyone off the streets, and the ban on bailiffs fails to sufficiently protect renters.
Many residents have contacted me with concerns for those who are sleeping rough outside Tooting Broadway tube station, Buzz Bingo and Sainsbury's. I want to reassure residents that I have recently written to the Head of Wandsworth Neighbourhood Policing Team to ensure these people are supported in the best way possible.
Beyond the coronavirus emergency, there can be no return to business as usual. It is paramount that Ministers end rough sleeping for good. In a country as well-off as ours, we need to ensure that everyone has the right to a safe place to live.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic I have been inundated with emails from parents, school staff, students, and residents alike who have taken the time to outline their views on school closures. Some are concerned about safety, with many teachers and students facing the very real and grave possibility of bringing the virus home to vulnerable family members. Some are concerned about the impact a further lockdown could have on children's wellbeing and their education. And some are concerned about the challenges school closures will cause for working families.
As I am sure you will agree, the current situation is incredibly serious. This virus is spreading exponentially across the country, many people are in hospital, and too many people are tragically losing their loved ones.
We know how difficult another lockdown will be, but I believe that national measures are necessary.
As the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and a working mother, it is safe to say the impact of extended school closures on children’s well-being and working families cannot be overstated. This is why Labour called on Government to do everything possible to avoid it.
Boris Johnson must immediately set out clear plans for every child to return safely to school as soon as possible - and be honest with parents about the timetable for this.
It is also critical that young people’s education is safeguarded throughout this period of remote learning, and every student must have access to the devices they need to learn. Schools and families can request free mobile data increases for students without broadband or who cannot afford extra data for devices. More information on this scheme can be found here: get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk/about-increasing-mobile-data.
It is vital the Government prevent disadvantaged families being priced out of education.
As many families will agree, working parents face huge challenges in balancing work, childcare, and supporting their child’s education. They must have the support they need to do this. Nobody should have to choose between their job and supporting their children, so the Government - and employers - must clearly promote the use of the job retention scheme for those unable to work due to family commitments.
Please rest assured that myself and Labour Party colleagues will continue to hold the Government to account on these issues as we all navigate the ongoing pandemic.
With the Officer for National Statistics estimating that 1 in 30 Londoners now have coronavirus, and the Mayor of London declaring a major incident across all London hospitals, the ongoing situation could not be more serious. NHS services in the capital are at risk of becoming overwhelmed in just a matter of days.
Working as a doctor in St George’s A&E department, I understand how emotionally drained healthcare workers are feeling. Indeed, ‘overwhelmed’ was the word used by nurses, consultants and registrars at our local hospital in Tooting when they were interviewed for a special report by the BBC, with one senior staff nurse saying she has “never felt so demoralised in her life.”
The report conducted by BBC London's Political Correspondent, Karl Mercer, showed the heartbreaking situation in high dependency units at St George’s. The hospital has now had to increase intensive care capacity from 60 to 120, the vast majority of which are for coronavirus patients. Wandsworth alone recorded a further 2394 cases this week – the 13th highest in London.
Whilst better times are on the horizon with the recent announcement of the approved Moderna vaccine, I can only implore residents to continue to follow latest public health advice on the virus to ensure we can protect as many lives as possible.
On behalf of all my colleagues working on the frontline, please stay at home.
The ongoing pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives, and it is understandable that this will have an impact on our mental health.
As we enter a national lockdown, it is vital that we all take care of our mental health. There are many brilliant services available to offer advice and support, and there is never any shame in asking for help.
If you are facing a mental health crisis, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123, any time, day or night. If you are not comfortable speaking over the phone, you can also text SHOUT to 85258. They also have an advice page offering tips on how to take care of your mental health during the pandemic.
If you are aged between 13-25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994, with any question. They will connect you with experts and peers who will give you the support and advice you need. You can also phone Childline on 0800 1111, or speak directly to a counsellor here.
For the LGBT+ community, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All phone operators identify as LGBT+. Stonewall are also available on 08000 50 2020 for advice on a range of issues.
If you are facing domestic abuse, you can call Refuge on 0808 2000 247, or access their online chat feature here. Women’s Aid live chat feature is also open here. Both of these websites have an option to quickly exit their sites and wipe them from your browser history.